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Every cycle tourist needs a good bar bag. The Ultimate6 S Plus offers something a little new in the Ortlieb range, but adding to its function on the bike has, I think, detracted a little from its performance off it.
There are nine handlebar bags in the Ortlieb Ultimate6 range, with a confusing mishmash of names. Most are variations on the Ultimate6 Classic, which is a less boxy offering without the transparent compartment on the lid. The 'S' bit of the name, then, identifies the bags that come with this feature, and the 'Plus' bit here distinguishes this bag from the 'S Classic', which comes in a polyester fabric instead of the Cordura used here.
The other main difference is that the smartphone/map compartment has some (fairly crude) ventilating strips on the inside, supposedly to prevent your device overheating. You can operate your preferred device through the transparent cover, though not, I found, when wearing gloves. I was a little disappointed to find that the lid compartment was not big enough for an OS map.
The bag comes with Ortlieb's own mounting system, which is excellent and only a minimal faff to fit, and once on is semi-permanent and resistant to theft. The bag snaps on easily and securely. In motion, it was held pretty securely in place and only rattled or bounced on the roughest paths, particularly if the bag wasn't full. If you already have a Rixen & Kaul KLICKfix mount on your bike, this works with that too.
Once on, the S Plus can be locked to the mount. A cord loop on the lid can also be trapped under the lock to prevent the bag being opened, though anyone armed with a pair of scissors would soon be in. Personally, I would be happier just taking the bag with me whenever I leave the bike.
The lid closes like a hinged shoebox, securing with two magnets on the rider's side (as you look at it from the saddle). The instructions hinted that these could be locked by turning the mountings through 180 degrees. In reality, what this does is present an extra bit of 'lip' for the magnets to sit behind, requiring a bit more of a pull to get the lid open. This hardly constitutes a lock. However, in riding the lid stayed firmly closed at all times.
Best of all, you don't have to pull an unconvincing waterproof cover over it when it rains, which it will and often. With the S Plus, as with every Ortlieb item I have owned, you just carry on as normal, secure in the knowledge that however wet you get, your belongings will be dry. Even an attack with the garden hose made no impact on the aridity of the interior.
The 5 litre capacity is spot-on for all those essentials you need to hand: multi-tool, spare tube, snack bars, wallet, camera, phone, bits of string and spare gloves. I was even able to fit in a proper waterproof jacket and still get the lid shut. Even once full, unless you've brought your travel iron, it should still be well inside Ortlieb's 5kg weight limit.
Speaking of weight, carrying kit out front of the handlebar alters the handling of your bike. Embarrassingly, in the case of my bike, this was somewhat for the better, with the bag held well out over the front axle. It does feel different, though, so proceed with caution until you get used that.
Being able to store a map, compass or, to get up-to-date, a GPS or smartphone in a waterproof, transparent compartment right in front of your eyes may well be a deal-clincher for you, in which case you will tolerate the shortcomings that this design entails. In particular, for me, this meant the boxy shape which made the bag less than ideal once off the bike. It just wouldn't sit right under my arm (the rather short strap didn't help, even at full extension); but for security reasons I wouldn't want it slung around my back where any passing villain could get a hand on it. For that reason, if I were choosing, I would go with the 6 Classic.
Having said that, an Ortlieb is an Ortlieb and this one hands out a good spanking to most of the opposition by virtue of being waterproof, tough as nails and built to last. Anyone who has endured – erm, I mean 'enjoyed' – a demanding long-distance tour will appreciate these qualities.
Brings a bar bag with a smartphone window to the Ortlieb range, at the cost of carrying comfort as a shoulder bag
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ortlieb Ultimate6 S Plus Waterproof Handlebar Bag
Size tested: 16x28x18.5, 5 Litre
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?
From Ortlieb's website:
If you're on the lookout for a more compact handlebar bag, you may want to consider the ORTLIEB Ultimate6 S Plus. Made of durable, water-resistant Cordura fabric and sporting a 5-liter payload, the bag gives you the space you need for the things you want to be able to access in a hurry. The transparent flap compartment with an internal dimension of 21 x 12 cm offers you an entirely waterproof and easy-access space for your smartphone, GPS device, map and other items. And, yes, you can also operate your touchscreen devices through the plastic cover. You can easily open and close the magnetic clasp with one hand. Thanks to the detachable shoulder straps, you can transform your handlebar bag into a practical shoulder bag whenever you like. You can also lock the flap of the bag and the handlebar mount for maximum security.
In practice this fits the bill, though I found the bag less practical off the bike and that security is more visual deterrent than actual.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
lockable mount with two keys
suitable for handlebars with a tube diameter of up to 31.8 mm
mount compatible with the ORTLIEB E-Bike-Adapter and the KLICKfix by Rixen&Kaul
inside zippered compartment with key carabiner for stowing valuables
ventilation slits in the flap compartment to prevent device overheating
front reflector made of 3M Scotchlite Reflective Material
additional small reflector on the mount block
5 kg maximum load
The usual Ortlieb welded construction should outlast you.
Much better on the bike than off.
I've lived in flats of flimsier build.
Weight savings are bottom of my list of considerations when it comes to robust touring gear.
Rather awkward to carry as a shoulder bag; the rectangular weight doesn't sit well against the body.
Ortlieb stuff isn't cheap but it isn't the dearest either, and for reliability and function worth every penny. You get a five year guarantee, too.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
On the bike, excellent: secure, large enough for the essentials without overweighting the front of the bike. Easy to access and close, fit and remove. Totally waterproof. Off the bike it's less succesful, the boxy shape making it awkward to carry.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
High quality construction, totally reliable, secure fitting, waterproof, easy-to-fit-and-remove strap.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The boxy shape makes it not all that practical as a shoulder bag. Transparent compartment would be better if it were large enough to fit an OS map in. Security is more a visual deterrent than genuinely thief-proof.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not for me, but this will be ideal for some.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, with a few reservations.
Use this box to explain your score
The 6 S Plus, with its transparent gizmo and map holder, will certainly find its fans. The usual Ortlieb quality and function is there. Off the bike, it wasn't so agreeable to use; had it been, it might even have scored 9.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking