We’ve been lucky to have our hands on the all-new Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR for a good few months to put it through its paces before general release. From gravel riding to mountain biking and commuting, check out how John Pullen has been getting on with this handy new bit of kit.
Ortlieb are a mainstay brand of bikepacking and touring bags, known for their durable waterproof bags the world over. To say I had high hopes for this new bag design would be an understatement.
I have used the Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR on test since March, and it’s been used extensively on the front of my rigid 29er while commuting and leading off-road rides, carrying my lunch, first aid kit and extra clothing. It’s also been employed to great effect at securing the post ride refreshment and sustenance, for myself and friends to enjoy in one of Bristol’s many parks, as the Covid restrictions have eased, and the weather has improved.
Materials and construction
The Handlebar Pack itself appears quite simple, with one large main compartment featuring a roll-top hook and CamLock closure and two open-topped mesh side pockets. Nothing fancy, covering the basics brilliantly. Familiar with the rest of Ortlieb’s bikepacking range? It’s the same abrasion-resistant Nylon in play here, with fully taped seams.
Size-wise, it’s somewhere between a smaller bar bag and a full-on bikepacking roll, so ideal for bigger days out or rides where you need to take extra layers, coffee kit, etc. It measures 22cm high, 26-32cm wide and 18cm deep (24cm including the Bar-Lock adapter), with a capacity of 11 litres and a 6 kilogram maximum load rating. The bag itself weighs in at 530 grams.
Although I mainly used it on a flat-bar bike, it also fits well with drop bars, with even down to 40cm bars tested. It’s worth noting that if you use carbon bars then the bag is not recommended for use with those.
The large main compartment features a plastic stiffening piece to keep the shape when you are packing it, two internal compression straps that pull the top opening of the bag together, and two external compression straps that can be used to reduce the size of the bag if you’re only carrying a few small items.
Both I and my partner Katherine tested the bag in some really sloppy, wintery conditions through deep puddles and muddy bridleways, and it always kept the contents dry. The official rating is IP64, showing it protects against splash water coming from all directions, though it doesn’t officially get a waterproof designation as water will ingress when submerged under water. I don’t know about you, but that’s not on the ride plan! It’s also really easy to clean with a wipe of a sponge.
I wouldn’t recommend storing anything too valuable in the side mesh pockets, but for banana skins, snack packets or picking up litter on the way they’re ideal.
Handlebar pack installation
The bag mounts to the handlebars of your bike using two dyneema cords that wrap around the bar and stem. Unlike traditional bar bag mounts that stay attached to your bars, this one is part of the bag itself. This system is beautiful in its simplicity; the first cord starts on top of the bar, then goes under the stem and back over the bar and attaches to a hook on the mounting plate, pull the loose end tight and secure it by twisting the plastic tab on the side of the mounting plate.
The second cord starts underneath the bar is looped over the stem and back underneath the bar where the plastic cantilever fitting clips into the mounting plate, you then pull the cord tight, secure it with by twisting the plastic tab on the side of the mounting plate, and then finally close the plastic cantilever creating an incredibly solid mount.
When installed correctly this means the bag won’t rub on your head tube, or your front tyre (frame size permitting) both of which could quite quickly rub through the fabric of your expensive bar bag.
The QR (Quick Release) part of the product name comes in here too: it’s super easy to flick the cantilever and unthread the cords to release the pack from the bars, and no chunky plastic mount left on your bars either.
The Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR verdict
The Handlebar Pack QR isn’t a stand-alone bar bag for bikepacking as it is somewhat limited by its size, but I don’t think that is what Ortlieb intended. You could use this as part of a pannier bag setup to keep your essentials close to hand, or as I have has done, a means to carry more food, clothes, and other essentials so you are prepared for what may come on longer day rides.
For drop-bar riders looking for an alternative to a chunky bar roll that might limit shifting movement, the narrower size of the Handlebar Pack QR is a real bonus. There’s also no zips to contend with, and the roll-top and compression design means you can fit anything from a few items to an impressive 11 litres up front.
The design and build quality of this bag are brilliant, as you might expect for the £125 price tag, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a versatile and sturdy bar bag for their adventures by bike.
Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR£125
Last modified: 1st June 2021