Staff Pick

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.

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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

Pros

- unique shape

- waterproofness

- has feet

- looks professional

- adjustable laptop sleeve

- removable hard lining

Cons

- laptop sleeve is not padded

- internal organization is not helpful

- heavy, at 3lbs. 11oz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff Bikes: Scott's Cross Check

The Surly Cross Check may just be the perfect commuting bike. It has attachment points and braze-ons for any conceivable configuration, and is at home as a simple fixed gear as it is a fast club rider, light tourer or commuter, is made of steel so will last forever, and is affordable as either a frameset or complete bike. The semi horizontal dropouts and "Gnot-rite" spacing mean you can run whatever drive train you can envision, and the downtube braze-ons let you run old school friction shifters if your heart desires (mine does).  I've used mine as a fast club rider, light tourer, and obviously, tons of commuting. I've had it loaded it up with all manner of stuff, and no matter what I throw at it, the bike rides well, and takes an absolute beating. Add in the ability to run some heinously large tires, with fenders, and you've got a true dream machine.
 

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Mine has gone through a few iterations, but the current set up is by far my favorite, and perfect for commuting on DC streets. I've got some Schwalbe Big Apple tires, which are massive pieces of rubber and push the frame clearance to the absolute max. They soak up all the bumps and cracks in the road, transforming the bike into almost a full suspension commuter. Velo Orange racks and fenders provide splash protection and let me carry all my junk with panache. For simplicity, I went with a 1x9 setup, with downtube friction shifting, which means no shifting adjustments. The Nitto Albastache bars put me in a nice, upright position for comfort, and the Velocity Dyad rims, laced to XT hubs give me a bombproof wheelset that will last forever. For my derrier, the venerable Brooks B-17 sits atop a Velo Orange Grand-Cru seatpost for a one last touch of comfort and class. This set up gives me the ultimate in comfort and utility, and I absolutely love it. 

For more build details, including fitting the Big Apples into the Cross Check frame, check out Scott's website here.

Staff Wish List: Grace Pooley

 Grace commutes home on the MBT

Grace commutes home on the MBT

 Surly Troll

Surly Troll

 Tubus Logo Evo

Tubus Logo Evo

I was gonna go with the Jamis Renegade for the ultimate adventure bike, until I realized it doesn't have rack mounts - bummer. So the Surly Troll is just the adventure bike I'd want! I could carry all my adventure and survival gear without breaking my back (like I would've had to without a rear rack). Obviously you have to pick the bike that will keep you going strong during the zombie/nuclear apocalypse or whatever goes down. With a solid steel frame, disc brakes and 26" tires, the Troll will keep me rolling over any obstacles. The lightweight Tubus rack will carry everything I put into my Bike-Tourer rear panniers (food, extra clothes, machete etc.).

By Grace Pooley, Sales Associate

What's your apocalyptic bike? Share your secret survival techniques in the comments!

Staff Wish List: Rachel Cannon

 Surly Pacer

Surly Pacer

I'm not much of a racer--I just like to get around town and meander through the occasional 30+ mile ride. Sleek, aerodynamic bikes with carbon this and that aren't really for me. Instead, I drool over steel bikes that absorb the bumps but still allow me to race past my fellow commuters. My original bike love was a red 1986 Schwinn road bike, and the 2015 Surly Pacer is kind of like that bike's younger, sexier cousin. With a glittering red paint job, light-ish but durable Cromoly steel frame and Shimano 105 components, she's fast, responsive, and to boot, she's just darn pretty. Plus, I'm 5'3" with short legs, and Surly thoughtfully offers this frame in a 46cm.

By Rachel Cannon, Sales Associate 

What bike got you hooked on riding? Share your first bike love with us in the comments.

Staff Wish List: Kevin Sundeen

 Kevin scouting Kingman Island for the  Plaid Ride and Ranger Games

Kevin scouting Kingman Island for the Plaid Ride and Ranger Games

 Rack, fenders, singlespeed, internal geared hubs, do whatever you please with these dropouts

Rack, fenders, singlespeed, internal geared hubs, do whatever you please with these dropouts

Everyone needs a wasteland-crawling, post-apocalypse bike, and I think the sturdy Surly Orgre would fit the bill perfectly. It's got rack and fender mounts, so I can carry all my provisions. Even better, it's got crazy clearance for big ol' tires, and disc brakes to match, so it can get over just about any terrain, and have a kickin' time doing it. And rain pants, because some of my bikes don't have fenders, and who wants a dirty butt?

Kevin Sundeen, Events Coordinator

What would you take into the wasteland? Share your secret survival techniques in the comments!

Staff Wish List: Tim Atwell

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 Selle Italia Turbo Suede 

Selle Italia Turbo Suede 

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The Macho Man is just a bad ass bike. The cable routing on the top tube keeps clean without the inherent loss of crispness associated with full length housings. The dropouts and frame fittings are both elegant and functional. The fork is a lovely tapered straight blade with a bi-plane crown and lugged droupouts. Some frame designs just don't need to be improved. The same goes for the Turbo saddle: it's a classic and will continue to be so for a long time.

By Tim Atwell, Mechanic 

What makes a bike design classic to you? Tell us in the comments, and we'll see if Paul agrees!

 

Staff Wish List: Miguel Garza

I got my first bike earlier this year. It was a Jamis Nova Race cyclocross bike that I could ride hard and fast on my 15 mile commute. I love it, but I want something more relaxed and comfortable for the days I'm looking for a more chill ride. The Handsome Devil would be perfect: a slick lookin', more upright steel ride with 9 speeds and the option for fenders/racks. Add a Brooks C15 Saddle on top of that and I'd be rolling in style and comfort. I'd ride that bike any time, any day, in any weather.

By Miguel Garza, Sales Associate 

What's your favorite chill bike? Share it in the comments!

Staff Wish List: Leah Fantle

 Leah demos an All-City Space Horse while leading a Cupcake Ramble ride this Fall. 

Leah demos an All-City Space Horse while leading a Cupcake Ramble ride this Fall. 

 Chrome Orlov Backpack 

Chrome Orlov Backpack 

 All-City Space Horse

All-City Space Horse

I'm an outdoors enthusiast, design nerd, and daily urban bike commuter. When I shop for gear, it has to be that perfect combination of function-meets-form: stuff that will hold up to anything I throw at it, and look good in the aftermath. That's why I'm in love with both this bike's and bag's versatility, thoughtful features, and sleek lines. This dream team could whiz through winter drizzle, hit the gravel, and still arrive at my endpoint looking sharper than Frosty's carrot nose—laptop and street clothes safe and dry.

By Leah Fantle | Sales Associate, Ride Leader 

Do you have a do-it-all bike/bag combo? Let us know what you think in the comments!