Sujith's Ortlieb Office Bag

So you want to ride your bicycle to work. To achieve this goal, the first thing to do is to make sure you have all of the necessary components, which are A) a bicycle, and B) a job. Beyond these essentials, there is an abundance of products that will make your commute more practical, convenient and enjoyable. One such product is Ortlieb’s Office Bag QL2.1. Not only will this bag be a huge benefit to the year-round commuter, it is also versatile enough to serve all of your cargo needs when riding your bike.


The key feature that separates this product from other panniers is its unambiguously professional shape. At 40 cm by 30 cm by 17 cm, this boxy product has similar dimensions as a doctor’s house call satchel, or a lawyer’s Catalogue Case. The office bag has 21 liters of rectangular space, and is reinforced by a flexible plastic liner. The Office Bag utilizes Ortlieb’s classic roll-top design, which can be somewhat inconvenient to open and close, but is essential to the bag’s waterproof rating of IP64*. (Given how technologically advanced humanity has become, I am disappointed that so many bags on the market require an additional rain cover in order to keep its contents dry.) The nice thing about this design is that the top can be rolled down to turn the bag into an open-top basket to accommodate taller items, like baguettes or a small child (NOTE: neither Ortlieb, BicycleSPACE, nor the District of Columbia recommends carrying children in the Office Bag).

The Bag is fitted with Ortlieb’s QL 2.1 mounting system, which is one of the best in the industry. The bag is also available with Ortlieb’s proprietary QL3.1 mounting system, which is noteworthy because it does not entail unsightly and pointy hooks, but it also greatly reduces your rack options, without Ortlieb’s QL 3 Mounting Set adaptor. With the more compatible QL2.1 system, the hooks enable a high degree of adjustability on just about any rack, and can even allow for 1/3 of the Bag to hang securely off the end of your rack to ensure maximum heel clearance. If that is not far enough back, then the system also enables the bag to tilt around 40 degrees from horizontal. Needless to say, the Office bag will fit equally well on either sides of the rack, and so has a small Scotchlite reflective patch in the shape of Ortlieb’s logo on both ends. This particular version is made from Ortlieb’s Cordura fabric (designated as the “Plus” option on other products) in Granite Black, and has four hard plastic feet of approximately half an inch. This combination is quite staid, but enables the Office Bag to look at home on any bike, and in any office.

This product is ideal for anyone who needs to bring fancy clothing to work, but who does not want to commit to a dedicated suit bag for the bike, of which there are very few on the market. I was able to fit a rolled up tweed blazer and a pair of shoes into the bag, and there was plenty of space for my lunch, stored in bulky Tupperware containers. These items would probably fit into most other large panniers, but not as neatly and securely. Another great feature of the office bag is its rigid laptop sleeve, which can be tightened down to keep a shirt and trousers perfectly flat. The removable plastic lining that sits along the front, bottom and rear turns the Office Bag into a vessel somewhere between a hard case and a soft bag. It provides enough support for anything that needs to sit on a flat surface, like my Bonsai tree, but allows enough flexibility to carry objects slightly larger than its dimensions, like an order of three Donburi Rice Bowls. In fact, this bag is the ideal product for transporting take-out.

The one area where the Office Bag falls short is with the interior organization. Unfortunately, Ortlieb has fallen back on the tired, old design of loading this bag with lots of slots for business cards of various sizes. Equally useless, are the small mesh pocket and plastic carabineer. Thankfully, there is one pocket with a Velcro flap that has the dimensions to hold bulky items, like a set of bike lights, or a very old cell phone. Also frustrating is that the laptop divider presses your device right against the nuts affixing the QL2.1 system, and so you would need a laptop sleeve to prevent scratching. These short-comings are all the more frustrating, given the fact that some of Ortlieb’s other products include better internal organization, like their Commuter Bag. Another simple improvement that would have made this product even more useable off the bike is a flap to cover the QL2.1 system, which pokes and prods your abdomen when using the included shoulder strap.

These are minor flaws that might disqualify the Office Bag from replacing your daily messenger bag, but the The Ortlieb Office Bag excels as an alternative to a traditional pannier, being something in between a soft bag and a hard case. So whether you are biking to work, or shuttling between the noodle bar and the Bonsai Tree Festival (May 15, National Arboretum), Ortlieb’s Office Bag will serve you well.

*International Protection Rating


- unique shape

- waterproofness

- has feet

- looks professional

- adjustable laptop sleeve

- removable hard lining


- laptop sleeve is not padded

- internal organization is not helpful

- heavy, at 3lbs. 11oz