Altura Dryline bar bag 'review'

It has taken me almost 30 years to try a bar bag. Handlebar bags (I don't mean shopping baskets) are not a new idea; they were apparently listed in the 1890 Brooks catalogue, but I'd hesitated buying one in case it would interfere with the front cables, and also my GPS, front light and bell. Plus I'd got used to using a rucksack. My touring panniers are Altura Orkney, one step up from Altura Dryline, but I decided against the Orkney bar bag as it's slightly heavier, more expensive, and I didn't need internal pockets or a detachable one on the front (Altura Orkney bar bag review on this website). So mine is ours are Dryline for £44.

altura-dryline

'Boxy' – Altura Dryline handlebar bag on my bicycle

Both the Altura bags have seven litres capacity and 'waterproof Dryline construction'. The top, front and back of the Orkney is covered with Duratec fabric, presumably a little bit better than 'mini rip' used on the Dryline. The difference between Duratec and 'mini rip' is visible in the criss-cross stitching over the fabric: double versus single stitching. It's probably neither here nor there on a bar bag. The interior lining material and the sides and bottom seem identical on the Orkney and Dryline; both are sold as waterproof anyway.

There are lots of bar bag brands of course. As well as Altura and Brooks: Ortlieb, Carradice, Topeak, Vaude, Pashley, Gilles Berthoud, Naborsa and others, with prices up to £235 for an upmarket Brooks. The Pashley Bottle bar bag for £195 seems especially useless, aimed at people purely looking for Cycle Chic™ (nothing against Cycle Chic™ but I wanted something that actually worked). Some of those products include Rixen & Kaul's ubiquitous KLICKfix adapter system to mount the bag on the handlebars and others use their own brackets. The mounting system is an important part of the product, and price, so it's probably a good idea to stick to KLICKfix as an industry standard. KLICKfix products can also be bought separately.

altura-dryline-mapcase

Altura Dryline bar bag with map case fitted

Typically, bar bags come with a transparent map case. The Altura Dryline has one. I doubt whether it will last very long but at least Altura have tried to deal with the problem of the map case blowing off in the wind; a small strip of Velcro attaches the case to the top of the bag. The inside of the map case measures 260mm high by 225mm wide – too small for an Ordnance Survey Explorer map (folded) unless it's cut into pieces. Not much use. Judging by the complaints about flimsy map cases they are still a desirable item in these days of GPS but what do people expect from a thin plastic envelope. A decent sized transparent map case for walkers can be bought separately for £1.99 and fixed to a bar bag with strips of Velcro tape; that would be my solution if I really wanted one, and when it comes apart just buy another.

Fitting the bar bag to the handlebars

KLICKfix-adapter

Rixen & Kaul adaptor adapter bracket and clamps with security cable

The bar bag is mounted on the handlebars at the stem. First, the Rixen & Kaul adapter (the bracket) is clamped in position. Two pairs of clamps are supplied: some standard clamps for 22-26mm diameter bars and oversize clamps for 31.8mm. They are screwed into the back of the adapter from the front, using the screws to tighten it up against the bars. A short wire cable is then looped under the stem, over the bars, and fed in via some holes into locking nipples you push into the adapter. The cable does not feed in very easily and might need something pushing into the screw holes in the nipples to ease it through. The nipple screws are finally tightened to make the bracket secure. The weight of the bag is actually supported by the cable, not the tightness of the brackets, so trial and error is needed to fix everything at a suitable angle. The instructions advise that the screws to tighten the clamps against the handlebars must not be too tight. Mine, however, are pretty tight to prevent the bracket and bag being accidentally rotated upwards, thereby loosening the security cable.

Second, the bar bag is simply snapped in place on the front of the adapter. Total time spent to fit the bar bag: about half-an-hour, or twenty minutes if you've done it before – after I'd fitted mine and tried it, I bought another for Sandra. The bag is easily clipped on and off the adapter bracket and is also supplied with a shoulder strap.

For info: the distance between the insides of the clamps on the handlebars is 55mm, and between the outsides, 77mm. Sandra's bike has oversize bars that begin to taper down away from the stem; even so, the oversize clamps are just fine.

altura-dryline-bar-bag-2

Seven litres of space inside the bag

Both our bags are fitted to hybrid bikes with flat handlebars so there is no interference with brake, gear, or suspension fork on-off switch cables. That is good. However, I had to buy a KlickFix Multi Clip Plus accessory (£9) to mount my Garmin GPS and, in winter, a front light (both previously mounted on the handlebars next to the stem). The Multi Clip Plus snaps in between the arms of the adapter to provide an extra bar behind the bag.

klickfix-multiclip-plus

KLICKfix Multi Clip Plus

Depending on the angle of the bag, it may obstruct the light and prevent it shining on the road. Never mind. At least the GPS is okay. I will have to think of a solution for the front light as winter approaches but that is some time away. In the meantime I've moved the bell.

bar-bag-with-gps

The final ensemble

klickfix-multi-clip-plus

The mess underneath

Verdict:

Overall, there isn't much to criticise. The Altura Dryline bar bag is essentially a box on the front of your bike. It does look boxy but that's what it is, and 7 litres is easily big enough for waterproof top, spare jumper, camera, phone, sandwiches, cake, assorted biscuits, fruit, matches, can-opener, wet-wipes, Kindle, and a LifeVenture thermal mug stood vertically; whatever you might need for a pleasant day ride, right in front of your face (nasty bits like tools, spare tube, puncture repair set etc are better hidden out of the way in a wedge pack IMO). The bag seems quite rainproof, is easy to clip on and off, and... what else? Well, it doesn't bounce up and down too much over bumps and pot holes. It isn't plastered with garish colours and gawdy graphics. It's just grey, like our bikes. Subdued and functional this item is (I am not bothered about the flimsy map case). That's about it – it's just a bar bag and I like it. I suppose when you look at a similarly priced rucksack, the Dryline bag seems a bit expensive for what it is, even with a KLICKfix *adapter, but I'd buy another (and I did):

altura-dryline-bar-bags

The bags: hers 'n mine

So...

performance
ease of use
build quality
value for money

'Performance' would have been full marks but there's a slight booming noise when you pedal hard uphill. It's probably vibration from the front tyre rolling on the road, amplified by the bag somehow – like a drum. This unexpected (but interesting) phenomenon means I have knocked half a point off, and a further half-point because I reckon the four screws that tighten the adapter against the handlebars – the ones that are not supposed to be 'too tight' – will eventually strip the plastic they are screwed into, especially if they are unscrewed and screwed up again a few times (I had to do this when fitting the Multi Clip Plus).

*I think adapter should be spelled adaptor.


Garmin eTrex HCx

Top-mount brake levers on drop handlebars

Our Ridgeback touring bikes have drop handlebars on which a bar bag will not fit so easily, partly because of the so-called 'washing line' cables that come sideways out of the shifters and also because the bikes have top-mount brake levers fitted each side of the stem. Rixen & Kaul makes a Klickfix Distance Adapter that extends the position of the bar bag further forward by 43mm – I've seen how this might work with space for the levers but I don't really fancy it. A solution would be Shimano Ultegra shifters with gear cables routed under the bar tape, but they are over £200 and would mean converting the bikes from 9-speed to 10-speed and I'm not doing that for a while, if ever.

5 comments on “Altura Dryline bar bag 'review'”

  1. Chris wrote:

    *I think adapter should be spelled adaptor.

    I presume it's a German thing.

    Re the extension, they do a 5mm version that "gives a little more space for stem." It doesn't look as though it is easy to order from a supplier in this country, though:

    http://www.klickfix.de/download.php?YmVkZGlzNS5wZGY=

    I've detached the adaptor from my winter bike, but left the one on the MTB. It's part of my ruthless desire to go light, so I stuff the rack bag instead. Bar bags are very handy for stashing grub, maps, phone, pens, camera and spare gloves and top, I find.

    I've had a bit of cable rub using my Altura Orkney bar bag on the winter bike (Shimano Sora 'washing line' cables), but it's the cable that has come off worse 😮

  2. Patrick wrote:

    The little spacer... well spotted. I could get hold of one but I'm not sure 5mm would be enough for the top bar levers.

    Re the spelling... it's not just adapter but other words too, eg: advisor and adviser. Some words seem to lend themselves to miss-spelling. Misspell is a strange word.

  3. Hilary wrote:

    Patrick wrote

    Overall, there isn't much to criticise.

    A couple of years ago I 'upgraded' my little Topeak bar bag for a posh Ortlieb one in my favourite shade of blue. I'd like to be able to say that I like it but really I don't. The map case is excellent and that is really the main thing that I use it for. Unlike the Topeak one it isn't padded so everything bounces and rattles round inside. I lined it myself with closed cell foam but it hasn't helped much. There is a divider but it seems to work its way upwards so everything just ends up in a heap underneath it. Also I have very narrow bars (38cm) so it only just leaves enough room to operate my ergos and the lugs that the strap attaches to dig into my thumbs.
    The Ortlieb fitting is simpler than the KlickFix (basically it just attaches with a cable) but if you take the fitting off you can't reattach it properly without buying a new cable. I decided instead to buy a Klickfix bracket and the multi clip but fitting the bag to it is a bit of a pain – I can't do it successfully unless I first open the lid!

    Quite a long list of criticisms! Basically the only things I like are the map case and the colour! I only use it for touring in foreign parts and take it off immediately afterwards. Oh yes, I don't like the way it obscures the view of my front wheel either!

  4. Peter wrote:

    Really thorough and informative review, personally i find the Dryline a little short on features like compartments considering the price point.

    I ran into the same problem as you did, i.e. the handlebar bag obscuring my battery light. That multiclip thingy really is only useful for mounting a GPS, but my wife recently brought over another Rixen & Kaul product from Germany that takes care of that issue. I couldn't find it on Zyro's site yet, so here's a pic:
    http://www.bike24.de/i/p/3/4/60743_03_d.jpg
    It does the same thing as the multiclip, but it mounts to your fork and allows you to keep using your battery light, which i almost needlessly replaced.

  5. James wrote:

    I have a smaller 'Arran' Altura bar bag which I use to commute to work with. Since this is not waterproof, and I wanted a bigger bag for touring, I went out and bought the Dryline from Halfords, last year (~£40). This had the advantage that the Klickfix bracket was already on my bike – so I could just klick and tour!

    Unfortunately, I found the Velcro closure of the lid wanting. It is completely unsuitable for touring on the UK's tarmac country roads (nb: not talking about tracks or off-road)since the first pothole that you fail to avoid throws your gloves, rain jacket and smartphone onto the road, to be run over by the car behind you!! On our 4-day tour, I had to improvise with some string across the shoulder strap 'D'-rings – but this is not satisfactory. You are left with the dilemma of: half fill it, and have all your contents churned around (smartphone screen scratched, etc), and wonder whether you should have bought a smaller bag; OR pack everything in tight to the top, and risk having half of it throw on the road.

    I am disillusioned with Altura!

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