Ortlieb has been the benchmark for ultra-durable bike bags for nearly 40 years, so its current range of the best bikepacking bags are not to be sniffed at. It's had a strap-on bikepacking bar roll since 2016 and it also has several smaller, clip-on ‘Ultimate Six’ and 'E-glow’ and even bucket style ‘Up-Town’ bar bags in the range. The new Handlebar Pack QR is a more traditional box-shaped design with full waterproof sealing and extra external stowage options to back up an already roomy bag. The innovative cord fastening system is surprisingly secure and fast to fit and release once set up but the mounting plate adds significant weight and it’s not cheap.
The main body of the bag is basically a waterproof, super-durable PVC-free, welded seam box with an internally reinforced rounded bottom. The back and base use a ‘J’ shaped plastic former to hold that shape too, and that’s what the very chunky X brace for the bar mount system bolts onto. There are no internal dividers, but you can add a zipped mesh pocket for $15 / £10 and there are adjustable snapback buckles to pull the back and front together. Ortlieb’s much copied roll-top closure design lets you adjust volume from above with an alloy hooked security strap. Two more alloy hooked straps hook under and up from the back to pull the base of the bag up if you don’t need full depth and they can be used to strap extra gear on if you’ve got space. There are two stretch mesh stash pockets on the side of instant grab items or water bottles as well. There’s a small reflective patch on the front and you could hook a front LED though the top strap loops if you don’t mind it wobbling a bit.
The mount system looks complicated but it’s actually very simple to use. Two forked nylon bar braces press against the front of the handlebar and then you loop one length of cord over the bar, under the stem and back over the bar to hook into place. You tighten this using a side lock lever and then loop a second cord under the bar, over the stem and back under the bar. You then adjust this so that when you flip the cam buckle that clips into the bar brace into place, the whole bag locks securely into place.
This takes a bit of adjusting to get the pressure and bag angle right but once you’re set up and remember which cord goes which way it’s far more secure than I thought it would be. In fact if you really tighten that cam cord up I don’t think you’d get a firmer fix with a bolted connection. As a result, I’ve happily bounced along (well my hands hurt but the bag was fine) on very rough tracks with several kilos in the bag (Ortlieb gives a 5kg limit) without it coming loose. The 11-liter capacity lets you put a surprising amount of gear right under your nose for easy access, too.
The bar brace means there’s some hand space behind the bag to use the full bar width, and there’s no cable conflict either. It doesn’t leave an ugly bolted mount on your bars when you’re not using it like most QR systems either. The roll-top design inevitably means the bag is wider at the top so it might be a squeeze for hood space on really narrow bars but I had plenty of space with a flared 46cm bar.
If you run full depth you’ll need at least 20cm between your bars and the top of your tire for comfortable clearance though. Make sure you keep an eye on the up and under straps if you use them to hoik the base of the bag up as, while they have loose end capture loops, if you forget to tuck everything in nicely you’ll potentially have a strap end dangling worryingly close to your front wheel end spokes. You’ll have to find somewhere else to mount your bar light and it’s not tri-bar compatible either as it sits a way above the bar line as well. It is more expensive than Ortlieb’s roll packs and it’s also much heavier so it’s not the best choice for racers and other weight watchers who don’t need the top loading, QR convenience. There’s no see-through window for your phone/GPS either.
At $160 / £135, Ortlieb’s Handlebar Pack QR is pricey, heavy and might not fit some lower-bar setups. I'm still amazed how securely and quickly it mounts every time I fit it though and it holds an impressive amount of stuff in a really convenient position. While it’s not light or tri-bar compatible, compared to a strap-on sausage design, it leaves you with a full bar to hold and completely removes potential cable / paint rub and general bag bounce issues.
Guaranteed waterproofing and Ortlieb’s bombproof reputation backed up by a replaceable mounting system make the initial investment a smart one if you’re planning a tough life for your luggage, too.
Tech Specs: Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR
- Price: $160 / £135
- Colors: Black
- Weight: 560g
- Dimensions: 32-26 x 22 x 18cm