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.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion

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.

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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! 

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Review: SealSkinz Ultra Grip Gloves

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It has been raining in Colorado much too much for my liking. I moved here for the promised 300 days of sunshine, otherwise I’d probably live in the Pacific Northwest, but springtime makes me wonder if that number is a bit of a marketing stretch. Instead of being grumpy about it, I am slowly growing my collection of waterproof riding gear and just added a pair of SealSkinz Ultra Grip Gloves to the pile.

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Most waterproof gloves are stiff and bulky with square-edged fingertips that seriously reduce lever feel. I wanted something less intense and best suited for warmer days. The Ultra Grips feature a nylon exterior mixed with a stretchy hydrophillic membrane and a Merino wool lining, resulting in a (mostly) waterproof, windproof and breathable product.

All of the Ultra Grip’s features, including their soft pliability and close-to-skin stretch fit, make them useful for activities such as commuting or sticking in your back pocket in preparation for an upcoming cold road descent where short-finger gloves might not cut it.

They’re great for “just-in-case” moments, but not full days or heavy rain, which I will get to. I do want to reiterate that these are not winter gloves, which is why I wanted them and is why I’m reviewing them in May.

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My first ride in the Ultra Grips featured two hours on a mountain bike in a steady drizzle with temperatures in the upper 40s. It always takes me a few minutes to get my fingers warm but, once I did, my hands stayed cozy. No rain got in and no clamminess developed. The feel on the damp bars was excellent thanks to gripping dots all over the fingers and palm.

My second go-around was an attempt to use these as work gloves during a wet mountain bike festival which, I should note, is not their intended use (but sometimes life happens). The downside of placing the waterproof material underneath an external layer means the outer fabric will get soaked and weighted down in heavy rain. After a few hours, the gloves were not very useful. My hands did not get soaked, but they were damp inside the heavy gloves. I kept having to wring them out and eventually gave up. After that, in the humid Pennsylvania woods, the gloves took a full 24 hours to dry out on the dash of my rental car.

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Also, even those these are fitted gloves, I experienced bunching on the backs of my palms even as the fingers were nice and snug. The Ultra Grips do have a bit of bulk, meaning they won’t follow the contours of your hands perfectly and probably won’t be usable as liners.

Overall, I do like the Ultra Grips for short, damp rides and how easy they are to shove into back pockets or the bottom of a pack for those just-in-case moments. I will be riding with them this summer in preparation for Colorado’s penchant for unleashing regular afternoon storms that are sudden but brief.

For an extra five bucks you can (and should) get a pair of these gloves with touch-screen compatible fingertips. I also like the longer cuffs, which prevented gaping at the wrists between the gloves and my rain jacket. For an extra ten bucks, you can get a version of the Ultra Grips with extra-long gauntlets.

 

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