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review

Alpkit Stem Cell bikepacking bag

7
£32.99

VERDICT:

7
10
Handy extra storage for often-used items, but can clash with knees – and not waterproof
Easy single-handed access whilst riding
Stable thanks to lower strap
Closure is vulnerable to rain
Can interfere with pedalling and limit turning circle
Opening could be wider
Weight: 
68g
Contact: 

The Alpkit Stem Cell is designed to either behind or in front of your bar. Offering 1.8 litres of space and made from ripstop nylon, it's light and durable. It offers a useful amount of space and provides easy, one-handed access to essentials, although some riders might find it interferes with pedalling – and the way it closes is vulnerable to rain.

> Buy this online here

The VX21 fabric – a four-layer waterproof nylon coated with DWR – means this bag is pretty tough but very light at just 68g including all straps. This Regular version (there's a three litre XL for £2 more) is 15cm wide at the top and tapers to 7cm.

The whole thing's 21cm tall, not including the 7cm black 'extension tube' on top, though obviously you can't quite use all of that as length.

2020 Alpkit Stem Cell - stem strap.jpg

Fitting is very simple – one bit of velcro wraps either the stem or the handlebar, and one (optional) strap goes to the fork. The top strap has several attachment points on a webbing ladder, allowing you to tweak the fit.

2020 Alpkit Stem Cell - fork strap.jpg

The closure is a simple elasticated drawstring, and easy to use even one-handed on the go, but it inevitably leaves a hole that water can drain through. The drawstring is quite long, too, meaning the excess needs to be tucked away, though that's easy (if fiddly) to do.

This bag could especially suit bikepackers: the rounded shape suits things like mugs and gas canisters, which can often be tricky to fit neatly elsewhere on the bike.

2020 Alpkit Stem Cell - mounted.jpg

With the Stem Cell mounted behind the bars, I found I had to slightly adjust the timing of pedal and frame swing to avoid my knee knocking the bag each time, but it very soon became fairly natural. The pack can also squash against the top tube and stop you turning the bars – it takes quite a severe angle thanks to the taper, so it's perfectly safe, but it can still irritate.

In general drop bar bikes are more affected, and pedalling out of the saddle on climbs makes knee contact worse. If you've got space behind your cables, mounting this bag ahead of the bars works better.

> Cycling luggage for beginners: find out the best ways to carry stuff on your bike

At £32.99 the Alpkit Stem Cell is priced fairly high, with the likes of PRO's Discover Food Pouch being £30, and the basic yet very similar BBB Bar Buddy costing considerably less at £18.95.

Alternatively, front-mounted bags such as the Topeak Compact handlebar bag at £36.99 or the Lotus SH-6406 Commuter Handlebar Bag at £25.99 are usefully larger for similar money.

Overall

If that spot on your bike is already taken, though, the Stem Cell is neatly made from rugged fabrics, is a good shape for some traditionally awkward items, and is handy for keeping phones, snacks or tools close to hand. It's pretty stable too, but the closure wastes the waterproofing and needs a rethink, while the potential for knee-strikes is a little high on compact frames.

Verdict

Handy extra storage for often-used items, but can clash with knees – and not waterproof

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Alpkit Stem Cell bikepacking bag

Size tested: Regular

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?

Alpkit says: "Stem Cell attaches to your bike's stem to provide easy-to-access storage space for the stuff that you'll need frequently during your ride. Placed well within reach when you're riding, it works well as a stand-alone bag for day riding or as a part of your cockpit setup on longer bikepacking adventures."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

The company lists:

Stem-mounted storage that you can access as you ride

Made to last in the UK

Fully customisable (contact support [at] alpkit.com)

Made with waterproof and highly abrasion-resistant fabrics

Elasticated drawcord closure creates extension tube for maximum capacity

Bar-tacked webbing ladder for endless attachment points

Attaches to either side of stem

75 cm VELCRO® strap provided

25 Year Alpine Bond

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Well made with good fabrics, although not waterproof.

Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10

Easy to open and use, but can interfere with pedalling – especially when out of the saddle.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

Feels tough and likely to last. Comes with Alpkit's 25 year Alpine Bond, which offers repair or replacement.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
9/10

Simple and light.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
6/10

Can interfere with pedalling.

Rate the product for value:
 
4/10

It's at the top end of the range for this kind of bag, though well made and (mostly) well-designed.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well - unless it hits your knees.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Stable and easy to use while riding.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

It's not waterproof.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

At £32.99 the Alpkit Stem Cell is priced fairly high, with the likes of PRO's Discover Food Pouch being £30, and the basic yet very similar BBB Bar Buddy costing considerably less at £18.95.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? If every other spot was full of luggage, yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe

Use this box to explain your overall score

The Stem Cell is well made and neatly-shaped from quality fabrics, and it works well – especially if all your other mounting options are taken. The drawcord closure wastes the waterproof fabric, though, and it can clash with knees. The price is fair for the quality, but you can get cheaper bags that work nearly as well – this is good, but no more, and a seven.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 35  Height: 168  Weight: 62

I usually ride:   My best bike is: Cannondale SystemSix

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: road racing, cyclo cross, sportives, mtb,

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