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The Restrap Bar Pack is a very good choice for carrying and quickly accessing a decent amount of gear on your handlebar, if you don't want to go the dry bag route. As it straps directly to your bar and head tube, cable management or frame rub could be an issue so some additional bits might be needed to make it work for you.
One adage in cycling holds true 99 per cent of the time: there's nothing new under the sun. In this case, decent-capacity handlebar bags, and the issues they face being attached to your bike without interfering with cables.
As ever, the solutions likely lie back in the actual Golden Age of cycling – which is not now, sorry to disappoint. I mean the early 1900s, when millions of people across Europe innovated the bejesus out of metal, leather and canvas to create functional, beautiful, and functionally-beautiful cycling kit that still works today.
One of these items was the decaleur (deck-ah-lure). The idea of a decaleur was to hold a luggage bag solidly and quietly on the front of your bike, disentangling it from the cables at the front and keeping space free for your hands. You still needed a rack underneath for the bag's weight, the decaleur keeping it upright.
I take this small diversion down memory lane as a reminder that often the problems and their answers are behind us, and we only need look back to find them. It's the challenge of managing cable fouling that besets the Restrap Bar Pack; there are answers, but you need to know they're there.
The Restrap Bar Pack in itself is a good idea, well executed. It's a 10L open bag with a roll-top closure, meaning no matter how little or how much you put in it, you can get a nice, compacted fit.
The roll-top closure is much the same as you'd find on a drybag – except to secure it you don't buckle the top back on itself, you buckle it to cinch straps on either side of the bag, further aiding compression. Each cinch strap passes through two rings, meaning it's free to slide smoothly. The bag is reinforced by a stiff plastic liner its whole circumference, so the 'U' shape is always maintained.
The exterior is available in black or the reviewed orange, and both interiors are bright orange, making finding small things a breeze.
On the front of the Bar Pack there's a bellow-sided pocket (meaning it can squash flat or expand) for minor items, with a roll closure held fast by a Velcro strap. Cunningly, this strap is attached over an open space formed by the back of the pocket, into which can be slid a mini D-lock. This speaks to one use case for the Bar Pack – that of permanently fixed on-bike storage for the urban rider. Yes, you can very quickly remove or store a mini D-Lock here – whether you want to leave a £105 Bar Pack out in the street for miscreants to ponder is another story.
On top, there's a bungee cord criss-cross generous enough to hold the bulkiest of jackets, gloves or whatever. I also used the front pocket D-lock slot to quickly stuff gloves or arm warmers into.
So, back to the fixing... The Bar Pack attaches to your handlebar with 25mm nylon webbing straps, feeding through two strong, spring-loaded friction buckles. These work very well and didn't budge.
There's a slotted 10mm foam spacer block on each strap to help the bag stand out slightly from your bar – but not enough to get your fingers under. As the body of the bag is only 220mm wide this isn't likely to be too much of an issue. There's 80mm between the inner edges of the straps to clear your stem, but not really much space for any accessories bar the thinnest of mounts to be fitted between straps and stem.
The lower fixing of the Bar Pack is where there's the rub – literally. Restrap recommends you feed the provided double-sided Velcro strip around your headset and through the multi-position molle ladder stitched to the back of the pack. Restrap also recommends you fit frame protection tape around the headset to prevent rubbing – this is essential, as even a short ride will see marks on your paintwork as the inevitable grit is introduced between Velcro and paint, grinding away with each twitch of the bar.
I have an 80mm stem and a pretty tall head tube and short spacer stack on my gravel bike, and with that setup the Bar Pack was angled downwards at about 30 degrees. A longer stem with more spacers would see that angle increase significantly, rendering the little slots cut into the front pocket flap for a light of no use unless you want to illuminate your front wheel.
Whether the setup leaves room betwixt pack and head tube for your cables to exit gracefully will depend on your aforementioned geometry and, critically, where the cables then enter cable stops or frame entry ports. If they attach reasonably far down the down tube you should be fine; if they enter much closer to the front of the head tube you might find the acute angles don't work when the cables are compressed rearwards. Check out the video on Restrap's site to get an idea.
The solution I came up with to all these woes was to install a Minoura CS-500 Headset Spacer Mount Accessory Holder. Originally designed for lights or GPS units, this bit of wizardry costs £15, weighs just 62g, replaces 10mm of under-stem headset spacer, and does a great job of holding the bottom of the Bar Pack out from your head tube. It relies on your fixing the Velcro at such a height and attaching at such an angle of the holder that it 'preloads' the system, so when you load the Bar Pack it pushes in against the mount and doesn't sag further down.
A few minutes' trial and error gives a solid result that stays put no matter how bumpy or loaded the terrain. The spacer isn't bearing the weight of the bag, just pushing it out from the headset. Some Loctite on the fixing bolts helps to keep everything in place.
I reckon Restrap should sell these as an option for people wanting to keep the Bar Pack vertical and away from the head tube. Other possible answers include racks that attach to the front of your stem, or systems involving a much stronger clamp interface on the handlebar – both of which will increase weight and cost. So if the Bar Pack fastening works for you as described, with or without the Minoura spacer, fine.
Mounting considerations aside, it's the usual serious Restrap quality build from quality materials. Everything is stitched and reinforced within an inch of its life, and you should have no concerns that it will last a very, very long time. Restrap offers a fair 'lifetime warranty' on manufacturing defects and materials, alongside a repairs service. Being made in Yorkshire, and coming with a little tag signed by the machinist who built your bag, there's a nice local connection and you can be sure the company has your back should something unfortunate befall your kit.
You get a lot of space – not quite a sleeping bag's worth, but certainly an entire day's multi-seasonal-weather clothing, food, accessories and so on. The smaller front pocket is good for phones, compact cameras, snacks and the like. I got into the habit of stashing a water bottle, insulated mug, gas cooker setup and coffee inside, along with jackets, gloves and snacks.
Saving money on Covid-closed cafes was one bonus of being able to stop for my own trailside brewups, but I also admit to a smug feeling of self-sufficiency and slow-travel awareness of surroundings that I'd not experienced previously on local rides.
As mentioned, the strap fixings didn't budge, and were easily removed when the pack was not needed. You're unlikely to be putting more than a few kilos of kit inside, but even fully loaded the Bar Pack stays solidly put, with no sway to give odd steering feel.
Restrap seems to have configured the Bar Pack to hit a pretty sweet spot in terms of weight, capacity and features.
The Topeak Barloader bag, which Lara really liked, is about half the price and two-thirds the capacity, but has no front pocket or bungee stash area, while the Arkel Big Bar Bag is now £144, and is a lot heavier too.
The Bar Pack also comes in a little under another Restrap option, the Bar Bag Small setup, at £109.99 for a drybag, harness and food pouch.
As with many things cycling, there's no right or wrong answer, just what works for you and your use case. If the design, attachment method, capacity, quality and cost of the Restrap Bar Pack fit your requirement envelope, you won't be disappointed.
A very good way to carry lots of gear up front, lightweight, tough and practical
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Restrap Bar Pack
Size tested: 10L
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?
It's for people wanting to carry lots of lightweight gear easily-accessible up front.
Restrap says: 'Ideal for shop runs, off road adventures or audaxes, the Bar Pack is the perfect all day companion. Two fully waterproof roll top compartments provide 10 litres of capacity with a hypalon closure, securing the front compartment and providing a mounting slot for a clip-on front light or additional strapping. A mini D-lock holster sits between the two compartments, with the front compartment closure doubling as a securing strap for a lock for any urban excursions.
'Structural rigidity is provided by an internal stiffener, a compact pack is guaranteed at all times due to the side-release tension and buckle system. An additional hard shell back provides further rigidity and a MOLLE adjustable headtube retention system guarantees a secure fit to your bike.
'Foam spacers and spring-loaded cam locks provide a stable and reliable attachment to your handlebars an elasticated drawcord provides perfect on-the go storage for gloves, jackets and other accessories.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Handmade in our Yorkshire workshop from 100% waterproof textured nylon, with a nylon lining and finished with the classic vegan-friendly PU leather Restrap label.
Weight - 585g
Capacity - 10L
Black / Orange
Restrap does this sort of stuff really well.
The design works well out on the road, with ability to stash and retrieve stuff easily from the pocket.
Early days, but seems pretty bombproof, as expected.
595g for the capacity and features is pretty good.
£105 is getting up there, but this is a premium product with a lifetime warranty. It's about £40 less than the Arkel Big Bag.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Once I'd sorted the cable issues with the spacer, it worked flawlessly.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Quick access to small things – gloves, warmers, snacks.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Just the inherent cable-paintwork protection faff with this sort of design.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It prices well for the 10L capacity and build quality.
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 overall score
The inherent issue Restrap is fighting here is modern bike cable routing. The fact the design requires cables to be squished against the frame isn't easily avoided without a hard mount that holds the top of the bag out, then needing weighty internal reinforcing to keep things rigid. If you are happy to go down the Minoura accessory route, simply don't care about your paint, or are happy to use frame tape, this isn't really an issue. Hence the score of 8 – it's very good, only let down by the lack of functional light mount and price, which is about right for the market but not exceptional in its own right.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L