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Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack review – not cheap or light but waterproof and secure

Bombproof, weatherproof, strap-tastic bar roll from the German bikepacking legends

Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Totally waterproof, bombproof and secure bar roll with handlebar clearance and extra strap on storage – but it’s not cheap or light.

Pros

  • +

    Totally waterproof

  • +

    Bombproof construction

  • +

    Keeps bar tops free

  • +

    Extra pack straps

  • +

    Reflective details

  • +

    Two sizes

Cons

  • -

    Heavy

  • -

    Quality costs

  • -

    Double bar strap adds faff

Ortlieb are the fathers of totally bombproof, truly weatherproof touring and bikepacking bags, and their Handlebar-Pack is a classic example of their reassuringly overbuilt design ethos. This level of ‘belt and braces’ strength and features does add weight and cost, though.

Ortlieb bar roll

Extra straps and metal hooks add versatility and convenience, but also increase weight (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design and specifications

Ortlieb do several different types of more structured bar bag but the Handlebar-Pack (opens in new tab) is the classic seamed tube sausage design. That means no internal dividers or pockets but easy packing and compression of big bulky but light kit like sleeping bags/down jackets etc. It comes in two volumes too; the 9L I tested and a larger 15L. Either way both ends are closed with Ortleb’s almost universally copied roll over and clip together design. Their ultra tough PS21R fabric is so impermeable and well seam sealed (it gets an IP64 waterproof rating) that they have to fit a pull-tab air release valve to help compress the bag.

Bikepacking sunrise

Double bar straps and spacers keep the cockpit top clear for hands, lights, GPS etc. (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

The long, broad Velcro bar straps have a fair bit of overlap on conventional bars. This makes tightening them more hassle than it could be, but on the plus side they work fine on flat/teardrop top bars or really fat padding. The orange webbing strap then adds extra security with an easier tighten to cinch the bag up. We’d definitely suggest padding or taping your head tube to avoid damage from bounce and slew scrubbing ruining your paintwork. The top bar and back panel do a great job of keeping the bag in shape and stopping it folding/flopping and once all the straps are snug it’s a super secure, droop-free sausage under your bars.

Thanks to the two spacers it does sit under the bars too, so there’s plenty of room for your hands along the top of the bar. And of course if you need less drop on a smaller frame or you only use the hoods and drops anyway you can just remove the spacers and strap it on direct. The two compression straps also really help when it comes to reducing depth too – just remember to slide the strap tidy loop round so there’s nothing to dangle into your wheel. 

Our testing explained

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

The excess strap is useful when you’re using the compression straps to pack extra kit onto the bag, however, and the flat metal hooks make for fast removal/re-attachment. There’s also a hook-on 3.5L ‘accessory pack’ for £60 which can also be used as a separate mini bar bag or even a hip pack with the appropriate straps.

In terms of durability we’ve only had the bag a couple of months. And while it’s racked up several hundred kilometers of gravel packing – mostly with a sleeping bag and hooped bivvy inside – we know from previous experience that’s nowhere near close to proving Ortlieb’s legendary durability one more time. There’s certainly been no damage whatsoever so far though. The waterproofing is brilliant so we’ve never worried about keeping the contents dry or having to double bag them. All Ortlieb bags are covered with a 5-year materials/manufacture warranty and they also offer a repair service in addition to comprehensive spares back up.

The only ‘performance’ downside is that the stiffeners, metal hooks, double bar straps and generally overbuilt nature of the bag make it significantly heavier than similar but more minimalist bags from Apidura and others.

Verdict

Multiple fixtures, reinforcing/stiffening inserts and bombproof fabrics mean high price and weight. If you’re serious about your bikepacking then think of that as a very wise investment in a totally weatherproof, legendarily durable, stable and bar-liberating bag that you’ll likely have for life. 

Tech specs: Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack 

  • Price: $150 / £105 / €109.99 (9L); $170 / £125 / £129.99 (15L)
  • Sizes: 9L (tested) and 15L 
  • Weight: 450g

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