Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack Review: Test & Release (1 of 2)

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Today’s big news: Ortlieb has just unveiled their all-new collection of waterproof bikepacking bags. Having had the opportunity to thrash this kit in advance of the release, here’s a detailed review of the Handlebar-Pack and accompanying Accessory-Pack…

For most of the bike touring world, ‘Ortlieb’ is likely a familiar name. It’s a brand that pairs almost as synonymously with bicycle panniers, as Xerox does with copy machines. But this didn’t happen overnight. The German company was founded in 1982 on the premise of making the world’s first fully waterproof pannier. And that they did, and did well. It’s a reputation they’ve built on solidly over the years. Despite the worthy alternatives available today, Ortlieb remains an undisputed market leader in high quality, waterproof bicycle luggage.

In addition to panniers, the company now offers a massive catalog of products that go well beyond the scope of traditional bike touring. So it only seems natural they’d branch out into the realm of bikepacking. As of today, they’ve added a dirt touring department (so to speak) and released a small collection of bikepacking bags. The three new bags inherit Ortlieb’s rugged and waterproof engineering savvy, and fuse their signature charcoal gray honeycomb and matte black fabrics, sturdy coated materials, and unique hardware, to create a seat-pack and handlebar system that play well with both mountain bikes and gravel tourers alike.

Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

A Waterproof Handlebar Roll

While weight, durability, and clean looks have been some of the criterion behind Ortlieb’s success, it’s the fact that their panniers are 100% waterproof that draws many cyclists to them. When it comes to multi-day cycling trips in inclement weather, there’s not much more important than keeping things dry. Ortlieb continued in this tradition by making their new Handlebar-Pack – and accompanying Accessory-Pack – fully waterproof, with zero points for water ingress.

Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll

To do this, Ortlieb constructs their bags using radio-frequency (RF) welding. This technology uses electromagnetic energy to join waterproof fabrics and eliminates the need for stitching, which compromises materials and provides points where water may enter. The bulk of material on the HP is a polyurethane (PU) coated ripstop nylon fabric (approximately 600 denier/42 grams per square meter). There are also thicker PU coated fabrics welded on as reinforcement panels on the main connection area as well as affixment points for straps, the stabilizing strut, and clips that hold the elastic shock-cord. But other than one horizontal RF welded seam, there are no actual through points in the tube-shaped bag body, except at the ends where the edges are reinforced with stitched narrow fabric and two HDPE stiffeners.

Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

The build

The Handlebar-Pack is a two sided dry-bag style roll that falls somewhere in between a medium and large in size, at 7.6 inches (19.304cm) in diameter. As a comparison, it’s falls almost exactly in between the medium and large sizes of the ever popular Revelate Sweetroll (7 and 8 inches correspondingly). This makes the Handlebar-Pack suitable for touring bikes, rigid mountain bikes, and bikes with shorter travel suspension forks (think 80-120mm). Like most handlebar roll systems, it works well nestled between drop bars on a CX/adventure rig, a characteristic augmented by the easy access head-tube strap, allowing the bag to be quickly disengaged at the head-tube and flipped up for loading or unloading.

Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

On first inspection of the bag, the feature stood out most was the burly two-layer handlebar strap system, which is part of what makes this bag unique. The inner velcro strap is secured to the bag around an internally sealed 11” plastic strut that runs horizontally to stabilize the bag. The part of the velcro strap that contacts the handlebar has a rubberized coating that helps keep the bag from moving laterally. And the outer strap is comprised of a nexus side-release buckle, a ladder lock, and bright orange webbing, an accent that adds a nice aesthetic pop on both the Seat-Pack/Handlebar-Pack combination. The inner velcro strap is a great feature as the bag can be easily mounted before really clamping it down with the outer webbing straps. That said, both sets of straps are a bit long for mountain bike handlebars, but can be easily trimmed down.

Another visual element that Ortlieb carried over from their line of panniers is a pair of upside-down triangular octagonal shapes. These small reflective patches are printed on the front of the bag. Also, the Ortlieb logo itself is reflective, all of these are welcome additions and serve as a nice added safety bonus.

Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll

Trail Tested in Pisgah

This bag was shaken down, sometimes literally, over a couple multi-day trips on the rugged trails of Pisgah in the western North Carolina Appalachians, where roots, rocks, drops, and rain are bound to be a staple of any given ride. I tested the bags on a Salsa Pony Rustler 27.5+ full-suspension bike with a 130mm fork. Additionally, the bags were used on a Niner RLT Steel gravel/cx bike. Suffice to say, the Handlebar-Pack system performed very well in both applications. It’s worth mentioning that it took a few cracks to get the adjustments properly dialed. Nonetheless, the handlebar system is fairly stable once you get it properly set up. Mostly it was a matter of getting the proper compression using the two main straps. The hook-and-loop head tube strap was a little frustrating when bounding down rock-strewn trails though; there were several occasions where it came loose and the bag came flying up over the handlebars. But this is hardly a complaint worth niggling over, as the strap can easily be replaced with a more secure option; it secures via a 3-tier daisy chain and is removable.

As for versatility, I will also add to an aspect touched on earlier… the bag might be too big for long travel bikes. For a 27.5 x 3.0 tire (with the equivalent diameter of a standard 29er), the 130mm fork was pushing the bounds of space between the tire and bag. As you can see from the dirty smears in a couple of the photos, it did get a little rub as a result of some bigger off-camber drops, of which there were a few. So I left the Float in the middle ‘trailmode’ setting to limit the travel at 110mm, at which point it was fine.

Bikepacking Wilson Creek, Yancey Ridge S24O

  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

The Accessory-Pack

While I was quite pleased with the Handlebar-Pack, the Accessory-Pack is the most impressive part of the system – the bag’s nifty attachment and closure system specifically. Ortlieb devised an elegant aluminum slide buckle that easily disengages allowing quick access to the bag. These buckles are also appointed to attach the pouch to the Handlebar-Pack at each of the four corners, via webbing loops, which made for easy and quick removal and remounting. The same straps are used to cinch down the load and stabilize the pack as a whole.

Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

The Accessory-Pack also has two straps in the rear to be deployed for use sans Handlebar-Pack. The hook-and-loop straps fold out and attach directly to the handlebars. For added anchor, there are several ‘daisy-chain’ options to redirect the velcro head-tube strap for use at the bottom of the pouch. This is a great alternate use for the pouch, an especially nice option for commuting or when pedaling about town. Despite the utility, the rear straps do get a bit annoying when the pouch is paired with the Handlebar-Pack and they’re not in use; it might be nice to see these reengineered as removable straps. Adding one more accessory use, Ortlieb also includes a shoulder strap to easily convert the pouch to a handy attaché. And, with all of the loops at the back of the pouch, there’s no reason it couldn’t be converted to a hip-pack too.

Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags
  • Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

The Ortlieb Accessory-Pack is amongst the first fully waterproof handlebar pouches to market. This is undeniably refreshing when stowing need-to-access maps, electronics, or other doo-dads that require protection from the elements. I even ended up throwing in my full-frame DSLR with pancake lens on some stretches; while it was admittedly a little heavy for that position, the pouch held it OK. It’s also easy to appreciate the size and simplicity of the Accessory-Pack. While it can expand to hold bulky items, it also has two front buckle placements that allow the roll-top bag to be cinched as small and tight as you’d like. The overall shape of the bag is evidence of their proprietary ‘3D’ welding construction method. This is what gives it the soft rounded and beveled edges at the bottom. Ortlieb has been using this secret variation of RF welding for three decades, but the extent of public knowledge is that it’s done using a mold, similar to casting. Otherwise, they keep the technology hidden away within the four walls of their factory in Heilsbronn, Germany.

Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

Pros

  • The buckle system is truly genius; it works flawlessly and makes for the easiest release of an accessory pack that I’ve seen to date.
  • The size of the handlebar roll is near perfect for general use; not too fat and not too slim. Plus it is equally at home on drop bars as it is on a mountain bike.
  • The handlebar strap system is significantly more rugged than any I’ve seen.
  • The charcoal and orange color combo is pretty slick.

Cons

  • I wish that the rear straps on the Accessory-Pack were removable; they add a little extra bulk when not in use.
  • The head tube strap should be a buckle instead of velcro.
  • It’s a bit heavier (426g) that other handlebar bags on the market (the Revelate Sweet Roll weighs about 360g). And it’s also priced a little higher.
  • The bag is slightly too big for use with long travel suspension forks, especially with larger tires.

Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

Specs (Handlebar-Pack)

  • Weight (as tested): 426g (15oz)
  • Volume: 15L (915 cu.in.)
  • Price: $135
  • Place of Manufacture: Germany
  • Contact: Ortlieb USA

Specs (Accessory-Pack)

  • Weight: 206g (7.3oz)
  • Volume: 3.5L (214 cu.in.)
  • Price: $75
  • Place of Manufacture: Germany
  • Contact: Ortlieb USA

Ortlieb Handlebar Pack Review, Handle-Bar Roll, Bikepacking Bags

Wrap Up

Although it took a little time to get the adjustments right and figure out how best to keep it secure, the Handlebar-Pack with Accessory-Pocket performed at a high level, especially considering this is Ortlieb’s first foray into the world of soft bikepacking bags. Standout points include it being one of the best designs I’ve tried for ease of mounting and disengaging, and the fact that it’s completely waterproof… to the extent that it could probably withstand being submerged for prolonged periods of time (although we didn’t test that aspect). If you are into pack-rafting, it’s no doubt your huckleberry. The Accessory-Pack is brilliant – largely down to the nifty aluminum buckle system and again, because it’s 100 per cent waterproof.

If I had a couple grouches they might be as follows. Firstly, the hook-and-loop head-tube strap should be replaced if you plan on negotiating any bumpy trails. And secondly, the overall girth of the bag is a little big for use with a long-travel suspension fork — at an inch less in diameter it would perfect, in my opinion.

Notwithstanding these nits, the bag sports an ideal volume for use on a short travel/rigid bike, or a drop-bar bike where the extra circumference makes up the size for the shorter length allowed between the drops. Of course, it’s generous size also makes it a great contender for bigger trips or winter outings where extra space is needed.

Disclosure: The Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack and Accessory-Pack was provided for this review about a month prior to launch.

Continue to ‘Test & Release’ part 2: The Ortlieb Seat-Pack

Tags

  • Nathan Fenchak

    I’ll stick with the cottage industry manufacturers that Ortlieb is mimicking.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Fair enough – and we certainly wouldn’t want to see the cottage industry makers squeezed out. As a site, it goes without saying that we’ll always continue to support them, and showcase what they’re doing.

    But it’s also safe to assume that since bigger companies such Ortlieb and Blackburn are moving in to the space, it will only help grow the trend, in turn bolstering the smaller businesses that helped create it.

  • http://www.lightroomzen.com David Childers

    These look great. I have a full set of Ortlieb bags on my LHT and they’re incredibly well made products. Great to see them adding something new to the world of Bikepacking.

  • Nathan Fenchak

    My comment maybe sounds more negative than I really intended. ortlieb is hardly a commercial giant that will drive the small companies to ruin, but the nice thing about the niche of bike touring is how it’s associated with so many individual personalities. It doesn’t necessarily feel like business, but the increasing presence of bigger companies might push things in that direction if people don’t make intentional decisions to maintain their values.

  • Adam DeVoe

    What mfr and model of the frame pack shown in the first pic? Looks like it would fit perfectly on my FS 29’er. Thanks.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    The one on the Salsa is a DIY model, but Revelate makes one (with Salsa branding). Maybe try contacting Revelate to ask where you can get one. Also, custom builders such as Porcelain Rocket or Oveja Negra (links in footer) could make one specifically for your bike; that direction would ensure that it fit perfectly.

  • MountainMike11

    I would be curious to see how these hold up long term, especially or in particularly in desert use. I found that running a similar material dry bag on my bars after 2 rides developed a wear spot in the PU coating. Probably user error on my part with the way I had it rigged too close to cabling coupled with the dustiness of the trails, so hopefully with their mounting system it will not run into troubles.

    Pretty excited to see a fully waterproof option. Being in Arizona probably won’t be an issue for me needing waterproofing, but hey, its’ nice to have options.

  • http://www.roguepanda.com Nick Smolinske

    Good question. That’s one of the reasons I make Xpac gear with sealed seams. I’m also in AZ. You’ll never get completely waterproof results but you can easily get good enough to keep out rain and the fabric is much more durable than equivalent weight RF -weldable fabrics. As long as you’re not cycling underwater I think it’s a better way to go.

  • Jaska Halttunen

    Hello! Please tell me where I can get this bags???

  • http://aushiker.com/ Aushiker

    Any thoughts on how the handlebar pack might go with an Jones H-Bar?

  • Dan O

    Any thoughts on how well this would hold small, long, thin items using the around-the-bag compression straps? I’m thinking tent poles or a rolled wet tarp on the outside of the dry bag portion. If I’m correct, most of the harness style carriers have multiple horizontal stays – if this just has one you’d have to pack the drybag semi-full to get the whole business stiff enough to mount additional stuff up front.

    The reason I usually lean toward the ‘harness’ style front roll instead of the ‘drybag with mounting’ like this is it’s easier to put a few bags in the harness for organizational freaks like me.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    That I don’t know. I would think it would work the same as any roll-style HB bag with it, but not sure exactly… sorry.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    It should work fairly well; that’s actually a hidden perk of the Accessory-Pack bar straps, they would warp a small set of tent pols or another small cylindrical object, such as a fishing rod case (which Ortlieb has a photo of somewhere).

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    They should be available on Ortlieb’s website. Are you in the US?

  • Jaska Halttunen

    Hello! I´m from Finland…. and they are not available on Ortlieb´s website… https://www.ortlieb.com/en/produkt-details/?produkt=seatpack&list=bikepacking&slug=bikepacking&clearname=Bikepacking

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    I have a couple emails out to my contact; I know they are busy at the Sea Otter Classic event, so I may not hear back until next week. But I’ll update this page when I do…

  • mikeetheviking

    Glad to see Ortlieb on board…. The Accessory-Pack is PERFECT!

  • stevebennett

    How solid is the base of the handlebar roll? Does it have protection for stones kicked up from the front tyre?

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    It is the same 600d fabric that’s used throughout. I will say that In all the thousands of miles we’ve used other handlebar rolls, such as the Revelate Sweetroll, there’s never been any damage or wear caused by stones and such from the tire.

  • http://consensus-analytics.com/ Bastian Spielman

    Is the handling / steering (e.g. the ability to ride with your hands of the bars) effected by handlebar bags in general and by this Ortlieb model in particular?

  • stevebennett

    Hmm, I have a Revelate harness, which has a pretty tough extra layer on the bottom. It gets scuffed over time, which got me curious.

  • Dan O

    Thanks for the info!

    I actually saw the photo you’re talking about after I posted this comment. It’s on Path Less Pedaled’s instagram feed, which I can’t seem to link or embed here correctly.

  • Dan O
  • Idle Prentice

    These look gorgeous and I’m sure are Ortleib’s traditional high quality but I am going to have to stick with using the small independent custom bag makers for this stuff. They’ve carried the mail for the bike packing community for years before the 400 pound gorilla decided to move into the neighborhood. Call me a Luddite.

  • Jaska Halttunen

    Hello! do you have any idea how this seat post bag work with suspension seat post?

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Hi Jaska. Check out the second review on the Seat Pack, there are notes on this: http://www.bikepacking.com/gear/ortlieb-seat-pack-review

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    There’s nothing intrinsically different about this particular handlebar bag in terms of handling. But, yes, having weight on your bike, especially in a higher position, does affect handing. I like to pack lighter weight items, such as a UL sleeping bag, in my bar bag.

  • http://consensus-analytics.com/ Bastian Spielman

    I see you brought you two variables. 1) How high the weight is on your bike and 2) whether the weight is on the handlebars (via a handlebar bag) or not. I was interested in the effect the weight being on the handlebars (independent of how high it is). The weight in a saddle bag is roughly on the same height. Any experience there? ;)

  • David Landis

    I just used it for a 600 mile trail ride on a Jones loop bar and it worked fine.

  • David Landis

    I just finished a 600 mile trip in Spain with the handlebar bag and accessory pack, and thought it would be worth noting that the accessory pack was just large enough to carry my 11″ Macbook Air. It goes slightly over the recommended weight limit and I could only fold the top edge down twice, but it held up great and was suspended from the handlebar bag, so it seemed quite cushioned even on really rocky trails.

  • bong_crosby

    Just got back from a two-week bikepacking trip around Idaho and I used the Ortlieb handlebar and accessory pack for the first time. I use Ortlieb panniers on my other touring rig and was looking forward to the same dependability and ease of use as their other products.

    First, the handlebar bag is big, which, as the review mentioned, causes a problem for larger wheels with suspension fork. I had to lock out my fork to prevent the bag from rubbing the tire in bigger hits.

    Second, the bag is so big, it may rub the the fork crown, compression adjustment, and air valve of the fork. My bag did and ended up wearing a hole in the bag. A real bummer for such an expensive piece of kit and it happened in about 10 days of riding. This problem is as much a function of my bike’s geometry and setup and less about poor design but I thought I’d point it out for potential purchasers so they can check the clearance between bag and fork crown before tearing off tags and heading out. At least then they could return it before using.

    Third, the orange webbing used to secure the bag to the bars would come loose. It wasn’t a huge amount but something that had to be tightened throughout the day. I also noticed the accessory bag loosening too, which required tightening throughout the day, again, not a lot but noticeable.

    The accessory bag is convenient and great for maps, phone, camera and other miscellaneous junk you need throughout the day.

    Bottom line, the bag is good but not up to what I was expecting from Ortlieb. On the other hand, their seat bikepacking bag which I also used for the trip was the bomb and held up well.

  • bong_crosby

    I just finished a two week bikepacking tour on the dirt roads and singletrack here in Idaho using Ortlieb’s Seat-Pack and Handlebar-Pack for the first time. The Seat-Pack was awesome and worked without problem. The Handlebar-Pack was more problematic.

    First off, like the review mentioned, this bag is large, so large that it will rub the tire of a bike with even a moderate travel fork. I had to lock mine out for the duration of the trip.

    Second, the orange straps holding the bag to the bars loosens during a day’s riding. Not a lot, but I had to cinch the straps tight a couple times a day and could get about a 1/2″ of slack out of them. Not a huge deal, but something to be cognizant of if you’re using this bag.

    Finally, and most importantly, the bag is so big, it may rub against the fork crown if you have a suspension fork. If you look at the photos in this review, you can see how close the bag is to the travel adjustment knob. My bag rubbed on both the travel adjustment knob and the schrader valve connector. The travel adjustment side wore through the bag in about 10 days and the valve connector was abrading and about to wear through. The material is pretty thin, so it is very susceptible to abrasion holes.

    I had some Tenacious Tape in my repair kit and was able to fix the hole and use the patch as a buffer to prevent any more damage.

    It’s a bummer, I’ve rolled with Ortlieb Back-Roller panniers for years and thousands of miles and never had a problem; and I beat the ever loving s**t out of them from Prudhoe Bay to Baja. That’s why I selected Ortlieb when I decided to get into bikepacking. Unfortunately, their bikepacking bags aren’t as well designed or bombproof as their other products. I’d steer clear until they get the bugs worked out.

    BC https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0d9b25210b0c94b71ef3f192e6370cb4cb6377062f4a4c5fa03b2ffe29c3baa8.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c8505987ea5a58509735164782bb674b58f15d311bcfee54dd53fe31956b9831.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/75dc0bf6694d90def0093081711cfd49e0bfd7662571edd679728c9f55cd929b.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e87d3a7f6000940c7145633914f18249cd0a04130b5610beefe0a6162ce76701.jpg

  • Robert

    Any thoughts how well Ortlieb’s Handlebar-Pack (or their Seat-Pack) would hold a replacement battery for an electric bike? I’m considering to buy a second battery for my Specialized Levo mountain bike and would like to carry it somehow on the bike rather than in a backpack.
    The battery weighs about 3 kg (6.6 lb). Therefore I wonder if such a heavy and hard item would maybe damage the pack. And how much it would affect the handling of the bike on climbs and trails.
    From its size the battery should fit both packs. (battery length = ca. 53 cm or 21 inches)

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