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:

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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 

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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!

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

 

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Sea Otter Classic 2017: Nutcase Helmets

I caught up with Meghan of Nutcase Helmets at this year’s Sea Otter Classic. Although Meghan could not go into detail, it looks like Nutcase is starting to introduce MIPS technology on some of their helmets. We will just have to wait and see how many models adopt this technology.

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I also got my hands on The Zone helmet, a full coverage helmet with a bit of flex in the dome to be able to fit any type of head.

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Nutcase is all about having fun while protecting your head. The Constellation helmet is a new addition to their fun lineup of helmets. For you stargazers out there, this helmet design features the Northern Hemisphere constellations.

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Look for more Sea Otter coverage soon!

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Blackburn Rangers take to the road

It was imperative that we stay vigilant against the danger. Our enemy would not discriminate. Young or old, strong or feeble, all were within its sights. It could sink its vicious teeth into our flesh and not release for days or weeks. Few would escape our journey without falling victim to its ruthless aggression.

Our expedition leader and Blackburn’s brand manager, Robin, tried in vain to prepare us for the threat. He gathered us up and spoke in hushed tones.

“It’s important to remember that if you’re not on the trail, you are almost certainly standing in poison oak.”

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It was a valiant warning, especially since I’m still scratching two weeks later. I joined Blackburn and its 2016 class of Blackburn Rangers for an introductory ride through the mountains of coastal California. With a little help from Santa Cruz and Big Agnes we escaped from the arid asphalt plains of the San Jose airport parking lot and ascending through sun, wind, mist and fog to a quiet Boy Scout camp perched high in the hills above the city. Tucked beneath the massive evergreens we cooled our heels and warmed our hearts with a campfire and some of Kentucky’s finest.

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Blackburn is the kind of brand that doesn’t just spit out products to make a buck. They’re out there using these things—both the employees and the brand’s annual group of Blackburn Rangers. The six Rangers chosen for 2016 will complete some of the most famous bike touring routes in North America. While off-road bikepacking is very on-trend right now, it’s really bike travel of all kinds that Blackburn is promoting, as many of the routes its Rangers travel are entirely paved.

Meet the Rangers

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Brian Ohlen – Cody, Wyoming

Brian hails is an avid fisherman and cyclist.  He intends to combine his passions and bike-fish his way from Canada to Mexico, in search of the elusive Steelhead Trout.

What is your goal for the route?

“I’d love to catch a steelhead in each of the three states I’ll travel through. Three fish doesn’t sound like much, but those buggers are hard to catch!”

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Sorry Laura, this is the only photo of you I took.

Katie Hawkins and Laura Brigham – East Palo Alto, California

Katie, left, and Laura, right, are neighbors in East Palo Alto and decided to apply together to tackle the Great Divide this summer.

What do you hope to get out of this journey?

Laura: “I hope to share the enthusiasm that I have for biking and the outdoors with those on the Great Divide as well as those following from home. I hope at the end of this crazy ‘Canadian gone Mexican’ adventure, Katie and I will leave with unforgettable memories, strong legs, sweet tan lines, and a bunch of awesome new friends.”

Katie: “I see this as a soul-searching adventure for 2 months. I want to be able to get away from my normal 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. job and be on an adventure that separates me from life’s distractions. I want to share my experiences with various biking communities along the route and hope to learn from them, as well.”

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Courtney Lewis – Brooklyn, New York

Courtney followed the Blackburn Ranger program for the last few years, and the variety of their backgrounds and approaches were immediate inspiration for her to tackle the same path in her own way. Courtney’s ‘own way’ includes stepping off the bike and hiking nearby summits along the route, and also bringing her dog along.

What do you hope to get out of this journey?

“I’m excited to shake up my routine, and the routines of my friends (and friends-to-be!) along the way. I want to push my limits to get the most out of the time I have, and to learn more about myself.”

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Ivan Kilroe – Lancaster, Great Britain

Ivan has a great approach to cycling that is based on sharing beauty and joy with friends that we can appreciate.

Have you traveled by bike in the past?

“In the last year I’ve done a handful of short trips travelling by bicycle and really enjoyed the freedom you feel from carrying everything you need to survive. I’ve definitely got a bad case of ‘outdoorism’ – seeing the sun rise and set everyday, and waking up outside all becomes kind of addictive.”

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Photo by John Watson

Christian Ayoob – Watkinsville, Georgia

Christian hails from the robust , but often overlooked, cycling community around Athens, Georgia, and is one of the first Southerners that has been selected as a Ranger.

What do you hope to get out of this journey?

“By the end of this journey, I hope to have collected stories, met as many people as possible, and all around have had fun. Along with doing this, I would love to have a very detailed journal and blog for others to follow and get inspired.”

While the Rangers plan to ride thousands of miles, you don’t need to quit your job and drop off the grid to have a great adventure on a bike. Most of Blackburn’s products are just as useful on a commute to school as they are on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

New gear

We also got a look at some of Blackburn’s newest products on the ride:

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Blackburn’s unique frame bags ($60 or $65) come in two sizes and are expandable depending on your cargo needs. They’ve been updated with stronger zippers and will soon be available in a limited-edition camo print. The Seat Pack ($120) and Handlebar Roll ($100) will be available in camo as well. All the bags will continue to be available in black.

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These little 2Fer lights were one of my favorites. These $25 USB-rechargeable lights have a clip on the back that holds them snug on a loop like you find on backpacks, or on the included stretchy strap. The name derives from their ability to run with white or red LEDs so they can go front or back.

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The new Switch Mini multi-tool is a bit of a crossover between something that stays packed away with your bike stuff and your at-home tool kit. There are four pieces with a tool at each end that can be held either perpendicular or inline with the handle. The rounded ends make it useful when working in tight spaces where you can’t hold the tool perfectly inline with the bolt. It includes a 2.5 mm, 3 mm, 4 mm, 5 mm, 6 mm, T25 Torx, T30 Torx and a flat head screwdriver that all pack away in the included case, with room to spare for an ID and a couple bucks.

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My favorite item introduced was the new Chamber HV floor pump ($80), the highlight of a whole new line of floor pumps. Designed for big tires, it has a high volume piston and a HUGE gauge that only goes to 50 psi. Some trick features include a bleed valve in the head for precise pressures, a bottle opener (natch) and a 31.8 mm clamp for the handle that lets you bolt on an old set of handlebars for some custom flair.

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