Saturday, February 2, 2013

Racktime WorkIt Classic pannier review

Those of us who ride bicycles for transportation know that sooner or later you will end up buying panniers or another similar storage system that can be attached to your bike. Whether it is a front-mounted bag, top rack bag, or a rear rack pannier set, having the cargo attached to your bike rather than your back is simply much more convenient in the city (Mountainbiking is different - I prefer a small backpack for such situation).

I have used two simple rear rack panniers on my Coffee for over a year. What was supposed to be a temporary solution turned out to be a long-term one. The panniers I used were very old. I mean it - probably over 15 years old! They do their job in carrying stuff but I had to leave them permanently attached to my bike. The mounting provisions are simple hooks and straps and there is no quick-release system of any kind. That proved to be very inconvenient.
My old setup with two ancient panniers.

I bike to work but on some days I have to visit client sites, which means driving tens of miles. Obviously, I drive to work then since bicycling would be simply inefficient. This all means that often I have to move all my usual office stuff from the panniers on my bike to my regular office bag. I ended up using zip-lock bags where I kept all loose items and placed those bags inside my panniers. Then when I had to drive to work, I moved those zip-locks to my office bag. Similarly, once I got to my office and parked my bike, I had to carry those zip-locks to my desk, together with the helmet, gloves, jacket, etc. As you can tell, this wasn't the best solution.

What would definitely work much better is a simple pannier, designed to carry my office stuff (papers, lunch, laptop, bike tools) with a quick-release system. This way I would use the same bag for all situations and never have to switch between the panniers and another office bag. I did some search and my eyes turned toward Racktime WorkIt Classic.
Racktime WorkIt Classic.

WorkIt is a pannier that looks and works like a regular laptop bag. However, except of just carrying a laptop and some papers to/from your office, it can do couple more things. First of all, it has 2 main compartments. The one in the front comes with many internal pockets. Great for keeping those loose business cards, pens, phone, wallet and of course... a few bike tools as well! The back compartment can easily store your laptop and some papers. Should you need more space, WorkIt can be unzipped to expand its width. I liked this feature a lot because I usually don't need that much space and I can keep WorkIt compacted for its lower profile on the rack. There is also a large pocket in the front and a smaller one on the outside, where you can keep the items you would want to have a frequent access to. Carrying strap is included as well.
 Main compartment.

 Secondary (expandable) compartment.

Small front pocket.

 The pannier in its narrower form...

and when expanded.

Up to now, the bag looks like a regular laptop case but when you unzip two covers on the backside you can access the part that is the most interesting for cyclists - a quick release system. Racktime used QL2 system by Ortlieb and it works well with almost all rear racks. It comes with an adapter if your rack uses a smaller diameter tubing (max. is 16mm). Installation and adjustment is quick and simple. Putting on and taking the bag off the rack takes only seconds.
Ortlieb QL2 quick-release system...

which can be hidden when unused.

WorkIt is not exactly waterproof. It will survive a light drizzle easily and its fabric looks heavy-duty. But if you bike in a heavy downpour, unzip the little pocket on the side where you will find a rain cover. Easy to install, the cover is 100% waterproof and protects the bag from all debris from the road. Well, almost all. The back of the bag where it is mounted to a rack is not covered and can get messy. Fortunately, the fabric seems to be hydrophobic and it is very easy to clean. What I also liked was that cover can be detached from bag and rinsed. Not such an obvious feature, I guess. I had an older Deuter backpack where cover was permanently attached, which meant that washing it was a bit troublesome.
Waterproof cover in its storage pocket...

and on the bike. 

Is it worth it? Well, depends on what you are looking for. As an office bag, WorkIt is nearly perfect. If you have to stop by at a grocery store on the way home, you may have to add more storage options to your bike. Available in brown, black, grey or red, WorkIt costs between $100 and $120.


  1. Hi, thanks for the useful review!

    I'm looking for this sort of hook-on office bag. This one seems worth considering but it looks smallish as I usually carry a lot of papers and other stuff along with my laptop.

    The Ortlieb website mentions a volume of 20 liters but this is probably the outside volume which is not very informative.

    Would it be too much trouble to measure and post the inside dimensions of the two main compartments (in expanded state)?


  2. Both compartments (after expansion) are about 15" wide, 12" tall and 3-3.5" deep inside.

    I really like this bag for its compactness and low profile on the rack. But I understand that if you have to carry more papers, this bag may be too small for you.

  3. Thanks a lot for your fast reply!

    Looks like in its expanded form the bag should just about hold my laptop, papers, lunchbox and - as another reviewer put it quite aptly - the miscellany of life.

    As I commute by train + bike I'm looking forward to combine the hook-on hook-off convenience of the QL2 system with the relatively discreet looks of this bag.

  4. Hi there, great looking bag, ideal for what I am after.
    Can you email me prices and stockist info in the UK?

  5. Hello,
    would such a pannier hold a 17.3' laptop?
    Thank you.

  6. @Prénom NOM
    As I mentioned above, both compartments (after expansion) are about 15" wide, 12" tall and 3-3.5" deep inside. You could measure your laptop and see if it's going to fit. But from what I see, this pannier is probably designed for 15" laptops, max.

    @Alistair Pirie
    I am sorry, but I don't sell these bags so I have no idea what these panniers cost in the UK and where to buy them.