Rear box trunks are great on touring bicycles. For years, I had a cheap one velcro’d onto the top of my rear rack. I came to use it almost as much as my handlebar bag, storing spare tubes, tube repair kit, bungies, toolset, pump, seat cover, lock, and often my arm warmers, shorts, hats, and food. The reason they’re so great is that they’re easy to unzip, and then you have large square top-facing access in to everything you need.
Only a couple weeks prior to this year’s summer tour, the zipper on my cheap trunk finally gave out, no doubt from years of frequent use. I got online to find that Ortlieb was now offering a trunk, and so quickly ordered one.
I didn’t research it very much. Afterall, I’ve owned 4 Ortlieb panniers and their handlebar bag throughout my touring career, and every model has been of high quality design and materials. Ortlieb’s trunk even promised waterproofness.
When my bag arrived, I found the attachment excellent. I was able to purchase the model that clips into the top crossbars of my Tubus Cosmo rear rack. Attaching and detaching the bag takes 2 seconds, and it is a rattle-free secure mount. Two thumbs up on this feature.
Materials are high quality, heavy gauge fabric, typical of Ortlieb. The TIZIP zipper is robust. I must assume the trunk is waterproof as advertised although my touring experiences have not yet fully tested that out. Thumbs still up.
Appearance is very good. I got the red and black model, which adds a degree of visibility and also goes great with my black Surly LHT (and a number of black and red jerseys I own).
The zipper operation is difficult. It takes both hands and considerable force to move it, one to pull on the zipper pull tee and the other to hold firmly onto the strap or end of the bag. The zipper is very stiff, perhaps a side effect of its waterproofness.
The next thing immediately apparent is that the unzipped trunk has only a slit opening from the top. One cannot see down into the contents. Typically, a hand must feel around for what’s being sought, or otherwise the zipper must be physically spread open for a limited view.
A fold in the trunk top can be unhooked to extend the trunk height, and therefore its capacity. Doing so slightly improves accessibility to the interior, but because of the single in-line zipper, accessibility remains poor through only a slit opening.
Zipping the compartment back up is the same forceful chore, using both hands. Once that’s done, there is a permanently fixed shoulder strap that then must be cinched up, lest it tangle into the rear spokes. The mechanism for cinching that strap up involves a light-friction clasp that feels only marginally secure. To date I have had no trouble with that strap coming loose, but the strap never feels very snug.
Summary: Ortlieb built this trunk with the high quality waterproof materials that they’re known for. Attachment to my Tubus Cosmo rack is superb. However, for me, Ortlieb missed the mark with respect to its design. Rear trunks are great because of their EASY ACCESSIBILITY. Unzipping this trunk is neither easy nor does it provide adequate accessibility.
The first improvement is to make the zipper easier to operate, preferably with one hand. I used a silicone lubricant on the zipper but that barely helped. The stiff operation is perhaps the nature of the waterproof TIZIP zipper.
The next improvement involves the poor accessibility. Ortlieb might use the more conventional approach of wrapping the zipper around three sides of the trunk’s top. Alternatively, the trunk might utilize other proven Ortlieb designs, such as that used on their waterproof handlebar bag (a lid using snaps and overlapping edges) or something similar.
I plan to live with this model for a long time, but only because I already own it and it cost a lot (currently ~$100 to $140 although you might find it for less). It was put through its paces on our 2014 Natchez Trace tour and was useful, despite my regular annoyance with its operation. I think if I had to do it over, I would continue to buy cheap box trunks with easy accessibility and treat them as throwaways.
2016 Addendum: Just finished a 2 week tour in the upper Mississippi valley area (July 2016). At times, the rains dumped on us and this trunk stayed fully waterproof. However, in the hot and humid conditions, there were numerous times I wished this trunk had attach points running down its sides – you know, so wet clothing can easily be bungee’d to it for drying. Another feature for Ortlieb designers to consider.