If you are serious about getting a handlebar bag – and we're talking £100+ worth of commitment – then you will be hard pushed to find a better one than this.
The construction of this Canadian-built bar bag is what you would expect when you pay top dollar. It is solid and all the materials have been chosen for their performance rather than for the budget. Arkel have simply set out to make the perfect handlebar bag and they have got pretty close.
A metal chassis and rigid plastic inner panels help keep its integrity. Even when fully loaded with a couple of kilograms of paraphernalia, this bag remains rigid with no slipping or vigorous wobbling even when you pedal over cobblestones.
Bolting it to your bars takes a bit of time and is a bit fiddly. Aluminium shims are used in the clamp that bolts onto your handlebars so most different shapes and diameters of handlebar can be catered for. My main gripe is that when you want to mount the bag on a different set of handlebars you might need to insert different shims... and that means remembering where you put them. The quick release clamp must be aligned perfectly or the bag does not become quick release at all and the bolts inside the bag are tricky to access too, but they have neat plastic covers to tidy things up once you have tightened everything in place.
The waterproof Cordura material is so tough that Arkel supply a sample of the material with a cut already made in it and challenge you to rip it further. For mere mortals like myself, it is impossible. Tough stuff. You can further safeguard your contents from the elements with a rain cover which will cost you a further £11. I have used this bag during the foulest weather and the inner compartment has stayed bone dry. Indeed, it has been left on the bike outside for weeks and the contents have stayed dry, so I've not felt the need to get the rain cover.
The bag has small elastic mesh pockets on either side. Unfortunately, they don't hold a water bottle, which is a missed opportunity. A basic zip-up pocket along the front is useful for carrying a few tools/inner tubes and the detachable, padded shoulder strap, while a flap on the back shrouds the quick release bracket when you wear the bag off the bike.
The inside space is large enough to store a six-pack of tinnies or your lunch, camera, mobile, book etc. The nylon inner liner is bright yellow making it easy to find little items and it is also removable – ideal for those times when you have left a chocolate bar or a rotten banana in there. Just un-zip it and chuck it in the wash.
Just below the lid you get a slim, zippered pocket that's ideal for holding things like your passport, wallet or train tickets, and a see-through plastic flap conceals a loose zippered pouch to put your map and course instructions in.
This bag is a well-behaved carrier for your more accessible essentials, offering a waterproof and sturdy mobile storage solution. Once it is installed, this bar bag will be a trusted companion to any tourer or audax machine.
One of the best handlebar mounted bags available, built to be a trusted companion on the longest of epic rides.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Arkel Big Bar Bag
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Audax and epic ride adventurers or cyclists who look for quality and reliability without compromise.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Clamps on bars from 22.2 mm to 31.8mm
All metal clamps. Adjustable from 1- 4in apart
10 litre capacity
Padded shoulder carry strap
Reflective front strip
Front light loop
Waterproof zips and Cordura material
Waterproof see-through map pocket
Removable bright yellow inner sleeve
2 mesh side pockets
Very well made piece of kit, great attention to detail.
Apart from the lack of an insulated water bottle holder – or any water bottle holder for that matter – it is faultless.
This will keep performing until the zips break – and they are pretty robust.
At 1.4kg it is no lightweight.
If the demand was there then I am sure this would be a lot cheaper. As it is, you are getting a quality fit-and-forget bit of kit for roughly double the price of a normal bar bag. I do think that the rainproof cover should be supplied in the price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
We lost the detachable map pocket but, apart from that, it worked perfectly. A trusted item.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The bright yellow detachable inner, and its rigidity on the bike.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No water bottle carrier and the fact that a rain cover didn't come as standard.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Prrobably
About the tester
I usually ride: Bike that I am testing at the time My best bike is: Giant CFR pro. Old school carbon converted to fixed. Kinesis Convert 2.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed, bare back