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Ortlieb know a thing or two about making quality bike luggage and the Ultimate 5 Plus Bar Bag has been on their books for a while now, but it's starting to look a little expensive and basic.
Fitting a bar bag can be a problem on some bikes, notably those with Shimano STI shifters, because the space between the levers is often occupied by gear cables. The flexible shell of the Ortlieb goes some way to mitigating this, allowing the cables to push back against the body and softening the bend. It's certainly a better option than a square bag with a rigid frame. I ran it on my Kona Dew Drop with 44cm bars, Sora shifters and plenty of slack in the gear cabling. It just about fitted, although I'd be tempted to go for the classic bodge-around and fit v-brake noodles to carry the cable down and away from the STIs. On my audax bike (40cm, Tiagra) it wouldn't even be an option. Of course if you run shifters with all the cabling under the bar tape or even a flat bar, then it won't be a problem.
It's a smart looking bag, typically Ortlieb, with a brightly coloured body and a reflective patch. The unfussy design is pleasing on the eye but it does mean you only have two tiny side pockets to play with. They really are titchy, just big enough for keys, change or a multi-tool and extracting coins mean using your fingers as chopsticks. Big pockets would be redundant, given the lack of space between the shifters, but they could be slightly wider.
In terms of space there's enough room for plenty of stuff. There's an integrated pocket for cards and wallets but otherwise the interior is just a single compartment. It comes with a removable divider, but that just takes up space and doesn't do much. The waterproof shell is very thin and has no padding so you need to be careful with things like cameras.
The bracket attaches to the bars with a slightly scary looking wire arrangement. It looks a bit flimsy but it works well, the end of the wire being tensioned with a single allen bolt. The bracket also comes with an integrated lock, which stops a casual thief from lifting the bag off the bike but does nothing to stop them from simply opening the bag and nicking your malt loaf. It's a pointless feature that just adds complexity and cost.
In addition to commuting and the odd day ride I also took the bag on a short tour. Having a bar bag was an ideal way to carry food and oddments but access on the move was slightly hampered by the treasure chest style lid, which has to be flipped fully open to gain access. It isn't a problem, provided it's not raining and you don't have the (optional) map case fitted. As these two are both pretty likely it's a bit of a pain. A zip would be, potentially, less waterproof, but would make it easier to winkle out a cereal bar. The map case (£14 extra) only attaches at one end, so flipping the lid drops it onto the front wheel. Oh and without the map case fitted, the two lid poppers make an irritating spingly noise. If you have princess and pea tendencies when it comes to niggling noises on the very cusp of audibility, I can guarantee that this will drive you mad...
The other problem, not unique to Ortlieb, is that with the bag fitted there's nowhere to put your lights. Dynamo types with a brake crown mounted headlamp will chortle into their beards at such trivialities, but to anyone who might want to extend their ride beyond sunset it's a major pain.
There's no denying the build quality, Ortlieb aren't renowned for making rubbish and it comes with a five year warranty, but with the map case costing an extra £14, a lack of features and awkward access I'd be looking around for something more practical and better value for money.
Ortlieb quality, but expensive and awkward to use.
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Make and model: Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Plus bar bag
Size tested: Black and Red
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?
I defy anyone *not* to read this in a cod-German accent...
"Stay on the right track! A mapcase or GPS cover can be fixed onto the lid of the Ultimate5 Plus and Classic. Both products are part of the Ultimate accessory program. The handle bar bags have stiffeners to keep them standing and feature a rigid lid. They are available in size M and L. The integrated valuables pocket helps organize small items. Both models feature a 3M Scotchlite reflector for safety in the dark. Maximum allowable weight is 3kg/105oz. Designed for a handle bar diameter of max. 31,8mm/1.25 in."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Fully waterproof and non-PVC construction.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Ok, but poor if you want access on the move with the map trap fitted and the side pockets are rubbish.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Build quality, looks.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Price, awkward access.
Did you enjoy using the product? Mostly
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Probably not
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Too basic and expensive for what it has to offer.
Age: 41 Height: 5' 8 Weight: er....86kg
I usually ride: Kona Dew Drop My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Audax and long distance solo rides