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review

Route Werks The Handlebar Bag

9
£165.00

VERDICT:

9
10
Very expensive but fabulously practical and convenient way to carry lots of stuff within reach
Quick release with a minimalist mount
One-handed operation
Mounts all sorts of things on and around it
Many internal pockets
Fits all but the fattest bars
Price
A few rattles may need sorting
Accessories are £££ extra
Weight: 
800g
Contact: 

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The Route Werks Handlebar Bag is a fabulous – and fabulously expensive – way to carry a plethora of stuff within easy reach on your bike. With great attention to detail, this is the new benchmark by which all other bar bags will be judged.

The Handlebar Bag started life as an astronomically successful kickstarter, smashing its $40k goal in just six hours and going on to earn pledges of over $290,000 – not bad for something to keep your sunnies and snacks in. Hailing from Rhode Island, the smallest US state, the even smaller team at Route Werks design and prototype in house, with an attention to detail and quality that is beautiful to behold.

> Buy now: Route Werks The Handlebar Bag from Route Works for £165.00

With its volume of 3.2L and a max weight of 4kg, you can fit plenty of stuff in and on the bag. A metal frame and fittings holds a polymer lid and canvas body. Weighing 677g without accessory mounts fitted, it doesn't add much to your bike and at 235mm wide tucks in nicely between the hoods on the narrowest of drop bars.

The alloy mount clamps natively to 31.8mm bars or, with extra $15 machined adapters, to 26 or 25.4mm bars. Extra mounts are available for $30 if you want to swap between bikes easily.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag - clamp.jpg

When the bag is removed the mount is hard to notice as it sits close to the bar. The mount clamp is metal, and with no rubber shim I wrapped my handlebar in electrical tape to prevent scratches. This is a minor but annoying niggle at this price.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag - mount on bike.jpg

As the bag's frame curves away from the mount bracket, once on there's enough clearance to put your hands right next to the stem.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag - on bike.jpg

The party trick of the bag is the solid hinged lid that opens away from you, using a sturdy clip that can be operated with one hand. This makes opening and retrieving or stashing things an absolute breeze, even at speed.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag - inside.jpg

The frame and clamp sit rock-solid attached to the bike, and fully loaded over many months of rough trails, nothing moved a millimetre. Yet when you want to take the bag with you, a quick flip of the adjustable-tension locking lever and you're away, with the built-in shoulder cord aiding carrying if your hands are otherwise full.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag - clamp closeup.jpg

This feature really is a godsend, as the value of what you have in and on the bag can easily exceed that of your bike. On one trip I added up over two grands' worth of gear on the bag – easy to do if you have a phone, Garmin, GPS tracker, lightweight Gore-Tex jacket, sunglasses, mini-tool, light and pump aboard. Then there's the bag itself, which, let's face it, is pretty close to the '...FOR A BAR BAG?' end of the price spectrum. But then things well made often cost money, and if the bag is holding your last stash of calories and that country shop is closed due to unforeseen circumstances, the value could be inestimable.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag -  - strap.jpg

Purchased from Route Werk's website, the basic bag and mount is $179 plus US taxes, which once shipped to the UK comes to about £165. For UK customers taxes are included in the price, but Route Werks advises placing two orders – one for the bag, one for accessories – to avoid tripping over some ineffable HMRC threshold. Route Werks is in the process of getting a European-based warehouse up and running, hopefully early 2022. This will be a huge boon to anyone in the EU looking to get a bag, as well as cut down the shipping time and cost for anyone in the UK as well.

Accessorise

Back to the bag... You'll be wanting accessories, and there are various literal bolt-ons that really expand the bag's capabilities and I'd say are no-brainers to add.

Top of the list is the centre-of-lid attachment point for either a $29.95 Quadlock phone mount (case not included) or a mount for either a Garmin or Wahoo GPS using the $4.95 Barfly Tech adapter plates.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag - accessories.jpg

The centre of the lid is a great place for either phone or GPS, and the adapters are high quality with machined metal threads and rubber o-rings to keep the lid waterproof from above. You can even put a light there with the right aftermarket adapters.

On either side of the lid but attached to the frame itself are threaded and keyed holes to hold a 'handlebar stub'. This is a genius 30mm-long 31.8mm-diameter machined alloy, er, stub, which keys into the frame so it can't rotate and is held in place with a threadlocked machine screw.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag - side pocket.jpg

On this you can then mount anything you can mount on a 31.8mm handlebar – like a Garmin mount or light. I found it a perfect place for my Exposure Joystick light.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag - on bike rear.jpg

Also on the lid are two crossover bungee cords, ideal for holding arm warmers, gloves, or even a rolled-up long-sleeved merino plaid shirt for when those gravelly climbs get too warm. Yes, two baguettes would also fit perfectly.

Route Werks also does a $59 'out front' mount for GPS, lights or cameras, which uses the same mount form factor as the bar bag, for when you aren't using the bag. It does bundles of bag + out-front mounts which represent pretty good value compared with buying individually.

On the sides are two small pockets, perfect for a small mini-tool like the Topeak PT30 or a GPS tracker.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag - side pocket open.jpg

The pockets are secured closed with hooks attached to another bungee strap that runs under the bag. This seems to have no function other than to keep the pockets closed, which they did over the roughest of terrain.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag - underneath.jpg

Inside there are more pockets: at the front a 17cm-wide one that's perfect for a mini-pump like the Birzman Apogee, and two smaller pockets ideal for stashing snack bars or more tools. These pockets are secured by metal pop fasteners with nylon webbing tabs.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag - inner pocket.jpg

Under the lid is a long, thin 16 x 6cm pouch that does a good job of holding tyre levers, or possibly a well-folded, thin inner tube.

2022 Route Werks handlebar Bag -  lid pocket.jpg

Between the pouch and the hard lid is a plastic spring-loaded bungee tensioner button thing that tightens up the cords that pass over the top of the lid. It rattled against the lid from the off, so I fashioned a bit of inner tube around it – but at this price that really shouldn't be needed.

The above illustrates the veritable plethora of setup and carrying options afforded by The Handlebar Bag, and clearly there's a use case in there for pretty much everyone from urbanite café-sifter to backcountry explorer to harried school-run parent to office commuter.

Loaded up

My testing comprised many months bashing about the central Highlands, mostly at high speed with increasingly scant regard for the sensibilities of doing so on a bike with a loaded handlebar bag. I run 2.1in tyres and a 700mm-wide drop bar, so basically full-on rigid mountain biking, and the Route Werks bag just asked for more, please.

Packed with jacket, gloves, food, tools, phone, GPS, lights and pump, everything stayed put and silent. I got so used to having absolutely everything in the bag and not in my pockets or on the bike's frame, I'm now ruined for any lesser luggage carrying setup.

> Cycling luggage for beginners: find out the best ways to carry stuff on your bike

Being able to lock your bike and walk into a cafe with that grand or so's worth of easily nicked kit not only puts your mind at ease, it gets you in out of the cold faster and you have it all to hand. It simply makes living life with a bike easier – and the further you're going, the more utility is added.

There's no cable port for charging something on the outside, like a light or phone from a battery pack inside, but there's enough give in the fit of the lid to allow a charging cable or two to pass easily while still remaining rainproof.

As mentioned above, the adjustable bungees on the lid are perfect for gloves, arm warmers or even larger items like thin jackets or shirts, if rolled up safely (you really, really don't want them dropping into the front wheel at speed). You only appreciate how many times you stop on rides to faff with gear in or out of pockets, frame bags or backpacks when you don't have to any more. The freedom to grab more snacks, take a photo, pop on gloves or stash sunglasses without stopping or contorting around layers of clothes really is liberating.

Value and conclusion

The Route Werks Handlebar Bag is a pretty unusual product in a space as old as cycling itself. There are many, many options for carrying stuff on your bars, but none offer the practicality, utility and external storage/attachment options here, and certainly not with removal or installation at the flick of a lever. 

With far fewer features but basically the same idea, the Ortlieb Ultimate Six Urban is one option at £80, while Tass quite liked the £60 Altura Heritage Bar Bag. Other brands do similar things, but when you look at what's missing – unique external mounts, internal organisation, very clean lines when off the bike – the Route Werks bag stands alone.

> 15 easy ways to carry stuff on your bike

Yes, you are paying a very pretty penny for 'a bag' – but the result is that every minute of every ride just gets better: nothing in your pockets, everything to hand, no faffing, and rock-solid performance. And if you manage to break something, Route Werks will 'work with you' to sort it out; I like its ethos of making durable things that can be repaired. In shying away from everything aero, minimised, hidden, 'The Rules' etc, Route Werks seems to be saying 'enjoy cycling more'. And that's what The Handlebar Bag lets you do.

Verdict

Very expensive but fabulously practical and convenient way to carry lots of stuff within reach

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Route Werks The Handlebar Bag

Size tested: 3.2 litres

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

It's a system for carrying all manner of stuff within reach, yet be easily removable.

Route Werks says:

'The Handlebar Bag features a customizable dashboard to mount any Bar Fly or Quad Lock compatible technology and is designed for quick, one-handed access with expandable storage. The easy on/off lever and integrated shoulder strap allows you to take the bag along with you, on or off the bike. Our ultra-compact proprietary Bike Mount is machined from aluminum, anodized for durability, and all but disappears when the bag is removed! The included Bike Mount is designed to fit 31.8 handlebars and fits 26.0 & 25.4 handlebars with our Bike Mount Adapters (Bike Mount Adapters sold separately, see what's included below).'

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Route Werks lists:

Fully weather-proof (no submersion or swimming)

Easy access while riding: bag opens away from rider with spring-loaded latch

Techmount supports Bar Fly, K-Edge, and Quad Lock

Shock cords for extra storage + five pockets (2 external, 3 internal)

Easy on/off lever to remove bag quickly in one motion

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What's Included

The Handlebar Bag

The Route Werks Dashboard Badge

The RW to BarFly Plate

One RW Bike Mount (fits 31.8mm diameter bars)

Lightweight shoulder strap included

Requirements for Use:

31.8mm handlebars or appropriate shims for correct bike mount fit.

At least 170mm needed between handlebars and top of tire.

For use on rigid fork bikes only.

3mm hex wrench (not included) required to secure the Bike Mount.

Dimensions:

145mm x 235mm x 153mm / 5.8in x 9.3in x 6in

Volume:

3.2L Max carry weight: 4kg / 9lbs Weight (bag + bike mount): 684g / 1.5lbs

Max Carry Weight:

4kg / 9lbs

Weight:

(bag + bike mount): 684g / 1.5lbs

Materials:

500d PU-coated Cordura, 220d Gridstop Nylon, polymer lid, aluminum hinges, machined anodized aluminum hardware 2.5mm shock cord, waterproof zipper on interior pouch.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
10/10

Really, really well made.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

It does exactly what it says it will; just some niggles re rattling and scratching on the mount.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

Early days, but everything is built tough to last.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
7/10

It does have a bit of heft.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

I can't say it's better or worse value than rivals, because it's unique.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Once your install is sorted, the experience of riding with it is fabulous.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The flip-up lid for retrieving on the go.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The need to line the handlebar mount to prevent scratching, and the sorting of the rattly bungee thing.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

There are many, many options for carrying stuff on your bars, but none offer the practicality, utility and external storage/attachment options here, and certainly not with removal or installation at the flick of a lever.

With far fewer features but basically the same idea, the Ortlieb Ultimate Six Urban is one option at £80, while Tass quite liked the £60 Altura Heritage Bar Bag. Other brands do similar things, but when you look at what's missing – unique external mounts, internal organisation, very clean lines when off the bike – the Route Werks bag stands alone.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

I don't feel price is a fair comparator to mark the Handlebar Bag down on, as it's unique and so good at what it does. The only niggles that detract are the minor rattles and the hard metal of the mount that's likely to scratch your bar.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height: 183cm  Weight: 77kg

I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe  My best bike is: Nah bro that's it

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L

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