Josh King lives in Seattle, where he commutes by bike every day, rain or shine. He switched to full-time single speed commuting in 2010. You can read his thoughts on going gearless at www.singlespeedseattle.com
As I’ve said before, my fixed-gear bike is no fashion statement. It’s my daily ride to work, and, increasingly, my go-to for running errands around town. In addition to having committed the ultimate fixie hipster faux pas (brakes – on both wheels!), I’ve geeked my ride out with a rear rack and panniers.
The panniers are the excellent Ortlieb classic backrollers, which are pretty much mandatory if you’re commuting year-round in Seattle.
But I wanted to try a smaller waterproof handlebar bag as an option for errands where I didn’t need to be carrying around a full pannier or two.
Enter the Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Compact Classic handlebar bag (retail price $55).
Like all of Ortlieb’s products, the quality is first-rate. I’m not going to worry about water getting into this thing. Plus, it’s shiny and has an easily-removable shoulder strap for the off-bike portion of the errand.
Another plus is the mounting bracket. It looks a bit ungainly, but it is easy to use and includes a lock should you want to leave the (empty) bag on the bike unattended for a spell.
That said, there are a couple of knocks on the Ortlieb Ultimate 5 as a solution for commuting and errands. The biggest issue is the position of the bag on the handlebars, which blocks out all of the prime spots for mounting a front light. And the time of year I really need a waterproof bag is… the time of year I really need lights.
I resorted to attaching a clip light to the front.
Those needing light (as opposed to visibility) will have to find a different solution.
The stout construction of the bag also forecloses any packing – you’re limited to the stated capacity of 165 cubic inches. And given the size, it’s not going to hold more than lunch or a few small errand-objects.
I’ve been riding with it for a month, and frankly haven’t found much use for this bag. It’s just kind of in-between sizes.
Ultimately, the Ortlieb Classic 5 is a quality bag that would work for a commuter who wants a glovebox for wallet, keys and other small items as a supplement to panniers or a backpack. And it could be handy for small errands. However, it’s probably most suited for touring use rather than around town.