Features and Performance
What sets the Handlebar Bag ahead of the competition? Route Werks’ design team has given their flagship product a literal structural advantage over similar handlebar bags. The backbone of the system is a three-part rigid frame.
Firstly the ‘Bike Mount’ handlebar mount keeps everything planted to the bike. It is machined from a thick stock of anodized aluminum. The Mount straddles standard stems comfortably, using a four-bolt attachment similar to a threadless stem faceplate. It is sized for 31.8mm bars with 26.0/25.4mm shims available direct from Route Werks as ‘Bike Mount Adapters’ for a reasonable cost. Check with your local bike shop for any sizing questions. The Bike Mount itself is also sold as an accessory, which is clutch for folks who have a stable of bikes.
[Caveat: Please use caution when clamping anything to carbon bars, and consult your manufacturer if using a featherweight/aero steering setup.]
Second, anchoring the Handlebar Bag to its Mount is a high-surface-area Clamp mechanism. This Clamp levers into place over the aforementioned handlebar Mount, providing positive engagement to the bike. It is an extremely stable, confidence-inspiring and speedy attachment platform. One note: after a couple of rides this unit’s lever action squeaked something fierce. A small adjustment to the bolt tension and added Tri-Flow lubricant has had the mechanism working flawlessly since.
Bolted perpendicularly into the Clamp base is a 1-inch aluminum D-Frame, to which all other parts and materials attach. Small aluminum accessory blocks are bolted to both left and right sides of the D-Frame. These side blocks hold a paracord carry strap in place, and also accept accessory ‘Handlebar Stubs’.
During testing it was simple to transfer the Handlebar Bag between the bikes:
Beautiful day for a gravel ride? Your kit is pre-packed and ready to roll.
Taking the commuter bike into work? Pop the Handlebar Bag over and hit the road.
Suspended from the D-Frame is a combination of external 500d PU-coated Cordura and internal 200d Gridstop nylon. Sandwiched between those layers is a light plastic U-shaped form that has the dual role of giving the bag form (even when empty) and supporting the fabric when stuffed to the gills. The combination of materials and layout allows riders to confidently cram gear into the bag’s otherwise small “bucket”. This organization setup has a very solid feel and good utility.
The workmanship of this bag appears mostly well done. The stitching is clean and the fabrics are pieced together well. Additionally, the hardware is solid and of good material. There is a minor spelling error on the stitched-in label, but that has no bearing on the bag’s function.
The internal volume of the Handlebar Bag is ideal for short trips, but I believe a slightly larger volume would make it more versatile. Even having a wider opening cross-section (with the same total volume) would improve the rider’s ability to store common objects and access them on the go. Currently this unit doesn’t pass the “Sandwich Test”: can a normally sized sandwich fit flat in the bag? That may sound nit-picky, but having an intact lunch means quite a lot for morale on longer rides. This version of the Handlebar Bag is very good – but it could be even better.
A hard polycarbonate lid connects to the D-Frame and provides a stable platform to which electronic devices attach for easy visibility. Aluminum hinges work smoothly for opening and closing. The lid opens away from the rider for great accessibility to bag contents. A spring-loaded latch keeps the lid closed while riding. This is a very functional setup. However, during testing we ran into minor annoyances with an iPhone Quad Lock Mount attached to the lid.
Most noticeable is a constant plastic rattling caused by a small gap between the Cordura-lined frame and the lid itself. The weight of a phone bounces the two materials together at every bump in the road and this seems like a design oversight. Fortunately, the solution is cheap and simple: cut some 3M-backed hobby felt to size and attach it to the metal latch platform. Once the gap is taken up the noise goes away! Note: no modifications are pictured in this article.
The Shoulder Strap
Cleverly mounted into the D-Frame’s accessory blocks is the Handlebar Bag’s off-bike carry solution. It is a paracord shoulder strap that is lightweight and easy to tuck inside the bottom of the internal compartment. The system sort of works in a pinch-hit scenario but ultimately could be better.
Paracord is a very thin, somewhat abrasive nylon that does not disperse even the low 4kg/9lb capacity of the bag comfortably on one’s shoulder, except maybe to bring the bag from garage to house. Even ½-inch webbing would increase the surface area and carry comfort considerably.
Beyond the material’s comfort limitations, the strap often just gets in the way. When the shoulder strap is deployed it is difficult to open and close the bag’s lid without snagging. On multiple occasions during testing, I attempted to pull out a rain jacket from the main compartment only to find the strap coming out too, dangling close to the front wheel. Currently, the paracord remains coiled and largely unused in the bottom of my test bag.
For a future revision of the Handlebar Bag, a front-mounted handle would be a welcome addition. I mocked up a front-facing handle to the accessory bars for several weeks (using some spent nylon rim tape) and removed the shoulder strap entirely. This setup made mounting the bag to the bike easier, carrying the bag into work more comfortable, and the paracord was not missed. To the Handlebar Bag’s credit, making small modifications is very straightforward.
Simple, functional, and well laid out – the best combination for bag organization! Route Werks’ four-pocket system works great. The three lower pockets have snap closures which have a very solid feel. The two smaller pockets are great for keeping small items in place, such as keys, chapstick, and multi-tools. The large lower pocket can fit a full-size smartphone. An under-lid pouch suspends from the same shock cord that allows for top-side expandability. This pouch is highly water resistant and good for small electronics.
Shock cord that runs through the lid allows for top-side stashing of gloves, glasses, or unplanned gas-station snacks next to one’s mounted navigation device. This works really well for situations when a rider needs to quickly tuck a glove or other small item away. While not particularly secure in high winds or on bumpy roads, this shock cord setup provides the ability to greatly expand storage on the fly.
Two small external Cordura pockets are sewn into the bag’s sides. Their closure system is a flap with a grommet-and-hook system integrated into more shock cord storage under the bag. These pockets and cordage never saw much use in my testing, though when on tour they would inevitably be filled with small bits. Note that when un-hooking one pocket, the whole under-side shock cord goes slack, potentially spilling anything stored there onto the front wheel. Protect that front wheel! On our test unit the lower shock cord is a contrasting hi-viz orange, which I think looks smashing.
The Handlebar Bag is not rated for waterproofing; however, Route Werks constructed the bag from a combination of precipitation-resistant materials. The exterior is roughly in the IPX4 range – excellent splash and drizzle resistance.
Assuming the lid stays tightly fastened, front wheel spray should not work into the unsealed main compartment. Fenders may be helpful here. The internal zipper pouch provides significant added water protection for small objects – a good place to stash your wireless earbuds or other small electronics.
On test rides of less than one hour, objects stored in the main compartment turned up bone-dry every time. Light rain and heavy sleet did not seep in at all! Longer jaunts, bikepacking, and severe precipitation will require the standard bag-in-bag method of waterproofing. Depending on gear selection 0.5L – 1.5L ultralight drybags are ideal pairings to achieve full protection.
Accessory – Handlebar Stubs
‘Handlebar Stubs’ are a key feature of this product, sold separately. Think of them as tiny BMX pegs, cut perfectly so that accessories do not obstruct the rider’s hands when installed. The stubs accept most 31.8mm accessories and perform their task flawlessly. Everything from double-barrel headlights to brass bells fit well. Gone are the days of handlebar real estate woes!
It is quite a satisfying change to ring your bell with a thumb, while the rest of your hand remains on the hood. This is clutch on mixed-use trails so that a rider can both signal their presence and maintain ideal brake/steering control. The test setup worked well with a single stub but I will be ordering a second one for future accessorizing.
Accessory – Device Mounts
Is there anything better than having your cycling computer or smartphone mounted in front of the stem? Most folks find that position best for keeping navigation aides visible without having to take their eyes off the road. Route Werks smartly integrated a quarter-turn mount into the Handlebar Bag’s lid for standard device compatibility. It comes stock with a flush cover if a “no tech” clean look is preferred.
We initially tested a Garmin brand cycle computer and found the quarter-turn mount to be simple and effective. Alternatively, swap to your device’s preferred attachment system with just a couple of small bolts. Route Werks has adapters for K-Edge, Bar Fly, and Quad Lock available as accessories.
During testing we installed the provided Quad Lock Integrated Mount, and then purchased a Quad Lock iPhone case. It has confidence-inspiring engagement and is unlikely to eject a device even during a crash scenario. The Quad Lock system works well with minimal fuss! Only one minor annoyance: attempting to remove a phone while wearing thicker gloves feels clumsy as there is very little space between the phone and the top of the lid.
The other small issue is that with thicker gloves on, the lid latch is often difficult to open. There is likely a clever engineering solution to this, and I’d love to see a future revision with improved ergonomics.