Showing posts with label ortlieb. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ortlieb. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

OPD - Ortlieb Pannier Disorder

Some of you may know this already, but I have something of an unhealthy obsession with Ortlieb Panniers. I have blogged at each stage of what I now consider my Ortlieb Pannier Disorder.

It began with researching Ortlieb Pannier fabrics and their relative merits and environmental implications...

Then I got all freaked out about their different pricing in various countries...

Then, once I had the panniers, I began obsessing about properly closing them leaving no creases without the shoulder strap, so much so that I developed a hack in order to do so and used up 2 posts worth of your precious time telling you about it:

After writing that post I knew I was getting WAY too interested in the tiny details of simply using a bicycle saddle bag. I mean, who cares, right? Well apparently I do, because yesterday I followed a link on bikesnobNYC that went to pedal strap maker Hold Fast's web site.

Instead of appreciating the nice bikes in the picture, my eyes were immediately drawn to the Ortlieb Pannier. The first thing I noticed was that it was done up very poorly (at least by my OPD standards). Second, it contained something sort of oddly "pokey".

Just for the record:

Now as far as the "pokey" nature of the pannier in question, it just makes me curious.

What could it be in there? A bong perhaps?

Author's Note: When faced with a mysterious object, I always guess "bong" first. They come in such a wide variety of shapes and sizes that it is never a bad guess. Also, it is just fun to say the word "bong".

A dreaded attack squirrel?

I could be anything! Except maybe a book or a loaf of bread. They don't have pokey bits. I welcome your guesses as to the contents of that bag. Whatever is in there, I like to think the bike and bag belong to this this guy:

That way it could be like a pannier version of pets looking like their owners! Umm, I think I had better stop now and take a nap or something. I hope I don't dream of pokey, poorly closed panniers...

Yer Pal,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rantwick vs. The Pesky Strap - Ortlieb Hack Round 2

The last time I tried to solve a problem nobody else had I failed miserably. To review:

I didn't like using the shoulder strap to hold down the sides of my Ortlieb front roller panniers and didn't need it for my usual daily use. I also felt that doing what a normal person would do, just clicking the sides over the top, worked against the waterproof design of the bag.

So I went out and got items that in my mind would create a new and better way of doing things. It was terrible. A failure. These things happen.

As much as I dislike this whole "FAIL" thing people do online, I figure I am allowed to FAIL myself. I do so partly because since I am not in any way hip, cool or popular, my doing it might spell the end of this irksome activity for all who wish to be so. In addition, this may represent the most cryptic "FAIL" image I have ever seen. I like that.

I know now where my troubles began. I tried to use things I don't love. Like a bird trying to love a nihilist, it just couldn't work. Aluminum crimps? Shock cord? Pull-adjuster things? I do like shock cords, but none of these things can come close to how much I like zip ties, and duct tape, and velcro. I love these things.

You know sometimes people say of certain foods that you can "taste the love"? If I couldn't find a recipe for pannier hack success with this veritable Holy Trinity of MacGyvering goodness, I never would. The solution I came up with is one in which I totally "felt the love" of zip ties. And duct tape. And velcro.

So here's what I did. First, I covered the clicky ends of the pannier top with duct tape.

This created a flat stable surface suitable for the application of velcro. I opted for the prickly side for these.

Next, some small zip ties to prevent the velcro from curling back or trying to un-stick from the clicky things.

Then I tried filling the pannier as full as it go and rolled the top to see where the clicky tabs would land on the side. I then rolled it up empty and checked again. This told me where and how long the velcro "landing strip" should be.

Done. It works great and the pannier is very quick to roll and close with these new velcro tabs.

What remains to be seen is whether the velcro landing strip will curl or un-stick. I don't want to compromise the waterproofiness of the bag by trying to sew it on. That velcro strip stuff is very sticky, so I have high hopes.

Yer Pal,


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ortlieb Pannier Review Update and a Super Hack - That Pesky Strap

I love my Ortlieb panniers. I've got a pair of front roller classics that I use on my rear rack. They're great, as I've noted a couple of times in a review post. I have discovered, however, that I am not alone in having a bit of a peeve with the shoulder/"pull down" strap.

I found out that it wasn't just me when I revisited the cycling forum thread that was the basis for one of my earliest and longest blog posts ever, "Ortlieb's Inferno - A Descent Into Cycling Forum Hell". Here's the deal on the strap:

After using the pannier for a couple of months, I removed the plastic/rubber shoulder pad thing because it got in the way of adjusting the strap length sometimes. In addition, I seemed to always be in danger of losing the strap, so I took to leaving one end of it connected at all times, including when I was rolling and unrolling the top. It wasn't a big deal, but it was just slightly annoying, as was adjusting the strap length depending on how full the pannier was.

After months of operating that way, I managed to lose one of the straps anyway. That wasn't a big deal, really, because I never used them as shoulder straps and I could just join the corners over the top instead:

This totally works and I've read of other people who do it this way, but I am an uptight (watertight?) freak:

What bugs me about the above pictures is that the rolled top leaves a crease/seam for rainwater to fall into (eek and ack) and looping over the top like that creates depressions in the top of the bag (ook) where water could collect. It probably would never make it into the bag, but I am a freak. Clicking over the top works against the excellent design of the bag. When using the strap, the roll top got pulled down in a better way and the top was smooth:

So there I was. Great panniers, niggling annoyance. Since I had zero interest in maintaining or using a shoulder strap anyway, I figured I should come up with something that suited my uses best. Here is what I did:

First, I assembled some aluminum sleeves (crimps), shock cord and pull-adjuster things. This assembly would replace the strap with something I could stretch and/or adjust the length of very quickly and easily.

Second, I looped the shock cord through the roll-top ends and pounded the aluminum sleeves flat. Done! Third, I tried it out. Fourth, I cut my contraption off the pannier because it was hopeless.

I knew the cord might get in the way somewhat while rolling the top, but not as badly as it did. My hack attempt was ill-conceived and totally sucked. That's OK though, because it will inform any further attempts I make. Please note that I would have tidied up those frayed ends if it had worked.

I'm cooking something up in my brainpan right now, so please refrain from advising me. I'm stupid, but I am also determined. Overcoming stupidity without help from smart people is just so much more satisfying, don't you think? Only answer that if you are stupid too... I guess you did just spend a few minutes reading this... Yep, you can answer.

Did I just call my readers stupid for reading my blog? Wow. Smooth, Rantwick. Real Smooth. Um, hey... I Love You.*


* please note that said love is of the variety with which you are most comfortable and may include "like a brother", "in a non-creepy way" or "you know, as a friend" types. Especially if you are a dude.

PS - I revisited this "problem" with better results later on. Click here for that post.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Review: Ortlieb Front Roller Classics

I have stated in a previous post that I wasn't ever going to review stuff on this blog, but I find that I can't help myself. What I can do is limit the number of words I use.

I got a pair of Ortlieb front roller classics (that I use on the rear rack, because I didn't want or need great big panniers) a few months ago.

These bags are not only worth their high price tag, but are even worth braving the perils of cycling forum research and international shopping. I have ridden in some very heavy rain on several occasions with these, and they remained bone-dry inside. They are waterproof. They are one of the best cycling related investments I have ever made. End of review. Should my opinion change over time, I'll let you know.

Update - October 2010 - These panniers are holding up really well... used every day for my work commute. They didn't see too much rain over the summer, but when used in the wet this Fall they've continued to remain totally dry inside. I'm not too crazy about the "pull down" strap... I don't like adjusting it and have almost lost those straps a couple of times now. I'm thinking about a hack for those that should work nicely... anyway, I still love these panniers over a year later.

Remember, if Brevity is Golden, then Silence is Wit...


Friday, May 1, 2009

Support Your Local Bike Shop - If You Can

You know those Ortlieb panniers that led me into Cycling Forum Hell? I made my decision and shopped around, and found that they were indeed expensive. I called the Canadian distributor to find out which Local Bike Shop (LBS in cycling forum parlance) carried them, and came up with just one. When I called that shop (which wasn't one of my favourites) they told me the panniers would have to be ordered for me and since they didn't make regular orders from that distributor, I would have to pay for the shipping too. The price they gave me made me cringe, so I started looking online.

American online bike stores had them, but after Duty, Shipping and Taxes I was looking at roughly the same amount as having the LBS get them. If you are into cycling stuff, particularly building bikes and sourcing parts, you know this tune well. I was stuck. In the absence of other good options, I did the unthinkable. I looked in online stores from the UK and Europe.

As you may have guessed, Ortlieb is a German company, but it should be noted that they are definitely distributed worldwide, and have a strong US presence as demonstrated by

Why, then, does the pannier set I was after sell for $78 US in England and $140 US in Canada and the States, before shipping? I'm trying to understand. Surely the lower number of cyclists per capita is made up for by the hugeness of the American market... is it possible that so few North Americans buy these things that economies of scale don't or can't keep the price similar on both sides of the Atlantic?

Are there protectionist economic practices keeping those evil European panniers out of North America? Are the hard working pannier makers of middle America in danger of extinction?

I hemmed and hawwed for over a month. I mean, having something shipped from England? Eventually, against my better judgement, I ordered them from an online retailer in the UK. Shipping was more than it was in my "test purchases" of about a month earlier, and I thought "here we go... they're gonna end up costing the same no matter what I do". After shipping and before crossing Canada's borders, I had paid $118 US. Now here's something freaky... that's where the spending stopped! It was some kind of International shopping miracle!

No tax, no duty... wait, wait! On second thought... I did pay duty and taxes, yeah, and was pleased to do so, because I would never cheat my government.

The package arrived at my house about 6 business days after ordering - not bad having come ACROSS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN!
original, undoctored painting source:
So, anyway, the upshot of this whole post is that by shopping globally rather than locally, I saved at least $40 US. That is so very wrong! I shouldn't be saving a penny by having stuff shipped ACROSS THE ATLANTIC (or Pacific, for that matter) OCEAN! Now that the deed has been done, I feel a little dirty. I mean, if you want to talk about environmental concerns, having stuff shipped from all over the place certainly isn't helping. And I really would rather support my LBS; I'm just not willing to pay an extra $40 or $50 to do so...

I'm off to examine my conscience. It may take several days.
Yer Pal,


Monday, April 13, 2009

Ortlieb's Inferno - A Descent into Cycling Forum Hell

Like many people who try to make good use of the Internet, I am often discouraged by the level of discourse found on message boards and discussion forums. There are many who reduce themselves to really crude language and active hostility for reasons that I can't understand. Nonetheless, if you can stand to wade through it all, you can sometimes find that others have already found an intelligent answer to a question of your own.

Such was the case on, where I found that somebody else had already been weighing the relative merits of two very similar types of expensive-but-supposedly-worth-it bicycle panniers from the same manufacturer, Ortlieb.

Upon starting to read the forum discussion on the matter, I was pleasantly surprised to find that people were just answering the original question as best they could, in very reasonable English. As I progressed, however, I came to understand that there is another type of Internet discourse that is much, much worse than the crude assertions of cranky adolescents of all ages; the well-intentioned opinions of people who care about things. Most of the on-topic comments in the discussion (and there were several) have been left out of the following summary, since they in no way contributed to my descent (see title). Excerpts from the forum are in blue, and I have added some pictures to, well, illustrate the points as they come up.

I should have known what I was in for; since the forum topic just screamed controversy:

Touring - Ortlieb Classic vs Plus fabric

In case your're thinking "wow, what a weenie for caring about different pannier fabrics" like I am right now, yes, I am that kind of weenie. I can't help it. Back to our story...

The Dutch are famous for being some of the cyclingest people around, so it didn't surprise me that they made an appearance, this time to inadvertantly send the discussion on its hellish tangent without ever having to read it... they just pipe up from the outer circle of the third person, and so the descent begins:

we met a nice Dutch couple while traveling who told us of a European based boycott of Ortlieb packs a few years back because the classic material is PVC

That is, by the way, a real Dutch couple, and hardcore long distance cyclists with a social conscience who may well pipe up about the relative merits of different bicycle panniers and PVC to boot! They are not, however, the Dutch couple as far as I know. My search for the Dutch couple continues, but I fear that it may ultimately be fruitless. Anyway, discussion of PVC naturally followed...

PVC is evil. That is why I chose the new style Ortlieb.


PCV is poly-vinyl-chlorine, and is a huge environmental nightmare. The dioxin pollution from PVC manufacture is horrific, and if burned and/or landfilled when you're done using them, dioxin, lead, and other contaminants are released. There are other nasties, but, this seems enough to list here.

The original poster is somehwat dissappointed to find out his preference may be bad news for the planet:

Damn... so every time I buy an Ortlieb Classic pannier, God kills a kitten?I was getting ready to decide on the classic style

At this point a new voice joins the discussion, and "opens it up" a little...
I don't think it's good for anyone to be using PVC when there are lots of other alternatives. I also don't think it's good when people buy 10,000 sq foot Mcmansions for their family of three to live in, or when they buy SUVs or for solo twenty mile commutes to work, or that people still think it's OK to have pizzas delivered to their house. But people do things that deleteriously impact the sustainability of our society all the time. Mostly, I think, it's due to a lack of education and societal norms that are shaped by marketing.

Hey, is that a dead elk on the roof of that pizza delivery vehicle? Are they justing mocking me or the forum discussion or both? This deserves a closer look. Ahah! It's just a plastic (PVC?) moose because the car is from Moosejaw Pizza. Whew. Now, back to our story:

So, people do all kinds of things they shouldn't because of norms shaped by marketing. Would these norms overwhelm our pannier-choosing brother? Sensing an imminent rationalization-to-purchase-anyway, the anti-PVC lobby plays the "wild card"...

Not just kittens, but fish and deer and elk and elephants and tigers and birds (think soft egg shells) and ... people, especially around the areas where this stuff is produced, who also don't have the money to go to a doctor when they are sick from the poisoning and are less likely to have a lawyer to defend them and force this kind of thing from being manufactured.

This ultimately sends our pannier purchaser into a fit of writing, research and rhetoricals (the three R's of descent into forum hell theory) that results in a very lengthy ramble-on, bits of which are excerpted below:

...I guess the PVC thing is one of those "where do you draw your line" things... for example... Computers. They are incredibly toxic, people in Asia are getting very sick from scavenging through piles of old discarded hardware. And electricity - we all use it, and in the US it's produced often by coal, which is a huge polluter. And that computer (and websites) you're using now? Apparently carbon dioxide emissions from information and communications technology is on the same level as the aviation industry - 2 percent of global emissions (New Scientist, 5th Jan 2008, p.20)... Even if I shop organic and buy local and ride my bike, I'm pretty much a polluting scumbag along with everybody else in one way or another, and I know it... the biggest possible benefit any of us can do for the world is simply to not have any more kids... PVC panniers... I dunno... what if the Classics do last longer? Doesn't that offset some downside?... Damn, ignorance really was bliss... I really shouldn't ask so many questions.

I'm not even going to try to put together a picture for that one! Our pannier purchaser wrote much more than what I posted here, in a single entry. The poor guy really does seem quite serious and concerned about his choices, which is laudable. Some people, however, didn't think him tortured enough, it would seem...

God won't kill a kitten. The PVC kitten has rabies and will come to play with your children and grandchildren.
Again, I'm not going to attempt an illustration, and I am not making this up. Soon, a supportive soul makes an appearance and attempts to smooth things over a little for our beleaguered friend:

I think you have the right outlook on this. Nobody can be perfect, and it sounds like you are doing the best that you can. You've researched all of the alternatives, and you are making an informed decision to go with a PVC bag. It may be polluting, but it's still infinitely better than traveling in an RV. Maybe the next time that you need to purchase panniers somebody will have invented a good replacement for PVC.

But wait! Another important bone of contention has been found!

umm, I think dioxins are actually worse than traveling in an RV--unless there's more PVC in an RV than the PVC bags.

hang on, there's more room for useful insight here...

If I remember correctly, the insulation for a lot of electronic wires is made of PVC. RVs have miles of wiring and dozens of electronic devices. The amount of PVC in an RV could easily be comparable to that of a set of panniers.It was at this point during my descent that I began to question my own sanity. Perhaps this was not a descent into hell at all, but simply a good old fashioned descent into madness! That was starting to seem like a pretty nice option, when an angel of forum-based mercy posted something to give me the strength I would need in order to continue:

Just buy one of them and forget about it.No damn difference that you'll notice.

Mind... clearing. Sanity... restored! Hang on...

Assuming that you don't live downstream from a PVC factory, you'll never notice the difference.

and then this:

If you have any children, that's probably the biggest single negative environmental action you will ever take in your life, propagating the human species. Over that child's lifetime, they will produce yet more pollution and consume yet more resources. If we were all totally honest about it, then the best thing we could all do is just leave. I mean it. We're bad for the place, it's better off without us.

Leaving Earth - The Earth's curvature becomes apparent just a couple of hours after the Trans-Lunar Injection burn (TLI) which takes the human race departure spacecraft out of Earth orbit and off to the Moon.

So began the final descent into the ever-tightening circles of cycling forum hell. I am at this time unsure of their precise numeric designations, being no theologian, but I can name them, thanks to travelling through them personally. They are, in order:

The Circle of Biological Imperatives and Cleaning Ease (a good combo, when you think about it):

The world was created for our use (not abuse, though). The answer is to stop being so wasteful, not stop having children..... We're supposed to propagate the species.My vote goes for the classic style panniers. Cordura isn't so easy to clean.

The Circle of Big Words and Propagation Moderation:
Most anthropocentric post EVER! What a ridiculous idea, that the world was created for us. The world existed long before humans got here, and it will be here long after we are gone. I don't think there is any call for the elimination of the human species, but reducing our global population would probably be a smart move, in addition to reducing the per capita consumption and impact on the planet.

The Circle of Demanded Proof (aka The Circle of the Doubting Thomas):
I'm simply pointing out that nobody in this thread has demonstrated any significant understanding of the specific life cycle environmental impacts of either choice and therefore any conclusion based on it is meaningless. You have no idea if the buying/using a set of Classic panniers has more or less environmental impact than a pair of plus panniers.

The Final Circle of Cycling Forum Hell: Circular Pseudosciephilosophy
...The earth was in fact, made for us only days before the first man was created. This earth is not some accident of evolution or whatever other convoluted theory modern science is pushing these days. I am in in fact a scientist myself and used to buy into the whole evolution thing until I did some research. There are so many holes in the whole "big bang" theory. I could spend 2 hours talking about them all. Hole #1: Life cannot "evolve" from non-living matter. If you agree with this, the debate is over.Hole #2: An "explosion" cannot create ordered complex things. It creates disorder. You don't explode a stick of dynamite and expect to get a BMW.....Hole #9,999,999: Where did the first matter come from?

What is life? It is a complex series of chemical interactions. No mystery there. You take an aqueous solution of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, etc, and add energy, you get complex chemistry. Given a lot of time, say hundreds of millions of years, and trillions of chemical interactions, it isn't surprising that life results.

Matter comes from energy (E=MC^2). Where does the energy come from? Well that is a hole. Nobody knows why the big bang happened, or why it was so energetic. But creationists can't explain the origin of a supernatural all-powerful deity. And any explanation of such a deity would inherently be more complex than explaining the origin of the energy that is contained in the universe, and no religion offers any reasonable explanation for the ultimate origin of any deity in the first place. Thus Genesis offers an inferior hypothesis to the big bang theory.

If you accept that you can't explain the origin of energy or the reason for the "explosion" from science, you by default have accepted that there is a supernatural being. You have confirmed that God exists.BTW.... you have more to lose here. If I'm wrong, I've lost nothing. If you're wrong, you go to hell.

I must now make an observation. How creepy is it that Ortlieb's Inferno (Cycling Forum Hell) finds its most pure form in circular arguments? Hey, wait. Did you see that? A rhetorical question! I am also writing! I did research (remember Moosejaw?)! The aforementioned three R's of descent into forum hell theory! That %&^$! forum stuck to me somehow! Get it off! Get it off...

Thanks for reading. If I can just scrub these cycling forum hell spots away, I'll see you next Monday.


P.S. I did not make any of this up. To view the full discussion in all its glory, follow this link: