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Ortlieb Commuter Bag QL3.1 Pannier

(1 review)
  • Ortlieb Commuter Bag
  • 'The best commuter pannier I've used.'
  • road.cc - see full 4.5/5 review
 
ColourSizePriceAvailability 
Pepper19l£121.50 On Order

Ortlieb Commuter Bag QL3.1

From it's deluxe textured fabric to its super-slick QL3 fitting system this is an exceptional briefcase pannier, both in looks and in function.

As road.cc's reviewer put it, 'This is the best commuter pannier I've used.' See full 4.5/5 review.

Let's start with the fitting system.

QL3 Fitting system
We've always loved Ortlieb QL (Quick Lock) fittings because they fix the pannier to the rack with absolute security, yet ensure the bag can be removed in one second without any faffing or fuss.

With QL3, Ortlieb have taken the concept further by doing away with conventional rack hooks altogether, so nothing protrudes from the back of the bag. This makes the Ortlieb Commuter Bag the most comfortable briefcase/pannier when it comes to carrying it off the bike.

Instead of hooks, the bag is supplied with a bracket, which is permanently attached to the bike's rear rack. This system has the following benefits.

  • It enables Ortlieb to make a hook-less yet quick-releasable pannier.
  • It enables you to fit the pannier at the angle required so you don't catch your heel on it, as can sometimes be the case with document-carrying office panniers which tend to be significantly wider at the bottom than touring bike panniers.

See Ortlieb's video to see how the QL3 system works.

 

Fitting system apart, the Ortlieb Commuter Bag has much to commend it.

  • The fabric is a waterproofed Cordura/cotton blend (in contrast to the shiny laminated fabric Ortlieb spec for their traditional panniers).
  • This textured fabric gives the Commuter Bag the look of the smartest canvas luggage.
  • Similarly, Ortlieb have done away with their trademark roll top closure and replaced it with a conventional lid which opens and closes courtesy of a pair of stylish aluminium buckles.
  • This arrangement enables quicker access to your cargo.
  • A padded sleeve inside the main compartment provides safe storage for a laptop up to 15 inches.
  • You'll also find pen holders and organiser compartments inside the bag.
  • There's also a dog-lead style key fob on a long 'leash' inside the bag.
  • This leash means you can access your lock without having to remove the key from its fob every time you use it.
  • The zipped external pocket is large enough to carry an 8 or 10-inch iPad.
  • The handle and the removable padded shoulder strap give you two options for carrying the Ortlieb Commuter Bag off the bike.
  • 3M Scotchlite reflective swipes on the front and rear help you get seen.
  • The base of the bag is reinforced.
  • This 19 litre bag is 33cm high x 40cm wide (measuring front to back) by 15 cm deep (13 x 15.7 x 6 inches).
  • Manufacturer's published weight: 1,200g.
  • Be aware that cycling equipment specifications can change without notice so please regard our published weights as an honest but approximate guide.

Ortlieb Commuter Bag 4.5/5 road.cc review
Long the benchmark luggage choice for cycle-tourers, Ortlieb has been expanding its range and this year has added a number of new products aimed at the well-heeled cycle commuter. Gone are the hallmark primary-colour tarp construction and full roll-top closure seen on their touring range, replaced by smart design and fabrics that don't look out of place in a business meeting. We first saw the Commuter pannier at the Core Bike show back in January and asked Ortlieb to send one in to test.

If you've used Ortlieb gear before, the construction quality won't come as a surprise; it's beautifully made, in Germany. The fabric used is a PU-laminated Cordura which manages the neat trick of being tough, waterproof and looking really good at the same time. It's not wipe-clean in the same way as tarpaulin, but I found that dried mud brushes off easily. The bottom is protected further with a rubberized outer layer.

Both sizes share the same width (40cm) and height (33cm), with the increased capacity of the larger version coming from a greater depth (15cm as opposed to 10cm). Our 20 litre version was big enough to accommodate my laptop, a change of clothes and lunch (plus a toolkit, tube and pump). 40cm is unusually wide for a pannier, with portrait being the more customary layout for all but a few. There's a good reason for this; wider bags can interfere with your heels when you're pedalling. With a bag as wide as this, it requires some careful positioning on the rack to avoid this problem.

Our test bag came with Ortlieb's latest fixing system, dubbed QL3, although it's also available with the more conventional QL2.1 system. The main advantage of the QL3 system is that the back of the pannier is flat, with no protruding hooks, so it's much better-suited for carrying off the bike than most panniers. This is possible as there's an extra bracket which stays fixed to the rack, and the sticky-out bits are on that bracket – two at the top and one below – fitting easily into matching slots on the back of the pannier.

This gives a much wider range of positioning options than for most panniers, which is a good thing as on my Tortec Velocity commuter rack I found I needed to fit it at a rather jaunty angle to avoid heel clash (so jaunty, in fact, that it would preclude putting anything on top of the rack). On a longer touring rack you could probably get away with less of an angle. On the QL2.1 version of the Commuter, the hooks are similarly angled to provide enough heel clearance.

Fitting the QL3 bracket to the rack is relatively simple, with solid plastic fittings and shims allowing it to be used on rack tubes between 8mm and 14mm in diameter. It took a few attempts to find a position where I could pedal unobstructed, but once it's on, putting the pannier on and taking it off is pretty simple. If it's fully loaded then it can be a bit more fiddly to get it lined up and at the right angle, but it only takes a moment. Loaded to the gills, it's probably not quite as rigidly held as a conventional hook system but it never looked like it was going to come adrift. If you have more than one bike with a rack, you can buy additional QL3 brackets.

Once at your destination, getting the pannier off is a doddle - you just grab the handle and it unclips the fixtures, coming away easily in your hand. I've been mostly using a Knog pannier with Rixen and Kaul Klickfix fittings for the last few years and here the Ortlieb is a huge improvement. Once off the bike, it's perfectly comfortable to carry by hand or over your shoulder – there's really no compromise in this respect. I've even used it as carry-on luggage when travelling without a bike, in fact - not something I've ever been remotely tempted to do with other panniers.

Without a full roll-top closure, access to the contents is nice and easy. There's a couple of smart metal clips to undo and that's it. The angled opening is reminiscent of a shark's mouth, with extra material at the sides helping to keep the elements at bay. With the bag properly closed, Ortlieb say it's rated to IP53, meaning that it can resist splashes of water at 60 degrees to the vertical. The lower edge of the opening has a stiffening plastic strip like a roll-top, and during testing I never detected any water ingress at all, despite commuting through some heavy rain with the bag mounted at an angle.

Inside, the storage is well thought-out and comprehensive. There's a padded laptop compartment at the back which will accommodate up to a 15-inch laptop. A padded tongue can be folded over the laptop to restrain it although there's no Velcro to fix it in place. However, it's not like there's anywhere for an unsecured laptop to go, and this does mean that you can stuff your best cashmere or Lycra in there without fear of snagging.

Attached to the laptop compartment, there are a further four internal pockets of varying sizes, one of which has a zip, plus a couple of pen holders. Finally, there's a key strap - a 22-inch long fabric strap with a plastic clip on the end, which could be useful for putting your bike lock key on, although I didn't use it.

There's one external zipped pocket – Ortlieb say it isn't waterproof but the zipped opening is covered by the main flap unless you've really packed the bag to its limits, so it is reasonably well-protected. It's big enough for an iPad or a book, with padding between it and the main storage volume.

For off-bike use, the main handle is padded and pretty comfortable; the secondary strap which releases the bag from the rack runs neatly through the same padded sleeve. There's an adjustable shoulder strap with a further padded sleeve, attaching to a couple of metal rings on the rear of the pannier. Ortlieb say this strap should be removed when the bag is fixed to a rack to avoid it catching on something while you ride. I think they missed a trick by not including a means of quickly gathering it up like on the Altura Meta, rather than having to remove it each time you jump on the bike.

Year-round cycle-commuters will appreciate the fact that there are decent reflectives included here: a 3M Scotchlite slash on each end, aiding rear visibility whichever side of the rack you mount it, plus the handle has eye-catching reflective trim too.

In summary, the Commuter is a really well-designed bag for those who ride to work. The QL3 system suits this bag brilliantly – easy to use on a bike and with no real compromises once you arrive. Both sizes are big enough to accommodate a 15-inch laptop and A4 files, and it is genuinely a pannier that you can take straight into a meeting without arousing comment. Having been accustomed to using panniers with roll-top closures, I was initially hesitant to entrust my laptop to it, but the waterproofing is more than adequately effective. The wide shape means that you'll need to get the positioning right to avoid heel-clash but I had no problems having mounted it at an angle. Ortlieb gear isn't generally cheap, and the price tag puts this towards the upper end of the market but if you can afford it, it's money well spent – this is the best commuter pannier I've used.

Verdict
Business-class pannier with excellent storage and smart looks; lack of protruding hooks makes it a joy to carry off the bike.'

road.cc

From it's deluxe textured fabric to its super-slick QL3 fitting system this is an exceptional briefcase pannier, both in looks and in function.

As road.cc's reviewer put it, 'This is the best commuter pannier I've used.' See full 4.5/5 review.

Ortlieb

Buy Ortlieb waterproof bicycle bags including bikepacking range at Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative online or instore. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.

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ColourSizeBarcode
Pepper19l4013051039659

Disclaimer
Our suppliers reserve the right to change specifications and prices without notice. Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative will do all it can to maintain prices and specifications on this web site, however we do reserve the right to change specifications and prices without notice. Similarly, despite the wonders of modern computers, it is realistic to expect the colour of any item bought to differ subtly from the image online.

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Manchester
I've had this bag for about a year now, and it's brilliant. I don't use pannier bags for carrying a lot of stuff (I use a messenger bag for that job!) but I wanted something a bit more minimal for walking around town. I'm not a fan of massive big hi-vis bags, I want my bike stuff to not look like bike stuff when I'm not on the bike, and this is perfect for it. It's got a laptop sleeve and enough small pockets inside to keep things sorted, while being large enough that I can stick a small change of clothes in it if necessary. The fitting system on the back is amazing, nothing 'sticks out' from the bag as the hardware is mounted onto the pannier rack, letting it slot in very neatly into small fittings on the back of the bag. It's quite genius really. If you don't need a lot of capacity and want something you'd be happy to walk around town with while wearing your chinos and a polo shirt, take a look at the Ortlieb Commuter!
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