I must confess I’ve always admired Ortlieb. As an ex-motorbiker I’m well aware of their reputation for making durable, reliable, completely waterproof luggage. Ortlieb use advanced bonding methods and proven types of closure, such as their best known ‘roll top’ to effectively seal against not only water, but also dust. Their black roll top dry bags used to be a familiar sight to me on the racks of touring motorcycles. The 5 year warranty that comes with their products is a sign of their confidence in the quality of their manufacture.
The Ortlieb Saddle Bag I reviewed is a medium sized saddle bag big enough for multi tool, spare tube and emergency layer, as well as maybe a few gels or a phone. It’s made from PU coated Nylon and Cordura which makes it effectively waterproof. It attaches onto your bike via a quick release fitting, or an additional strap fitment (not supplied). There is a large opening to the rear of the bag which is folded over and rolled to seal against water and dirt, two clips stop it from unrolling.
Attaching the bag is easy. It comes with a bracket that fastens under the seat with two screws. The bag itself then attaches to the bracket via a quick release clip and a Velcro seat post strap. The seatpost strap is backed with a rubber like material and the design of it means that, at least on my 27.2mm post, there was none of the scratchy Velcro left exposed to damage my lycra clad thunder thighs, if I were to manage to get in a position where it touched my leg.
I sometimes have issues attaching saddlebags to my seat because it has a racking lip at the back. The Ortlieb bag was a bit of a squeeze but fitted fine, and should go on even easier with a regular saddle. If you have a saddle that doesn’t have the more common type of rail, like the sprung Brooks saddles, you can get a strap accessory to allow more flexibility with the attachment. I also wondered if it might be possible to put a strap round and attach a small pump to the saddle-bag.
There are a couple of plastic loops and brackets attached to the bag which are presumably for attaching lights and protecting the bag. I couldn’t get a light to sit at the angle I wanted to, but managed to still attach my light to the seatpost. There is a reflective square at the back of the bag, but depending how you fold it this can be hidden behind the closure clips.
The PU coated nylon and cordura used in this saddle-bag, combined with the high frequency welded seams and roll top closure, ensure that there is no chance of the items inside getting wet. The fabric and seams have a hydrostatic head of 100,000mm of water. This is more than most tents and waterproof jackets. Indeed Ortlieb mention in their literature that the larger size saddlebags can double up as spray protection like some sort of mudguard that happens to contain all of your belongings.
The seams are welded by passing high frequency voltage through the material then submitting it to high pressure to bond it together. This bag has an IP64 rating, which means it is dust proof and protected from splash water coming from all directions. To meet this standard the roll closure must be rolled at least 3-4 times.
The medium size I have on test is big enough to keep a spare tube, multi tool and co2 kit as well as a well folded gilet or waterproof and possibly a phone, depending on how you pack it all in. In fact it’s the best place to keep a phone because it simply won’t get wet or dusty. The bag is easy to pack because of the large gaping hole at one end which rolls up quite tidily and then clips tight. I found that I just wrapped my stuff up in a bit of workshop rag to stop it rattling and fill out the bag because I rarely carry an extra layer.
The sealed bag doesn’t look quite as neat as a zipped rigid saddlebag, but it is more adaptable. Because the bag is quite flexible in shape you can fit all sorts of strange shapes in there, as long as you can roll the opening up 2-3 times to keep the water out. I was a bit worried about the way this sized bag flares out towards the back, but it doesn’t hinder my legs any more than a regular saddlebag because the flared part is quite far back. It does mean that the bag offers a bit more protection from what the back wheel throws up though.
The available colours are slate, lime, ocean blue or signal red. They stand out nicely and the material is reflective and easy to wipe clean after a wet or muddy ride.
The Ortlieb Medium Saddle-Bag is a versatile piece of luggage. Completely waterproof, it’s suitable for long rides and all terrain cycling. The medium size is spacious enough to carry a few extra bits over my usual minimal kit, and protect my backside from the worst of the road spray. The roll top closure takes maybe a little more thought to make it look neat than a zip would, but can still be closed easily with winter gloves on and means that no water is getting in. It’s a bit bigger than I’d use for most of my road riding, but I’ll certainly be using it on the 120 mile Dunwich Dynamo this year.
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