Coming in at a hefty 1.25kg per bag, these panniers are probably the heaviest bags around, but we figure there is good reason for this weight. Firstly, their waterproofing seems more robust than any panniers we have tried; secondly, the capacity is 10 litres more than a set of Ortlieb Back Roller Plus panniers. For any bike tourer who has ended up stacking items on their rear pannier rack due to lack of space, these panniers should provide more than enough to accommodate all your equipment.
These panniers are a premium product and the price reflects this. But coming in more expensive than better known brands such as Ortlieb and Vaude, what do the MSX panniers actually have to offer the intrepid world bike tourer?
Unmatched Attention to Detail
We loved using our Ortlieb panniers and had a really good run with them. They are much lighter than the panniers by MSX and are very simple in every aspect. A little too simple, perhaps. Mainstream MSX have really thought hard about how to bring a unique offering to the pannier market. Their numerous re-designs, yielding the current seventh edition, have proved their dedication to innovation and as a result, these panniers have umatched attention to detail.
In comparison, Ortlieb seem to have made very little innovation over the years. As an example, the Mainstream MSX panniers which, when fully loaded can be extremely heavy, feature an additional sturdy carry strap, whereas with Ortlieb bags you are forced to use either the tightening straps or the flimsy-feeling quick-release strap. Magnetic clips on their front panniers, exterior waterproof packets and large, removable interior pockets are more of MSX’s awesome little features.
Waterproof exterior pocket
As far as I am able to tell, there are very few differences between the SL55 CX and ZX panniers offered by Mainstream MSX. One obviously noticeable difference is the exterior zip pocket present on the more expensive ZX series panniers. These are sealed with something called Aquaseal® and provide a secure, watertight pocket for little bits you may need quick access to. It’s a neat feature and certainly adds some value to the panniers, although 30 Euros might be a stretch.
More Waterproof Than Ortlieb?!
For those of you who have been following our adventures, you will probably have seen some posts featuring our jungle adventure in Peru and you will know that we rode through some pretty extreme wet weather whilst there. At the time, we were still using two Ortlieb panniers, as Chris’ front rack, the Blackburn Lowrider, could not accommodate the larger panniers by MSX. This gave us a convenient opportunity to compare the panniers in parallel. The result of this little experiment showed us that the waterproofing on MSX bags is a real level above the waterproofing on Ortlieb bags.
Admittedly, these were extreme conditions that most people will not experience: continuous heavy rains lasting more than 6 hours; flash-flooded rivers which reached 2/3 of the height of the panniers. For the world bike tourer, however, this is not a trivial point; anybody cycling the world will come across some harsh weather and it is vital that the gear can stand up to what nature is capable of. The Ortlieb Front Roller Plus panniers became soaked through and collected water in the bottom after crossing some of the larger rivers, whereas the beefier MSX panniers shrugged off all of the water without difficulty.
Is Your Front Rack Tough Enough?
If you are hoping to equip your bike with front as well as rear panniers, make sure to consider the weight capacity of your front rack and the likely weight of your front panniers.
Even loading the MSX front panniers with light items such as clothing, you will end up with a heavy front end. We really recommend opting for a front rack from a reputable manufacturer with good warranty and quoted weight limit. We are extremely happy with and confident in recommending the Tubus Tara front rack. It has impressive steel tubing and handles MSX’s panniers easily.
Fittings Adjustable With a Phillips Screwdriver
All of the adjustable fixtures on the rear of MSX panniers are adjustable with a Phillips head screwdriver. We make use of the heads on our Crankbrothers M19 multitool and found making these panniers fit our racks dead easy. The fittings all seem incredibly robust and even more secure than the fittings found on Ortlieb’s panniers. We have had some issues with the clips on the top rail of our Ortlieb panniers, which we had to have replaced with Ortlieb’s help.
Only time will tell how the clips on MSX’s bags will hold up; but given that they have survived some pretty rough conditions already, we feel confident they will be up to the task.