Brooks Scape Large and Small Pannier review

Designed for adventurers, but not out of place on a commuter's bike

Front and rear mounted
(Image credit: Emma Silversides)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

Brooks has honoured its reputation for high quality and classic styling with the Scape Panniers. Despite being part of a range designed with gravel riders and adventurers in mind, they might still appeal to commuters. They are robust and protect contents from the elements exceptionally well. However, they aren't without niggles and lack some of the more functional features that you would expect on an 'everyday' pannier, so might not tick every commuter's boxes.

For
  • +

    Stylish

  • +

    Robust

  • +

    External pocket

  • +

    Well made

Against
  • -

    Impractical carry handle

  • -

    No internal pockets

  • -

    Closure can be fiddly

  • -

    No (included) shoulder strap

Brooks is reaching out to gravel riders, bikepackers and adventurers with its latest Scape range. The panniers might be considered black sheep in the collection of no less than 10 bike bags, mostly designed to sit on a bike without a rack. They've been placed in a sub-section, 'ride around the world', on Brooks's website.

Brooks might have stripped things back too far for some commuters with the Scape panniers though. They are undeniably robust and stylish, but don't boast the practical features of many other commuting panniers. That said, things are kept simple and some people will love that. 

Image 1 of 9

External Pocket

(Image credit: Emma Silversides)

Click the arrows to view more gallery images of the Brooks Scape panniers

Image 1 of 9

External Pocket

(Image credit: Emma Silversides)

Click the arrows to view more gallery images of the Brooks Scape panniers

Technical details and construction

Both panniers are made from a combination of waterproof 600D polyester and PVC and PFC-free nylon to resist rips, tears, abrasions, and UV damage. We’ve hardly had enough sun (while I’ve been testing) to affect the bags, but they’ve tolerated brambles, bushes and rough ground, without sustaining noticeable scratches or scuffs.  

Their colour means that mud and dust tends to blend in well. It also makes them discreet for anyone venturing off the beaten track, though this might not appeal to a regular commuter. If you are buying them with the intention of urban-focused use, there are some well-positioned, decent reflective trims and logos and some webbing on the side of the panniers that a light could be attached to. The light needs a good clip since it would slide on horizontally. The webbing is actually designed to be used with other bags in the range - you can attach another bit of baggage to increase storage capacity. 

The high-frequency welding technique used to construct the bags keeps them 100% watertight. Flaps above sealed zippers on the external pockets ensure waterproofing in heavy, persistent rain for these pockets. The roll-top enclosure and internal Velcro fastening is reliable and effective. The roll-top is secured with aluminium hooks on silky smooth, adjustable straps. 

The panniers have an IPX4 rating (which equates to being 'resistant to water splashes from any direction'). I’ve had them out in heavy showers and noted no ingress, though I’ve endured nothing like storms that I’ve had while touring. Out of curiosity, I took them in the shower for a good 15 minutes and they came out bone dry inside.

While the panniers look premium in all aspects. I’d say that they don’t have the thickness and 'substantial' feel of something like Ortlieb's Classics, Vaude's Aqua Backs or Altura’s Thunderstorm City 20 . The 760g weight of the Large Scape Pannier is indicative of this. By comparison, Ortlieb’s is 950g, Vaude's 970g and Altura's 850g. Going back to the IPX4 rating and comparing it to Altura's IPX6 is telling too.

Brooks claims that the aluminium KLICKFix attachment system fits ‘almost any rear rack’. They’ve fitted on the racks I’m currently testing, as well as my own, with no issues. The spring mounted attachments grasp any diameter rail, no adapters required. A spring mechanism might raise concerns of longevity, but Brooks does sell replacement rails and mounts. The attachments' position is adjustable; they slide up and down a rail. The stabilising arm has some flex in it and has hooked round all my racks without issues. You can change the arm direction; it slides if off the rail and remounts in the other direction. All three attachment points, once set, need tightening off with a Phillips head screw driver to ensure that they don’t budge, if you don't get the arm tightened fully, you could well lose it.

Both front and rear panniers are roomy inside - they don’t taper off lower down either, so you can spread weighty kit out nicely at the bottom. They hold their shape well, even when not fully loaded. The large pannier has a volume of ’18-22l’, the small ’10-13l’. Both have a maximum weight guidance of 9kg - a decent load, if a little less than some others. There are no internal pockets or compartments, some commuters might not like this. I’ve fitted a 15” laptop in the large one, no problem. I’ve even had A4 documents in the small one too. The hard back helps keep documents flat. You need to take care to protect any devices with clothing or a case though; there is no internal padding and bolts (through the hard back) are left exposed inside the pannier.

The panniers have one roomy external pocket. It’s an expensive addition in manufacturing terms, but worth it in my opinion.  

On the road, and off

Access is quick, but I soon learned not to rush rolling the top back down again. The loop that the aluminium hook slots into has a tendency to disappear into the roll. There’s not much of it, roll too hastily and it starts to get hidden, the clasp then can’t hook in. It’s one of those little niggles that still frequently catches me out. I had my doubts about how secure the hooks would be, but having used them on a variety of terrains, I’m won over. You just have to make sure the straps are fully tightened.

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. If you are commuting, it’s possible you’ll by putting  a consistent load in the pannier, so just wind it to the right length and forget about it. 

The external pocket gives quick access to essentials. This is particularly handy if the weather is nasty and fully opening the pannier means exposing kit to the elements. The one-finger zipper is smooth running and easy to use, even with gloved hands.

Getting the bags off the rack is simple - push down and back to release the KLICKFix mechanism. 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. There’s no shoulder strap included but there are attachemnt points on the rail. You have to pay £18/$22 extra  if you want a Brooks strap. A bit disappointing given the shortcomings of the carry handle, in my opinion.

The daisy chain loops are intended to be used with other bags in the range but they are a great addition for those who like to strap extra kit to panniers with bungees. As mentioned, it’s also possible to hook certain lights onto them. They are certainly not exclusive to Scape bags.

Value and conclusion

The large pannier will set you back £115/$145, the small £110/$140. Clearly the large offers much better value for money; the same quality and performance with, arguably, double the volume. Something like Chrome Industires Urban Ex Pannier at £158/$170 makes them look reasonably priced. I'd certainly suggest that commuting Brooks' fans might be better considering Brooks Norfolk Pannier or Suffolk Pannier for more functionality though. Different fabrics keep the prices lower at £87/$130 and £105/$150. 

I’ve referenced Altura, Ortlieb and Vaude a few times as being comparable performance-wise. The latest Ortlieb Roller Back Panniers cost £130/$190 for a pair. Vaude’s Aqua Back Panniers are also £130/$135 for two. Altura's Thunderstorm City 20 is closer to Brooks's with an RRP of £100 for a single bag. I’d say both Ortlieb's and Vaude's make Brooks’s look an expensive option given you are getting two bags. Having used all four, I can confidently say that the performance of Brooks’s is no better than the others, even if style might be deemed superior by some.

The Scape Panniers are exceptionally well-made and durable. There are no concerns about your rack rail size thanks to the spring mounting. However, there are others boasting comparable performance and quality for less. They may not look as classy, or carry the reputable ‘Brooks’ logo; justifying the price tag will simply be a matter of personal preference.

Specifications

Small

  • Capacity 10-13L
  • W 260 x H 300-470 x D 150mm
  • Weight 630g
  • Max Load 9kg

Large

  • Capacity 18-22L
  • W 320 x H 400-600 x D 160mm
  • Weight 760g
  • Max Load 9kg