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It is said that great inventions emerge from great needs and keeping your clothes and belongings dry when travelling on a bike is one of these. In the late 1970s, Hartmut Ortlieb was a young adventurous cyclist of German descent who was passionate about exploring and travelling all over the world on his bike. On one of his trips in the south of England, he found himself in an inescapable massive deluge. Without a place in which to shelter, he ended up somewhat soaked through, both himself and all his belongings. At that moment, Hartmut saw a lorry pass by which had a tarpaulin over it to protect its goods. Something clicked in his head and he noticed that, yes, the outside of the tarpaulin was wet, but the lorry’s load remained completely dry.
Hartmut Ortlieb had the idea of using this type of material in his travel bags and thereby prevent all his baggage and personal belongings getting soaked if it rained. This idea marked the emergence of the famous Ortlieb waterproof saddlebags.
Hartmut returned from his trip with the idea and a desire to start a new journey, but this time it would be an entrepreneurial one. On arriving home, he took his mother’s sewing machine and a container with red lorry tarpaulin and he started sewing and trying different patterns for assembling the first waterproof bag for bikes. Simply with the tarpaulin and a few hooks from the hardware store, Hartmut had manufactured the first waterproof rack bags for the back of his bicycle. The invention worked, and he quickly manufactured another bag with larger dimensions so that he could carry a larger amount of luggage.
His friends and neighbours were amazed by the functional invention that he had created and they showed a great deal of interest in his bags. The interest was so great that different distributors asked Hartmut for his bags. And that is how the first series of saddlebags had its first schedule, and how their distribution began.
Hartmut came up with a similar system, but this time for the bike’s handlebars. The bags were a great success and demand was so high that Hartmut decided to ask his friends and family for help and, a little later, he founded Ortlieb in 1982.
From its beginnings, Ortlieb has designed and created completely waterproof products thanks to their sealed seams. It is the seal of quality and the differentiating factor between Ortlieb and their competitors. Later, Ortlieb replaced the hardware store hooks in their saddlebags with a self-blocking grip system called Quick-Lock 1, providing additional grip and safety for their products.
Demand for their products continued to grow and his workshop, with a staff of 60 people, was getting too small. So they moved to the Heilsbronn company’s building. It is worth pointing out that, even with the great demand that there was at that time for bike bags, Ortlieb continued innovating with new products, such as the first waterproof backpack, the “Packman”.
Ortlieb has turned something that many thought of as a constant headache when travelling by bike into a functional and essential element.
Currently, the German company has a workforce of over 200 employees and they offer a wide range of products which are in constant evolution. All the products are highly water-resistant and are manufactured using an innovative soldering method.
The manufacturing quality of the products is notable for satisfying the most demanding requirements and weather conditions.
Ortlieb supplies different specialist sports shops directly from Germany. These specialise in sports such as cycling, water sports and trekking. The company provides all its products through different distribution channels and they are distributed in over 30 countries.
Sometimes, being able to transport our goods and personal objects while travelling by bike can seem a little complicated and we need accessories to be able to load everything on. This is where Ortlieb plays a very important role. On our website we have an extensive range of Ortlieb bike accessories that you can use to carry a large quantity of items and keep them protected in the safest way.
We also have Ortlieb equipment for cyclists that you can use if you don’t want to take large bags or have accessories installed on your bike.