2021 Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack QR review

Product reviews

Ortlieb launched the new Handlebar-Pack QR with an incredibly stable retention system, offering easy setup and removal, no permanent attachments and a rock-solid design. The vast 11-litre volume does, however, mean overpacking is easily done. When loaded, there is a lot of movement within the material, including with tyre rub.

Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack QR construction

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The new retention method is unique, with no other bag that I am aware of that uses such a system. There are two Dyneema cords, an extremely strong composite fibre commonly seen on high-end expedition tent guy ropes, paragliding lines or sailboat ropes. The cords wrap around the bars and stem, securing each side with a loop attachment. The one major disadvantage is that Ortlieb does not suggest fitting the bag to carbon handlebars of any type.

The bag is 32cm in diameter, which makes it narrow enough to be fitted to flat or drop handlebars between the hoods. The mount is suitable for all standard bar sizes, 25.6mm up to 35mm. Once secure, there is still enough space behind the mount to access the handlebar tops if using a drop handlebar with plenty of space.

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The bag material is similar to other Ortlieb bikepacking bags. The frame bag and seat pack are constructed using strong nylon with PU coating. The bag is weather resistant, rated to IP64, meaning it is dust proof and can handle splashes of water and should be able to handle any British weather.

There is a roll-top closure when the bag is in place, giving access to an 11-litre internal compartment. The space is simple, just one large chamber. However, Ortlieb does have an inner accessory pouch that can be installed. There are two quick-release buckles within the chamber with tension straps that allow the option to compress and tighten items stored within it.

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The roll-top can be secured to one of two mounting points, and a tension strap with a lock used to compress and hold the strap in place. The bag has two small pouches on either side, which are suitable for food or anything that needs quick access. Still, apart from these, there is no easy access area, meaning you will need to stop and undo the strap to access anything within it.

Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack QR on test

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The first setup will take a few minutes, but it is straightforward, and once you have done it once, subsequent fits will be much quicker. Removal is also swift, with two levers to release the tension in the cords that allow the bag to be removed in seconds.

In use, the mount proved very stable, and with an official weight limit of 5-kg, I have no doubts it will be secure to that limit. I tested the bag over various riding, including technical MTB tracks with no movement on the handlebar from the cords or mount. Still, the bag area not supported by the mount on the bottom section moves considerably. It became a constant problem when riding. When packed, even well below the 5-kg limit, a significant amount of movement resulted in it rubbing the front tyre constantly. When riding a mountain bike with suspension, I even tried locking out the fork to prevent it, but rubbing still occurred.

The same happened on a gravel bike too. When mounted close to horizontal with what appeared to be plenty of space below, the bag still rubbed the front wheel on bumps. To avoid it happening, two tension straps on the front reduce the overall size of the internal space, but this also removes the side pockets due to the way the material folds. Doing this also leaves excess material on the top while increasing the width of the bag. If you have the space available, it might be possible to avoid the front tyre rub. However, there will still be movement in the bag material, despite being reinforced with a plastic sleeve on the bottom section.

Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack QR verdict

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Ortlieb only makes the single 11-litre size, and it is the large volume and the depth of the bag that is the main problem. 

With the bag rolled and closed, the strap to shut and compress the bag is easy to do. It has a lock on the strap, although over time, while riding, I found this started to loosen, particularly over rougher ground. You can adjust this strap on the go, so it is easily adjusted while it is a little frustrating.

The Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack QR bag is no featherweight at 540g. However, suppose you compare it to the drj0n bagworks when used with a lightweight drybag, which could be as low as 150g. In that case, the system is comparable to some others. The Lifeline Adventure handlebar bag is 505g, and the Passport handlebar bag at 325g.

While the weight is slightly higher than some, the cost is also higher, with Ortlieb bags generally among the more premium options. The Handlebar-Pack QR retails for £125, making it among the more expensive options. The Wildcat Lion harness & double ended drybag combined (review coming soon) come in at £112. Another harness system is the Alpkit Kanga that I tested last year, with the harness alone costing £60.

Ortlieb has genuinely created a brilliant mounting system with the Handlebar-Pack QR, being simple, fast and very strong. Still, for me, the oversize bag lets it down. Unless you have plenty of bar to tyre clearance, tyre rub could be an issue, particularly over bumpier terrain. For bikes with less clearance, I hope Ortlieb will consider producing a smaller pack in the future.

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