The New Revelate Designs Harness: Trail Tested

Revelate Designs recently revamped their classic handlebar Harness — one of our all-time favorite and most used pieces of gear. For this review we put some miles on it during the ‘Trans WNC’ and beyond, and compared it to the old model…

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Originally introduced in 2008, the Revelate Designs Harness has now seen four major revisions. The fourth of which, just released at the beginning of June, made the Harness the last of Revelate’s lineup to see a revamp over the past year.

Revelate Designs Handlebar Harness

  • Revelate Designs Egress Pocket Review, waterproof pouch
  • Revelate Designs Egress Pocket Review, waterproof pouch

The Harness is a something of a bikepacking classic. And that’s intended from both a universal and personal perspective. It was one of the first true bikepacking ‘bags’ I invested in, and suffice to say probably the most useful… and the most used. As photographed below, my old Harness (on the left) is still in solid working order; and that’s after it’s seen more than its share of trail miles. I used it on the ultra-rugged Virginia Mountain Bike Trail, the Appalachian Beer Trail, Kokopelli Trail, the Stagecoach 400, Gila River Ramble, and The White Rim, just to name a few. If someone asked me to name the most bombproof piece of bikepacking gear out there, it’d have to be the Harness. Regardless of any sentimental value I might have for my former Harness, I was happy to receive the latest and greatest to see how it’s progressed.

Revelate Designs Harness New

I was originally drawn to the Harness over the Sweetroll — those were the two most prevalent and popular options at the time — based on the versatility of the system. Cylindrical items as small as 4.5” in diameter can be cinched down in the Harness, which makes it useable with a standard suspension fork or even a long-travel 160mm fork. And when used on a rigid bike which has no potential spatial compression between the handlebar and front tire, it can really be loaded down; consider a massive sub-zero winter sleeping system or a kit that includes extra baggage such as a packraft. The Harness can hold individual items or a group of items as big as 10” (25.4 cm) in diameter and up to 15 pounds (6.8 kg). That’s an especially useful range if your bikepacking setups vary from a medium travel trail bike to a fully rigid fat bike.

New Revelate Designs Harness

  • Revelate Designs Handlebar Harness
  • Revelate Designs Handlebar Harness

Equally as alluring is the ability to compartmentalize packing by allowing multiple cylindrical items or drybags to be loaded into the Harness. My usual solo configuration, as shown in several of these photos, consists of a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 tent and a Z-packs cuben fiber dry bag containing a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, inflatable pillow, and a couple other odd and ends — basically my entire sleep system. The two bags are arranged horizontally to maintain plenty of space between the Harness and front tire. I’ve used this system on two full-suspension rigs (a 27.5+ Pony Rustler with a 140mm fork as shown and the 29+ Deadwood SUS). Neither had an issue with tire rub when the fork was properly tuned and the Harness packed appropriately. Moreover, almost anything can be tossed in the Revelate Harness. Examples include a fishing rod tube, a paddle, tent poles, a tripod, and the list goes on. I onced gathered firewood and hauled it back to camp with the Harness. Of course, as mentioned, Revelate does assign the Harness a 15 pound weight limit.

Revelate Designs Egress Pocket Review, waterproof pouch

What’s changed?

I’m happy to report that the Harness is relatively unchanged in its overarching design, size, and functionality. However, it did get a few tweaks that include new materials and refinements that add up to a superior product. One of my favorite changes is the new handlebar mounting blocks. The alterations to the blocks are very minimal, but after bouncing around western North Carolina’s rooty singletrack, I found the redesign to be invaluable. They are slightly longer and retain more of the material in the area that ‘wraps’ the handlebar. This gives them a more secure and steadfast grip. On my old Harness these would often slide inward and have to be adjusted several times per day; the changes made to the blocks seem to have fixed this issue. Also, they added another little ingenious trick; instead of hooking the blocks into sewn webbing on the harness pad, you now slip a pre-loaded velcro attachment through the block’s cavity. This was a key improvement for many reasons, but the one that resonated with me is the fact that it’s harder to lose the blocks. On one occasion I had one from my old Harness go missing only to find it in the recesses of a storage bin after an hour of frantic searching.

  • Revelate Designs Handlebar Harness
  • Revelate Designs Handlebar Harness

The biggest visible changes can be found in the new compression molded composite material used as the main structure for the ‘soft rack’. For lack of a better description, it simply looks more refined and technical than its predecessor. The three-dimensional molded ‘D’ logo in the top is the most unique detail. I personally prefer this minimal style to a printed logo. There are also several ribs molded into the material which also adds to the aesthetic but seemingly helps the structure and lateral rigidity of the harness. While riding I felt that this version of the Harness simply felt more stable.

  • Revelate Designs Handlebar Harness
  • Revelate Designs Handlebar Harness
  • Revelate Designs Handlebar Harness
  • Revelate Designs Handlebar Harness
  • Revelate Designs Handlebar Harness

A couple additional materials changes are the easy access buckles with locking cam straps. These are slightly bigger than the buckles used on the last Harness with the idea that many riders might use it for winter bikepacking so having a glove-friendly interface will come in particularly handy. Also, the interior of the Harness has a grippier material on the inner surface that better keeps the load in place. The daisy chain for strapping the harness to the top-tube also got a slight revision. It now has six options for strap placement instead of two. This a small but very helpful improvement.

Lastly, the new Harness dropped a little weight. By eliminating the lower internal rigid fiberglass strut — the new model just has one — and changing the material used as the internal backer board, the latest Harness weighs in at 416 grams while the previous version tips the scales at 479 grams. That’s a 2.2 oz reduction, which makes room for a Trails illustrated map or something similar. Not a huge decrease, but notable.

Revelate Designs Egress Pocket Review, waterproof pouch

Pros

  • The Harness is generally more versatile than the Revelate Sweetroll or other handlebar roll-style bags. It’s also able to carry more.
  • Perfect for stacking two large cylindrical items; in this case a tent and sleeping bag, and then some.
  • Allows quick detachment of bags for off the bike packing and unpacking.
  • When items are stacked it moves the weight lower and provides a slightly better center of gravity than the Sweet Roll.
  • Items can also be placed in a horizontal formation allowing more to be packed while maintaining room for suspension travel.
  • The Harness is $85 USD whereas the comparable handlebar option, the Sweetroll is $110. So if you already have drybags that work, you can save a little money.

Cons

  • The Harness isn’t inherently waterproof, obviously, so it is dependant on the build quality of bags you put in it.
  • All accounted for the Harness weighs a little more than a Medium Sweetroll (479 grams for the Harness — without accompanying dry bags — and 436 grams for the Sweetroll).
  • A handlebar bag might be seen as a little more compact and tidy.
  • unlike the heavy duty Sweetroll you are at the mercy of the quality of the dry bag you choose to use. That said, you can use Revelate’s Salty Roll, which is just like the Sweet Roll with out the straps.

Industry Nine Backcountry 450 Review, plus tire wheelset

Wrap Up

The Revelate Harness is one of my all-time favorite pieces of gear, and seemingly the most durable. As an ‘investment’, it’s also one of the least expensive and durable handlebar carrying solutions on the market. If you don’t have a handlebar pack already, or if you do and are in need of a solution that can accommodate a wider variety of sizing and gear configurations, the Harness is a no-brainer.

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