Jonathan DoyleJonathan is a freelance filmmaker, photographer, and drone pilot, based in the North West of England. His passion is for capturing real adventure stories about real people, the kind we can all connect with. Exploring connections with health, friendships and the environment by documenting the experiences of people pushing their limits, Jonathan brings their stories to life.
A pair of bike-packing bags of the highest standard. Designed to be used and abused, the Ortlieb Seat-Pack and Frame-Pack RC can be relied upon whatever the weather and riding conditions throw at you.
Frame-Pack RC RRP
Waterproof to IP64, roll-closure, easy fastening, air release valve [seat pack], toggle closing system [frame pack]
Waterproof up to a 100.000mm water column
Allow quick and easy access to kit
Feel very stable while riding
Does not fit every bike [frame pack]
Can’t drop off the back of the seat on technical terrain [seat pack]
Can’t use dropper post with this system
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR
When it comes to bikepacking bags, I am looking for a system that allows easy access to essential kit whilst impacting the riding experience as little as possible. Not a simple task.
Any swaying movement can add instability to the bike, flat forward-facing surfaces can cause drag, and awkward fastening systems can add a huge amount of faff throughout the day, especially if you have cold fingers.
Finally, with security in mind, I want a set of bags that can be easily removed from the frame when not required, or when leaving the bike unattended for a while. I’m not asking for much…
these Ortlieb bags feel like they are build to last, and should be able to withstand the rigours of even the most difficult bikepacking trips
The quality of both the seat pack and frame pack was clear the moment I laid eyes on them. Made from polyurethane-coated nylon (PVC, PFC and BPA free), these Ortlieb bags feel like they are build to last, and should be able to withstand the rigours of even the most difficult bikepacking trips.
The seat pack in particular has several interesting features; an air release valve, daisy-chain for rear light attachment, and an elastic drawstring for additional capacity. These additional details highlight the care and attention Ortlieb put into their product design. I can’t wait to get them on my bike!
First things first, I needed to affix the bags to a bike, and my Genesis Croix Der Fer got the honour. The seat pack was an absolute breeze to fit, a velcro strap around the seat-post and two clips under the seat, quick and easy. The frame bag was similarly simple; it has many attachment points meaning with a little adjustment, it was quickly and securely strapped to the frame.
I stashed my lunch and snacks, general bike repair kit and a light windproof jacket in the frame bag. There was still plenty of space left over for items such as a power pack, sunglasses or small camera. I like to store kit that I use less frequently in the seat pack, so here I had a synthetic jacket, light fleece, spare set of clothes for the evening, bivvy bag, roll mat, light 1-season sleeping bag, and food for an evening meal and breakfast. I have to say that it was a tight squeeze to get everything in, but in addition I’d usually use a handlebar mount system for my sleeping kit and stove.
I decided to take the bags for a ride through Bolton and up onto the moors. This provided a great variety of terrain on which to test them. Roads, rocky single track and muddy farm-land was the order of the day. I was looking to see how the bags affected the balance and performance of the bike, whether they changed the feel of the riding, and generally if they had any impact of the riding experience.
During the ride, I hardly noticed the bags. While the seat pack did move a little, it felt solid enough and did not interfere with the balance of the bike. If this did prove to be a more pressing issue for a rider carrying a heavier load, Ortlieb do offer an additional support strap, and metal support bars can also be added. With regards to accessibility, the roll-closure of the seat pack is quick to use, although I did find that I needed to take some kit out while rummaging, otherwise it was liable to fall out. I think a set of dry bags could be handy here. The roll-closure of the frame bag did mean that I was unable to rummage and ride, but since I have never found this very comfortable with a zip-closure bag, this wasn’t much of an issue for me. I did catch my knee once on the frame bag, but I quickly realised that I hadn’t rolled it up properly and so after re-rolling the closure the correct number of times (four), I didn’t have the problem again.
While I was unable to take them on a multi-day trip, I filled them up with the kit I would generally take for such a ride. With regards to the riding conditions, the day remained mostly dry with a little mizzle towards the end. The ground was wet and very muddy in places, so a good variety of conditions for the test.
WHO ARE THESE PACKS FOR?
The Ortlieb Seat-Pack and Frame-Pack RC are for those who are keen to head out on multi-day rides, in locations where the weather is less predictable, and the terrain less favourable for your standard side mounted pannier bags. Due to the compact nature of their design, the bags are most suited to journeys where supplies can be replenished frequently and water is more readily available.
WHAT STANDS OUT?
I was really impressed with just how waterproof the bags were. They took a healthy splattering of mud during the ride, and so on my return home, I just hosed them down along with the rest of the bike. Upon inspection, everything stashed within was still bone dry. That’s serious peace-of-mind right there.
FRAME PACK ROLL-CLOSURE
The latches are so quick and easy to fasten and it’s a foolproof system to ensure your kit stays dry. Also, it’s one less point of failure as in my experience, it’s always been the zip that breaks first on my bags. One slightly negative aspect to note is that when opened in the rain, the frame pack is very good at collecting and holding onto water, and so a thorough wipe-down is needed at the end of a wet day.
SEAT PACK AIR RELEASE VALVE
This allowed me to reduce the wasted space by squeezing out some of the air, which really helped to improve the rigidity of the system.
Another smart addition to the seat pack is the daisy chain running along it. A very simple solution to ensure you can always affix a rear bike light without risk of obstruction.
VALUE FOR MONEY
These bags are at the upper end of the pricing spectrum, but they have been designed to take everything you can through at them. The fact that Ortlieb offer a 5-year warranty with each bag, clearly shows they believe in the quality of their products. Worth every penny.
BASE BOTTOM LINE
Overall the bags performed as brilliantly as I had expected from such a well established and respected company. I only only wish the seat pack could be used in conjunction with a dropper post, although I do believe it is possible the slightly lower capacity seat pack. I really can’t fault these products and would happily recommend them all day long.