Cyclist by night.
Cyclist by night.

Review: ORTLIEB Velocity High Visibility Backpack

When it get dark out, it is important to be seen on you bicycle and that is why you shouldn't leave the house without this piece of kit...

Biking in an urban environment is like high society: seeing and being seen is the key to survival. ORTLIEB has woven a fine reflective yarn into the material of its Velocity High Visibility courier bag, which – it goes without saying – is waterproof. When struck by car headlights, the cyclist’s back shines like the North Star. Power-free yet electrifyingly brilliant.

Just under 400 cyclists die or are killed in road traffic every year in Germany. That’s been the average figure over recent years. The most common reason is not being seen. Well okay, given that there are 73.5 million cyclists in Germany (2017) cycling a total of just under 25 billion kilometers throughout the country (2015), this figure may sound within the realms of the manageable. However, we feel that it’s still way too high. Alongside a defensive riding style (<= yes, that does sound tedious, but it’s life-saving in close combat with cars and trucks), biker visibility is in fact the be-all and end-all in avoiding that premature end to it all.And precisely now, in these dark winter months, when you’re cycling to work, college and school in the dark and then home again beyond the hours of daylight, attracting attention to yourself optically is very much the order of the day.

Power-free brilliance

With its Velocity High Visibility courier bag, ORTLIEB, the specialist for waterproof bike and outdoor packs and bags from the Bavarian region of Franconia, has served up an all-rounder – and we’re not writing this (just :-)) because we sell this precious item – which deserves a place on every back in the city. Why? Well, because…

  • …the material reflects incident light so strongly that cyclists in road traffic are significantly easier to see.
  • …this backpack – like everything from ORTLIEB – is completely waterproof.
  • …it can readily accommodate most everyday objects.
  • …opening and sealing the bag by means of the roll closure and Velcro fastener is extremely simple and yet very reliable.
  • …the Velocity is a genuine lightweight.

The details:
The models from ORTLIEB’s High Visibility series have a special fabric that is not only permanently and completely waterproof, but also copiously reflects any headlights that strike it. How? By having an interwoven reflector thread throughout the Cordura fabric. The entire bag is then coated with polyurethane and thus sealed against moisture. All completely PVC-free – and good for the environment. The individual fabric segments are married using a high-frequency welding technique at the factory in Heilsbronn. Now those who may be thinking “well, how brightly can a thin yarn reflect?” should really take a look at our test photos. The previously elegant anthracite-colored courier bag practically transforms into a street lamp when struck by headlights.Every model is additionally available in a neon yellow/black design, which further increases visibility – but that’s a matter of taste and a question of everyday utility.

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Cyclist on bridge in low light situation, backpack reflects.

Significantly increased visibility. Headlights striking the interwoven reflective thread cause the backpack to glow.

Cyclist on bridge by night. High visibility through reflective backpack.

The transition from discreetly colored high-utility material to a glowing white full-surface reflector is impressive – and increases the biker’s safety immensely during the hours of darkness.

Bike commuting at night.

A classic in the urban jungle during the evening, where the distracting glow of advertising signs is all around. The better cyclists can attract attention optically…

Biker in city traffic during evening hours.

…the more safely they will arrive at their destination.

Cyclist in the dark. Glowing.

The contrast between bright apparel and reflective Velocity High Visibility and…

Cyclist in the dark, low visibility.

…dark clothing without any large-area reflective elements illustrates the danger of not being seen after choosing the wrong clothing and equipment.

The Velocity High Visibility is IP 64 certified. For the layman thenit’s completely dust-tight and protected against splashing water from all directions.In terms of everyday use, it means that as long as you don’t go scuba diving with it, you can be sure that laptop, tablet, smartphone and all those papers are safely stowed away and watertight.

And that leads on nicely to stowage: with an inside volume of 24 liters, the Velocity accommodates more or less 95 percent of everyday objects.Not too large and rarely too small. Two large A4 files fit inside next to each other, still leaving space for a laptop with cover, drinks bottle and pullover. This inside compartment – with large zip-up pocket, sleeve and pen slots – can practically be removed at the press of a button. In future, we might possibly wish to see a detachable padded laptop compartment with push-button release, as featured, for example, in the Commuter Daypack series by ORTLIEB. 

Backpack opened up. Insight.

Stowage space: ample. 50 cm x 30 cm x 16 cm give 24 liters of waterproof and dust-proof space. Even A4 files – alongside jacket, laptop, drinks & co. – all fit inside the Velocity.

Hand opens inner pocket of backpack.

The inner zippered pocket, sleeve and pen compartment have push-button release for removal.

Minimalistic features – that function

Opening and closing the bag is foolproof: roll up the top, pull over the Velcro tab and you’re done. For form’s sake, it should also be mentioned that the top end has to be rolled over three to four times to ensure the waterproof effect. 

The other features are typical of backpacks and are kept to a minimum. The back panel is padded with two soft foam elements including channels to allow the air to circulate around the back.When you adopt a cycling posture, this functions astonishingly well, with the airflow whistling very tolerably but not unpleasantly through the recesses. The padded shoulder straps are fitted with reflector strips, thus issuing a bright warning to oncoming car drivers and bikers. On the back, the white beacon produced by the fabric can be supported by an additional rear light. ORTLIEB has laminated on extra horizontal and vertical loops for the purpose, and they can also be used for attaching a helmet in walking or standing mode. Breast and waist straps can be removed if required – some people feel irritated by too many bits dangling (from equipment)… Another practical feature is the edge protection on the base at the rear. Take this classic situation: you’re queuing at a counter or in a packed train with the heavy backpack on the floor and, for reasons of comfort, you just push your precious belongings along the ground with your foot.Very few fabrics are happy with this procedure in the long run.All in all, the rather frugal number of features gives the Velocity High Visibility a sensationally low weight of only 950 grams – that’s great news for your shoulders and back.

Back part of the backpack.

The Velocity adopts a minimalistic but fully functional approach to features. Foam-padded back panel and shoulder straps…

Shoulder straps and breast strap of a backpack.

…as well as adjustable and removable breast strap.

Reinforced backpack base and hip belt.

The prime task of the waist strap is to fix the velocity to the rider’s back. A plastic fitting mounted on the rear edge of the base protects against wear.

Bike Backpack Black

Ortlieb Velocity High Visibility Backpack Black-Reflex

Bike Backpack Yellow

Ortlieb Velocity High Visibility Backpack Yellow-Black Reflex

Any more arguments needed? Well how about this one? ORTLIEB produces its entire collection at the company site in Heilsbronn near Nuremberg, so in fact everything is “Made in Germany”. And because that functions so well and reliably, the crew around company founder and chief innovator Hartmut Ortlieb give a full five (!) years’ guarantee on all their products.

Fact check for ORTLIEB Velocity High Visibility:

  • Material: PU-coated Cordura with reflective yarn, PVC-free 
  • Waterproof and dust-proof to IP 64
  • Volume: 24 liters 
  • Weight: 950 g
  • Dimensions: height 50 cm, width 30 cm, depth 16 cm
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Padded back
  • Roll closure with Velcro fastening
  • Removable inner zippered pocket, sleeve and pen slots
  • Adjustable and removable breast and waist straps
  • Loops for holding rear light and helmet
  • Main carrying handle
  • Suitable for A4 size folders
  • Made in Germany
  • Colors: neon yellow-black reflective, black reflective
  • Price: €139.00

In short:
The Velocity High Visibility from ORTLIEB is an honest-to-goodness solution for everyone and everything in road traffic and in daily use – above all during the dark periods of the day and year. One hundred percent waterproof and dust-proof, incredibly good visibility when illuminated by headlights, straightforward but excellent-functioning solutions, all garnished with a five-year manufacturer’s guarantee. A recommended buy!