|Vaude Road I handlebar bag on the mountain bike in Dartmoor.|
Overall, I've been pleased with its performance, but having never used a handlebag bar before, I don't really have much to compare it to. So I've rated it out of 10 on a variety of characteristics I'd look for in a handlebar bag.
At 5 litres, the bags capacity is on the low side--not that that's a bad thing. In general I like the smaller size of the bag as it prevents me from adding more weight to the front of my bike and is easier to carry around off the bike on tour.
But despite its small size, I've been incredibly impressed with the bag's storage capacity. The front pocket is great for things like my wallet and phone, where the fact that they're slightly bulky isn't a problem and they're easy to access. The flat compartment at the top of the bag is great for storing cereal bars and a packet of tissues for audaxes, where again I can easily access them. On our recent camping trip to Dartmoor I also found that it was the pefect size to store a Kindle. But the big advantage of this bag is that with a little careful arrangement, the main compartment fits an incredible amount of stuff. On the Camino, I cycled for two or three days under the impression that the bag was completely full with my camera, waterproof jacket, buff, snacks, its own waterproof cover, and spare batteries. Then we stopped to buy more sunscreen, and I could only buy a full-sized bottle. It needed to go in the handlebar bag for ease of access, and lo and behold--it fit right on top.
|Slightly off-kilter rain cover on the Camino de Santiago|
The bag isn't waterproof and doesn't claim to be -- fair enough. It comes with a rain cover, which is a nice gesture, but unfortunately it isn't truly waterproof and is inconvenient to use. The cover goes over the front, top, and bottom of the bag, but not around its back side (facing the bike). Under persistent rain, the cloth on the back side of the bag becomes saturated, and then the water starts seeping to other areas of the bag. I also noticed the zipper on the bag's front pocket has started to wear tiny holes in the cover. Contents inside the bag become damp, though I haven't seen any actual water pool on the inside.
The cover itself is also a bit fiddly to get on correctly. It has a clear plastic panel on the top to facilitate mapreading, but it's hard to get it to line up properly and the cover isn't easy to take on and off. I'd ideally like to be able to take it off without stopping the bike (if it has stopped raining), but this hasn't really felt possible.
Riding in the UK gives one high expectations for waterproofing and I think setup would be perfectly suitable if you weren't planning on riding more than a few hours in the rain. For me, I'm willing to put up with the lack of perfect waterpoofing because I take precautions with the items that would be really damaged anyway; my phone and camera are always ins a ziploc plastic bag or similar, even inside my handlebar bag.
Ease of use: 9
I've found the bag to be incredibly easy to use both on and off the bike. The Klick-fix mounting system is easy to operate meaning that I can easily pop the bag (which usually contains all my valuables) off the bike to take into a shop with me if I'm leaving the bike unattended. The zippers also mean that I can access the main compartment and the flat compartment at the top easily even while riding. This has made a huge difference to my overall average speed as I don't need to stop everytime I want a few M&Ms or a cereal bar. I can even use the two zippers to zip up each of the sides and keep the bag unzipped in the middle so that I can snack even more continuously. The map sleeve which attaches to the top of the bag with velcro is also easy to use. The size of the bag means that the viewing area isn't very big, but the map sleeve can be unfolded for a bit of a bigger area for the map if needs be.
Given that I've used the handlebar bag on the majority of my rides this year, I reckon I've put at least 4,000 km on it. That includes 1200km off-road on the Camino de Santiago. So I must admit it has held up well. However, I can see that the outer cloth is starting to fray at the back near the mounting mechanism. It's entirely possible that this is because I tend to put too much weight in the bag or overstuff it, but it's still worth mentioning that it isn't indestructable.
|Handlebar bag on the road bike in the Peak District.|
This gives the bag an average score of 7.25--I'd give it the benefit of the doubt and round up to 8 out of 10. I haven't experienced any major issues with it and it has definitely made a positive contribution to my rides. It's hard to imagine what I would have done without it over this past year!
PS: In case it isn't obvious, we don't get paid for our reviews and we only review products we have bought ourselves unless otherwise stated!