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Alpkit Kuoka handlebar roll review – affordable and eco-friendly but short on stability

Alpkit’s affordable bags have always been favorites. So what does their updated Kuoka handlebar roll bring to the bike packing party?

Alpkit Kuoka bar bag
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Simple, affordable, eco friendly bar roll refreshed with great factory back up and warranty. Not fully waterproof, though, and simple strap system is unstable.

Pros

  • +

    Affordable price

  • +

    Durable organic eco fabric

  • +

    25-year warranty and great UK factory back up

  • +

    Top and bottom strap guides

  • +

    Front light tab

Cons

  • -

    Unstable as supplied

  • -

    Bar top hand blocker

  • -

    Not fully waterproof

Alpkit have been making bikepacking bags in the UK since 2008 and they’ve just refreshed their staple items – including the very popular Kuoka bar roll – with an eco-friendly fabric. The already affordable price includes an excellent ‘Alpine Bond’ warranty and factory repair service. The lack of seam-sealing limits waterproofing, though, and simple strap set up means it's unstable on rougher tracks.

Design and specifications

The big difference with the new Kuoka is the use of X-Pac® X11 fabric. This is a 3-layer laminate using a 100% organic cotton duck face fabric, a recycled polyester X-PLY mid layer and a polyester film backer. This is formed into a simple 13-litre capacity tube with ‘roll over and clip’ closures at both ends. There are strips of webbing stitched into strap guide loops top and bottom and a Hypalon (rubber dinghy rubber) diamond on the front for clipping a front LED into. There’s a stiffened back panel to help it hold shape, too, but there were no additional head tube or fork crown straps, or bar spacers supplied with our bag. You get a choice of three excitingly named but actually low-key black, grey and tan colors, though. 

Alpkit Kuoka bar bag

The new fabric looks natural and the organic cotton face has a reduced eco impact too. (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

Double ended opening makes the Koaka easy to force feed it bulky items and drag them out again. The mounting straps are also compression straps so you can squash it/roll it down as compact as possible. The new fabric has a nice soft feel and trad look (it's a real Carradice vibe if you're old/hipster enough to know what that is) coated in a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating that most weather rolls off without soaking into. While it’s already looking cosmetically weathered compared to a purely synthetic bag, we’ve not had any abrasion or construction issues in the few months we’ve been using and often abusing it. The closing clips are the same sturdy design we’ve been using for years without trouble on other Alpkit bags too. Alpkit offer an impressive 25 year ‘Alpine Bond’ warranty against defects or manufacturing flaws as well as a repair service for their own (and other brand0 bags. Very impressive considering the bargain price and part of the reason Alpkit have so many loyal fans.

While the material itself is waterproof the seams aren’t sealed so water can seep in over time or if a river crossing doesn’t go to plan. Incidentally the waterproof ‘Deluge’ version they offer is Chinese made so it only gets a 3-year Alpine Bond and it’s 100g heavier too. It is £12 cheaper, though.

Our testing explained

For information on Bike Perfect's testing procedures and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.

Either way the actual strapping system is very simple, with the two orbital compression straps just looping round the bars. That’s a long length of unsupported strap which means it’s very hard to tighten. It’s therefore likely to shift sideways, or slide down towards the front tire. It also needs an additional strap adding to stop it bouncing/rotating up or down on rough ground. All of which can put paintwork in peril unless you load the bag into the separate Kanga (£59.99) or Joey (£12.99) bar harnesses. While you can mount lights, GPS etc to ensure they work above the bag, you’ll still lose the use of the top of the bar for hands unless you add foam spacers.

Verdict

The Alpkit Kuoka bar roll is well made in the UK from a natural looking eco fabric with great long term aftersales back-up. It’s not fully waterproof but it’s weatherproof enough for most days and so far it’s lasting well. Pricing is good for the quality and back up, too. The simple strap system sells it short, though, undermining stability and putting the bar tops off limits unless you add extra straps, spacers and/or a separate harness.

Tech specs: Alpkit Kuoka handlebar roll

  • Price: $64.99 / €54.99 / £49.99
  • Sizes: 13L
  • Colors: Panther Black, Storm Grey, Mountain Brown 
  • Weight: 250g

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg