Note:I have been connected with Ortlieb for a long time and we always exchange ideas about products and prototypes. That's why I got the Handlebar QR for a pre-test and then raffled one off. That's why this is also advertising.
Almost a year ago, Ortlieb approached me with a plea for assessment and feedback on a new bikepacking handlebar bag: the Handlebar QR. By the way, the QR stands for Quick Release, which means easy and quick removal or attachment.
The special thing about this prototype was the fastening system, which did without the familiar click system and instead relied on a new solution: the Bar Lock System. Here, two cords are tightened around the stem, which fix the bag in place.
The advantage: once correctly adjusted, the bag can be easily removed or reattached. However, this system takes some getting used to and it took me a while to get it right.
This video shows how the Bar Lock system works and how the Handlebar QR can be securely attached to the handlebar:
The 530g bag has a capacity of 11 litres and also has side pockets on the right and left that can hold either water bottles or other items. It has a width of 32cm, which should make it particularly interesting for riders with drop bars. The Handlebar QR is 22cm high and 18cm deep. The width of the bag tapers from 32cm at the top to 26cm at the bottom.
Ortlieb states a maximum load limit of 5kg. That’s important to know, because it does fit quite a bit. On the prototype, I put a down jacket, tools, two bottles, bars and a camera in there. The inner compression (two straps on the right and left) keeps the bag in shape.
I was interested in seeing how the bag would hold up when fully loaded for off-road use. It did that well. The bag is closed with the familiar Ortlieb roll closure, which is held in place by a strap with a hook.
So you can’t really access the main compartment while riding. You have to stop for that. However, the side compartments offer enough space for snacks and co. with easy access during the ride. And if you want a little more order in the handlebar, you should get the inner pocket, where smaller items can be neatly stowed away.
If the Handlebar QR is not fully loaded, it can be compressed using two straps and hooks at the bottom of the bag.
I rode a Drop Bar with Flare in 46cm width. The Handlebar QR had enough space to take bottles on one side. However, it filled the whole space and the bottles were a bit of a hindrance on the brake/shift levers. With narrower handlebars, I can imagine that there is not enough space to use the side pockets.
And: Riders with carbon handlebars unfortunately cannot use the Handlebar QR, as it is not approved for these handlebars.
The Handlebar QR in practice
So much for the theory – but how does the Handlebar QR perform in practice, on extended bikepacking tours?
I asked Claudia aka Veloclaudi, who, like me, comes from Leipzig and has already been on many tours with the Handlebar QR bag:
Please introduce yourself briefly: Who are you, what do you do and how did you become passionate about cycling?
I’m Claudia, 32, born in the Leipzig region, but I’ve been living on Lake Constance in Switzerland for 5 years. I’ve actually always cycled, but the passion only came about in the last few years. There was no specific trigger. It just became more and more every year and then came the first good MTB in 2017, then came the first road bike in 2018, then the first gravel bike in 2019.
At the same time, my addiction to bike touring developed and in the meantime I also do my own wrenching. It all doesn’t sound very cinematic, but it has an enormous value in my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without a bike. Bikepacking was just as easy to add to the mix.
On my first big bike trip in 2018 in southern Spain, I had an “ass rocket” (saddle bag) with me in addition to the panniers on the carbon MTB. Gradually, the other Ortlieb bags of the series were added. Quality and functionality were convincing as usual. In the meantime, with all the everyday kilometres, small and large trips or day tours, I put 10,000-12,000 km under my wheels every year. I often travel alone or with my husband, regionally or across Europe, by car, train or plane, but always with my bike in my luggage. I can’t do without it.
What are your experiences and impressions of the Handlebar QR bag?
I have been waiting a long time for a successor or an alternative to the handlebar roll and the Accessory Pack. I get along quite well with the system (individually and in combination), but I always like to try out new things. My husband Felix, on the other hand, hates the handlebar rollers because it’s too much fiddling for him.
Like the other bikepacking bags, I use the bag for multi-day tours. If I’m only doing a day tour, I only have the frame bag on the bike or the Accessory Pack.
Attaching the bag: The first time with instructions, but it was quite quick. However, on my last tour and the 10th time I mounted the bag, I attached the grey strap incorrectly. So even after using it several times, it’s not exactly intuitive.
Packing the bag: Really easy thanks to the large opening. Whether systematically and neatly folded or simply throwing everything in and compressing it through the two buckles inside and the roll closure, packing is really uncomplicated.
Loading: For the last few trips I packed my small sleeping pad, clothes I want to get to quickly (rain jacket, long trousers, jumper), power bank and other electronics. It is important that the buckles are closed and tightened on the inside. This keeps the bag up better and in shape so that it doesn’t hang like a wet bag on the handlebars. I have also put a jacket on top of the buckles several times and then rolled it up, which works very well.Max. So far I’ve had a maximum load of maybe 4kg.
Ride feel, steering feel, behaviour of the bag: I can’t detect any limitations. At the beginning I was worried whether it would stay where it was mounted when fully loaded, especially when riding on bumpy roads. But even then I couldn’t find any problems. In fact, the closed buckle of the black strap (on the bar lock system) has opened again 2-3 times, which then allowed the bag to move downwards.
Operation while riding: It is possible to open the bag, but not to close it. I was able to do this with the Accessory Pack at reduced speed, but I can’t do it with the bag because the sides have to be folded inwards a lot before rolling and I need two hands to do it.
Attachment and removal: I have to be honest and say that I prefer to empty it rather than take it off. It is also difficult to attach it when it is already fully loaded. In the end, the system is no less fiddly than the velcro straps on the handlebar pulley. When taking it off, I sometimes have the problem that I can’t get the grey strap loose (on the bar lock system). Then, after loosening the black strap, I have to lift the bag quite far to release the grey tab from the hook. After unfolding the black holder on the black strap, it’s not exactly easy to release the holder from the hook.
What is your verdict?
My impression after about 1,200km with the Handlebar QR: The bag has successfully joined our other bikepacking bags. I currently prefer it to the handlebar roll.
- more handlebar or grip freedom due to the distance between the bag and the handlebars
- no possible friction points on the bike, as there is no frame contact
- plenty of space in the bag
- stable bottom
- usual solid Ortlieb quality
- The bag is too wide! I can’t use the mesh pockets and touch the bag when reaching for the STIs. At the same time, I don’t have the narrowest handlebar (42cm).
- The orange closure strap at the top is fixed to the hook the wrong way round. In contrast to the Accessory Pack, I can now fix the strap with the clip, but it simply runs through the wrong way round, so that I can only pull it taut with difficulty when the bag is closed.
- Because the bag is so wide, I have to fold it very precisely before I close it.
- What’s the point of the black ribbons that run along the bottom? The stiff bottom means that I can’t compress the bag very much, can I?
My suggestions for improvement:
- Make the bag narrower
- Guide the orange closure strap differently through the hook at the top.
- Make the QR system a bit more intuitive. It’s not quite so “quick” after all.
The Ortlieb Handlebar QR handlebar bag is an offer to everyone who needs a bag for the gravel day tour, a simple solution for the everyday way to work or is looking for a slimmer alternative for the handlebar bag on extended bikepacking or cycling tours.
Claudia’s practical experience shows that it takes some time to warm up to the bag, but then it can definitely be an asset on bikepacking tours.
The bar lock system in particular is something to get used to. At a price of 130 euros for the Handlebar QR, you should take a look at the bag in person and the locking system. But with a little practice, it should work quickly and easily – just as Ortlieb intended.
The bag fits quite a lot, which doesn’t make it a complete alternative for classic handlebar bags, but it makes sense for tours with lighter luggage. And as a quick bag for all gravel rides, it’s always good.
More test reports on the Handlebar QR
Path Less Pedaled