Handlebar Luggage: Roll vs. Harness vs. Prime Loader

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Bikepacking luggage have come a good distance during the last 20 years, and the choices now appear practically limitless, particularly for handlebar bag methods. On this information, we discuss by the three fundamental varieties of handlebar luggage and supply execs and cons for every, our picks, and what you must take into account when considering which kind of bag will work greatest for you. Learn extra about handlebar rolls vs. harnesses vs. high loaders right here…

Handlebars are one of the easy and pure spots to hold gear on a bicycle. Of us have been strapping baggage and requirements there ever for the reason that bicycle was invented. Actually, among the earliest recorded proof of baggage used on handlebars have been from navy expeditions within the late 1800s, barely a decade after the “security bicycle” was invented. The twenty fifth Infantry Bicycle Corps—the Buffalo Troopers—carried a lot of their gear on the handlebars in a tactical association throughout their mission from Missoula, MT to St. Louis, MO. Later, the Tough-Stuff Fellowship capitalized on this fashion of off-road-friendly packing throughout its filth excursions by the Alps, Iceland, and past.

These days, there may be an abundance of choices and variations. Function-made handlebar packs are available in a number of kinds and have extra rugged handlebar connections, further accent pockets, and varied means to make them extra steady and safe. The draw back is that every one these choices and options depart a variety of people scratching their head about which one is right for his or her fashion of bikepacking or touring. On this information, we dive in to assist reply these questions. Learn extra about every fashion of bag beneath, coupled with execs and cons for every, a number of of our really useful picks, and a video on the topic.

Handlebar Roll

A handlebar roll is an built-in system with the dry bag and handlebar attachments constructed as a single unit. Other than utilizing a few straps to lash a dry bag to the handlebars—which is a wonderfully affordable resolution—rolls are the most straightforward and common off-the-shelf possibility for storing gear on the handlebars.

Ortlieb Handlebar-pack

The handlebar roll is often made up of a dry bag with a roll-closure on both aspect and a pair of built-in straps/mounts that connect it to the bars. There are ready-made variations accessible from fairly a number of manufacturers, together with Revelate Designs, Ortlieb, Blackburn, Apidura, and a half dozen others, lots of which are available in a number of width and diameter variations.


  • Lots of the choices in the marketplace are waterproof
  • Usually slim (skinny) which is an efficient resolution when there isn’t a lot vertical house between the bars and entrance tire; in addition they play effectively with suspension forks for that cause
  • Straightforward to make use of and work on most bikes and bars
  • Comparably cheap
  • There are a number of choices with differing diameters so you’ll be able to dial in a match to your bike or gear
  • Most manufacturers supply easy-access accent pockets for additional storage


  • Requires on-the-bike packing and unpacking
  • Can’t match as a lot when constrained by the allowed width between drop-bars

Choices We Like

Prime Loader (aka Saddlebag)

Lengthy earlier than the appearance of contemporary bikepacking luggage, there have been saddlebags. Recognized for his or her traditional waxed-canvas aesthetic, these luggage often have a top-opening flap that’s utterly totally different from the technical roll-closures discovered on handlebar rolls. In addition they have two strap junctions made to connect to saddle clips that folk later realized work even higher to hook up with the handlebars. This fashion of baggage continues to carry favor amongst many filth highway and gravel tourers, largely due to its top-loading practicality.

List of Saddlebags and Top-opening handlebar bags

The British model Carradice will be attributed to the recognition of this fashion of bag. Their Camper Longflap, Nelson, and related designs have been the “originals,” designed for minimal touring and extra off-the-beaten-path bike journeys. Later, these luggage might be discovered within the timeless images from the Tough-Stuff Fellowship, a biking membership that basically led the cost in what we now consider as off-road bike journey. This fashion of bag noticed one thing of a resurgence when people like Nicholas Carman (Gypsy By Commerce) began utilizing them for dirt-road touring again within the 2010s. We made a DIY model again in 2013 utilizing trendy touches like plastic buckles, and Swift and Ultraromance began making saddlebags with related options shortly thereafter.


  • Straightforward to load and unload whereas on the bike
  • Deeper design usually works effectively with drop bars, offering extra space than a roll with the identical width
  • Vertically expandable, which works effectively for carrying additional meals alongside the best way
  • An old-school aesthetic that resonates with lots of people


  • Typically not waterproof, though they are often made extremely water-proof
  • Might be difficult for folk with much less vertical house between the bars and the entrance tire, and will require a help rack
  • They’re usually heavier as extra materials and thicker materials are used of their building

Choices We Like

  • Luggage By Hen (BXB) Goldback ($230)
  • Ron’s Bikes Fabio’s Chest ($280)
  • Swift Industries Zeitgeist ($200)
  • Tribulus Endover ($195)

Handlebar Harness

The handlebar harness—or holster—is the most recent child on the block. The final concept is similar to a handlebar roll, however with the user-friendly possibility of having the ability to pack and unpack the bag off of the bike, then simply strap it right into a steady harness system that is still mounted to the bars. Consider it as a quick-release handlebar roll the place you’ll be able to depart the attachment in place and simply take away the bag to make use of away out of your bike and within the tent.

Revelate Pronghorn Harness

Handlebar harness methods are available in all types, with some having minimal {hardware} so as to add stability, and others with plastic shells that type the precise cradle. One of many greatest advantages to a harness is that different objects will be strapped into it, except for only a single dry bag.


  • Very simple to load and unload whereas the harness stays connected to the bike
  • You possibly can pack and unpack a dry bag off the bike, which is a game-changer
  • Dry luggage are usually cheap and 100% waterproof
  • If in case you have the vertical house, harnesses are good for stacking two massive cylindrical objects similar to a tent and sleeping bag
  • Can embody different lengthy objects like tent poles or a fishing pole
  • Most manufacturers supply accent pockets that supply additional storage that’s simple to entry


  • Some harness methods require extra vigilant packing with longer extra sturdy objects to maintain steady

Choices We Like

Variations on a Theme

Don’t overlook that there are many different choices, which is one factor we love about bikepacking. Some people favor a smaller handlebar bag, selecting to load fork luggage or Something-style cages, or a small rack. Additionally, #basketpacking is a factor. There are even some attention-grabbing mini-rack options, such because the Hunter Cycles Cow Catcher, the Salsa Something Cradle, or customized racks, similar to this one from Clandestine.

  • Outer Shell 137 Basket Bag
  • Hunter Cycles Cow Catcher Stem Rack, Paul Boxcar Rack

Wrap Up/Our Favorites

There’s a various collection of nice handlebar luggage in the marketplace these days. And there’s actually no unsuitable determination. It comes right down to aesthetic desire, climate and driving circumstances the place you’ll be driving, and your most popular fashion of biking. In the event you’re on a mountain bike with a suspension fork, a roll or harness is the higher possibility 9 instances out of 10. And should you’re on a drop-bar bike with restricted house between the hoods—and you’ve got sufficient room in between the bars and the entrance tire—a top-loader is a wonderful and extremely useable selection. To additional assist—or additional confuse the state of affairs, relying—listed here are some ideas from our editors figuring out our private favorites:

Logan Watts

My go-to handlebar system is the Revelate Pronghorn. It’s quite simple, light-weight, and has confirmed extremely sturdy on many huge journeys. I additionally love the truth that I can pack it off the bike and use the bag as a seat round camp and a bear bag at night time. It ticks a variety of bins. The bag can be 100% waterproof, and it’s lengthy, so it may possibly simply match my tent and whole sleeping system with out points. Utilizing a harness additionally supplies the flexibility to strap further objects to the skin. That mentioned, if I’m driving a drop-bar bike, I often attain for a top-loader, particularly the Luggage By Hen Goldback or Teardrop.

Cass Gilbert

All my favorite handlebar luggage are high loaders, together with Roadrunner’s Jumbo Jammer, Tribulus’ Endover, BXB’s Goldback, and the Fabio’s Chest by Ron’s Bikes. That is largely as a result of I discover this fashion of entrance bag very sensible, being simple to pack and straightforward to entry, regardless of the form or density of your cargo. Equally, high loaders additionally double up effectively for day-to-day driving and commuting duties (they’re nice for grocery runs), which isn’t at all times the case with specialist bikepacking gear. Proper now, my go-to bag is the Goldback M – I like its traditional traces, trendy detailing and materials, nice color methods, and common sturdiness. My different bike is working a Tribulus’ Endover – it’s tremendous light-weight (on par with the lighter roll luggage in the marketplace) but extremely expandable and really steady. A draw back to those luggage is that they’re not 100% waterproof, so I pack an additional dry bag if rain is within the forecast.

Miles Arbour

My favorite is a toss-up between the redesigned Outer Shell Handlebar Harness and Pronghorn. I like the simplicity of the Pronghorn, however the Outer Shell system has confirmed to be steady and straightforward to make use of. Plus you’ll be able to add on their Drawcord Handlebar Bag, which is the right measurement for my new Fuji XT3. When extra packing house is required, BXB Piccolo all the best way.

Virginia Krabill

On quick adventures, a harness system is a good possibility, however for longer, multi-day excursions a high loading “saddlebag” is a should. They provide unparalleled ease-of-access to gear and they’re usually a lot simpler to pack. With a roll or harness system, I invariably have to drag out every thing I’ve packed earlier than I can find what it’s I’m searching for, and, if it’s raining, that always means getting my quilt moist. With a saddlebag, I can often discover what I want shortly. I additionally really feel that the highest loader offers me extra freedom to re-arrange all of my gear as wanted. That’s notably beneficial on prolonged journeys when what I’m carrying, specifically meals, tends to differ fairly a bit from day-to-day. My favourite bag at current is the BXB Goldback. It’s so forgiving. Once I’m actually conscientious about my packlist, every thing suits inside completely and cinches right down to a tidy, little package deal, and once I haven’t taken the time to actually nail down my gear choice, or I’ve received a surplus of consumables, the Goldback nonetheless accommodates and secures every thing with the extendable flap and drawstring internal liner.

Joe Cruz

I’ve been utilizing the Revelate Harness system since 2010. It’s sturdy and versatile, and it’s simply the fitting measurement for the house I’ve between bar and wheel. It’s the workhorse of my carry format. On huge journeys, a variety of my gear is within the absolutely prolonged Saltyroll, with meals within the body bag and the tent/inclement climate shells within the saddle bag. I organize issues so I can take the roll with me into the tent and have every thing I want. It’s good. The opposite cool factor is that the harness can be utilized to hold all method of issues, like a packraft or an armload of wooden.

Lucas Winzenburg

After a few years of utilizing handlebar rolls and harnesses, I’ve been loving the liberty and ease of packing that comes with top-opening handlebar luggage. Among the many handful in my assortment, my present favourite is the Montreal-made Atwater Marauder, which is obtainable in 4 sizes to suit varied setups and makes organizing and accessing gear a breeze. It has a cavernous inside pocket and two expandable aspect pockets for storing quick-access objects like snacks and equipment. I additionally like that the majority of those luggage will be run behind the saddle, making them extra versatile than entrance rolls for these of us who largely trip drop-bar rigs on much less technical terrain.

Handlebar Roll vs Harness vs Prime Loader (video)

On this video, Neil explains why he thinks your handlebars are an important place to haul gear, walks by the principle varieties of luggage, and gives some perception that will help you select one…

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