The Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack offers a big storage space and some neat features, but it tends to slip down – and on some bikes might rub against the front wheel.
At 15 litres this is a very generous size, and the shape means it's good for storing anything cylindrical; I found things like tents/shelters, sleeping bags and clothing work best.
It's quite long though, measuring 58cm when not rolled up and about 40cm when secured, so unless you use a very, very wide drop bar such as the Ritchey VentureMax XL, this bag should be left for flat bar bikes (there's a smaller 9L version for everyone else).
The bag opens at both ends, making packing reasonably quick and easy either before mounting or during use.
The material is waterproof and high quality, although with both ends opening it gets an IP64 (dustproof and splashproof) rating, rather than the IP67 (dustproof and water at 1 metre for 30 minutes) of, say, Ortlieb's own Frame-Pack Toptube.
In reality though, performance is better than it sounds and it's a very strong and durable fabric that withstands the toughest, wettest conditions you're likely to face this side of a river.
The bag attaches at three points: two straps to the handlebar and one around the fork crown. The straps are well thought out and I particularly like the foam spacers that mean there's room to hold the bars as normal.
These spacers won't save your paint, though – I would strongly recommend fitting frame protection tape to all areas where the straps come into contact.
Ortlieb provides two spacers per side, but three would be better as it would make contact with the brake hoses less of an issue – it kinked my brake lines at quite an angle, though some cockpits will be less affected. It really depends on your brakes, bar and spacing.
The bar straps use a basic Velcro closure and then a buckle with lock to tension, while the fork crown strap has several mounting points and can also lock.
The rollable end closures are simple and adaptable to your chosen load. Once closed the bag is effectively airtight, and there's a useful valve to allow air to escape as your roll the thing up. It works fine off the bike, but once mounted I found the positioning poor – if you want to check it's closed, it's tucked underneath the bag, near the headtube and hard to reach.
There's an elastic cord on the front for stowing waterproofs or the like, and two large reflective patches for visibility.
The problem with the Handlebar-Pack is that it can slip down, and during the test it got worse and worse – to the point I chose to lock out my suspension fork to stop the bag rubbing against the front tyre.
It didn't seem to matter how much weight I had in the bag, or how tightly I cinched the straps, either. If you go for this bag you're going to need a long headtube and lots of clearance.
At £115 the price is top end, but sadly the performance is not. If your bike is tall enough the sagging may not matter, but it's still disappointing. It isn't as secure as the £60 Alpkit Kanga harness and, even once you add a drybag (such as Alpkit's own Airlok Dual 13L at £13), the combo is significantly cheaper.
A cheaper option still would be the Lifeline Adventure handlebar bag which, although it has similar problems with movement, is only £30 to start with.
The Handlebar-Pack doesn't live up to the expectations set by the rest of Ortlieb's range. The material is superb and some of the design features are good, but the movement on the bars, interference with brake cables, and the possiblity of it hitting the front tyre make it hard to recommend – especially given the price.
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