Geek my Fixie – Part 1: Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Compact Classic Handlebar Bag

Josh KingJosh 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

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.

Ortlieb Ultimate5 Classic CompactThe 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.

Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Classic Compact
Euro man-bag worthy?

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.

Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Classic CompactOrtlieb Ultimate 5 Classic CompactI’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.

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9 thoughts on “Geek my Fixie – Part 1: Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Compact Classic Handlebar Bag”

  1. Dr. M says:

    The Basil Forrest Front bag solves the headlight problem by coming with a bracket that extends above the bag. Place your lights or anything else on the bracket that floats well above the bag. No blocked headlights and the bag is very roomy and waterproof. Even comes with a topside map sleeve in case you want to tour with it. See it at my blog linked here.

  2. hokan says:

    I have the Ultimate 5 (not the compact version) and had a similar problem with headlight mounting. I solved the problem by mounting the headlight on the fork or on the head tube (two different bikes). In both cases I used a Minora Besso light holder:

  3. bharat says:

    I had the same problem with handlebar lights in combination with a ortlieb handlebar bag. Luckily i hit on this ( solution. Has been working feel for me this winter commute.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      That’s brilliant! I wonder how that would work with Planet Bike’s Sport Spot Headlight, or Light and Motion’s Solite 150 both of which are made to work double duty as bike headlights and head lamps.

  4. Scott says:

    Nice Salsa Casseroll. Have you had to replace the bearings in the Surly hubs yet? If you do go will phil wood spec. You will feel a difference.

  5. Peter says:

    Speaking of geeks and Ortleib (both are excellent in my opinion) Brompton announced it will be carrying a line of miniature Ortleib bags for their folding bikes. It’s fashionable and super waterproof, what’s better than that?

  6. Steve says:

    I have this bag, and I agree, best used as a “glovebox.” I ended up getting the ortlieb compact because I needed a couple of solutions to my commuting needs. 1) I work on a military base, where I need easy, waterproof access to my wallet for my id. Having a handlebar bag (especially with the velcro enclosure) is better than digging through my panniers (also ortlieb) at the gate. 2) I like taking everything stealable off my bike, which includes the saddle bag with my tool kit (which are always notoriously hard to remove and awkward to carry). Since I don’t always ride with panniers, this bag gives me a place to put my wallet, phone, ipod, bike tool kit, removed bike lights, gloves and glasses, that I can easily remove and sling over my shoulder. 3) this bag gives me a dedicated place to store all of the above items without having to figure out where to put them based on whether I’m using panniers, backpack or nothing.

    I just wish they made the bag as easy to remove as their panniers. Removing this bag requires two hands, which can be awkward with full panniers already slung over my shoulder.

    I mounted my light on my fork using the minoura mount, and it works great.

  7. bharat says:

    Ted i did try this setup with a few other bike lights (borrowed from friends), no issues apparently. Just one caveat with this placement is that the lower you attach the lights the more they tend to bob (especially if you load your bag with a 3kg lock – heck i live in the netherlands i need one). If that bothers you, you are better off placing them closer to the top over the click attachment.

  8. yikesbikes says:


    I just had to replace the bearings in my Surly hub on my Casseroll after a few years of riding. Seemed like it was about time. Did you have a bad experience?

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