Reviewed: Ortlieb Urban Line Commuter Bag

Where function meets fashion, this smart-looking pannier bag will take you straight from the bike to the boardroom

Not all commuter cyclists have the time or facilities to get changed and reorganise themselves before they start work. Sometimes you just need to be able to dismount, lock, and get straight to your morning meeting. The new Ortlieb Urban Line Commuter-Bag was designed exactly for this and it also looks smart enough to wear straight into the office.

Its PU-laminated cotton Cordura blend is fully waterproof, easy to wipe clean, and doesn’t scream ‘cyclist’ like some tarpaulin bags do. Incorporated into the design are handy reflective patches on each side, to keep you safe and seen at night, but again, these blend well into the overall style of the bag, allowing you to be a covert cyclist when off the bike.

Its space management system has been well thought-out and can accommodate everything you might need for a day at the office. With a separate compartment for a laptop, five inner pockets (three elasticated, two zipped), two pen holders and a key strap, it’s ideal for keeping your items organised and maximising on space.

Everything about this bag is easy to use. Smart-looking snap buckles make for easy access, and a detachable shoulder strap, which takes no time to attach, lets you get moving as soon as you’ve reached your destination.

The biggest feature of Ortlieb’s range is their innovative QL2.1 mounting system. Most panniers aren’t comfortable to wear: who wants plastic hooks digging into their sides?

The QL2.1 system makes for a flush finish on the back of the bag, meaning wearability and comfort. Plus, detaching it is so quick if you’re running late to work you don’t have to worry about fiddling around with straps at the other end.

It requires a separate mount to be attached to your rack and operates in a ‘rotate and click’ manner. It’s easy to install and super versatile: set it up at any angle clear of your pedal stroke. Once in place, slot the bag onto the lowest pin, and rotate until the upper clasps click into place. To detach, pull the cable handle and rotate.

The only drawback is that if you’re likely to switch out for different panniers at the weekend to do your food shopping, you’ve got an extra fitting to contend with. Obviously, this system is designed to be used fully across the range, and if you’re in a position to own several Ortlieb products, you’ll have no problem at all. However, this isn’t the case for everyone.

There are ways around it though. If you’ve got the patience, you can uninstall the mount reasonably quickly, and reattach it when you need it. Once you’ve figured out your set-up, this can easily become a habit. If you have the determination, you can potentially attach a soft-backed pannier with a regular fitting over the QL2.1 mount. Just be aware that the bag’s volume will be reduced by the mount digging into its side.

Failing that, the Commuter-Bag is available with the standard mounting system we’re all used to (QL3.1).


While there can be downsides to setting up your bike with a whole new mounting system for potentially one bag, if you can find a way to work around this, it’s the perfect commuter bag for any work that requires formal attire. It looks great, it’s easy to access, and it’s got the space and compartments necessary to keep your things organised.

It’s as durable as it claims, too. I’ve used it in torrential rain, with everything including the laptop staying perfectly dry, and even after a scrape with some tarmac (I’m fine!), the mount, while visibly damaged, is still in perfect working order. I’ll certainly be using it for a long time to come.

For more information and to see the full range of Ortlieb’s bags, check out their website here.

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