Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
Oh, how times have changed. I remember working in bike shops where the only people requesting bar bags were wearing fluorescent yellow vests and wanting to carry seemingly unnecessary items on the front of their hybrids. Back then, you had a few options, and all the good ones were from traditional (and typically German) touring luggage brands. And yet, here we are in 2018. Bar bags are somehow cool, adopted by the fashion-forward gravel and all-road riders who either don’t want to ride with jersey pockets and/or want to ride with trendy items like a mirrorless camera, beers, or a burrito.
I was never one for riding with accessories, and back from my weight weenie days, I learned to be an absolute minimalist. All I usually carried was some food, the simplest multi-tool, a CO2 cartridge, and a spare tube – all I needed for any ride. However, the see-the-sights gravel boom and the freedom of riding in more casual attire had me wondering: Perhaps there’s a reason people are attaching these things to the front of their handlebars?
Held on with two Velcro straps and a single tether cord, the Ornot Bar Bag is a simple item to fit, and an even simpler item to use. With a number of comparable options from the likes of Yanco and Road Runner also coming out of California, Ornot partners with San Francisco-based Rickshaw Bag Works, to create this quality item that fits just about any bike. The Bar Bag is not the first of its kind, but it’s certainly one of the more considered options.
What fits inside
The Bar Bag is capable of carrying a day’s worth of fun with a claimed internal volume of four liters. At 20cm-wide and weighing 233g, it’s small enough to fit between ultra-narrow drop bars, and can also be moved to flat bars if desired. The Velcro loops are long enough to fit some seriously fat bars, and the tether cord can be anchored from loops at three different heights to wrap around stems, steerers, or head tubes (protective tape is suggested in the event of paint rub).
A removable plastic insert gives the single internal pocket its cylindrical shape, and also provides a little protection for whatever is held inside (hot tip: don’t remove the plastic insert as it’s a pain to get back in). Personally, I found the bag comfortably sized for carrying a FujiFilm X-E3 mirrorless camera, fitted with a 23mm lens. Doing so left space for some food, a few spares, and a lightweight jacket. Alternatively, you could easily carry a sandwich, snacks, warmers, a few packets of Haribo, and similar items inside. Mesh pockets on either side keep a mobile phone, a stroopwafel, some gels, and other smaller items within easy reach.
The Ornot Bag Bag won’t hold a huge pile of stuff, but that’s just fine as that’s not its intent. Rather, it’s the equivalent of an adventure daypack amongst the huge-capacity backpacking options. It’ll hold a decent number of things for a day trip, but there are many bigger and better bag options if you’re planning on sleeping out somewhere.
It works exactly as you’d think
The Bar Bag is a real no-nonsense product and offers just a touch of the block colour styling expected of California-based Ornot. Made predominantly from nylon canvas, it’s built solidly and to a high standard. Its US$90 price may seem steep – and let’s face it, it’s a lot of money for a basic bag. But that figure is inline with many competitors that are made overseas, and when you look at the details, it becomes a little easier to see why the Bar Bag costs what it does. For example, the tether cord and zipper pull feature reflective detailing, the Velcro straps are heartily reinforced, and the large zipper is from the zip-manufacturing specialist YKK, instead of some no-name brand that might be more prone to failure down the road.
The Bar Bag takes just seconds to fit, and I had no issues with it shifting or bouncing, even over rough gravel. Items inside can bounce noisily around against the plastic liner, though, and I found myself using either a jacket or bubble-wrap to keep things still and silent. It’s no issue on smooth tarmac, but the rattling is something to consider when packing if you’re riding rough gravel.
Like any bar-mounted accessory, you will also need to think about what else may be in the way. For example, many out-front computer, camera, and light mounts might interfere with the Bar Bag, and you’ll have to get creative for cycling events that require a front number plate.
When it came time to use my camera, I found the zipper and rigid plastic frame made for a slim opening that was tight enough that I preferred to come to a stop before attempting to pull it out. No doubt, my camera pushes the size limits, and slimmer items are much less a fiddle to get in and out. Accessing small items from the side pockets was without issue, even when unclipping the holding strap and grabbing a phone on the move.
If you are carrying anything prone to weather damage, keep in mind that this bag isn’t waterproof. The plastic frame will ward off a light shower, but the zipper and sides will leak through during heavy precipitation. For this, I kept my camera sealed in a large zip-lock bag for where rain and water crossings were expected.
Whether a bar bag is for you is something I can’t answer. What I can answer is that if you don’t mind the new-age look of a bag hanging off the front of your bars, and seek a little extra carrying capacity, the Ornot Bar Bag is a super high-quality item with plenty of practicality. Its simple form factor has some practical limitations, but it does exactly what it claims to do, it’s nicely made, looks pretty good, and is of sufficiently high quality to justify its asking price.