The last 10 years have seen what must be described as nothing short of a “bag explosion” in the bicycle and commuter markets.
The previous decades saw entrenched brands build on their respectable reputations, bringing new bags to market with what must have felt like an urgent pace.
Eventually, the outdoor and urban markets collided, driving bag fashion and production quality to new heights. Traditional bike touring brands were upended during this period, and while some of them are bouncing back with competitive products, some were never seen again.
One company that not only survived but learned to thrive during this bag making renaissance is Ortlieb Sport Article GmbH, better known as simply Ortlieb. Founded in 1982 in Nuremberg, Germany by Hartmut Ortlieb, the company got it’s start by focusing on a not so small task at that time: making bags that didn’t just say they were waterproof, but really were. They narrowed that focus even further, to bicycle panniers.
Truly waterproof bicycle luggage did not exist at the time. Originally crafted from truck covers, Ortlieb’s creation was a success. Slowly, bicycle tourists and commuters around the world began to learn about the products.
Today, Ortlieb employs around 150 people and still chooses to manufacture bags in the Ortieb factory in Germany. In addition to bicycle bags, outdoor, trekking and expedition bags and equipment for water sports and motorcycle riding come out of the factory.
With such a rich history in two-wheeled sports, Ortlieb products are inherently well suited to e-bike riders. Many e-bikes offer luggage carrying capacity that can eclipse motorcycles. Not all riders are yet taking advantage of this ability.
Carrying lots of gear, groceries or other items on e-bikes is one of their biggest advantages. Stowing everything in a safe, secure and weatherproof system makes every ride better.
At some point over the past 30 years I became something of a “Bag Authority”. It is better than it sounds being an authority on bags. For one thing, you get bags handed to you. Regularly. It’s still not easy to become one. One could become a surgeon in less time than it takes to become known as a Bag Man. It’s part bag junky mixed with manufacturing and sourcing experience and topped off with an embarrassing number of intimate bag relationships that number well into the hundreds.
My own experience with Ortlieb dates back to the early 90’s. None of those bags are still in service and their whereabouts are not known. I do have a couple sets of bicycle panniers that have traversed the globe well before e-bikes arrived. Those bags still service today on occasion on my e-bike outings.
The Ortlieb quick-release pannier system is a joy to use, particularly in urban environments where you need to take your belongings with you. For e-bike use, I’m very fond of the moulded ones that resemble factory luggage on BMW motorcycles.
My choice of e-bike bags changes. If I’m headed into the backcountry for an overnight camp trip I will strap on larger bags than for an urban outing.
One Ortlieb bag that has suited me well for both types of ride is the Velocity Messenger Bag. It’s a mid-size, roll top backpack that will keep your gear dry even if you fall in a river. It’s simple design has one main compartment and a thin utility pouch to organize smaller items. It’s lightweight, easy fitting design with a waist strap makes it a regular go-to for e-bike riding.
For extended e-bike camping, the Duffle series has proven indispensable. With enough rack space, I’ve found it’s possible to secure an ensemble of the smaller Duffle’s. The Duffle 110 litre will fit nicely on the longer rack of a cargo bike. Once you camp with weatherproof bags, you never go back.