I'm not really a 'handbag' kind of girl, but if a bag can be attached to my handlebars, it's a different matter... The Barista handlebar bag, from Ortlieb's Urban Line range, promises to be 'admired in cafes, offices and boutiques'. I don't especially care whether people admire my bag or not, but I was excited to see if it could eliminate my current commuting choices: a half-empty pannier or sweat-inducing rucksack. I'm happy to report it can, superbly. Shocking my friends by having a stylish bag has just been a bonus...
The Barista is supplied with the Ultimate 6 mounting system, Ortlieb's standard bar bag bracket, making life simple for owners of more than one Ortlieb bar bag. If you're not familiar with such things, the bracket is installed on the handlebar with a cable which, in turn, becomes a means of tightening and adjusting the bracket (with an Allen key).
The bracket isn't too bulky – I never remove the ones I have on my touring and commuting bikes. A word of warning though: don't cut the cable too short (thread it back through one of the holes in the bracket); cutting it short will make life very difficult if you decide to remove and then reattach the bracket.
The mounting system allows the bag to click in place easily, and pressing the lock avoids forcing the mechanism to click. There is a key to then lock the bag to the mount. I've rarely used this – the bag goes with me when I stop, and when in motion it's a hundred per cent secure without locking it. If you do use the key, I suggest you keep one in a 'safe place' as they are easy to lose.
I did think that, given its size, the Barista might not sit in a stable position, but I was proved wrong. The rear of the bag, incorporating the flat handlebar mount, contains a board of stiff material. This helps support the bag's position on the bike as well as keeping any documents inside it flat.
With the bag's 6 litre capacity I was never short of space. It is possible to pack in a phone, wallet, sandwiches, snacks, paperwork (A4 isn't really possible, but anything just slightly smaller is), a tablet, plus a book or two, and have space left over. I've frequently crammed a lightweight jacket in as well, to go to a fitness class.
The interior is designed so that you can easily access the smaller items; there are pockets against the rigid back specifically cut for things like pens, wallet, phone.
The leather strip incorporating the two magnetic fasteners adds enough weight to help reclose the bag when you're moving. There were occasions when the magnets came apart, primarily when the bag wasn't particularly well filled, but thanks to the weight of the leather strip the top flap stayed in a closed position, and there was never any danger of anything falling out.
Other interior features include a key chain and a zip opening to access the space between the lining and outer waterproof shell, ideal for storing valuable documents that you don't want spoiling. And the bag is completely waterproof – I used it in the rain, although not torrential, and it was very effective, keeping the contents bone dry.
Ortlieb encourages you to remove the shoulder strap when cycling, which makes sense; it is possible to stuff it in the bag without detaching it but it will jump free if you try to access the bag while riding. Best to detach it and stow it away as recommended.
Removing the bag from the bike is as easy as putting it on: simply press the mounting system button and you're away (after unlocking, if you've chosen to lock it). You can then sling the bag over your shoulder and enjoy not having to unclip a pannier or remove a backpack to reveal a sweaty back.
Alternate threading of the strap on either side of the bag ensures that it hangs comfortably from your shoulder without swinging round to the front, or by extending the strap a little the bag sits equally well on your back after pulling it over your head, courier style. Being right-handed, I checked to see if these features adapted to use on the left side, and they do.
You can see from the pictures that the bag on test is a neutral colour. This is 'pepper' and is great for not showing up dirt, although cleaning it was a simple cloth and soapy water job. It's also available in 'coffee'.
My summer test meant that I didn't have to use it with a light. This is the only drawback I can think of, as it would conceal a bar-mounted front light. Not an insurmountable problem though: you'd just need to use a helmet light or mount your light on the fork – or use one of those extensions for bar-mounted gadgets.
Durable, stylish, practical and versatile – thanks Ortlieb!
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Ortlieb Barista Urban Line
Size tested: Height 33cm, Width 30cm, Depth 10, Volume 6 litres
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 Barista Handlebar Bag is from Ortlieb's Urban Line Collection, a range of waterproof bags designed to be visually appealing for use on and off the bike. It's clearly targeting the city commuter and office worker.
Ortlieb says: "Urban, classic, exclusive. Matching this description - and today's lifestyle bikes - is ORTLIEB's Barista handlebar bag. This urban-velo styled bag features tough PU laminated Cordura-cotton-mix with leather contrast details. Stylish and waterproof.
This bag offers space for smart phone, keys, papers etc. An internal organizer with key snap hook, pen slot and two pockets keeps things in place. The convenient magnetic flap allows quick and quiet access. The magnets open and close automatically and safely. Once unclipped from the handlebar, Barista becomes a stylish shoulder bag. Barista is supplied with the Ultimate6 mounting system (compatible with Rixen&Kaul).
Remove and stow away shoulder strap before biking."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The bag is sturdy and well constructed. Ortlieb uses "advanced bonding methods and proven types of closure", including high frequency welding. The strapping has been cleverly designed to ensure the bag swings from your shoulder round your back when used off the bike. The bracket isn't unsightly and sits flush to the bag.
It is an excellent piece of kit for commuting or leisure activities. With its 6 litre capacity you can cram a suprising amount of kit into it. If I didn't make use of the space there was a tendency for the magnetic fasteners to come undone; it almost needed bulk in the bag for them to be fully effective. It's fully waterproof too – nothing got wet on rainy days.
I've only been using it for four weeks but it certainly seems built to last, and doesn't look a day old. Judging by past experiences with Ortlieb, I believe this bag has some serious mileage in it – and Ortlieb offers a five-year guarantee.
Given how much it will hold and how sturdy it is, it's surprisingly light at only 600g.
In terms of how the bag hangs on the shoulder, it's great. The shoulder strap passes through the front on one side of the bag and through the rear on the other, thus forcing the bag to swing round your back rather than hang by your side.
I guess this is down to how much you are willing to spend on a bag. Remember that this is multi-functional so it's not just any ordinary bag; I use it for work, going to the shops for odds things, going to fitness classes... It does away with the need for a pannier or a sweat-inducing rucksack, so, in my opinion, it's good value.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As long as you do use the space in the bag, it's nigh-on perfect for its designed purpose.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fact that the bag is designed to take documents and files means I no longer need to ride to work with a rucksack or virtually empty pannier. Unclipping it is so simple and I immediately have a stylish bag.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The magnetic tabs are prone to coming undone if the bag isn't well filled, and it does mean you have to think about where to put your front light if you use a bar-mounted one.
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
It's well designed, extremely well made, attractive and functional. For all that, its versatility and quality, I think it's excellent.
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
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…