BTR WATER RESISTANT HANDLEBAR BAG
330g (including shoulder strap) 3 litre capacity £24.99
The BTR Water Resistant Handlebar Bag comes in one size and one colour. Whilst it has smaller capacity than many, and is less rigid, than some, these are not necessarily a disadvantages. It is very much bike gear, but is also handy away from the bike when carrying valuables and vitals about, on tour or at work. BTR’s background is in family cycling, with products arising from experience. So, despite one or two niggles, there are many solid virtues in the BTR Water Resistant Bar Bag.
Pros: lots of compartments, adjustable fit.
Cons: no internal organising pockets.
BTR offer a range of bar bags. This one is, as the name suggests, water-resistant. On that front, the zips are all very well baffled and the seams neatly stitched. Add to this the inner lining and semi-rigid layer, and you’d expect water-resistance to be high.
Three litre capacity comes courtesy of a gently curved profile, with a reinforced base. Dimensions are 215x160x130(max) mm. You’ll find bigger, but these dimensions, along with the absence of any bracket, allow a small degree of lateral movement along the bar – if you want that.
There are four zipped pockets, in addition to the main space. The top pocket is transparent. The two side pockets are very slim, whilst the front pocket offers more space. Right out front is a light loop – with some reflective detail sans light. There are additional reflective stripes on the sides.
The main space is a single pocket, with no organising pockets. Shape is kept by a semi-rigid layer between the lining and the outer. It’s further aided by that reinforced base, and the fabric belt to which the straps are fixed.
BTR eschew brackets, preferring the versatility and portability of straps. There are three, suitably robust-looking, secured by buckles and hook and loop strips. One advantage of this is that the straps can be made longer or shorter to adapt to different bar and stem set-ups.
The top pocket is transparent, allowing easy viewing of a phone or other device, route card, or map. The main compartment has two zips for easy access on the fly.
Off the bike, and sling it over your shoulder with the accompanying shoulder strap.
Let’s start with drop bars and a 125mm stem. At first, keeping the bag tight to the bars, I found it hard to secure the third strap round the stem. My error. Loosening the bar straps allowed me to get the third strap secured.
Ease of portability is important on a commuter/utility hack, so this was a significant point, as far as I was concerned. It had the additional benefit of situating the bag lower, so that I was still able to use the Sinewave Cycles Beacon (by manipulating its mounting bracket) or the Ravemen PR1600 on the way home from late shifts. Otherwise, get yourself a bar extender, such as Genetic’s Neuron Acessory Bar.
To my surprise, this did not seem to impact much on the stability of the bag. OK, we are talking about 12-17mph on surfaces from asphalt to crushed lime and gravel towpath – with occasional tree-root corrugations. I’ll point out, here, that, I ran it on several trips with just the bar straps pulled tight. Contents were not hurled about, but, then again, they were well-packed out with soft items – equally, I did not notice the bag bouncing about. Not ideal for hard-core gravel or off-road, but ok, in my opinion, for commuting, road, and leisure riding, if push comes to shove.
With flat bars, much still depended on the length of the stem. With an 85mm stem, performance was similar to the drop bars. However, with a shorter stem, a closer grip meant things felt very snug and happy.
BTR describe it as a mini bar bag, suggesting that its ideal for your important bits and bobs, valuables etc. I’d say they are pretty much spot on. Sandwich, energy bar, wallet, keys, spare socks, gloves, phone, and things are chocablock. I’ve tended to use the side pockets for odd bits of spare cash or secreting a credit card. – but that is pretty much their lot. Front pocket? Been home to a saddle cover. Ideal commute or leisure stuff, but probably not one for the big tour or bike-packing trip.
The transparent top has been a matter of debate. Fine for route card, carefully folded paper only map (i.e. without a card cover and not too bulky) such as Sustrans Pocket Guides to the NCN. An iPhone 7 fits in, as will several other phones. However, it only does so horizontally, which some felt was a big problem when using Google Maps or other route-finding functions. Mind you, glove-less, touchscreens respond well.
Water resistance 4.5/5
Although water-resistant is the technical description, from the off I got the impression that this would be waterproof under many circumstances likely to be encountered in general cycling. So, under the shower (an unusual circumstance) there’s been no ingress, nor in prolonged heavy rain (more realistic). Be careful to get the zips done up properly and the baffles defend them well.
Having said that, I’d tend to keep electrical devices and anything prone to water damage in plastic bags. That’s me, as much as the bag; but it also helps organisation.
General Performance 4/5
Aside from the above, it’s good to note that the zip fobs are sufficiently large and rigid enough to be manipulated in gloves. I’ve been using Chiba’s Second Skin Gloves for much of the testing period – not the most dexterous (especially with yours truly operating the fingers) – and I’ve been able to access the bag of toffee hidden away inside.
Keeping things clean is easy. A wipe with a damp cloth, has been plenty to dismiss dirt.
All in all, stability, a high level of adaptability, portability, and sensible capacity for day-to-day use, make this a handy bag. Even if things can be a bit fiddly when securing to different bikes, it is no more so than transferring brackets.
The light loop has been effective, too – even if it took a bit of a bodge, which was not the fault of the bag.
Setting aside preferences for bar bags, as opposed to other sorts of luggage or accessing Liquorice Allsorts from your jersey pocket rather than a bag, value is pretty decent. – especially as you’ll find it discounted (at £19.99 on the BTR website as I write this, for example).
The See Sense Bar Bag is a smaller and pricier. However, it has other strengths, for example more internal pockets. Like the BTR the stem/head strap is not vital for road riding, but comes into its own off-road. A similar design is the Avenir Waterproof Bar Bag. However, even though it has the same capacity, it is bracket mounted and, unless discounted, much, much more expensive.
I have used a rigid, cuboid, bracket mounted, Carradice Super C bar bag for many years. 5 litre capacity and bigger transparent map pocket seems better for touring – room for more sweeties! It is, however, much more expensive.
It is not really fair to compare it to the Zefal Adventure F10 which I have used for similar purposes, but is much more a bike-packing bag for bulkier items or when keeping the water out all day long is crucial.
Michael’s eye has recently been caught by the LifeLine Adventure Handlebar Bag, although it does have some limitations. Eleven litres more capacity for five pounds more lay-out.
I’ve used the BTR Water Resistant Bar Bag for commuting, road, and leisure purposes. Capacity and other factors may limit its use beyond those. Even so, under most conditions, it would do perfectly well on tour, too – especially when lengthy spells away from the bike are anticipated.