An Ortlieb Downtown Pannier Review (to Compliment a Sale)

I’ve been reviewing the Ortlieb Downtown Commuter Pannier for several months now after my prior foray with the Racktime Workit Pannier.   With our parent company Bike Shop Hub launching their semi-annual Ortlieb, Tubus, Racktime Sale, it seemed like a good time to share a few words about one of Ortlieb’s premier commuter panniers.   A little info on the sale.

All bike bags and racks by these great brands are 10% off through July 5th!
Ortlieb Downtown Commuter Pannier Kahlkoff

My initial reaction to this pannier, after having becoming quite fond of the Racktime Workit, was the same as with most bike commuter gear that is fully waterproof–which is a feeling that it is overkill in a dry climate like that of Flagstaff.

Ortlieb Downtown Commuter Pannier Interface
Pannier Interface

From this perspective I can have an extra critical eye as to the overall use and functionality of the product.   I’ve asked the question: How does this bag perform despite having a feature of being waterproof which has little value to me?

So waterproofing aside, the most exciting aspect of this pannier is Ortlieb’s innovative new QL-3 mounting system.   All panniers that come with the new QL-3 system come with the rack mounting kit.   Additional kits are available for setting the rack up with multiple bikes.

What impressed me most about this system was how easy it made putting the bag on and off the rack.   To take your bag of the rack, you literally only need to grab the handle and lift.   Putting the bag back on the rack requires a little more effort.

At the same time I was reviewing this bag, I had a Lone Peak RP-350 on top of my bike rack.   Because this bag hangs slightly over the edge of the rack, it made it difficult to drop the bags interfaces over the waiting receptacle nubs.   I quickly adapted and came up with a technique of pulling the handle along the top of the bag.   But when I was commuting without the rack-top bag, setting the bag on the rack was a true breeze.

Another nice aspect of the QL-3 system is that the bag looks and acts much more like a normal bag when off the bike.   The disappearing act of the hooks allows the bag to slide against your legs as you breeze into the morning meeting and people hardly even notice that the bag was designed to pop on your bike (perhaps not the desired effect).   I should mention that the QL-3 system is also compatible with Ortlieb’s Office series of Commuter Panniers.

Beyond my love affair with the new QL-3 system, the Ortlieb Downtown offered a variety of additional nice, easy-to-use, simple features.   The main closure system is a confidence-inspiring machined hook that clips into three positions depending on the size of the load.

Ortlieb Downtown Commuter Pannier Handle

While I really like the look and feel of the system, I sometimes felt it was a little slower in opening and closing than is ideal for a commuter pannier, an appropriate compromise though for the advantages it offers over plastic buckles.

All of the features of the bag were top-notch including a nice padded handle and included shoulder strap.   The layout of the bag is very appropriate for most commuter uses with a pocket facing the rack attachment side of the bags for a laptop or books, and a larger pocket for larger items.   It had just the right amount of internal organizing pockets for small items, pens, business cards etc.   I did feel as if the bag was a slightly smaller than would have been ideal for my use.   The waterproof aspects of the bag make it a bit stiff. I’m inclined to think this stiffness somewhat limits your ability to cram and/or organize your items into the bag.

Ortlieb Downtown Commuter Pannier RearOverall, I felt that the variety of features of this bag complimented each other well, yielding a great daily use bag especially for someone who appreciates a fully-functional waterproof bike commuting pannier that slides off the bike and into the office with grace. And on a personal note, as I don’t have that much need for the waterproof functions of this bag I think I still prefer the soft bag features of the Racktime Workit.   At this point, I’m imagining my ideal commuter pannier as a Workit with the QL-3 mounting system.

The Ortlieb Downtown Pannier normally retails for $119 at the and is on sale for $107.10 through July 5th as are all Ortlieb, Tubus and Racktime Products!

Ortlieb Downtown Commuter Pannier Inside

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6 thoughts on “An Ortlieb Downtown Pannier Review (to Compliment a Sale)”

  1. S Clark says:

    What I wish for are some long-wheelbase panniers for dutch-designed bikes (e.g. Specialized Globe Haul 1 and 2) where the rack is a full 16″ long. Not xtra-cycle long, but much longer than standard add-on-racks. Ditto with rack trunk bags.

  2. matt says:

    has there been a handlebar bag roundup on this site? I would really love on. as a fattie who wants to balance the weight on his bike…at least somewhat…I try to avoid rear racks.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Matt: Have you seen this?

  3. BluesCat says:

    Boy, I really like that quick release idea with the QL-3 system. Dang it, Josh, now you’ve got me lusting over some New Bike Stuff!

    I’ve had a set of Jandd Economy panniers and Rack Bag II for years. Although they work great, taking them off and putting them back on is a real production. First you unhook four Velcro straps and a plastic buckle to get the rack bag off. Then you reach down on either side of the rear rack to release the bungee-style elastic hook which secures each pannier bag to the rack. (Invariably, on the drive side, I bump my hand against the cassette and wind up with a couple of knuckles coated in black chain lube.) Only then can you pull the panniers up and off the bike.

    But here’s the number one item on my wish list: a hard-shell seat bag (box?) which locks to your saddle frame and/or seat post and includes a security tether to fasten your quick release saddle to the bike frame.

  4. matt says:

    G thanks!

  5. San Francisco bike commuter says:

    Thanks for the informative review Josh.

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