Ortlieb’s new waterproof Handlebar Pack QR makes packing for adventures easier than ever, reimagining a classic touring bar bag bracket for quick release on & off your bikepacking bike. Sustainably made in Germany, like everything Ortlieb the Handlebar Pack QR will keep your gear dry no matter how bad the weather gets, and has room to fit plenty of gear. While many bikepacking bar bags end up with fit, accessibility, or comfort compromises at the front end of the bike, this one ticks most all of the boxes and has become my go-to for adventure rides these past few months…
Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR waterproof quick release bikepacking bag
At its most basic, the all-new, mid-sized Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR is an 11L bar bag made to fit in between most drop bars or in the middle of a flat bar cockpit setup. The QR pack has a single large top-loading storage pocket, roll-top closure, two small mesh side pockets, and a couple of external lashing straps that connect to a pair of load-stabilizing inner straps.
And like pretty much everything with the Ortlieb name, it is made in Germany and completely waterproof. It gets IP64 dust and waterproof certification, guaranteed to keep its contents dry for up to 30 minutes submerged 1m underwater. Just in the last long weekend, I put that waterproofing to the test. And while I thankfully didn’t end up with my handlebar completely submerged (I survived a number of water crossings), at least a third of the three days & 375km of tough off-road riding was in cold rain with my gear staying nicely dry inside.
Quick Release Bar-Lock mount – Tech details
The real trick to the Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR though is its new Bar-Lock mount that gives it the Quick Release name. Developed to make it easy to install the bag securely onto your bike in seconds, the Bar-Lock mount then can be quickly popped off when you get to camp.
It’s a bit of tricky German engineering that involves following some instructions: 1. Loop the light-colored cord over the bar, under the stem, hook it back & tighten into place with the bag tilted up at a 20-30° angle 2. Thread the black cord under the bar, over the stem, then hook the cam into place, tighten, and really wrench it down into place. Once installed it’s surprisingly secure (even over the tabletops that are expressly forbidden in the setup manual) and really easy to put on & take off.
Besides making it easy to simply install & remove it from the bike, the new mount adds several helpful features (and maybe a couple of debatable issues too)…
One annoying thing about most bikepacking handlebar bags is how inaccessible they are when installed on the bike. The top-loading Handlebar Pack QR is easy to get into when the bike is stopped, and the ~10sec removal/~20sec reinstall time meant it was easy to take the bag off and take it into your tent at night.
It also means the bag sits a good 5cm/2″ away from the bar. That’s plenty of room for your fingers, so no lost hand positions – a problem with almost every bar bag! Plus, with your hands out of the wind, I noticed I could ride without gloves on much colder days than normal, even tucking my hands closer to the stem on cold rainy descents. It also means the bag doesn’t touch your cables, so no scratched headtube or crimped brake & shift lines!
The downside is where do you mount all of your gadgets?
As you see in the on-bike photo above, it didn’t affect my Spurcycle bell placement, but the dynamo-powered Exposure LED headlight became useless (shining on the back of the bag). In fact, mounting a high-powered headlight became my biggest obstacle, forcing me to resort to bolt on mounts on a fork leg (no room for fork crown mounts either) or a softer mount that attached to the top strap of the bag (varying in effectivity with how full the bag was.)
Mounting a cycling computer was also a challenge, but I’m quite happy with my setup zip-tieing a standard Wahoo mount around the orange top strap to have my Element Roam visible for adventuresome navigation.
Other Tech details
The Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR is made of the same lightweight matte black hexagon-reinforced nylon fabric as the rest of the matching Bikepacking bag family. The tough PVC-free fabric is polyurethane coated for waterproofing, and outside it gets a 3M Scotchlite reflector & reflective detailing for added visibility.
Inside there is a plastic panel insert to give it structure and transfer your load to the Bar-Lock bracket, plus a couple of inner compression straps with standard snap buckle closures. There’s also an optional inner mesh zip pouch available separately, but I haven’t found much use for it yet.
Outside, 2 black compression straps connect at the inner straps and let you cinch down your load or strap more gear outside. Then, the single orange top strap tightens it all down. The roll-top has gussets and a plastic flap to ensure a good roll, and is said to roll at least 3-4 times to ensure waterproofing.
All of the outer straps connect to webbing loops with aluminum hooks and feature plastic cam locks to keep the straps tight.
Ortlieb claims a total weight for the 11L / 671in3 bag at 530g / 18.7oz, but our sample tipped the scale a bit heavier at 549g.
Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR – Pricing, Specs & Availability
The $160 Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR comes in only one size and black color, with orange straps to match the rest of the Ortlieb Bikepacking family, like the new mini QR Fork Packs, regular frame & saddle packs, or even the Atrack backpack.
The structured body of the QR bar bag is just 26cm wide overall, but it quickly balloons to at least 32cm wide once you pack it (a dimension designed to fit in between most road dropbars, down to 40cm wide). The bag is 22cm tall and 18cm deep, plus another 6cm of depth for the Bar-Lock bracket.
Bikepacking Review – Multi-day adventure riding impressions
Waterproofing, eco-responsible German manufacturing, and proven durability are probably the biggest reasons why cyclists keep buying Ortlieb packs. And you’ll get all of those here without any worry.
As for accessibility while riding, the side pockets of the Handlebar Pack QR were easy to get at and alternately housed snacks, a pair of rain shell gloves, and all of my empty snack wrappers. With the bag fully stuffed inside, there wasn’t really enough room for more bulky items in these external pockets without getting in the way of my brake hoods (no bottles, even though they would fit is the pack was more empty.)
That said, only once did I really notice the bag touching my hand on the brake hood, and that was when the mesh pockets were stuffed with snacks, a mini lock, and two pairs of wet gloves. Some reshuffling of my gear fixed that quickly.
I could also unhook the orange top strap while riding to tuck my jacket or vest over the top. But I would recommend stopping to unfurl the full roll-top to get inside.
The only significant downsides I’ve experienced with the QR bar pack come from the fact that it takes over your cockpit setup. The wide Bar-Lock mount was about 1cm wider inside than any stem I tried to install it around (64mm inside between its mounting supports). That meant that I could make it work with my QuadLock mount turned back over my stem, but then it wanted to sit a bit off-center. I made a spacer out of wrapped zip ties to hold it as close to centered as possible, since when packed full it bulged out to about 36cm wide – not far from the hoods on a set of 42cm wide bars.
On longer multi-day trips, the limited cockpit space for accessories was a bit annoying. Once I found a good Wahoo Roam setup that allowed me to easily navigate (two zip ties around the orange strap, one through the sewn loop in the strap to keep it from moving) made things better.
But it would be great to see Ortlieb come up with a compatible GPS and/or light mounting solution. The two upper bolts on the composite Bar-Lock mounting bracket arms seem like a good place to attach something. And we do have a bit of insider information that Ortlieb are working on a solution. Just no concrete timeline yet.
The bag is rated for a max load of 5kg, which I have exceeded a bit on occasion without trouble on rough gravel & even rooted singletrack. But you really don’t want too much more weight than that high up on your handlebar anyway, as it messes with handling stability.
One thing I didn’t know when Ortlieb sent the Handlebar Pack QR to test… it’s apparently not recommended for carbon bars. Oops. I’ve logged more than 1000km with this loaded down on three different carbon drop bars (3T & PRO) and haven’t had any issue. More a concern are probably aero-shaped or superlight bars where you might not have a good smooth surface to mount the 77mm (outside) Bar-Lock bracket.
Final Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR bikepacking thoughts
I’m sure Ortlieb are just being cautious since the Handlebar Pack QR does transfer forces directly to both the bar & stem. It would be a shame to think that this would truly only be suited to alloy bars since so many gravel & bikepacking riders benefit from the additional vibration damping of carbon. So, just proceed at your own risk.
In the end, while Ortlieb doesn’t make my favorite toptube back, and I could go back and forth with a few frame & saddlebags, this is definitely my new favorite handlebar bag for bikepacking. It’s simply so easy to use and take on & off, and with enough space for my entire lightweight sleeping setup (1-person tent, sleeping bag & matt), it can make any bike ready for a sub 24-hour overnighter in under a minute, no other bags needed.