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Hands-on Gear Review
Brooks England Suffolk Rear Review
Cons: Not waterproof, not a pair
Bottom line: Ultra-swanky, large-volume singular commuter bag that feels as good as it looks.
The Brooks England Suffolk Rear Pannier was easily one of our favorite models to ride with in this review. It is a stylish, well-built pannier that both feels good and looks good on your bike. But aesthetics aside, we were impressed by how well this pannier performed across the board. The only metric that this bag struggled in was weatherproofing—which is not surprising considering that the main compartment doesn't have a full closure. But the mounting hardware was excellent and never gave us any trouble as we loaded and unloaded pannier on various rack sizes. Add to that three external pockets and solid construction, and you're looking at a very high-quality pannier. Because of its excellent storage and stylish, ergonomic design, we were confident in awarding the Suffolk Rear Pannier our Top Pick award for commuting.
RELATED REVIEW: The 10 Best Bike Panniers for Commuting and Touring
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
We were fond of this pannier from the get-go. Putting brand loyalty aside, we wanted to assess the functionality of this design with a total disregard to the Brooks family name. After extensive, nonbiased testing, we were quite satisfied with how this bag performed for the commuting category.
The mounting system was our most heavily weighted metric for a reason: panniers are frequently mounted and dismounted, especially when used for commuting. The Suffolk Rear Pannier utilized a hook-and-latch style mounting system that is typically found on a touring pannier. The handle you use to grab the pannier off the rack will unlock when as you lift—allowing for effortless loading and unloading. Additionally, this design had a very secure attachment, even on bumpy terrain.
Similar to the Back-Roller Classic, this pannier requires that you use inserts in the mounting clips to get a proper fit. Not a huge inconvenience, but just a minor consideration. We were fond of how easy it was to adjust the mounting location of the hooks, as well as how easily the bottom latch slid in its track to fit different rack configurations.
The Suffolk had easily the greatest storage capacity of all the commuting panniers that we tested. It was able to fit a 15-inch laptop and power adapter, notebook, hardcover book, a change of clothes, extra shoes, sunglasses, raincoat, insulated coffee mug, and bike pump with room to spare. By comparison, the only other touring pannier that fit all of this gear was the dual-bagged Timbuk2 Tandem—which wasn't able to comfortably fit the 15-inch laptop.
In addition to the main storage compartment, this pannier also has a large external pocket and two four-way stretch pockets on the side. These were very handy for holding snacks, keys, or raingear that we wanted to keep accessible as we rolled down the road. While it would have been nice to have an internal laptop sleeve, we were pleased with how much volume this bag had.
Brooks is known for making products that last, and this pannier is no exception. You can feel the quality of materials used just by picking up the Suffolk Rear Pannier.
The treated canvas material was burly enough to hold up to many loads of split wood and kindling—a feat we wouldn't have trusted the other commuting panniers with. Furthermore, we were impressed by how robust the mounting and securement hardware was. Though most fasteners are made of metal, it is evident that any plastic components used high-quality materials that will stand the test of time.
Our only concern for the longevity of this bag was in the four-way stretch pockets found on the side of the bag. Like most stretchy materials, this fabric is susceptible to punctures, tears, and getting worn out from over-packing. However, if you're mindful of what objects you cram into these pockets, we suspect that you wouldn't encounter any issues.
Unfortunately, this was the only rating metric in which the Suffolk struggled. The manufacturer claims that the canvas is waterproof, which in our terms and experience, is not entirely accurate.
It's clear that the bag was treated with some durable water repellent (DWR) that would make water bead up and roll off. This treatment was enough to keep contents of the internal compartment dry during our rain test and extended periods of biking in inclement weather. But the side pockets and external pouch were susceptible to moisture accumulation.
However, during the submersion test, this pannier began to show some weaknesses. This particular roll-top design didn't create an entirely watertight seal, and so the water that entered the bag began to soak the contents. Interestingly, water that had entered the pannier had a tough time leaving because the DWR fabric had trapped it inside. This left us with the impression that the water resistant material is worthy for rainy rides, just not complete submersions—which again, are rare occurrences on a daily commute.
Ease of Use
Not only was this bag easy to use, but we were keen to use it more than any other in the lineup. The natural fabric, comfortable handle, and stylish color combination had us interested as soon as we laid eyes on it.
And once it came to using it, we quickly realized how ergonomic the design was. Packing, mounting, and dismounting the bag were an absolute breeze, and beyond the functionality, it felt good in the hand while doing so.
We would have scored the Suffolk Rear Pannier higher in this metric if there weren't a few details missing. Although there are three external pockets for organizing gear, we wish there was a laptop sleeve inside to keep office or study tools secure. Furthermore, we were frustrated that the shoulder strap had to be purchased separately from the pannier itself. Aside from these details, overall, we were delighted with this model.
With a large storage capacity, water resistant fabric, and high-quality, stylish construction, we believe that the best use of this pannier is daily commuting. While it's large enough to hold the type of gear you would take touring, we wouldn't recommend it for extremely wet or rough conditions. But for shorter day trips where you more or less can expect good weather, the Suffolk Rear Pannier would be a solid choice.
The Suffolk is one of the most expensive panniers in this review. The similarly priced Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic offers a pair instead of just a single bag. For folks looking to get a pair of panniers, this would certainly not be a cost-effective option. However, the high-end Brooks price tag provides a very high-quality product. Ultimately, we would say that this model is of marginal value.
This pannier was one of our favorites to use. It took only a few minutes of tinkering to get it ready for use out-of-the-box, and there were no significant learning curves to properly mounting and securing it. You can feel the quality of materials used as you pack it up, roll it down, and toss it on your rack. It's a stylish and functional option for folks who use their bike daily, which is why we chose to award it the Top Pick for Commuting. Style points aside, the Brooks family has produced plenty of high-quality, albeit expensive, bike gear. Whether or not you bike to work, school, or the weekly farmer's market, you'll look and feel good using the Brooks Suffolk Rear Pannier.
— Rob Woodworth
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