Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar Bag

The Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar Bag is a waterproof bike storage accessory with next to no drawbacks.

Carrying gear on my bike has always been problematic for me: I find that backpacks are sweaty, uncomfortable and hurt my shoulders and back after more than half an hour of riding. Panniers are a big commitment, require rack mounts and you can't carry anything fragile in them. Where do you keep your tools? Your lock? All these problems are answered with handlebar bags.

For your reference, I ride a 26-inch hardtail “Frankenbike” as a comfortable workhorse around the city that can also handle light touring. I've had the Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar Bag for six months. Here is my review.


Intro

The Ultimate 6 Series comes in several styles. In this article, I'll discuss two of them: the 'Classic', which is made from a glossy polyester; and the 'Plus', made from Cordura-branded Polyester that has more of a fabric texture to the outside and is a touch more flexible.

Within these two styles, the bags come in three different sizes: 7-litre ('M', the bag I use), 5-litre ('S') and 2.5-litre ('Compact').


Mounting Your Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar Bag

The Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar Bag is compatible with 22–31.8mm handlebars. (Be aware, though, that Ortlieb does not allow for carbon bars, and a different wire is required for bars of different shapes.)

Note that the mounting system is now sold separately instead of being sold with the bag. The reason Ortlieb does this is to allow for interchanging different bags on different frames. This way, if you are a serial Ortlieb fanatic, you don't end up with a pile of mounting bits that you don't need.

As for the actual task of mounting the Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar Bag to your bike, it is fairly easy. Allow about 5–10 minutes. The instructions are easy to follow, and it is important that you follow them to prevent the cable from getting kinked. A set of pliers helps get the tension on the cable that pulls through. Here is a video that shows how it is done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGqkdJ6Qv2w

Taking the bag on and off is easy and feels very secure. Line up the mounting hooks with the bag and press down until you hear a click. There is a button on the handlebar mount that you press to release the bag. You can also lock the bag to the bike with a rotating lock that comes as part of the mounting system. A thief could get into the contents of the bag if they had a knife and really wanted to, but they will not be able to physically remove the bag from the bike.


Features of the Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar Bag

Let’s start with my favourite part about this bag: the closure magnets. They're responsible for main selling point of this bag: how easy it is to open and close. The magnet system makes total sense for easily accessing items you would keep in a handlebar bag of this size: things like your phone, wallet, lock, sunglasses, earphones, keys, snacks and other essentials you might need to grab quickly.

The bag opens away from you (if you're seated on the bike), which makes it easy to see everything in your bag while riding. It can be a little annoying as it flaps around near your front wheel, however.

Build quality: I've been using this handlebar bag for six months; opening and closing it multiple times a day. Despite this, I have seen no wear on the nylon casing surrounding bag's closure magnets. The build quality is excellent (as we've all come to expect from Ortlieb products). The only change I would make to the design of the bag would be to have the opening and closing loop made out of coated wire instead of a 3mm nylon cord.

On the inside of the bag, there is an envelope-shaped zip compartment that is about the size of a passport. I use this for spare batteries. There is also a plastic, swivelled carabiner that is handy for keys. In the Plus, you also get two zipped, mesh side pockets and a removable foam internal divider. I use one of the zips for my multi-tool, spare bolt and valve adaptor and the other for the included strap that comes with both the Plus and Classic. I didn’t enjoy the divider that came with it because I found that it took up space and restricted what I could fit in my bag, but some people will like the extra organisation.

On the outside of the bag there is a reflective piece of 3M for visibility. This could have been made a little bigger to do its intended job better, but it's better than nothing.

The Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar Bag is rated to an impressive 5kg. This is made possible by the design, which enables the cable to hold the majority of the weight. Personally, I found that loads above 3kg resulted in the bike handling more sloppily.

Parts for honourable mentions available separately are the different mounting wires for alternate style stems or bars. Also, mounting adaptors that allow you to mount lights over the bars. I've found that mounting the lights this way does not do a great job at illuminating the 30 metres in front of you. Instead, I mount my lights next to the crown of my fork – this does the job better on my style of bike. Another useful part you can get separately is a camera bag insert compatible with the M (7L) size.


Summary

In general, I find that the Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar Bag is a fully waterproof, stout, practical bike storage solution. The only drawback to the Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar Bag is that you might have to find a way to mount your lights to get them into a more effective position than the light mounting adaptor allows. Also, at low speeds your handlebars might feel more sluggish than if you were to carry the weight at the back of your bike (e.g. panniers). Personally, I have gotten used to it and now prefer the feeling of weight over my bars.


Dan Sinanian,
Bogong Equipment



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