Look who’s back.
After a pleasant two weeks doing absolutely nothing bike-related over Christmas (including rinsing the bike chain of satly road crud, somewhat unfortunately), I’m back in the game. Or at least close enough to the game to hear the occassional cheer and maybe see the ball once in a while.
Whilst I’m pre-ambling, I have some blog guidance for 2014:
- Cricket shall not be mentioned. Nor Australia, or any form of small urn.
- I will endeavour to write about more things than just Glasgow’s pants cycling infrastructure.
- Get your fill before April, as a planned 50% increase in the number of humans in the Darkerside family is likely to result in a massive drop in my free time.
Moving swiftly on, can I interest you in a review?
The Ortlieb Office Bag
In a heart-rending break from my addiction to Carridice bike luggage, I dropped heavy hints that the arrival of the aforementioned Ortlieb bag within my Christmas stocking would result in a happy me. Joyously such an event did indeed occur, and I’ve spent the past week lugging it along on my usual commute.
You remember I take crap photos, yes?
Ortlieb are known for producing thoroughly waterproof bike luggage out of polyurethane. Generally in bold colours, with clever attachment systems, but no outside pockets. The Office Bag is one of two briefcase-y type things they do, with the other being the slightly more funky-coloured and not-quite-so-waterproof downtown bag.
Before we even start, be aware that this is a big ‘ole bag. Here it is with a wine bottle for scale, which I ensured was empty just for this purpose. The things I do for the sake of the blog, eh?
If you’re not using a bike with decent length chainstays and have large feet I’d definitely try and get to a shop to try it out first. You don’t want to be smacking it with your heel every pedal revolution.
Outside of the bag
The Office Bag is a pretty typical example of Ortlieb’s craft, with the key differences from their normal bags being a slightly more muted colourscheme (mine’s grey, but black and brown are the other options) and a sort of fabric-y outer that makes it look slightly less like something you’d take scuba diving.
The bag closes by rolling the top down and then securing two straps into buckles attached to the side. Coupled with the bag material and taped seams this makes it completely water tight. I’ve given the thing a good dousing in the shower and nothing got in, so you can be reasonably confident that your laptop would be safe inside. As long as you’re not carrying novelty lead figurines inside it floats as well, although you’ll probably have more pressing concerns should this ever become a useful feature.
Staying on the outside, you’ve got some big white reflective patches on the front and back and a little reflective logo on the side. There’s no tab to attach a rear light, which is irritating, but you can just about get away with sticking one on the buckle straps. The handles are handle-y, and there’s a detachable shoulder strap which you’re unlikely ever to use, given you need to take it off every time you put the bag on the bike.
Attachment to the bike is taken care of by the very nice QR2 system, which is secure and puts the bag at a bit of an angle for better heel clearance. You’ve got two catches at the top which snap around the horizontal bar of your pannier rack, and a hook at the bottom that loops around a suitable strut to prevent the bottom of the bag swinging out if you get all motobike-style-ee on corners. You release the bag by pulling up on the rack-side handle (which automatically releases the catches) and just lifting it straight off. A doddle, and a real positive point over Carradice’s much more fiddly clips. It also adjusts much more easily for different racks, so if you swap bikes during the week then you can adjust the fixings in about ten seconds and without any tools.
Slight aside: you can get this bag with Ortlieb’s QR3 system. This puts a special semi-permanent thingy with three studs on one side of your rack, which allows some matching slots on the bag to connect and secure. It’s all very swish, but it means you can’t use that side of the rack for any other bags you might have and have to buy an aforementioned thingy for every bike you have. Also; you’ll still have to carry the bag with the attachment side facing outwards unless you want to get chain, brake and road grunt (technical term) all over your leg. QR2 is the way to go, in my mind.
The structure is maintained by a support strip on the inside running along the bottom and sides which feels like it’s made from very thin (covered) metal. Annoying this isn’t quite as wide as the bottom of the bag, so you quite often end up with the bag fabric resting on the floor rather than using the little stubby feet. I reckon the feet could do with a spacer bar or similar to avoid this.
No outside pockets. You could attach keys to one of the buckles for the shoulder strap if you were desperate.
Inside of the bag
Staggeringly, the inside is of similar dimensions to the outside – no TARDIS stuff going on here. It’s big enough for two box folders if you put absolutely nothing else in.
There are two ‘organisers’, one for either side of the main compartment. On one side you’ve got a paper holder and two extra pockets about 15cm square. These pockets haven’t got any bellows to add depth, so contents are restricted to work passes, thin wallets, and that kind of stuff.
On the other you’ve got another two A4 slots, a very small pouch (definitely not laptop accessory sized), three pen (or spoon) holders, a pointless mesh net, a key holder and some credit card slots in case you fancied using this bag as a wallet.
There’s also a slot for a laptop (anything up to about 35cm long). You’ll want some kind of protective sleeve, as one side of the slot is the hard plastic backing of the QR2 attachment system.
The inner stuff feels a bit cheap, but does the job and probably won’t fall apart.
I rather like the Office Bag. It looks smart enough to just about get away with in a formal office and is big enough to take lunch and a fresh shirt + underwear along with the usual paraphernalia of a desk job. I still prefer Carradice’s cotton duck material to this slightly sweaty plastic, but their rack attachment system really doesn’t work for me on something like this – it’s too slow and means fiddling around with grimy catches next to the wheel.
It’s not cheap at around £90, but it should hopefully last for a decent length of time. Just be aware of its size – if you load it all the way up you’re going to feel pretty lopsided unless you hang something on the other side.