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Restrap's Race Bar Bag is a harness and separate drybag style design that attaches securely without affecting steering or cable runs, though having the drybag opening at the top – rather than the side like most drybags – has its pros and cons. The whole setup isn't cheap, but I reckon it's a price worth paying as it works very well for light and fast type adventures.
This Bar Bag takes 7L, and harness and drybag together weigh 318g (214g for the harness, 104g for the drybag) on our Scales of Truth. The drybag is fully waterproof and has a mesh pocket on either side, useful for food packaging, emergency energy gel, hand sanitiser, that kind of thing – whatever you want easy access to.
Though designed for use with drop handlebars, the bag also works on flat bars.
Fully loaded, the drybag measures 280mm wide by 180mm diameter. Even on standard road drop bars such as the 42cm c-c Pro PLT Ergo bar on my Kinesis Tripster there's plenty of space for your hands on the hoods and drops without any interference from the drybag.
That's helped by the fact that the drybag is top opening, so doesn't have the usual side-roll closure with buckles that add extra width. I find those buckles tend to end up touching your hands when you're on the drops, and can be a bit annoying. That right there is the reason I was keen to review this bar bag, and is reason #1 why I really like this bar bag.
The holster is made from a WX21 technical outer, with an inner lining made from nylon with rubberised (Hypalon) accents that stop the drybag rotating, keeping the mesh pockets upright.
It attaches to the handlebar with spring-loaded cam buckles and there are foam spacers so the holster doesn't sit directly against the bar. This means there's plenty of space for your hands on the top of your handlebar, and also that there is space for gear and brake cables/hoses to run uninterrupted. It also means there's plenty of space for a head unit and front lights too.
There is also a bit of elastic cord that wraps around the head tube, again with a couple of foam spacers to stop the holster bouncing. On my Tripster, the front brake hose is just the right length (read: a bit too short really; I couldn't install a wider handlebar, or move the stem up, without replacing the hose). I thought this was going to be an issue for bar bag use, but not so. I ran the brake hose between the two foam spacers, cinched the elastic cord up tight, and my uncle was Bob.
Even with my bike's short cables and hoses, I didn't find any issues with brake or gear change performance and steering was unaffected too. The handlebar straps and the head tube elastic cord make for solid attachment – no issues on a 450km gravel adventure. I didn't need to adjust it once, and when I took the holster off afterwards, it was cinched as tight as when I put it on.
In summary, reason #2 why I like this bag.
Seven litres is well suited to a light and fast adventure, to my mind. On the test trip, it housed a lightweight sleeping bag (Alpkit Pipedream 250) and down jacket, a Buff and a spare tube, with space for a few more items should I have needed to.
The drybag straps aren't adjustable, which means they sort of govern how much you can put in it; something I found useful.
The drybag is fully waterproof, but even so I had the down items in separate small drybags to help with compression and also because there is nothing like a wet down sleeping bag to dampen the mood.
While the tapered drybag is relatively straightforward to compress when loaded up, the strap configuration doesn't keep the bag compressed that well if you have items in there that want to expand; the system kind of relies on the holster straps to do that, and this is the main issue I found with this bag.
You see, on my 54cm Tripster, the space between the tyre and centre of the handlebar is a bit tight; I had 220mm where Restrap specifies a minimum of 230mm on its website. It was therefore important to compress the drybag as much as possible to stop it touching the tyre on bumpy terrain.
I ended up using a couple of Voile straps to keep the drybag diameter to a minimum, which created more space to the front tyre and sorted the issue.
In theory I could have done this with the holster straps, but that was just too much faff for two hands to handle. Once in the holster, the Voile straps had done their job and could be removed.
If you have more space, this is unlikely to be an issue for you, and to be fair, I was pushing Restrap's space requirement and making the bag work in a space that was too small for it.
On balance, if I had to choose between this top-opening style bag, which takes a little bit of extra time and a couple of straps to compress it enough to keep it away from the front tyre, and a side-opening drybag that interferes with my hands all the time, I'd take the top-opening bag with its downside every time.
While £109.99 is not cheap, plenty of other handlebar bag and harness combos sit around this price point.
Brooks' Scape Handlebar Roll, for example, which Stu tested last year, costs £110, and the Wildcat Gear Lion harness and 8L Double Ended Drybag combination is £120 (£125 for the 13L bag).
Blackburn's Outpost HB Roll & Dry Bag is a bit cheaper at £100, but it's almost twice the weight, and off-road.cc's review reckoned it was a bit rattly too.
If you're not fussed about the easy on-off functionality of a separate harness, there are even cheaper options: Vel's Handlebar Pack costs £55 and impressed Stu earlier this year; Alpkit's Tivaro 13L is £31.99; and Lifeline's Adventure Handlebar bag is even less at £29.99 (though off-road.cc's Matt wasn't overly keen on the straps).
All in, on the gravel trip I couldn't fault this setup. The attachment was rock solid, no issues with sway or bounce even on pretty rocky terrain. No mid-ride adjustments were needed, and the drybag was solid in the holster. It didn't affect steering, gear changing or braking performance, and didn't interfere with my hands. And after this four-day trip, there were no visible signs of wear. Top marks all round.
The only downside of the top-opening drybag is that it doesn't retain compression on its own, but that's something I can easily live with given it performs perfectly in use and ended up costing me no more than a minute extra to mount the bag – something you only have to do once a day anyway.
Excellent for fast and light adventures – if there's enough space between your handlebar and front tyre
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Restrap Race Bar Bag
Size tested: 7 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?
Restrap says: "The Adventure Race Bar Bag is the ideal handlebar storage solution for ultra-distance riding, audaxes and races. The minimalist hardshell holster is constructed with a WX21 technical outer and durable nylon inner lining with Hypalon accents. The holster is shaped to optimise performance, whilst keeping weight to a minimum.
"Foam spacers and spring-loaded cam locks provide an easy and reliable attachment to your handlebars, whilst a reflective elastic cord retention strap aids stability around the head tube. A 100% waterproof 7L Dry Pack has been designed specifically for the Race Bar Bag, featuring a roll-top closure, reflective detailing and stretch mesh side pockets that provide accessible storage for food, gloves and other essentials on the go."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Restrap lists these details:
A specially developed combination of technical materials like VX21 and 1000D textured nylon work in conjunction with coated nylon linings to keep the worst of the elements at bay.
Our signature brown Restrap label may look like leather but fear not - no animals have been harmed in the making of our products. PU leather or heat-pressed labels mean our kit not only looks great, but is cruelty free too.
As much as we'd like to always ride in ideal conditions, we know that's far from the reality. Reflective details aid visibility in low light, poor weather and outright darkness so when the day draws to a close, your adventure doesn't have to.
Capacity - 7L
Weight - 325g
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
With the extra compressions straps, the clearance to the front wheel on my 54cm framed bike was plenty. The bar bag attachment was solid and didn't affect steering, gear or brake performance. It swallows a useful amount of stuff while leaving plenty of space on the hoods, tops and drops for hand placement. Basically, no niggles whatsoever.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The drybag design, which is top opening.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The drybag design, which doesn't work well for compression.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
You can get cheaper handlebar bags that take the same amount of stuff, but they tend not to have a separate harness. The handlebar bags I've seen that do have a separate harness, and that work on drop bars, all sit around this price point.
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
I really like this bag; it performs really well in every way that matters. The only niggle is that the drybag doesn't retain its compression when loaded up with items that want to expand; I can easily live with that and found a way around it that worked quite well. Overall, I think it's excellent.
About the tester
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Ribble Endurance SL disc
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: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, mtb, Zwift