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The Vel Handlebar Pack 7L is easy to attach, remains stable, and is impressively waterproof. Its size means it is versatile enough to be used for anything from far flung journeys to just carrying stuff on your commute, or for day rides.
Handlebar packs come in a range of sizes, some large enough to carry all of your sleeping kit, others that'll just about carry your phone and some snacks. At 7 litres the Vel sits in the middle ground, making it handy for a multitude of rides.
For day trips or longer excursions out on the gravel tracks it'll easily swallow plenty of snacks, tools, spares and a waterproof jacket or other bits of small clothing, but the cool thing is that by using the air release valve you can compress the bag if it isn't full.
The compression strap on the outside also allows you to adjust the width of the bag, and you can use it to stuff things underneath like a map or gilet. I had no problem fitting it between the drops of a 42cm wide handlebar when fully loaded; it's a tight fit but not a problem.
Some bags of this style use a cradle design that wraps around a dry bag, which makes it easier if you are going to need to keep removing your kit from your bike, like when camping or going into shops. It's a design I prefer, but if you do go for the Vel it's not a big issue to keep reattaching it.
Fitment is by way of two Velcro straps that wrap around the bar and stick to the top of the bag, with plenty of adjustment.
Many bags do that, but one thing I do like here is the fact that Vel has included two straps on the rear of the bag, which wrap around the head tube and stop any 'flap' when you are riding on rough terrain. Be sure to fit some protection to your head tube, though, to avoid wearing your paintwork.
You can open the Vel from either end. To keep your belongings secure you just roll up the end of the bag and secure it in place by clipping the straps together.
This, along with the ripstop fabric, makes the Vel extremely waterproof; riding on wet days no rain made its way through to my stuff inside.
The fabric is tough, too. Riding through the woods saw no issues with thick brambles catching on it or ripping it, and I really don't see any issues with longevity. Its lack of zips also bodes well for plenty of years of use.
As for other details, there is some reflective detailing for riding at night plus a couple of mounting points to attach lights, as long as they use clips rather than a handlebar mount.
Overall, the quality is very good. I've loaded the bag up full on many occasions and I've found no weaknesses with regard to the stitching anywhere, on the bag or the straps.
Priced at £55, the Vel pack offers decent value for money. It's a similar price to the Brooks Scape Handlebar Pouch, which has gone up a fiver since we tested it, now £60. Going by the Brooks Scape stuff that I have used I'd say they are very well made and robust – but bear in mind that you are only getting 3 litres of capacity compared with Vel's 7 litres.
Blackburn's Outpost HB uses the separate cradle and dry bag system and does come with 11 litres of storage, but it's priced at £99.99.
Overall, I'd say the Vel is very good: a well designed and secure bag that can carry a large amount of stuff, and it's well priced too.
Well made and good value pack that will keep your stuff secure and dry
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vel Handlebar Pack 7L
Size tested: 7 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?
Vel says, "With a 7 litre capacity and double-ended closure, Vel's Handlebar Pack can be used as part of a full luggage system for multi-day adventures or used on its own for day rides when a little more carrying capacity is required. Simple Velcro straps and a versatile head tube fixing allows the bag to be used on both road and mountain bikes. As the bag has double roll closures, its width can be reduced if necessary for use on narrow handlebars and it makes it easier to access the contents without having to empty everything out.
"The very handy purge valve allows any excess air to be squeezed out of the bag to reduce its size and prevent the contents from moving around whilst the external elastic cord can also be used to compress the bag or to stash a spare layer under. Fully waterproof, the ripstop fabric provides excellent protection against rain and road spray, keeping the contents dry in all weather conditions."
It works well in all weather conditions and remains secure on the bike.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Capacity: 7 litres
Lightweight waterproof construction
Double-ended roll closure
External compression strap
Light fixing points
Multi-point head tube securing strap fixing points
Air valve to reduce bag size/remove air
Dimensions: 18 x 30 x 20cm
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It keeps your kit secure and dry.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I prefer a seperate dry bag solution if I'm likely to leave the bike unattended.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's the same price as the Brooks Scape but it has almost double the capacity. The Blackburn I mentioned in the review is larger, but nearly double the price.
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
On the whole the Vel is very good – just remember to protect your head tube. It is also good value for money considering the quality.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!