Win a bag from Ortlieb

This Contest has ended congratulations to the winner Shawn King of North Charleston, SC!

Ortlieb has teamed up with us to give one lucky winner an Ortlieb Downtown QL3.1 Black PVC Free bag! Enter to win below.


The Downtown is a reliable companion on your tour through the morning or evening rush hour. The waterproof bike briefcase provides secure cargo carrying plus reliable protection of files, documents, and laptops up to 15.4″. A hands-free way to carry your everyday digital and off line essentials, this waterproof bike briefcase with lid closure can be quickly mounted and taken off the rack singlehanded.

Complete the survey below by 11:59 p.m. December 6, 2017 to be entered to win. We will choose and notify a winner the following day. Some terms and conditions apply, but don’t they always? Open to U.S. residents, only. Sorry, but that’s not our choice. – If you are on a mobile device, click here to take the survey 
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Review: Ortlieb bags

By Adam Newman

Handlebar Pack -$130

In the name of simplicity and secure attachment, Ortlieb chose to design its handlebar bag to hang below the handlebars, where it stays put and doesn’t slip or bounce, rather than trying to cantilever it out in front. The laminated, ripstop nylon waterproof body has a roll-up closure at each end and Ortlieb lists its volume at 15 liters. I found it plenty large enough for a lightweight solo tent and sleeping bag. There are a myriad of ways to attach things on the outside too, beyond just the accessories pouch. The compression straps can hold extras like your tent poles or a second stuff sack, and there are some bungee cords on the exterior for a jacket. The attachment system is very secure, with a few foam spacers to make room for your brakes, shifters and cables. A super heavy-duty strap secures it in place and a secondary buckle strap cinches it up tight. The build quality is worth a shout-out, as I never once feared tearing a seam with repeated stretching, pulling, crashing, stuffing and smashing.


Accessories Pack -$75

If you go with the Ortlieb handlebar pack, you should really pick up the Accessories pack too. It attaches with the compression straps from the Handlebar pack and is big enough for several days worth of food. Having my snacks right on the handlebars made them easy to access, and when I needed to hang a bear bag at night I simply detached it and strung it up tire combo in here. It can also be attached to the handlebars on its own as a daypack, or worn around your waist or shoulder with the included waist strap.


Seat Pack -$160

Here Ortlieb chose to refine a common design rather than reinvent the wheel. The volume is adjustable from 8 liters to 16 liters, and it attaches to the seat rails with two quick release buckles and to the seatpost with heavy-duty Velcro straps. At the base of the bag, extending about a third of the way from the seatpost, is an internal cowling that gives it shape and keeps it from bulging. A really cool feature is the addition of a purge valve, which lets you squeeze all the air out of it after it’s been rolled. Getting the seatpack to work well comes down to proper packing. I found that one big item like a sleeping bag worked better than a collection of small items like clothing. Also you need to make sure the contents are stuffed firmly into the bottom of the pack, because otherwise you’re guaranteed to suffer from Droopy Butt Syndrome. After a few days of struggling with it sagging I took better care with packing and the results improved. I also started putting my tent poles in there for more support. One curious design quirk is that even with the bag nearly full I was maxing out the adjustment straps that secure the roll- top, seen here just above the Ortlieb logo. They’re also impossible to tighten while buckled, which makes adjusting them a chore.



Ortlieb has always built some insanely bomber gear, and after working these bags hard I have no doubt they’ll last a while. I would definitely recommend the handlebar pack and accessories pack for their simplicity and carrying capacity. The seat pack, on the other hand, faces much stiffer competition (intentional pun) from designs with rigid frames. It requires careful packing and its massive size is a blessing and a curse. It’s a solid choice but not a home run.


This review was originally published in Bicycle Times 43. Subscribe to our email newsletter to get fresh web content and reposted print content like this delivered to your inbox every Tuesday! 


Sea Otter Classic 2017: Ortlieb bikepacking bags

Ortlieb has been a reliable pannier bag brand for cyclists for decades, so it wasn’t surprising to see them release a few bikepacking-specific products in 2016.

At the Sea Otter Classic this year, Ortlieb continued that progression by upgrading their Gravel-Pack panniers, seat pack and handlebar bag, and adding couple new items.

The big focus of these bags is reducing the overall size of the bag. This is based on consumer feedback that Ortlieb has conducted and the statistic that when given the option to use more space, most people will use it, but when space is not available, they make-do. When you are riding long distance, multi-day trips, less weight is a good thing.

The Ortlieb Gravel-Pack front panniers are a more compact version of their current Sport-Roller pannier. The Sport-Roller has 25 liters of storage space, while the new Gravel-Pack has 22 liter. The Gravel-Pack features Ortlieb’s signature 3M Scotchlite reflectors on the sides of the bag and double lower mounting hooks for V-shaped racks. The Gravel-Pack will be available this fall and will retail at $170. 

And now a little sneak-peek at 2018 products:


The Ortlieb Seat-Pack M is a compact version the currently available Seat-Pack. Both bags offer Ortlieb’s 3M Scotchlite reflectors, honeycomb texture, waterproof with a roll closure, and the air release valve.

The original Seat-Pack is a substantial 16.5 liters while the M is a cozy 11 liters. Because the M is smaller, Ortlieb was able to make the seat post attachment a single velcro strap versus the original’s double. The benefits to a single seat post attachment are that it can now be used on a dropper post and it’s also more usable for petite cyclists who have limited space to attach a bag to the seat post. Price: $145 


Another evolved product is the Handlebar-Pack S, again another shrunken version of the original. The S is 15.7 inches wide and 6.7 inches in diameter. Its short length makes it a good candidate for drop bars, with the capacity for up to 9 liters. The S has 3M Scotchlite reflectors, honeycomb texture, and is waterproof with roll closures. Price: $125 

Ortlieb also has two brand new bags for 2018. One is the Frame-Pack Top Tube, a narrow frame bag that accommodates water bottle cages or rear shocks. The Frame-Pack is waterproof and offers 4 liters of volume. Price: $135

The second bag is the Cockpit-Pack, a waterproof bag positioned on the top tube to house a few small essentials in an easy-access location. It looks as though it could hold a cell phone, keys and a snack easily. Price: $55

All Ortlieb products come with a 5-year warranty.

Ortlieb also had their no-sew patches on-site. Patches are awesome, but holes in your waterproof gear are not. Thanks for the patch!


Keep Reading: Check out more coverage from the 2017 Sea Otter Classic here.



Inside Line: More details about Salsa’s EXP bikepacking bags

Salsa EXP Series Bikepacking Bags

Over the past several years, Salsa has defined itself has a bicycle brand dedicated to adventures that lie beyond the ordinary bike ride. Epic-distance riding, exploration and bona fide bikepacking have become the company’s hallmark. Thus it should come as no surprise that Salsa has doubled down on this vision by announcing a complete set of bikepacking bags and accessories. We first heard about the EXP Series back in July.

As Salsa states, the EXP Series Bikepacking gear is, “built with the adventure-ready intentionality, functionality, and get-after-it-ability that you’ve come to expect from Salsa. The EXP Series invites possibility and the potential to transform any ride into so much more.” The EXP moniker is derived from three words batted about when mentioning Salsa Cycles: explore; experience; and expedition.

The EXP series is comprised of seven distinct products. While these items are designed to fit Salsa bikes, they’re likely also to fit the bike you ride:

  • Cutthroat Framepack
  • Toptube Bag
  • Anything Cradle
  • Dry Bag
  • Front Pouch
  • Front Straps
  • Seatpack

Let’s take a quick look at each item.

Cutthroat Framepack
Available in four sizes (3.5L; 4.5L; 5.2L; and 6.1L), this weather-resistant frame fastens to the inside of the main triangle and features 500D Nylon with TPU lamination and PU coating, 1000D Polyester with dual-sided TPU lamination, #10 weather-resistant YKK Zippers, and Duraflex Hardware. Internal hook/loop dividers help keep gear separate and balanced, and it has the capacity for a water bladder for your inevitable hydration needs during the long haul.

Salsa EXP Series Bikepacking Bags

Toptube Bag
Handy for those small items you often reach for – like gel packs, lip balm and cigarettes…or chewing gum if you prefer…this 1.2L toptube bag can be attached to Salsa frames that feature bottle mounts on the toptube (we haven’t confirmed if it’ll mount to other bikes with similar mounts like the OPEN U.P.) Features include two internal mesh pockets and a closed-cell foam structure for increased stability.

Salsa EXP Series Bikepacking Bags

Anything Cradle
“The Anything Cradle, much like our Anything Cage HD, is built to create carrying capacity where once there was none.” It doesn’t get much more succinct than that. This injection-molded composite cradle features 6061 forged aluminum arms, and will secure up to eight pounds of whatever gear you need to bring with you, or…anything. The Anything Cradle is designed to mount to the handlebars. While it features almost limitless points to which you can fasten straps, this cradle is part of the EXP’s modular concept, as the EXP Series dry bags are designed to neatly fit right in.

Salsa EXP Series Bikepacking Bags

Dry Bag
Conveniently, the Dry Bag attaches quite nicely to the aforementioned Anything Cradle. This 15l dry bag is made of 420D Nylon with TPU lamination and a PU coating for reliable waterproofness.  Three slotted strap anchors adorn the front for attachment of other bags and packs, such as the…

Salsa EXP Series Bikepacking Bags

Anything Cradle Front Pouch
While the Dry Bag is great for keeping lots of goods nice and dry during your rides, it’s usually filled with stuff you’re not really reaching for while you’re riding. That’s where a pouch comes in handy. Strapped to the dry bag, the 1.7L waterproof Anything Cradle Front Pouch allows easy access to what you find important, usually while you’re riding.

Salsa EXP Series Bikepacking Bags

Anything Cradle Front Straps
These 25mm-wide nylon webbing straps are made to work neatly with the Anything Cradle. In the absence of the Dry Bag, you can mount…well…anything to the Cradle. They’re also good for strapping down anything else to other places on your bike.

Salsa EXP Series Bikepacking Bags

Salsa is including its EXP Series Seatpack in this suite of bikepacking kit, but it’s still in production. Details…and some official photos…will be released soon.

Salsa EXP Series Bikepacking Bags

No word yet on pricing, but you should start seeing these EXP Series products hitting the streets…err…roads and trails soon.


Review: Blackburn Outpost seat bag and handlebar roll

As you’ve likely noticed from reading this magazine and elsewhere, bikepacking and rackless touring has reenergized the bike touring market. What began as a niche sport supported by products from a few boutique brands has now hit the mainstream and the major players are getting involved.

No stranger to bike touring, Blackburn is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, having been dedicated to open road adventures since day one. The Outpost seat bag and handlebar roll are its foray into the lightweight touring scene and offer classic features with some unique twists. The seat pack ($120) attaches to your saddle rails and seatpost and consists of two pieces: an outer sling and a removable, roll-top stuff sack.


Rated at 10.5 liters it is more than enough to swallow a sleeping bag and a small tent, and the extra lash points on the back let you strap even more on. The buckles have locking adjusters, which makes it really handy to overstuff as well, as you can tuck in a jacket or other loose items and keep them secure. The included dry bag is a separate piece that you can pull out and take in your tent with you. The sling works best if the dry bag is filled at least half way to fill it out and prevent it from sagging.

In use, the Seat Pack offers a ton of storage capacity, but it does wag a bit from side to side. It’s largely out-of-sight-out-of-mind, though, and I’m willing to put up with it. I had no complaints about the build quality but, compared to the boutique seat packs on the market, the material used is thicker and heavier.


The Handlebar roll ($100) uses a similar modular layout consisting of a harness that holds a dry bag. This bag is open on both ends so you don’t have to unpack the whole thing if your jacket is at the one end. It also make it easier to pack. Inside the sling harness is a Velcro patch to keep the dry bag in place. The harness attaches to the handlebars with a quick release mechanism so it protrudes a good bit out and doesn’t interfere with shifters or brakes.


The extra lash points here are also handy for overflow storage and the red security strap keeps the whole setup from rotating downward on your handlebars should you hit a big bump. I appreciated the Handlebar Roll’s equally large storage capacity but feel the plastic quick release system is largely superfluous. Because it is so easy to unbuckle the stuff sack, I don’t see the need for a second means of removing it. I would trade that convenience for a simpler, lighter design.


Worth noting is proper installation to make it function well. The bracket has been updated for fall 2016 with a wire safety support instead of the plastic one on the first version (pictured here). The red strap is also important as a secondary method of keeping the whole setup from rotating down into your front tire (see the green arrow above).

The Blackburn bags offer a good compromise of cost and features if you don’t need the lightest handmade gear. The Seat Pack especially is a good way to haul a lot of stuff without adding a rear rack.



The Recycled Cycle: Touring Green Guru in Colorado

GREEN GURU watermarked-3

A flat tire in the middle of a ride can be one of the more annoying aspects of cycling, but have you ever pondered what happens to the waste created by a spent tube? If that tube makes its way to Green Guru in Boulder, Colorado, it could become a beautiful backpack, cycling bag or wallet.

GREEN GURU watermarked-2

You know you’re approaching Green Guru headquarters when you see spare bicycle parts attached to an exterior building that sits almost directly on top of a bike path (and across the street from a distillery). In the parking lot is a shipping container full of used bicycle tubes, wet suits, camping tents, spent climbing ropes, old billboard wraps, scraps from waterproof Jeep tops, used event banners and even leftover clippings from the state factory that makes reflective street signs.

GREEN GURU watermarked-1

The tubes make up some of the most-recognized products, including the small wallets carried by almost everyone who works in the bicycle industry. They arrive in large bins collected from about 50 bike shops across Colorado. Each bin overflows with about 60 pounds of dusty rubber from 120-150 tubes. It takes a shop 1-2 months to fill a bin, depending on the season. The tubes are refreshed in a battered old washing machine housed in the office. A light detergent paired with Simple Green and followed by a homemade mix of olive oil and lemon juice cleans and shines the rubber. Every resulting item is designed and prototyped in Boulder and produced in either Longmont or Louisville, two nearby cities.

Green Guru headquarters also houses a small bike shop focusing on cargo bikes.

Green Guru headquarters also houses a small bike shop focusing on cargo bikes

Green Guru was founded in 2007 by Davidson Lewis and Justin Daugherty. Lewis said he was a scavenger as a child, regularly salvaging half-broken bikes to pick parts from and eventually end up with whole bikes to sell. His father was an artist and provided space in the garage to work on the frames and components he collected on trash day. From there, Lewis ended up fixing flats and emptying trash cans in a bike shop before heading to the Virginia Tech School of Architecture Major Industrial Design.

Lewis with a bike tube backpack in the prototype sewing area of Green Guru headquarters

Lewis with a bike tube backpack in the prototype sewing area of Green Guru headquarters

It was at Virginia Tech that Lewis began to understand the environmentally disruptive nature of man-made materials, particularly plastics. It hit him that he didn’t just want to design “more landfill fodder.” When he was assigned a project that required an environmentally friendly design, Lewis came up with the idea to turn old bicycle tubes into consumer goods. He began experimenting with his first tube messenger bags, wallets and backpacks in 1999.

GREEN GURU watermarked-8

For a while after college, Lewis worked on designing everything from housewares to skateboards, but never gave up the idea of recycled bicycle goods. In 2005, he began working with a backpack designer helping to repair old gear before finally launching Green Guru two years later. He started with backpacks, which was the biggest and broadest market. Four years ago, Green Guru began expanding to bike-specific bags. Now, special items such as panniers, saddlebags and a handlebar cooler are some of the best sellers. There’s even a line of women-focused products, like a clutch that attaches to bike handlebars, called Green Goddess.

Stickers made out of reflective material scraps from road signs

Stickers made out of reflective material scraps from road signs

Making the products in the U.S. is extremely important to the company. The design process revolves largely around user feedback. Green Guru is present at bike expos across the country specifically for that reason, including the Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City, a favorite of Lewis’. There, he listens for product improvement ideas and feedback from “normal people, real people and a general audience.”

GREEN GURU watermarked-14

Front desk art

Lewis also said it’s not easy to regularly dream up new designs that haven’t been done before, which is why the company focuses on having fun and being creative. The public feedback is why Green Guru products generally work off the bike as well as on, and is why small, new touches appear regularly, such as metal grommets on bike bags that can accept locks.

The Hauler Pannier was designed by Metro State University students to expand to fit grocery sacks of multiple sizes

The Freerider Pannier was designed by Metropolitan State University students to expand to fit grocery sacks of multiple sizes

To help facilitate new designs, Green Guru has teamed up with Metropolitan State University of Denver to work on semester-long projects with industrial design classes and to host design competitions that ask the students for their take on bicycle products. Two Green Guru items—the Freerider Pannier and Hauler Bike Pack—both came from university students. Green Guru donated money to the classes, then hosted Kickstarter campaigns to get each of the winning products off the ground. It also gave a percentage of the money back to the student designers.

GREEN GURU watermarked-13

Green Guru doesn’t just make products; they’re also very involved in cycling culture and the business of being environmentally friendly. In the warmer months, you can join regular cruiser bike parties that leave the office after work and casually roam Boulder’s large network of paved bike paths. The company’s current expansion into the space next door will include a spot for a micro-brewer to operate.

GREEN GURU watermarked-6

Green Guru also donates a percentage of its profits to PeopleForBikes. It earned a “gold leader” designation from the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program and is a certified B Corporation, meaning the company has met standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

A wall of cycling route maps from cities all over the world

A wall of cycling route maps from cities all over the world

If you want to donate tires, you’re welcome to via the website, but most of Green Guru’s materials come from partnerships with major manufacturers and local bike shops. Of note, it does not work with old bicycle tires, which are extremely tough to deal with at scale and present logistical problems with transportation and storage. But, the company is always on the lookout for new materials to work with and Lewis is a man full of ideas who can talk a mile a minute. Look for new and unique, made-in-the-USA items to come from Green Guru at any time.



New products from Paul, Brooks and Blackburn

It’s a quiet time of year for the bicycle industry, in general, but a few smaller companies are sneaking out some product upgrades and new additions to their lines. Check out some of these items that recently came across our radar.

Paul Components

Funky Monkey Cable Hanger

Paul Funky Monkey

The Funky Monkey is a simple, hanging housing stop for center pull and cantilever brakes. The front comes in a 1 1/8” and 1” sizes, the rear is 27.2mm and is meant for mounting on a seatpost. The front arm sticks out far enough to clear most headsets. The rear arm is hinged to self-align for the proper cable angle. Both have a barrel adjuster to make brake cable adjustments quick and painless.

Price: $49 (each)
More info:

Thumbies Shifter Adapters

Paul Thumbies

Miss thumb shifters? Converting a drop bar bike to flat bars? These easily transform bar end (aka barcon or TT) shifters into thumb shifters. Thumbies have a hinged clamp for an easy installation and fit handlebars with a diameter of 22.2mm or 31.8mm and are rasied enough to allow clearance for disk brake levers. Currently only compatible with Shimano.

Price: $74 (pair); $39 (right or left)
More info:

BROOKS England Metropolitan Collection

Rivington Rucksack


Rivington Rucksack Brooks full

The Rivington is a deep rucksack with considerable carrying capacity, made from water-resistant organic cotton textile. It features an extended roll-top closure in an accent colored fabric. Two outer pockets are found on the front of the bag, the uppermost with a zip closure, the lower with a protective flap. On the back, there is a concealed 15-inch laptop pocket with a long vertical zip closure, revealing the yellow quilted lining. The adjustable shoulder straps feature a chest strap for maximum stability.

Price: 295 Euros
More info:

Mott Large Weekender Holdall


A stylish and voluminous bag made from treated organic cotton textile with two riveted carry straps made in vulcanized rubber. The inside is finished with a quilted lining in contrasting yellow tone for easy visibility of its contents. With one external zippered pocket, and a detachable shoulder strap which may be adjusted for length.

Price: 370 Euros
More info:


Outpost Frame Bag


This frame bag includes adjustable mounting systems and Velcro straps that can be fastened to multiple lash points to allow it to fit to all bikes. The water-resistant pack features an expandable bottom compartment, water bladder tube port and multiple exterior pockets. It weighs in at 402 grams (less than a pound).

Price: $60 (medium); $65 (large)
More info:



Field Tested: Alchemy Goods Jefferson Messenger and Brooklyn Backpack

Years ago Alchemy Goods founder, Eli Reich, after losing his messenger bag to a thief,  sewed himself a bag from a material abundant in any serious cyclist’s home, used inner tubes. Soon after Reich’s friends demanded their own bags, and soon local bike shops took notice. Alchemy Goods was born soon after, and is now sold far and wide, including national retailers such as REI.

AG bags-2

We received two bags for review some months back, the Jefferson messenger bag, and the Brooklyn backpack.

Jefferson Messenger Bag – $156

Alchemy lists the upcycled material content of each of its products, and the Jefferson weighs in at 52 percent reused content. The rubber inner tube exterior is matched with a cordura back that doubles as an external document pocket, and a nylon interior with a padded sleeve that fits up to a 15-inch laptop. A few smaller interior pockets keep pens, cords and electronics organized and easily accessible. The unpadded shoulder strap has a simple metal bucket to adjust for length. Since the bag isn’t that large, I never missed a padded strap.

As a bag for riding, I would recommend this to more casual cyclists riding shorter distances. Without a cross-body stabilizing strap the Jefferson could easily twist off my back. But for everyday use on short rides and in the car, the Jefferson is a fine companion. In fact, on days I drove into work, this was a first choice, even over my favorite backpack.

AG bags-4

Brooklyn Backpack – $148

This bag is 45 percent upcycled, with a similar padded sleeve for a 15-inch laptop. Two zippered exterior pockets are big enough for a small tablet, power supplies, and other bigger things. An organizing panel on the inside keeps smaller items close at hand.

Basic padded straps are well matched to the size of the bag, but when loaded down on the bike, I wished for a sternum strap to take some of the load off my shoulders. Much like the Jefferson, this bag strikes me as fine everyday bag that works on the bike, rather than a bag designed specifically for cycling. My son took a particular shine to this bag, and has been happily using it at school, where it is the only type of its kind in his homeroom.


Construction of both bags is top notch, and pricing is inline with similar U.S.A. made bags using upcycled materials. For those looking for a more bike specific bag, Alchemy offers the Dravus messenger bag, with a padded strap, quick adjust buckle, and reflective material on the front flap. In addition, Alchemy Goods offers a range of bags and other goods, from inner tube belts and wallets, to billboards refashioned into tote bags.





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