Carradice Super C Rear Pannier Review

Full disclosure: I was given these panniers by Carradice in 2007 for my first expedition, in return for feedback and a review. I’ve used them ever since, and extensively rewrote and improved this piece in 2012.

Ortlieb is not the only pannier brand worth looking at. I’ve been using Carradice Super C panniers on and off for five years now. They’re not for everyone, but I love mine. Here’s why…

Introduction

Super C is a classic and renowned line of British-made pannier, the design changing little in decades. With an old-world feel, these unremarkable-looking bags are stitched from heavy-duty canvas of the type used for military kit and old-school tents. This stuff is as tough as old boots, and a pair of well-cared-for Super Cs should last a lifetime. I’ve heard of a pair of these being used for upwards of 20 years.

My bike's rear end in the Sudanese desert

This canvas isn’t fully waterproof, which will immediately turn many people over to Ortlieb and the like. But panniers are not a one-size-fits-all product, and – aside from fantastic quality and home-grown heritage – there are plenty of practical reasons you’d give serious thought to the Carradice Super C rear panniers. Let’s have a look at some of them.

Waterproofing & Weather Considerations

As I toured the Middle East and North East Africa, I saw rain only twice in six months of travelling. For parts of the world such as this, waterproofing is entirely unnecessary. Not only that, but a canvas bag actually lets the contents of your luggage breathe in extreme heat and sun. Waterproof panniers, in the same conditions, will cook your equipment and food supplies. And have you ever had a fuel bottle leak into a waterproof pannier? Not nice.

Overlooking Dana valley

I’ve also used the Super Cs during prolonged rainfall. After a full day of heavy rain, moisture does indeed permeate the fabric (although not as much as you might imagine). That’s why I carry a selection of lightweight drybags to waterproof my clothes, camping gear and electronics. If rain ever does threaten, I simply bag whatever needs waterproofing and continue on my way.

This setup gives me the best of both worlds, as I can waterproof items at my discretion, leaving things such as food and fuel outside the drybags. If I was embarking on a prolonged wet-weather tour, or expected to ford rivers or negotiate floods regularly, I would probably choose roll-top waterproof panniers instead. But if you’re touring in hot and/or dry conditions, canvas isn’t just an option – it’s a better option.

Build Quality & Durability

The canvas is extremely tough, and has the advantage that if damaged can be patched up easily with a sewing kit. The same cannot be said for the waterproof, plastic-coated-type panniers, which if breached will take a lot more work to make them waterproof again. I have heard reports of a pair of these Super C panniers being used regularly for over 20 years.

Bike sans trailer

After five years my Super Cs certainly look well-used, as you might expect. After a crash (which also put a dent in my bike frame and me in hospital), I found that the front corner of the reinforced base of one panner had come away. The runner that held the clamps was also bent a little out of shape, but it doesn’t seem to have affected the stability of the pannier. One of the two panniers also came away with a small tear.

I have since had all of the damage repaired by a tailor, leaving the panniers functionally as good as new. After five years, there are few pieces of equipment for which I could say the same.

Capacity & Design

The main compartment is easy to access. The lid is secured by a pair of pinch-clasps, adjustable for different sized loads. Beneath the lid, the main body is closed by a simple drawstring.

The positionable clamps securely attach to a variety of racks, and are easily removed during transportation. (Doing this is probably a good idea to prevent them being damaged, as they do protrude and could be easily damaged). On the back of each pannier, there is also a retainer which can be positioned to latch onto the rack’s vertical tubing. I lost one of these retainers during a bus transit, but despite this, the system held firm.

Rain and wind

The panniers each have little pockets on the rear side, which are quite small and have loose-fitting lids that are fastened with a plastic pinch-clasp. With the lids open, however, they are just big enough to each accommodate two 1.5-litre water bottles, which is handy. If a few loose items are kept in the bag ends, though, they have a habit of jumping out on bumpy terrain. I just keep the contents of these bag ends in an additional plastic bag, or pack the pockets full to prevent movement. It is convenient to be able to keep a cleaning rag, some chain-lube, a pump, a multi-tool, knife and some snacks in easy reach.

The panniers are more than big enough for my needs so far, with a rated capacity of 54 litres per pair. The fact that they are made from canvas means that they collect mud and grime far more effectively than the smooth, wipe-clean surface of dry-bag-style panniers. This is great, as I think that the more ramshackle, dirty and travelled I look, the better!

Summary

These British-made canvas panniers are very tough, and will last you a very long time if you look after them. They would be ideal as a long-term investment if you plan to make many fair-weather tours over a number of years.

They are also suitable for the long-haul, as long as you pair them up with waterproof liners or drybags for the wet weather that you’ll doubtless be cycling through at some point during your trip. You’ll then have the advantage of breathable panniers which are hard wearing, easy to repair, secure on the rack, roomy, and can be fully waterproofed. Carradice also make a complementary set of front panniers, if that’s your preferred set-up.

Carradice have a page on the Super C. You can get them online from Wiggle.co.uk*.

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10 Responses to “Carradice Super C Rear Pannier Review”

  1. Ant

    Great review!
    The Carradice Super C’s rock!
    Plus,the older they get the better they look!

    Reply
  2. Ian

    Thanks for the advice which has helped me make a decision.Carradice it’ll be then!!

    Reply
  3. Richard

    Tom after 20,000 miles and 5 years of use I can now use my Ortlieb’s to strain my tea, they have had a hard life but I now lose faith with them. As for your recommendation of that style of panniers being good in the wet, I have found you might not be as happy as you thought. I did a spring tour a few years back which was wet very wet, I felt at time like I needed to find Noah. The problem with my Ortlieb’s was that once they get wet they stay wet, it got to the point where I would not open the bags unless I was sheltered as they just got damp and never felt properly dry. I took a tumble and put a hole in one of my front bags, it is recommended to repair them from the inside and then wait 12 hours, total pain, total mess, could not get them truly dry and the patch would not stick, so now I have a seam seal mess on the out side of the bag as it was the only way to stop the leaking en-route. So I intend over the course of this year to replace my Ortliebs with Carradice Super C. It has been a very costly lesson, I hope not to repeat.

    Reply
  4. Karl

    I had the cotton duck shoppers for 15 years.I used them everyday on my bike for touring and shopping,I sometimes carried up to 20 2 litre bottles of water back from the supermarket in them.Now I have a recumbent I have Carradice Super C recumbent panniers specially altered by Carradice for me with a few extra features and like my shoppers they get very well used.I also have Carradice cotton duck front panniers,a handle bar bag and a courier bag which have all performed very well.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Great to hear that these panniers really do stand the test of time – thank you!

      Reply
      • Karl

        I always buy Carradice,besides other recumbent panniers don’t fit my bike.Also my ones together are as big as 2 normal and 2 front panniers together.

        Reply
  5. Ant

    The best panniers I’ve ever had.
    I’ve been car-free for more than 25 years and these panniers are superb.
    They always seem to swallow whatever I buy at the supermarket.
    I’ve had Ortliebs,etc,but if you want something to last and that is repairable the ‘Super C’s’ rock!
    Look better with age…..yes,they do!

    Reply
  6. Carl

    I haven’t used the the panniers, but the saddlebags are worth every penny, replaced the panniers I used with one and not looked back in the last 2 years, whether on my daily commute or the couple of tours I’ve done.

    Reply

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