Sunday, August 26, 2012

Product Review: Ortlieb Waterproof Bag

The bag under review: Waterproof Office Bag
If you are going to commute by bike, chances are you are going to want to buy a pannier rack. The reason for this is simple: you need a place to put your stuff. Now, some people love to get the bikes with baskets on the handlebars, or simply buy a cargo bike; those are good options as well. But my impression is that the vast majority of bike commuters use pannier bags.

If you are going to be commuting only on occasion and "when the weather is good," then you probably don't need to invest a lot of money in your pannier bags. However, if you are planning to commute regularly or - like me - your bike is your primary mode of transportation, you are going to want to invest in waterproof or water resistant bags.  I am fortunate enough to be married to something of a bike guru, so I already have a wealth of bags from which to choose. I am also fortunate enough that my husband already owns two waterproof bags, and is willing to part with one. (Thanks, Honey!) That waterproof bag is an Ortlieb Waterproof Office Bag, and it is fantastic.

Now, I'm still a novice in this bicycling world, but my impression is that Ortlieb is one of the premier choices in waterproof bags. If it is, I can see why: these bags are high quality. The material is waterproof, and the top rolls down before cinching, which provides a really good seal to protect what's inside. In addition, this bag has a hard inner shell, which makes it perfect for transporting books and my laptop: the essentials for PhD life.

As you can see, I have my laptop, some folders, and several books in here, and I still have room. Plus, all of my stuff is snug and secure - and protected from rain! In addition, this bag has a nice divided organizer that provides spots for pens, a phone, accessories, and even credit cards.

I prefer to keep my cards, phone, etc. in a separate small bag that I can transfer from place to place, so I don't use most of these pockets. However, I can see how valuable they would be to someone who essentially uses this as a briefcase.

The quality of this bag is complemented by its ease of use. The clips are rigged with a quick-release strap, which is NICE - it makes it easy to put on the rack, and to remove; you just pull up on the handle and the bag pops off the rack. (This is especially nice when it's raining and you don't want to be fiddling with things.) However, even though it is easy to "pop" off, it is also very secure on the rack, which is obviously an important feature. It also has some "customizable" (the red squiggly line is telling me that this isn't a word, but I think it should be)  features that I didn't even know about until I asked my husband why the bag sits crooked on my bike. (Novice alert!)

He pointed out that the reason for this is to aid riders in not kicking their bags (assuming they put it on the correct side, as I have NOT done here). The idea is that you tilt the bag in the opposite direction as is shown above, leaving room for your rotating feet. This is not a problem on my bike, as my feet come nowhere near the bags. However, if it *were* an issue, I could change the set up of the bag on the back:

My husband is holding the bag. Look out, Vanna White!

The bars and clips on the back can be moved, creating a tilt in one direction or the other, or creating a straight strap. (When I'm not feeling lazy, I may fix this on mine). In addition, the latch on the bottom that helps keep it secure can be moved around to create the perfect balance for securing your bag to the rack.

One final feature I really like about this bag is related to safety: it has reflective patches on it. You can see it on the "front" of the bag in my photos above, as the reflective label was activated by the flash on my camera. In addition, it has reflective patches on the sides, which sit behind you when you ride, making you visible to drivers:

Though, in some cases, they still won't care about how much room they give you.
As I believe is obvious by now, I just love this bag. It is well worth the price, especially if you plan on carrying a computer or other electronic devices with you on your commute. It is a pricey bag, that is for sure; however, it is a helluvalot cheaper than buying a new computer. (I got a red squiggly on "helluvalot" too, but I really think that should be a word as well.) I would highly recommend this for the bike commuting office professional. Oh, and if you like the features of this bag but not necessarily the style, Ortlieb has some other styles available, including the Downtown bag, among others.

Though I love this bag, it's not the only one I use on my commute. Other product reviews coming soon: Detours Market Ballard Bag, Detours Coffee Bag.

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