Sunday, 3 March 2013

Verdict: ORTLIEB ZIP CITY S messenger bag

Further to my review here, here is my report on the bike in use while cycling. It feels a bit anti-climactic but the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and some issues became clearer after using it on the road.

I used this bag on a 15 mile ride last weekend, down to Harpenden and back. I didn't have much to carry, only my handbag, which I simply dropped into the Zip City bag.

Here's what I noticed:
  • With the bag less than half full and the bag tilts on your back, my handbag settled over my right buttock. It was a good thing my handbag wasn't heavier! Still, not ideal. (I suspect this bag really is designed to be used fully full and anything less than that will cause an uneven weight load and/or some shifting of your load inside the bag.)
  • The straps can only be tightened so much. (I played around with it before setting off for the return journey home.) Unfortunately this is not small/tight enough to secure the bag on my size 14 body.  (Who are these bags for, Ortlieb?)
  • The 'twists' at the ends of the shoulder strap do tend to dig in - especially the one over the left shoulder blade.  (As with the feel and fit of the bag generally, this could just be because of my size. Still, not pleasant and certainly not bearable for more than a few miles, especially loaded as intended.)
So in summary - the bag is impossible for me. It's a shame, as it seems for the most part well-designed. It's  unarguably robust. I like the appearance. The colours are bright and cheerful (not lurid). The graphics are slightly modern-artsy. I like this as an alternative to the more "sporty" and/or commercialized aesthetics of other bags out there. (Even as a trade mark attorney, I really dislike 'billboard advertising' on products, a la Evoc and SuperDry!)

I could wish Ortlieb offered a version of this in the 8-10 litre size range.

In the meantime, it's clear that the 14.5L size is ruled out for me.

The recommended retail price for this bag in the small size is £70 but Ortlieb has them on sale right now. 


Cycling-specific design features: 6 / 10
   [The high point is the waterproof fabric and construction. Otherwise...]
Usefulness e.g. accessibility and comfort: 4/ 10 
   [Rigid, poorly balanced, with straps that cut in... what can I say?]
Durability:  9 / 10
[Assuming stitching and zipper hold up.]
Attractiveness:  8 / 10 
Value for money: 8 / 10 
   [Excellent price/value for something that's truly waterproof.]

Overall:  35 / 50

My fascination with messenger bags continues unabated, however, with more reviews in the pipeline.


My reviews of other messenger bags can be found: 
  • Michaux Commuter here
  • Timbuk2 Classic Messenger XS (custom) here
  • Knog Big Dog here

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