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The Ortlieb Office Bag QL3 is the latest incarnation of Ortlieb's waterproof briefcase pannier. What's changed from the QL2 bag is the attachment system: it's still quick-release but the hooks are recessed, so the briefcase looks more businesslike when you're off the bike. Or as Ortlieb put it: 'Flat mounting elements ensure smooth back side.' Yep.
The attachment system is clever. The QL3 mounting set (available separately for £14 if you fancy carrying the bag on other bikes) looks a bit like the hooks and cleat from the back of any another pannier, stripped of the actual bag. It fixes semi-permanently onto a rear rack; the hooks on the top rail bolt in place and there's a stabilising cleat to tuck behind a rack strut.
Three plastic nodules on the mounting set engage with recessed hooks in the back of the bag. You just slide the pannier into place. As the channels in the recessed hooks dog-leg, the pannier can't jump straight up and off if you go over a bump. It can't dog-leg up and off either, as there are sprung safety catches in the two top hooks - a refinement of Ortlieb's QuickLock system (hence QL3). These retract when you lift the bag by the handle, so there's no faffing with catches and cleats when you go to remove the bag from you parked bike: you just pull up by the handle and the bag comes off, one-handed.
While it's easy to get the pannier on and off the QL3 mounting set, it takes a while to fix the mounting set to your pannier rack properly. For one thing, the top attachment fixings are very snug. (It's designed to fit either 8mm or 10mm diameter racks, with different rubber shims. I fitted it to a 10mm rack, which required pliers and patience.) For another thing, unless your bike has looooong chainstays or you have tiny feet, you'll want to set it up so that the pannier tilts downward, to get the bottom corner away from your heel when pedalling. There's a fair bit of fore-aft adjustment possible, but you don't want the bag too far back or its weight will compromise the bike's handling. So it fits best on bikes with longer chainstays, such as touring bikes. Having said that, I fitted it to a Ridgeback Solo fixed-wheel road bike with a wheelbase of about 415mm without bag-heel interference. (My feet: Euro 42.)
The further back you need to fit the bag, the more you'll benefit from a pannier rack with dog-leg rear strut, as that will give a firm attachment point for the QL3 mounting set's lower cleat. The rack I used – a Blackburn EX1 – didn't have a strut like this, and the lower cleat only just reached behind the nearest strut. I added a zip-tie for extra security and this worked fine in keeping the bottom of the mounting set stable.
The Office Bag itself is Cordura on the outside, shiny PU on the inside. As you'd expect from Ortlieb, it's completely waterproof, with welded seams and a roll-top closure. You don't need to mess with a rain cover or worry that your laptop might get damp from rain leaking in at the seams. What's inside stays dry – end of.
On the outside of the bag there are two Scotchlite panels for night-time visibility, and plastic feet underneath so that you won't scuff the bag on the floor. You can attach a quick-release shoulder strap (provided) to the D-rings at the base of the handles if you're walking far.
As there aren't any sticky-out hooks on the Office Bag, you don't have to worry about them catching your clothing. However, you'll still want to carry the bag with the bike side away from you when you're walking, as that's the side that'll have been exposed to wheel spray. So the lack of protruding hooks is more about neatness than anything else.
On the inside, there's an internal stiffener to give the bag some shape, and side pockets for documents and valuables. It's not padded internally, so if you're planning to carry a laptop you'll want a proper sleeve for it; Ortlieb do one for £33.
The bag's capacity is 21 litres, enough for any office-bound commuter's essentials. You could jam your bike tools, spares and waterproof layers in here too. I wouldn't. An Ortlieb Front Roller or other small pannier on the other side of your pannier rack will balance out the load better, so that all the weight isn't on one side, and will keep dirty or damp stuff away from your office stuff.
Apart from the lack of a padded laptop insert, which I half expected to get at this price, my only reservation about the Office Bag QL3 is the QL3 bit. It's a neat system but it locks you into using QL3 bags on one side of your rack. None of my conventional panniers would fit over the top of the QL3 rack framework. If you have a dedicated commuter bike that won't be an issue. If, like me, your commuter bike does other jobs and sometimes carries different panniers, that's frustrating.
In fact, as clever as the QL3 system is, I would get the QL2 version of the Office Bag instead for this reason. The Office Bag QL2 is still available – and for £15 less (RRP) than the QL3, in the same 21L size. There's also a 13-litre version of the QL2 for £85.
A great briefcase pannier that's weatherproof and businesslike, although the bolt-on rack fixings preclude using other bags.
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Make and model: Ortlieb Office Bag QL3
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's a commuter pannier.
Ortlieb say: The waterproof briefcase with roll closure can be quickly mounted to the rack and easily taken off. The Office-Bag offers room for two large DIN A4 files, office supplies, mobile etc. With the padded Notebook Sleeve (available as extra accessory) it is a perfect laptop bag (up to 15.4'). Two large 3M Scotchlite reflectors and a reflective ORTLIEB logo (except silver version of PD620 fabric) ensure safety in the dark and in bad weather conditions. Edge protectors and base feet on the rear and bottom ensure optimal protection of the bag.
This model features the QL3 mounting system that can be fixed to any standard rack with a diameter up to 10 mm on the left or right side. Flat mounting elements ensure a smooth back side. Mounting height and angle of the bag are individually adjustable.
Attention: remove shoulder strap before biking or stow away inside the bag
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
It's made from PS36C, which is PU-coated Cordura.
Any briefcase pannier needs the fixings setting up carefully to avoid heel clipping. The QuickLock 3 fixings on the rack mean you can't fit a normal pannier on that side, only a QL3 bag.
The weight of 1738g includes the mounting set that bolts to your pannier rack. By itself, the bag (inc shoulder strap) is 1582g. The mounting set is 156g.
It's a great bag, but quality costs. And a padded laptop insert is extra.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It works well, so long as you take the time to set it up so the bag is in an optimal position on your bike.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Waterproof. Tough. Doesn't look bikey when you're off the bike.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No laptop insert as standard. QL3 fixings mean that you can't use one side of your bike's pannier rack for anything else.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? No. I don't really need an office bag like this; if I'm cycling on business, I'm on a Brompton.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes. This or the QL2 version.
Age: 42 Height: 1.78m Weight: 65kg
I usually ride: Ridgeback Solo World fixed wheel My best bike is: Planet X Pro Carbon Track (with front brake)
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,