Oxford Aqua Evo Adventure Handlebar Pack
320g Black £29.99
Oxford’s Aqua Evo Adventure Handlebar Pack is a well-made and sensibly specced bit of gear aimed at the tourer and bikepacker, but also suitable for day riding. With all the features one would expect, I’ve found it a handy companion with nothing not to like, although it is less ‘adaptable’ than some I have used. As part of their waterproof Aqua Evo range, it can form part of a complete system, or just stand alone as a handy bit of kit. In typical Oxford style, you get a fair old bang for your buck.
Pros: waterproof, easy to clean, stable, should fit most bars, useful front ‘net’, price.
Cons: limited mounting options, no light loop.
Made from 400D ripstop TPU with welded seams, it is no surprise that there’s an IPX rating of 6; closures properly in place you could probably float it down a river let alone expect it to keep the rain and spray out. There’s a nine litres capacity in the main compartment, which is closed at either end (accessible from either end, too, of course) with a roll to seal and buckle to secure. There’s also a small zip pocket at the back of the bag for smaller, probably valuable, items (cards, keys, etc.). The zip has a neat flap to offer additional protection.
As you’d anticipate there are three points of fixing – two round the bars and one around the stem. The straps for the bars are plenty long enough for even the weirdest bars and the bushiest of cable arrangements, they are also nicely protected with some rubber liners. The strap for the stem doesn’t have the latter, but is more than long enough. Top tip; with the latter, secure it when it is not secured to the bike – I managed to lose it once.
The base and back are reinforced, but my favourite additional feature is the ‘bungee-style’ net on the front, adding a bit of very useful capacity. There’s no light loop, which is not surprising on this type of bag, but might be handy under some circumstances. It is certainly nowhere near a deal breaker.
Dimensions are 35x15cm (length and depth): max load, 4kg. When thinking of length, remember you have a roll-and-buckle-closure.
Unlike rigidly constructed bar bags – nothing against them – once this is mounted it is likely to stay in place for a good while. I always find it a bot fiddly to get things just right, but I am a tad cack-handed. So, mounting is simple enough. I like the long straps – as opposed to shorter – as they give flexibility when mounting over cables ‘entanglements’, allowing a lower-slung position (light and so on mounted on the bars not interfered with), but still ensuring stability.
I have mounted the pack on flats and drops. The latter included quite narrow compact bars. No problem, nor interference with STD levers or positioning hands on the bars. Some packs – the Zefal Z Adventure F10 Bar Pack – secure the bag in a separate harness and offer webbing to allow mounting off centre or placing the straps in different positions on the bars (which, let us face it, can, with all the tech we love, be congested, not forgetting our hands).
Care and durability 4.25/5
Care is very, very easy. Just wipe clean with a damp cloth or use a bike cleaner, such as the Pure Bike Cleaner that I’ve used recently. Things are going to get dirty if you are off-roading, gravel-tripping, or just heading down a winter country lane. Whatever, a simple wash and wipe has removed all grime.
The general feel of the construction is very solid, and I’m not surprised that it has dealt well with the occasional bramble hanging across the track. I suppose that I’d avoid carrying sharp edged items (I have stuffed a tool kit in, but it was carefully wrapped), such as a camping knife or cutlery.
Well, there is little to say. It is, it may even manage temporary submersion or even float. Very. Watering can test, nothing; hose pipe, nothing. Rain is not getting in. If water does get in, the bag can be hung up to drain and dried, which the openings at either end contribute.
So, nine litres is not the biggest. However, I have squeezed in a lightweight tent, or vivvi, or a rolled sleeping mat. More usually, it has carried spare gloves and hat, waterproof socks, and a waterproof jacket. All very comfortable. A light fleece could have gone in, too. You’ll know your own outdoor gear, so you may think an extra litre capacity would make a significant difference for you.
Given that I could mount the bag in a low sling position, I was impressed by the stability. No annoying bounce or sideways slippage. Mind you, that is not uncommon, although reassuring. Positioning of the bag is not especially flexible, which could be an issue on drop bars - although flats probably offer greater space for hand-positioning. The Zefal Z F10 Bar Pack, for example, can be mounted off centre.
Of course, the pack is absolutely waterproof, in any real cycling sense; winter snow, heavy rain, and a dousing under the watering can have not made any impact. The roll closure and welded seams are strong defences against the weather.
Now, that nice little “bungee” style net. It doesn’t look much, but has come in handy for carrying a beanie hat, and, very handily for touring, wet socks and gloves which get a good breeze stuck out front of the bars.
I’d prefer a rigid structure for commuting and, indeed, have used one for touring for years. However, the flexibility of packing offered by bags such as the Oxford Aqua Evo Waterproof Bar Pack have a lot to offer the tourer and are de riguer for rougher bikepacking ventures. This model is significantly cheaper than the Zefal Z F10 Bar Pack which I have used on several tours. The latter has some additional features which offer greater finesses, especially if you have odd configurations on your bars. However, it does much the same job.
Restrap offer a whopping 14 litre capacity waterproof bar bag, but that’ll come in at over £100 – although I have seen it for less on-line. The Cairn Bar Bag is also more expensive and has a smaller capacity.
This may not be the biggest or the flashiest, but in the world of the waterproof welded seams and simple design can offer more than organising pockets and lots of gimmicks. The Oxford Aqua Evo offers good value for money and is a highly functional bit of gear for the bikepacker or tourer who values simplicity.