That’s the fella, right there. It’s compact, it goes on your handlebars and you pack it. In short, it’s a compact handlebar pack. From Apidura. (My bike had normal brake/gear shifters that are vertical, not odd turny-out ones like the photo above).
Ok, you may have noticed I’m more of a runner than a cyclist. You might have seen me trying a sneaky triathlon the other week. What you won’t know is that I’ve always had a bike since I was wee, which I’ve used more or less frequently. A year and a bit ago, I got a new road bike through the Cycle To Work Scheme, a nice grey road bike that feels speedy even when it’s me at the pedals. It says it’s an ‘endurance’ fit, which I think means it’s a bit more compact and kinder on the joints?
The idea was to save the planet by commuting to work, as well as being something I enjoy that fits a bit more fitness into the day. The problem is carrying stuff – I can leave most of the stuff I need at work, take a shirt, etc. when I’m in the car. But there’s always bits and pieces – a rain top, my wallet, phone and keys, a natty hat and so on; the little necessities.
When I stick ’em in a backpack it feels like a chore and extra weight, and puts me off taking things I should probably have with me (like a pump).
So, when I saw uber-bearded adventurer Sean Conway was sporting a handlebar pack that didn’t appear to need any mounting faff on his round-the-UK triathlon I looked up Apidura. And that was enough; I managed to find one and put my order in. It turned up and looked ace, from the cool grey-and-black-and-yellow colours to the simple but robust looking roll fastening.
I got the smaller Compact version, to more easily fit on my road bars, which says it fits 9 litres. It goes on the bike really well, leaving enough space between the bars and the pack and sitting in a nice position leaving good space between the bottom of the pack and my front tyre. I managed to get a jacket, some underwear, a cycling cap, my wallet, phone, keys, a couple of Cliff bars, a sketchbook, a pencil, my work pass and a phone charger in without stressing things – I figure I could have got a fair bit more in there.
It was a brisk morning, and overcast when I left the house, so I’d stuck a light fleece on over my cycle top. Part way through the ride the sun came out so I took the fleece off, folded it up and stuck it in the elastic webbing on the front. It fit in really well and stayed in place through the next ten miles no problem.
The only downside is that it wasn’t so easy to get into mid-ride. It may just be a case of getting familiar with it (and I’ll update after more use), but I found the easiest thing to do was take it off and then put it back on when I was done. Saying which, I’m thinking about getting the additional front pack, which looks ideal for phones / papers / wallet, etc. and has a top zip. Either that or the top tube bag, which would fit the things I need easy access to. Also, using a backpack, I’d have to stop, take that off and rummage around, so maybe I’m being picky?
There was no particular noise from the pack while riding, which was a pleasant surprise – I did hear my keys rattling, but that was down to my poor packing. When I had a pack with a handlebar mount a few years ago it rattled every time you went over the slightest lump. It also means I don’t need to leave mounts on my bike.
If I were a richer person and was ever likely to get the opportunity for full-on bike packing then I’d have the lot – the seat post bag looks like you could fit a towel and used clothes in to take home and probably a spare elephant too, it seems cleverly designed to use the available space. The frame bag makes me immediately think “tent poles” and then we’re into bike camping, eh?
In summary, the Apidura Compact Handlebar Bag fits well into a daily commute, and holds a Tardis-like amount of stuff. It felt so much easier not having a pack on my back, and I could keep an eye on my stuff as I went. Being able to stuff a top into the webbing was a handy extra to keep up to speed with the weather.
The pack costs £70 from http://www.apidura.com where you can also find some ace stories of people bike packing all over the world.