By Adam Newman
Handlebar Pack -$130
In the name of simplicity and secure attachment, Ortlieb chose to design its handlebar bag to hang below the handlebars, where it stays put and doesn’t slip or bounce, rather than trying to cantilever it out in front. The laminated, ripstop nylon waterproof body has a roll-up closure at each end and Ortlieb lists its volume at 15 liters. I found it plenty large enough for a lightweight solo tent and sleeping bag. There are a myriad of ways to attach things on the outside too, beyond just the accessories pouch. The compression straps can hold extras like your tent poles or a second stuff sack, and there are some bungee cords on the exterior for a jacket. The attachment system is very secure, with a few foam spacers to make room for your brakes, shifters and cables. A super heavy-duty strap secures it in place and a secondary buckle strap cinches it up tight. The build quality is worth a shout-out, as I never once feared tearing a seam with repeated stretching, pulling, crashing, stuffing and smashing.
Accessories Pack -$75
If you go with the Ortlieb handlebar pack, you should really pick up the Accessories pack too. It attaches with the compression straps from the Handlebar pack and is big enough for several days worth of food. Having my snacks right on the handlebars made them easy to access, and when I needed to hang a bear bag at night I simply detached it and strung it up tire combo in here. It can also be attached to the handlebars on its own as a daypack, or worn around your waist or shoulder with the included waist strap.
Seat Pack -$160
Here Ortlieb chose to refine a common design rather than reinvent the wheel. The volume is adjustable from 8 liters to 16 liters, and it attaches to the seat rails with two quick release buckles and to the seatpost with heavy-duty Velcro straps. At the base of the bag, extending about a third of the way from the seatpost, is an internal cowling that gives it shape and keeps it from bulging. A really cool feature is the addition of a purge valve, which lets you squeeze all the air out of it after it’s been rolled. Getting the seatpack to work well comes down to proper packing. I found that one big item like a sleeping bag worked better than a collection of small items like clothing. Also you need to make sure the contents are stuffed firmly into the bottom of the pack, because otherwise you’re guaranteed to suffer from Droopy Butt Syndrome. After a few days of struggling with it sagging I took better care with packing and the results improved. I also started putting my tent poles in there for more support. One curious design quirk is that even with the bag nearly full I was maxing out the adjustment straps that secure the roll- top, seen here just above the Ortlieb logo. They’re also impossible to tighten while buckled, which makes adjusting them a chore.
Ortlieb has always built some insanely bomber gear, and after working these bags hard I have no doubt they’ll last a while. I would definitely recommend the handlebar pack and accessories pack for their simplicity and carrying capacity. The seat pack, on the other hand, faces much stiffer competition (intentional pun) from designs with rigid frames. It requires careful packing and its massive size is a blessing and a curse. It’s a solid choice but not a home run.
A while back I got a note from Barry Ward, who had started sewing handy handlebar bags. I tried a few out and quickly fell in love, so I was excited to learn that he recently founded a new company around his venture called Durango Sewing Solutions.
Ward got his start in rock climbing and was making some bomber climbing gear in the late ‘80s through the mid ‘90s. The company he worked for, A5 Adventures, was eventually acquired by The North Face. He wasn’t done creating though, and had a few other brands along the way, including Kokopelli Designs and HIFA Products. In 2015 he moved to Durango, Colorado, and a new project was born.
While these bags are a minor evolution over the previous generations, they continue to impress me with how useful they are. From commuting to touring to bikepacking to just cruising around the block, these handlebar bags keep goodies close at hand and secure. Fill ‘em with snacks, a small camera, a water bottle or really anything that you want easy access to. A good sign that the design works is that there are now a dozen or more bag makers with similar products.
Made from X-Pac and sewn by Ward himself, they have a drawstring closure on the top and a small foam puck in the bottom to help keep their shape. With a symmetric design, they can be used on either side of the stem. An adjustable loop with a buckle goes around the fork crown to keep it from swaying. This tall version will swallow a 24 oz. water bottle whole.
I’m not sure who designed these types of bags first, but Ward’s are the ones I fell in love with. His Durango Sewing Handlebar Buckets are available in short ($35), regular ($35) or deluxe ($40, pictured). The deluxe model has an exterior mesh pocket for empty snack wrappers or other small items: a $5 upgrade that’s totally worth it.
It’s rare that I ride a bike these days without one of these attached.
Ward let us know that he wasn’t the founder of A5, but joined the team early on.Tweet Print
Portland-based North St bags is now offering classically styled utility duffle bags for your cycling adventures. The Scout series features three sizes of American-made waterproof duffles, including options for bicycle basket or handlebar mounting kits.
- 1000 denier Cordura Outer Shell
- X-Pac Waterproof Liner
- Interior zipper pocket and lanyard
- Shoulder strap included
- Custom colors available
- Guaranteed for life
- Made in Portland of USA-made materials
- Duffles start at $59. Duffles with cycling kits start at $79.