Ortlieb has broken away from traditional touring accessories and ventured into the realms of 'mud and trail touring' with this Handlebar Pack and the optional add-on Accessory Pack. The easily mounted sausage-shaped roll pack is perfect for a lightweight off-road tour, offering 'complete element protection' and quick access to kit. It's ideal for a sleeping bag or substantial spare kit, while the Accessory Pack provides easy access to valuables and detaches quickly to double up as a handy shoulder bag.
The Handlebar Pack is effectively a cylindrical dry sack with roll closures at each end, offering a generous 19cm diameter, a length of anything between 35cm to 58cm, and a 15 litre capacity. It's made from lightweight, sturdy PU laminated ripstop nylon, and is fully waterproof.
It's very similar to the Apidura Handlebar Pack tested by Liam, but Ortlieb's is designed to be suspended slightly from the bar using spacers. They share the same limitations regarding use with drop bars; both are better suited to flat-bar touring bikes such as the Ridgeback Expedition Voyage, rigid mountain bikes and bikes with shorter travel suspension forks (80-120mm). You don't want to put anything too heavy in it, though, for risk of unbalancing the bike.
Mounting the pack is a simple tool-free procedure. Despite the two-layer handlebar strap system appearing rather cumbersome, it is actually extremely effective and doesn't look so bulky once in place. Eight foam spacers are supplied to enable you to position the pack correctly for your bar. The straps thread through these spacers, so forcing them to sit snuggly between bar and pack.
Two Velcro straps are the first means of attachment. Both are secured around a plastic rod that sits in a sealed 'pouch' on the top edge of the pack and gives the bag horizontal stability. The inner side of these straps is coated with rubber to resist movement on the bar. I found them a little on the long side for my mountain bike, but was loath to take the scissors to them for fear of making them too short for other bikes. I doggedly fought the resistance of the Velcro to slide them back into the spacers, but removal then became awkward – so ultimately I cut them!
The second layer of strapping comprises 2cm wide webbing with side release buckles – the bright orange is great, but mud soon had its say here. After finding a suitable position with the Velcro straps, it is these adjustable outer straps that really clamp the pack down. (Confused? Ortlieb shows a sequence of instructions here.)
During a day's riding these outer straps were prone to loosening a little. This is no great drama given that the slack can be taken out while riding – the associated adjuster sits right on top of the bar. However, any very rough terrain demanded more frequent tightening, which isn't ideal.
The third securing strap, a combination of the webbing used on the outer bar strap and Velcro, wraps around the head tube and fixes it in position. Identical spacers are used as necessary to get the right position. This single securing strap makes it easy to quickly release the pack and unroll it for packing and unpacking.
Unfortunately, this same convenient strap was the pack's weakest feature: it wasn't enough to hold the pack down on long, rough descents. In such situations the strap loosened so much that once or twice it broke open, allowing the pack to fly up and over the handlebar. It's a shock the first time this happens, thereafter it's just frustrating. It is actually quite easy to fix yourself with a more secure fastening device, though I suspect Ortlieb might pick up on this design blip and soon have it rectified.
The Accessory Pack is certainly a worthwhile add-on, if a bit expensive at £45. The 17x30x5cm pouch (up to 3.5L capacity) is perfect for a wallet, phone, snacks or small accessories. Ortlieb's classic roll closure has been combined with a rather classy looking alloy buckle that hooks under a tidy webbing loop. It can be really packed out and still completely secured with this buckle.
Identically functioning buckles attach the Accessory Pack at its four corners to the main pack's compression straps, so if you don't use the Accessory Pack the straps simply serve to compress the main pack. I quickly learnt that the tighter you can compress the whole system, the more stable it is on the bar. There are elastic bungee cords on the bag that can be tightened to help achieve this too.
As is typical of Ortlieb, plenty of thought has been given to the versatility of the Accessory Pack. Once detached – an extremely easy process – a supplied strap will turn it into a shoulder bag or a waist pouch (think 80s bum bag!). It doesn't stop there though: remove the main pack from the bike and the Accessory Pack can be quickly and easily attached to the handlebar on its own without the need for a fixed bracket.
This was perfect for a two-night touring trip when I wanted to spend the middle day on trails while leaving the main pack at base. Used like this, it only adds a fraction over 200g to the bike.
Both packs can be attached to carbon bars, and on flat bars leave enough space either side of the stem to attach a small light or GPS bracket.
The main pack has two large, highly effective 3M Scotchlite reflector patches. These perform superbly under the glare of headlights.
The usual water-tight properties that any Ortlib fan knows well haven't been omitted. Ensure that the ends of the main pack are rolled over at least three times (as advised) and you have a completely waterproof product.
I had a go at stowing some tent poles and a rolled-up ground sheet between the accessory and main pack, using the accessory pack mounting straps, and it worked well. The system is very versatile if you have the patience to get it mounted in the right position for your bike.
I found that it fitted all of my bikes well, though it came close to the suspension fork adjustment dial on my hardtail mountain bike. I'd say it's likely that two or more of the following factors would lead to possible abrasion: the main pack stuffed to its absolute maximum; a long travel suspension fork (not locked out); and exceptionally fat tyres. Naturally, it will depend on the dimensions of the bike.
The whole system is really very impressive bar the one – surmountable – head tube attachment flaw I mentioned. I happily remained on more gentle trails and tracks, which allowed the pack to function at its best. The quick and easy tool-free, bracket-free mounting system makes impromptu bikepacking possible in a flash, and your kit will arrive completely dry at your destination.
Superb bikepacking baggage, but mounting system does limit bike and terrain choices
road.cc test report
Make and model: Ortlieb Handlebar Pack
Size tested: 20x58x20cm
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?
The Ortlieb Handlebar Pack is a waterproof luggage roll for packing away spare kit or a sleeping bag. The twin roll closures are designed to allow 'quick and easy access to your gear'. The pack, with a volume of 15 litres, features four hooks for attaching the optional 3.5L Accessory Pack to it, to increase storage capacity on your bike. This pouch can also be mounted alone. Both packs are ideal for those venturing into off-road or trail touring – bikepacking.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
+ Variable width
+ Light weight sturdy PU laminated rip stop nylon
+ 8 spacers and 2 straps with side release buckles and Velcro attachments to secure bag to the handle bars.
+ 4 alloy hooks for adjusting the compression straps or fixing the Accessory-Pack.
+ Compression straps and elastics cords.
+ Internal stiffener for increased stability..
+ Can be mounted to carbon handlebars.
+ Balanced weight distribution on bicycle
+ 2 reflectors 3M Scotchlite.
+ Maximum capacity: 5 kg/11 lbs
+ Waterproof Accessory-Pack with roll closure
+ Ideal accessory bag for extra gear, perfect for small stuff such as cell phones, energy bars, GPS etc.
+ Can be used independently as a handlebar bag, or fixed to the Handlebar-Pack for additional quick access storage + Can be used as a shoulder bag or hip pouch with the included waist strap
+ Light weight sturdy PU laminated rip stop nylon
+ Mounts to Handlebar-Pack at four locations, utilizing four webbing loops and heavy duty alloy hooks
+ Heavy duty Velcro straps for mounting directly to the handlebar
+ Can be mounted to carbon handlebars
+ Reflective logo
+ Maximum capacity: 1 kg/2.2 lbs
Outstanding quality of construction.
Needed occasional tightening on the bar straps and the head tube strap isn't up to coping with extreme prolonged off-road descending. The man pack is outstanding in terms of simplicity and speed of mounting, storing and protecting kit and accessing contents. The Accessory Pack is very versatile and ticked all of the criteria mentioned above too.
As long as you mount the pack securely and clamp it down sufficiently to avoid any potential contact with tyres or fork suspension dials (if using it on a suspension mountain bike) the pack should last a lifetime.
Reasonably light given the protection it offers.
The Handlebar Pack isn't cheap, but it's a good buy if you're keen to venture into 'bikepacking'. The Accessory Pack seems less good value at £45.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent performance on road, gravel tracks and rough trails. Not so good on very rough prolonged descents. Don't overload it, as it affects the handling of the bike, especially if you have no luggage at the rear to balance things out. Used on a straight bar it doesn't obstruct your hand position in any way; used on a drop bar you're best off keeping to the minimum width so it doesn't interfere with your shifters. The Accessory Pack can be used on a drop bar without a problem.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The tool-free, quick and easy mounting system, and the versatility of the Accessory Pack.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The tendency of the head tube strap to break open on rough and long descents. Accessory Pack is a bit pricey.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The head tube strap needs attention, but this aside the Handlebar Pack and Accessory Pack are both innovative and functional and in my book warrant an 8 for 'very good'.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, getting to grips with off roading too!