Pannier Plus…

27 03 2013
Couldn't get it all in the Ortlieb...

Couldn’t get it all in the Ortlieb…

I frequently head out on an errand run with a single pannier. It’s actually a smaller Ortlieb front pannier that I keep loaded with tools/pump and locks. More often than I would like I collect enough stuff on my ride that I can’t fit it into my single pannier so I have to get creative.

A jacket and some bungees...

A jacket and some bungees…

On this particular day it was getting warm so I took off my extra jacket that was necessary when I headed out into the chilly morning air hours earlier. I wrapped it around my extra items and used a couple small bungees to strap it to the top of my rack.

It wasn’t the most secure way to carry cargo, but it held together for the bumpy ride home.

I really should start out with 2 panniers, but then I have to carry them around when I lock up my bike which is a drag. My ad hock cargo solution may not be elegant, but it’s low hassle!

Ortlieb Repair…

6 03 2013
Buckle tear...

Buckle tear…

I had my first real Ortlieb failure. The buckles that close the roll top on my rear Ortlieb panniers both started to tear. I noticed it at home so it didn’t cause a problem.

Fresh buckle...

Fresh buckle…

I emailed Wayne at The Touring Store where I buy all my Ortlieb panniers and he mailed me some replacement parts for free. Thanks Wayne! :)

It's an easy fix with 2 bolts holing the buckle...

It’s an easy fix with 2 bolts holing the buckle…

Swapping in new buckles took a few minutes with a multi-tool. I checked the edges of the plastic frame to make sure they weren’t sharp. These are from the set of Ortliebs I lend to folks I tour with so it’s possible one of my friends got overly enthusiastic about tightening the buckles.

Ready to roll...

Ready to roll…

My Orlieb products have been virtually trouble free which is great, but it’s also nice to know that when stuff does go wrong I have a solid dealer to support me and that the product is designed to be easy to repair in the field.

Ortlieb Repair…

14 11 2012

A slight tear in the buckle strap…

I’ve been using Ortlieb products for 15yrs+ and never had a failure until one of the buckles that closes my roll top panniers started to tear.

Getting a set of spare buckles was easy…

I bought all my Ortlieb panniers from Wayne at the Touring Store so I emailed him and he sent me a set of brand new buckles.

Fresh buckle installed…

Ortlieb products are easy to work on so it only took two screws per pannier to remove and reinstall the new buckle. I did both panniers since I had two fresh buckles on hand. The whole process took about mins to complete.

Ortlieb repaired and ready to rumble…

Now these panniers are 100% I’m packing them for my Baja trip. There is a lot of beer and ice to be hauled! ;)

Sharon’s Bike Commuter Update

25 04 2012

Sharon and her Surly Cross Check commuter bicycle...

Sharon’s bike commuting skills have been steadily improving since we moved to Victoria. At first she rode a few days a week. Then she rode every warm dry day. Then she started riding when it was dry and cold. Finally she’s now riding even with some rain in the forecast – which means far more days on the bike.

I’ve been careful not to push her or to say much about her bike commuting other than to give her a high five after she comes home on a particularly gnarly day and help with some bike maintenance.

Ortlieb Downtown - click for info...

Part of the process of riding in more demanding weather conditions and more often in general has been the addition of some new biking gear to Sharon’s quiver. Although I have helped narrow down the options and discussed the pros/cons of each choice she’s been the one to pick what she wants. She’s made some very smart choices such as:

I took the photo at the top of this post yesterday. As you can see Sharon is still rocking her Shower Pass Portland jacket. It’s ideal for days when there is some chance of rain, but it’s not likely to pour. She likes it because it fits well, is comfortable for a wide range of weather conditions at a moderate exertion level. She appreciates that it doesn’t make her look like a traffic cone when she’s riding or has to walk to her office. If the forecast is more on the rainy side she just bought a Gore Bike Wear shell which she uses instead as it’s more appropriate for those conditions.

The Ortlieb Downtown Bag attaches to her bike like a normal pannier, but when you pull it off the pannier frame stays on the bike and you just have a reasonably stylish bag to take with you to your meeting. It’s waterproof which is essential around here and holds enough to be useful for a bike commuter without looking like you are going on an expedition.

Thumbs up for Donkey Boxx...

We are coming up on a year with Sharon using a Donkey Boxx on her bike. It stays on there 24/7 and is her main pannier. She then adds a second soft pannier on the left side of the bike for additional capacity. The Donkey Boxx has survived a serious bike wrecking crash with minimal abrasion marks as well as being generally banged around and bumped over our rough roads. Not only is the Donkey Boxx trucking along just fine, but Sharon really digs it. I took it off her bike after the crash to get repairs done and as soon as it was ready to ride again she wanted the Donkey Boxx reinstalled immediately.

Overall the Surly Cross Check itself has been working great since we repaired it from Sharon’s crash last summer. It’s comfortable, speedy and with fenders and bags can carry Sharon to work with her stuff in most weather conditions. The Nexus 8 IGH means that the only maintenance has been adding some air to the tires and lubing the chain. I think it’s about time that I put the CC in my workstand and give it a once over just to make sure the fenders are tight and nothing needs fixing before the summer. I know she wants new bar tape as she is over the pink and it’s getting pretty grubby looking.

One hassle with this bike is playing the battery game with Sharon’s headlight. For her birthday this year I’ll install a dynohub and B&M light. If I am feeling very motivated I may wire in a tail light as well. That way she should have lights 24/7 without thinking about it which will be nice.

One pedal stroke at a time!

Commuter Style

24 01 2012

Leaving for work on a dark chilly winter morning...

Sharon tries hard not to look like a traffic cone when riding her bike while still being visible to other cyclists and drivers. She’s found a bunch of clothing that’s practical for cycling without being garish. That’s important because if you want more people to ride bikes you need to make them excited about the idea and for a lot of people the traffic cone chic is not an acceptable way to look when arriving at work or a social event. Luckily there are lots of cycling specific clothing and cycling adaptable clothing options these days that you can find to match your personal tastes while staying comfortable.

For visibility Sharon has two powerful rear lights, a powerful [considerately focused] headlight and some reflective trim on her clothing and bike bags.

Not only is it cool that Sharon has found a bike and gear that she is into and reflects her own tastes I think there are a bunch of other potential commuter cyclists who need to see someone dressed stylishly yet sensibly so they can get motivated to start riding to work themselves. Hopefully Sharon is setting a positive example for them as she rolls to work on her Cross Check.

Aaron taking a break after tagging a fence...=-)

Just so the guys don’t feel left out Aaron and I took some male cycling style photos. Aaron always turns up for our rides dressed super nice so I figured I should tap into his fashion wisdom. I’ll be putting up a whole post with his bike clothing tips shortly, but the image above is a taste of what’s to come.

Here I am all coned up!

To avoid a bunch of comments telling me there is nothing wrong with the traffic cone look let me say I agree there is nothing wrong with it. There is also nothing wrong with the bike commuter who dresses up in a Tour de France replica kit and rockets to work on a carbon fibre race bike. However, those two schools of cycling fashion are well represented on the streets around here and are what the general public think about when it comes to riding a bike around town. Since a lot of potential commuter cyclists wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing a traffic cone or skin tight spandex I think it’s important to show them there are other clothing options that are comfortable on the bike, will keep you warm and dry in inclement weather and would be acceptable to a wide range of fashion palates.

Seeing more people on bikes makes me happy and to make that happen we have to give people options they are stoked about.

Ortlieb my secret weapon!

17 08 2011

High visibility black...

I went to collect my mail at my UPS Store mailbox downtown yesterday. The lady who grabbed my parcels knows I usually come on a bike so she was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get two decent sized boxes home without a car. I told her it would be no problem as I shrugged off my large Ortlieb backpack and started loading it up. Once I had both boxes inside I showed her that there was plenty of room left for more!

Boxes are no problem!

The Ortlieb Messenger Bag Pro is designed for professional bike couriers and that pedigree shows when you are stuffing bulky boxes inside or trying to keep large envelopes flat and undamaged. If you are looking for a way to haul stuff on your bike without the hassle of panniers and racks this is a bag worth considering. Especially if carrying bulky items and having a waterproof enclosure are important to you.

Ortlieb Messenger Bag Pro

19 07 2011

Ortlieb Messenger Bag Pro...

I’ve been using an Ortlieb Velocity waterproof backpack for over 3yrs and love it. You can click on the image above and below to read various reviews I’ve posted over the years about this awesome backpack. It sees daily use and has become one of my mission critical bits of gear that if I ever destroyed or if it was lost/stolen I’d go buy a new one the same day without thinking about it. Even when I bough the Velocity I was keen on it’s much bigger brother the Messenger Pro. I’ve had the Messenger Pro on my wish list all these years, but it’s never climbed my priority list and made the cut to be purchased. Well that was until my birthday this year when Sharon asked me what I wanted and I thought the Messenger Bag Pro was one of those gifts I’d never buy for myself so I suggested it to Sharon who got it for me – thanks!…=-)

Ortlieb Messenger Pro details...

The Messenger Bag Pro is a 30L bag compared to the 20L capacity of the Velocity. It feels more than 1.5 times bigger though. The construction is similar with a very durable waterproof PVC body and welded seams to ensure your stuff stays dry. The Messenger Bag Pro comes with two organizer pockets and a stiffener sheet to keep large documents from getting bent/damaged. One neat feature is a clear window on the back of the bag that you can slide a large piece of paper into to act as a mini-billboard. I haven’t used it yet, but plan to – just for fun!

Ortlieb bag comparison...

I expect the Messenger Bag Pro to be as durable as the Velocity which means there is no point talking about how it is wearing after 3 months! I use the bigger bag about 25% of the time and use the smaller bag 75% of the time. If I could only keep one I’d keep the smaller bag. I like a bag being 50%-75% full most of the time because it carries better than a bag that’s under utilized and flopping around. Having both is a nice luxury so I can grab whichever fits my needs better.

Ortlieb Velocity Backpack 3yr+ Update…

3 04 2011

My trusty Ortlieb on an errand adventure...

Have a read of my 5 month review of this backpack for all the nitty gritty details.

This backpack has become my favourite for almost all backpackish needs I have. I do have a few other more traditional backpacks I use occasionally, but 9 times out of 10 this Ortlieb gets the call.


  • fits me well
  • comfortable
  • waterproof
  • durable…it’s scuffed plenty, but shows minimal wear considering the use it’s seen
  • looks nice [to me]
  • holds enough, but not too much


  • it could use a tab for a rear red light…most of my bikes have a hard mounted light, but it would be a useful addition for hopping onto a bike with no rear light
  • I’ve noticed some wear on the cloth at the top where I roll it up to close it…just a bit and no problems yet, but I suspect this is where it will fail, but perhaps not for many years still
  • one of the plastic clips that holds the extra part of the waist belt strap has broken off and they were not that great functionally to begin with
  • since I rarely want to use the waist belt [pack isn't big enough for heavy loads] I simply tape it up

Would I buy another?

  • yes…if this was lost or stolen I’d be ordering a new one the next day
  • in fact my GF asked me what I wanted for a b-day gift this year and one of the 3 options I gave her was the Ortlieb Messenger Pro..this bag’s big brother
  • I should have the pro in a few weeks and I’m sure I’ll love it, but I bet the Velocity still get’s used most of all as the size is perfect for a lot of loads

How to keep the funk at bay on tour?

4 02 2011

Ortlieb folding basin - very handy!

If you are on an extended bike tour away from showers and hotels you still want to stay as clean as possible or at least keep from getting too stinky. At least I hope you do!

Here is what you do:

  • follow my advice in the previous post about butt hygiene
  • whenever possible use any showers, bath tubs, taps, streams, rivers or lakes to bath as best you can
  • put on clean clothes every few days
  • wear synthetic fast drying clothes
  • whenever you get access to water do laundry in a folding basin like the one pictured above
  • go light on the soap and use a mild biodegradable soap
  • wring clothes dry as possible and hang to dry [in the breeze and sunshine if you can]
  • repeat as needed

If you stay on top of it being clean and camping on a bike tour are not mutually exclusive.  I pack limited spare clothing and a very basic set of toiletries when I go on tour.  I manage to stay respectable and could sit down at someone’s house for supper on short notice without being embarrassed at the state of my hygiene.

It was a week since I last saw running water in this photo and I wasn't letting the funk take control....

Got Ortliebs? Got Pockets?

30 01 2011

My LHT loaded on tour...

One criticism I hear frequently about Ortlieb panniers is the lack of pockets to organize gear.  I figured I’d share my technique since I never find myself unable to find something. First off I have an external pocket on each pannier plus a handlebar bag [most of the time]. That gives me 4 pockets plus the bar bag to keep small items or stuff I need to access fast.  I could add two more external pockets…one on the front of each front pannier for a total of 6 pockets, but I don’t feel the need.

Left Rear Pannier

  • holds all my clothes
  • I use mesh bags for small items like socks and underwear
  • I organize my stuff logically depending on what’s happening that day
  • if no rain is expected I’ll fold all my rain gear up and put it on the bottom
  • I tend to start the day wearing warm clothes and take them off as I warm up…these items are put inside the bag on top so if I cool off I can easily grab a warm layer
  • this bag’s external pocket will hold something I don’t need often, but want fast access to when I need it like a First Aid kit
  • I often hang a safety triangle from this bag to make myself visible night and day

Dusty Ortlieb rear panniers with external pockets...

Right Rear Pannier

  • sleeping bag in compression sack
  • thermarest air matress
  • sometimes a tarp
  • sometimes part of a tent with remainder on top of rear rack or shared with touring partner
  • this bag’s external pocket contains something I don’t need on the bike like toilet paper and hand sanitizer or stove fuel

Front Ortlieb with external pocket...

Front Right Pannier

  • contains my cooking equipment and food supplies
  • extra water bottles
  • this bag gets hung up at night in bear country or stowed in a metal storage locker at a campground
  • this bag’s external pocket contains snacks

Top view of Ortlieb's on my Pugsley...

Front Left Pannier

  • tools and spare parts like tubes/tires
  • a 6′ x 6′ piece of sil nylon to sit on at camp
  • extra water bottles
  • extra food if supplies are scarce on this tour
  • this bag’s external pocket will hold bear spray if I need it on a trip, but it’s not a high risk area [in that case the spray is ziptied to bars [like in photo above]

Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus panniers have an external pocket on the side...

Handlebar Bag

  • maps
  • wallet
  • camera
  • snacks
  • headlamp
  • knife
  • cell phone
  • GPS

Can you tell I love my Ortliebs?

Even though my load is a bit different for every tour by keeping this organized in a similar way for each trip it’s very easy to figure out which bag or pocket something is in. I load each bag or pocket so that what I’ll need most is on top and what I don’t need until an emergency or breakdown is on the bottom.  Where it makes sense I use mesh bags to organize stuff inside a bag.

Another trick I use to stay organized [day to day as well as on tour] is to always put stuff back in the same spot right after each use.  That way it’s always where I expect it will be.  If I’m camping for a while rather than pack and unpack my bags all day long I use a few dumping points for frequently used items like my tent’s pockets or my bar bag stashed in my tent. When I pack up camp everything from these dumping point goes back in its proper spot before the bike starts rolling.


Ortlieb Recumbent Porn…

30 12 2010

Hard not to like that!

I don’t post much recumbent porn these days, but this image was worth its own post.  You can buy these bags here. Go Ortlieb..=-)~

Got Ortlieb Bent Pack?

30 12 2010

Ortlieb Recumbent Backpack...

Josh turned me onto this Ortlieb rack top bag that is also a backpack.   I love my Ortlieb panniers and my Velocity backpack so this seems like it could be a winner.

Backpack straps...

I currently have an Axiom rack top bag that I don’t love and it’s not waterproof so I’m open to something better.

More strap detail...

The problem with all multi-function bags is that they may not do any of their functions well.  So my question is does anyone out there actually own one of these and if so can you tell me a bit about how it’s working for you?

Available in basic black...

Grocery Run…

20 10 2010

Only two panniers?

I took a quick run to the grocery store yesterday.  I was supposed to just grab a few things for lunch and dinner, but I’m so used to riding a cargo bike that I kept adding more and more large items to the cart.  I was getting a bit concerned as I packed my panniers at the checkout that I might have to sling some bags over my bars.  Luckily I just got everything to fit.

It’s pretty funny when a touring bike feels puny!…=-)

Ortlieb Uber Alles!

19 10 2010


Ortlieb how I love you...


My friend Tanya has been getting serious about using her bike for transportation over the last 12 months.  She no longer has a car and her bike is her goto way to get around.  Naturally she has been working on how to carry cargo.  She started with a backpack and has gone through several sets of panniers.  I held my tongue as she bought and returned one fairly crap pannier after another.  I did provide specific feedback about panniers when asked  and of course I’ve been using my Ortliebs around her the whole time.  Last night as she was stuffing her birthday present into her latest set of panniers she looked over at my Ortliebs and told me she was returning her current panniers so she could buy some Ortliebs.  A year ago the price tag of the Ortliebs would have seemed crazy to her, but now that she has tried the rest she understands why Ortlebs reign supreme and are worth every penny.

I was so proud…=-)

Ortlieb Velocity Backpack 2.5 Year Review

26 05 2010

My Ortlieb Velocity showing a bit of wear and tear...

Read my initial thoughts about this bag from early 2008 here and my 5 month update here.

This backpack has become my “go to” bag for most of my day to day backpack needs.

This is why:

  • 20L size is perfect for most loads
  • roll top closure lets you carry large odd sized items [bike fork] by leaving top open
  • waterproof bag makes it a no brainer when you want to carry a laptop in the rain
  • PVC fabric is very rugged
  • simple design is easy to use
  • fits well and is comfy even with a moderately heavy load
  • back of bag ventilates well

The bag it has displaced is an aging Camelback Transalp which was my favourite bag for years.  Interestingly the Transalp featured many small pockets to organize my stuff.  I figured the fact the Velocity is a simple bag with only a small organizing pocket might be a problem…as it turns out that’s not an issue and I rarely wish I had more pockets.

If you need a medium sized backpack and you care about waterproofness and durability this is a good bag to consider.

The excess belt straps req'd a ghetto DIY solution...

Stuff I don’t like:

  • basic black goes with anything, but some reflective material like Ortlieb puts on their panniers would make me happier riding late at night.
  • every bag made for cyclists should have a simple cloth tab to allow you to easily attach a red blinky…come on that isn’t rocket science.
  • the removable organizer pocket is handy, but it can slap around inside the bag making an irritating sound with every step you take…an extra snap at the bottom or some velcro would cure that issue.
  • the bag has a waist belt that is rarely needed due to the moderate size of the bag.  This belt comes with two plastic clips to manage the excess strap ends when the belt isn’t being used.  They were made of brittle plastic are broke early on requiring me to resort to a ghetto tape solution.  A sewn on velcro strap on each side would solve the problem while looking nice and lasting as long as you have the bag.

BTW – if you like what you see, but need more than 20L of capacity Ortlieb sells two larger bags similar to the Velocity.  I’m keen on getting the Messenger Bag Pro…I’m just waiting for one to cross my path on sale!

Staying frosty…

17 08 2009
Waterproof means it keeps ice & water in as well!

Waterproof means it keeps ice & water in as well!

I’m not sure if I’ve ever posted this tip before, but since I use it a lot I figured it was worth posting again regardless.

A lot of times I’m riding my bikes to parties where having an icy cold beverage would be lovely.  One easy way to do it is to put your beverages at the bottom of an Ortlieb and grab a bag of ice on the way to the event.  The ice will keep your drinks cold and the ice + water will stay in the pannier so you can even bring them inside.  At night one bag of ice has lasted until the next morning which is about when I am heading home!

I’ll usually take one Ortlieb for drinks and load the other one up with spare clothes, a frisbee, snacks, a blanket to sit on etc…

Beer a bikers best friend...

Beer a bikers best friend...

Of course if you need more capacity you can strap a couple 70L coolers to each side of a Big Dummy – been there done that, but even I’ll admit that’s getting excessive for bicycle transported refreshment…=-)

I’m a bike commuter…

25 05 2009
My Bike Friday NWT daily commuter!

My Bike Friday NWT daily commuter!

How can a guy who works at home be a bike commuter?  Easy you just need a girlfriend who has much nicer place to live than you do so you stay there overnight a lot and have to bike back to your home office in the AM.  It may be a self-imposed commute, but it’s a commute nevertheless!  It’s only a 2km ride, but I forgot how much I enjoyed getting on my bike every morning for a ride before starting work.  Fresh air, bright sunshine and crazy motorists – smells like victory!…=-)

Kona Wah Wah BMX pedals

Kona Wah Wah BMX pedals

I needed some BMX platform pedals for my Surly Big Dummy and my LBS Bow Cycle was sold out of the NRG Slabalanche BMX pedals I have on a few other bikes so I had to settle for some bright white Kona Wah Wah pedals.  Not afraid to bling out my Bike Friday NWT I took the black NRG pedals from the NWT and swapped in the white Konas.  A bit ridiculous? – sure, but if you can’t have fun with your bikes what can you have fun with?  Just like you’d expect the Kona’s are comfy, versatile and grippy.  I tend to commute in a pair of 5.10 Impact low bike shoes so staying firmly attached to the bike is not an issue.

Ortieb panniers on my Bike Friday rear rack.

Ortieb panniers on my Bike Friday rear rack.

I haven’t toured with the NWT yet, but carrying enough wine, beer and ice for a sunny afternoon in the backyard is a decent test of the rear rack and panniers.  The NWT is rock solid with a heavy rear load.  I love how fast I can adjust these Ortlieb panniers to go from one rack to the next.  Although my feet are fairly large 11.5-12US I don’t have any heel strike issues with this rack  & pannier combo.  I even have an additional inch of adjustment if I wanted to move my panniers further back, but I prefer to keep the load as far forward on the bike as I can without hitting my feet on the panniers.

The Bike Friday rear rack provides lots of ground clearance.

The Bike Friday rear rack provides lots of ground clearance.

Without any bags on the rear rack the Bike Friday rack looks like it sits excessively high, but once you have full size rear panniers on it you can see the extra height is needed to get a reasonable amount of ground clearance with the smaller 20″ wheels.

Rohloff Shifter + Titec H-bar + Ortlieb Bar Bag

17 04 2009
A creative cockpit solution...

A creative cockpit solution...

I like Titec H-bars, but two problems I’ve encountered are:

  1. how to mount a handlebar bag and get easy access?
  2. the Rohloff shifter doesn’t fit on the bar very well.

I’ve been trying come up with a solution for a while and finally put something together that looks like it may work.  Basically I’m using two Thorn Accessory Bars – one to move the Ortlieb bar bag out far enough to clear the front of the H-bar and the other to mount the Rohloff shifter.  I haven’t tried this setup out yet as I am waiting to get my lazy butt down to Bow Cycle and pick up some MTB brake levers.  I was going to use Ergon grips on this H-bar like on my Big Dummy, but instead I’ll try Jeff Jones’ suggestion and use a double wrap of cork bar tape all over the bar.  The benefit to using bar tape is that there is no single position to place you hands so you use the entire H-bar without being locked into one or two positions.  It’s a cheap experiment so I’ll give it a go.

Top View

Top View

By angling the accessory bar the Rohloff shifter is mounted on I was able to get lots of clearance between the H-bar and the accessory bar the Ortlieb bar bag is attached to.  As a bonus the angled shifter falls into my hand very easily – better than the previous perpendicular setup. I’m using the shifter on the left as another experiment.  I use my right hand lots to grab water bottles, eat and take pictures, but my left hand stays on the bars much more which is one of the reasons I suffered a nerve injury in the left hand last summer.  The idea is to give my left hand the job of shifting to get it off the bars regularly.

Side View

Side View

This configuration required that the Ortlieb bar bag be mounted to a long-ish accessory bar.  Having the bag levered out this far may cause some handling issues.  OTOH the H-bar is very wide giving me a lot of leverage so that extra control may counter act the bag’s position – hard to say at this point. I’ll just have to give it a try and see what I think.

Top-Side View

Top-Side View