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We are living through the renaissance of the handlebar bag. For decades the domain of earnest German brands and touring cyclists, this maligned bit of kit has boomed in conjunction with the advent of ‘gravel cycling’.
Now, touring has become bikepacking, the earnest Germans look like prophets, flannies and baggy shorts are the new lycra, SPD sandals are back, and bar bags are the must-have accessory of this giddy age. Evolution.
There’s a problem, though. When you pair most handlebar bags with a drop-bar handlebar and all the 21st Century Shit hanging off it, you start to run out of space. The straps for the bag block your accessory mounts, your cables and brake hoses get squished, your out-front GPS computer and bike light impede access, and you can’t easily get anything out of the bag whilst you’re on the move.
Sure, you’ve got somewhere extra to put things and it’s overall a net gain compared to overflowing jersey pockets, but it’s hardly the epitome of function.
Route Werks, a small firm based in Rhode Island, USA has spent the last two years trying to come up with the ideal handlebar bag – one that would overcome the compromises of most options on the market. They’ve just unveiled it on Kickstarter, where it was funded in six hours. At time of writing, over a thousand people had pledged to help bring it to life.
The Route Werks bar bag is based around a squared-off shape that’s less common than the usual round configuration, giving it a flat lid up the top that can be opened for access on the go. On the top is an accessory mount designed to accommodate quarter-turn mounts, which means you can securely mount your GoPro, smartphone or head unit there – about where it would sit if you were using a standard out-front mount – and not lose it when you open the lid up to get out your vintage Pentax, burrito or can of blue collar lager (behold, the Holy Trinity of Gravel Marketing).
So that’s the digital display problem solved. But bar bags often get in the way of lights and bells, too – so the Route Werks design incorporates M5 threaded mounts for little nubbins on either side of the bag too, serving as a bar proxy and placing accessories in easy reach. Clever!
Rather than velcro straps or webbing, the bag mounts onto a plastic bracket that sits it out slightly past the cables, creating space for your wiggly fingers to wiggle around unencumbered. There’s a quick-release bracket to install and detach the bar-bag, and there’s an included shoulder strap so you can take the bag with you when you arrive at your destination, like an artisanal boxy bike purse.
All told, I reckon the Route Werks bag looks pretty promising. Now, there’s one obvious caveat – crowdfunding websites aren’t exactly the most secure way of making a purchase. There’s a lead time as the product goes into production – in this case, Route Werks is aiming for January 2021 – and backers aren’t guaranteed to receive a product if the company collapses or runs into insurmountable problems along the way. However, this looks pretty polished, and at least with a handlebar bag there’s considerably lower financial risk than if you’re dropping thousands on a SpeedX, a Babymaker or a Superstrata.
At current early-bird reward tiers, one of these will set you back US$127 (roughly AU$180) – compared to its MSRP of US$179 (roughly AU$250) – with various accessories including a saddle bag to sweeten the deal if you pledge at higher rates. Check it out over at Kickstarter.