The Brooks Scape Panniers, large (£115) and small (£110), will appeal to both commuters and tourers, despite their appearance in the company's latest adventure and bikepacking collection. They are well made, functional, stylish and easy to mount, and though there are one or two oversights, overall there's a lot to like.
Brooks might be traditionally associated with refined commuters and traditional tourers, but its new Scape range shows it's adapting to the ever-changing cycle market. The collection is made up of 10 bags, for every part of your bike, targeted at adventure riders and bikepackers. It's designed to be versatile; smaller bags can be mounted on larger bags thanks to multiple daisy chain nylon webbing loops. We've reviewed some of the collection already, which you can read here.
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Of the bags in the collection, these two panniers are the least associated with bikepacking and adventure riding. In fact, if you set a 'use' filter on Brooks' website, they are excluded from both 'Gravel & Bikepacking' and 'Adventure'. I've not been touring with them, but I have got plenty of day trips in, and there's no denying their practicality and ability to handle what the elements throw at them, making them great baggage for a whole range of purposes.
Construction and materials
Both panniers are made from a combination of waterproof, 600D polyester and PVC-free and PFC-free (sustainability credentials) nylon to resist rips, tears, abrasions and UV damage. We've hardly had enough sun to affect the bags, but they've certainly tolerated all bramble, bush and rough ground encounters, without sustaining noticeable scratches or scuffs.
Their colour means that mud and dust tends to blend in well, and also makes them quite discreet for those venturing off the beaten track, hoping to blend in for a wild camp. It might be too understated for some (there are no other colour choices), but they do have some decent reflective trims and logos that are well positioned and effective if your riding intentions are more urban-focused. You could also add one or two of the matching reflective patches (£5.99) if you wanted to increase their visibility.
The bags are constructed using a high-frequency welding technique and have an IPX4 rating (resistant to water splashes from any direction). I've had them out in heavy showers and noted no ingress, though I have experienced worse storms while touring. I took them in the shower for a good 15 minutes, out of curiosity, and they came out bone dry inside.
Flaps above sealed zippers on the external pockets ensure waterproofing in heavy, persistent rain, and the roll top enclosure with internal Velcro fastening is reliable and effective – but make sure you do at least two 'folds', as with most of these kinds of closures. The roll top is secured with aluminium hooks on silky smooth, adjustable straps.
While the panniers look and feel premium in all aspects, they don't have the thickness and durable feel of Ortlieb's Back-Rollers or Vaude's Aqua Back Panniers. Their weight (760g and 630g) is perhaps an indication of this: the latest version of Vaude's Aqua Back is a claimed 970g, Ortlieb 950g.
The Ortliebs also get an IP64 rating, the 6 meaning they offer 'full protection against dust and other particulates', whereas Brooks doesn't offer a rating for this. They do share the same level of waterproofing, though, that's the 4.
Brooks claims the aluminium KlickFix attachment system fits almost any rear rack, and I can confirm I had no issues attaching them to three different racks. The spring-mounted attachments automatically grasp any diameter rail, with no adapters required, and their position on the rack is adjustable – they slide up and down a rail.
The stabilising clip has some flex in it and has also hooked round all my racks without issues. You can change the clip's direction, too – it slides off the rail and remounts in the other direction.
Here comes my first gripe with the panniers, though. All three attachment points, once set, need tightening off with a Phillips head screwdriver to ensure they don't budge. Both Vaude and Ortlieb have tool-free adjustment. Having to use a tool is not only a faff, it also raises the issue of longevity of the screw head: after only a month of testing, one is already showing signs of rust.
Both panniers are roomy inside – they don't taper lower down, so you can spread weighty kit out at the bottom. They hold their shape well, too, even when not fully loaded.
The large pannier has a volume of 18-22 litres, the small 10-13 litres, and both have a maximum weight guidance of 9kg – a decent load for touring and commuting. I've fitted a 17in laptop in the large one – just – packing clothes around it to protect it…
…and I've fitted A4 documents in the small one too. The hard back helps keep documents flat.
There are no internal pockets or compartments, which some commuters might not like (when commuting becomes a thing again), but both large and small panniers have an external pocket.
It's an expensive addition in manufacturing terms, but worth it in my opinion. It gives quick access to kit or essentials, particularly handy if the weather is nasty so you don't need to fully open the pannier and expose kit to the elements. The one-finger zipper is smooth running and easy to use, even with gloved hands.
On the road, and off
The majority of testing has been done on the road, and the panniers have sat securely in place without any rattling or play. There are no pads on the KlickFix mechanism, but the spring seems very robust – there's no reason why it shouldn't stand the test of time.
Taking the panniers off-road will stress the mechanism much more, but Brooks does offer a free two-year warranty on its products.
> How to go bikepacking: a beginner’s guide
Access is quick, but I soon learned not to rush rolling them back down again. The loop that the aluminium clasp slots into has a tendency to disappear into the roll; there's not much of it and it starts to get hidden, meaning the clasp then can't hook in. It's one of those little niggles that still catches me out.
I had my doubts about how secure the hooks would be, but having used them on a variety of terrain I'm won over. You just have to make sure the straps are fully tightened. That said, I'd still prefer a plastic buckle – they are much easier to handle with cold and/or gloved hands.
Getting the bags off the rack is simple: push down and back to release the KlickFix mechanism. Once you do... another grumble: the carry handle is a bit of a let-down. It's a sturdy bit of cord, but any weight in the panniers causes it to dig into your hands – you really don't want to be carrying them far. You can get a shoulder strap, but it's not included – you have to pay an extra £13 for this. A bit disappointing given the shortcomings of the carry handle, and the price.
The daisy chain loops are intended to be used with other bags in the range and are a great addition for strapping extra kit to the panniers with bungees. It's also possible to hook certain lights onto them. They are certainly not exclusive to Scape bags.
> 23 of the best bikepacking bags – how to choose lightweight luggage
I've mentioned a few of my reservations with the panniers already – fiddly closure clasps, a questionable carry handle and attachments requiring tools to be fixed in place. I will add one last gripe to the list. Once you've tightened the panniers closed, the excess webbing is rolled up on itself and secured with a Hypalon Velcro strap. If you don't roll it up enough, it flaps about, hitting the pannier, or, worst case scenario, a wheel. Roll it right up though and you'll be adjusting it again when you add provisions to the panniers. I'm being really picky here, but I'd say some systems are more efficient and effective.
The large pannier will set you back £115, the small £110, immediately suggesting that the large offers much better value for money – the same quality and performance with nearly double the volume. Something like Chrome Industries' Urban Ex Pannier at £140 makes them look reasonably priced.
> Buyer’s Guide: 17 of the best bicycle panniers and racks
Compare them with the Ortlieb and Vaude options that I've referenced a few times already, though, and they look decidedly pricey. The latest Ortlieb Back-Rollers cost £130 for a pair; Vaude's are also £130 and have changed very little in design since I reviewed them. Having used all three, I'm confident in saying that the Brooks Scapes don't perform any better than the others, even if their style and looks might be deemed superior by some.
It's clichéd, but you get what you pay for, and these panniers are well made, practical and durable. However, there are others boasting comparable performance and quality for less; they might not look as classy, but it's difficult to knock their reputations. Whether you're happy to pay the extra will simply be a matter of personal preference.
Stylish, well made and faultless waterproofing – there's a lot to like – though they're not without niggles
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Make and model: Brooks Scape Pannier
Size tested: Small and large
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Brooks tells us, 'The Scape Large Pannier is a 100% waterproof (IPX4 certified) bag designed for the rear rack, with welded construction and weatherproof details such as a roll top closure with reliable internal velcro strap for expandable volume that keeps its contents dry. Made to last, this bag for cycle touring is constructed from hard-wearing details and specially selected components such as an external pocket with protective flap that increases bag capacity while helping to organise its contents. A special modular functionality to attach other bags from the Scape range, or a rear light, is provided by the bag's lateral daisy chain. Furthermore provided with an aluminium Klick Fix® attachment system to fit most any rear rack'.
The description for the small pannier is identical, except Brooks suggests that it's 'perfectly at home on the front or rear rack'.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
-Roll top closure.
-Internal velcro closure.
-Front pocket with coated YKK zip and protective flap.
-Easy pull zipper.
-Front reflective logo.
-Klick fix® aluminium attachment.
Travelling the globe
Gravel & Bikepacking
Travelling the globe
Capacity 18-22 L
W 320 x H 400-600 x D 160 mm
Weight 760 g
Max Load 9 kg
Capacity 10-13 L
W 260 x H 300-470 x D 150 mm
Weight 630 g
Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
The material isn't as thick as some out there, and doesn't feel or look as robust as similar options from Ortlieb or Vaude, but it's showing no signs of weakness. The screws for tightening the attachments might need replacing if they start to rust excessively at the head, and I have reservations about the longevity of both the carry handle and the Velcro webbing fasteners – but they might well prove me wrong. Not one single element of my Ortlieb panniers has deteriorated in terms of performance, 20 years after purchasing them... I'll get back to you in 20 years then.
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
Lighter than many touring-orientated panniers; too early to say whether that means they aren't quite as robust as a consequence.
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
Carry handle is really not comfortable.
Rate the product for value:
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Quick and easy to mount and dismount, protects contents well and is roomy inside. It isn't the most comfortable to carry, though, and access is fiddly if you have cold or gloved hands.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Exterior pocket. Shape and interior roominess.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Carry handle, and fiddly hook and loop closure – though bear in mind that for the latter, all testing has occurred in cold weather, with gloved or cold hands.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
If you intend to invest in a pair, they are significantly more than Ortlieb and Vaude options, although a single pannier from Chrome Industries makes the Brooks look reasonably priced.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? A few too many niggles for me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Brooks panniers can't be faulted for quality and style. They are roomy inside, the exterior pocket adds functionality, and their waterproofing is excellent. However, the handle, fiddly closure and need for a tool to tighten the attachment points mean I'd rate these as good rather than very good.
Age: 42 Height: 173cm Weight: 64kg
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
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