Altura Orkney handlebar bag review

altura_orkney_handlebar_bag_adaptors_yorkshire_wolds_bench

The Altura Orkney handlebar bag – minus its detachable front pocket and map case.

The Altura Orkney handlebar bag is Altura's top of the range bar bag, but seems to have in-built faults, and these faults are frequently reported on cycling blogs and customer review web sites. Despite this, I rather like it. So here is a review of this expedition quality lightweight, waterproof barbag:

Altura Orkney bar bag features:

  • 7 litre capacity (approx)
  • Waterproof Dryline construction
  • Rixen and Kaul quick release bar fitting
  • Duratec fabric
  • Detachable front pocket
  • Removable map case
  • Shoulder strap
  • Reflective trim

The dependable Rixen and Kaul quick release bracket fits easily to most handlebars (although it may push aside fittings for cycle lights and computers etc) and, in my case, the product came with two pairs of handlebar clips: standard and oversized. (I also bought the extension bracket, unnecessarily as it turned out.) This barbag will fit bikes with Shimano's 'washing line' cables, although there may be some scuffing of the sides of the bag.

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The KLICKfix Multi-Clip is a bit fiddly. Press the tabs together from underneath to release.

There is an optional KLICKfix Multi-Clip for front lights, cycle computer etc, but it is rather narrow, and I only just managed to squeeze two slim Raleigh LED lights on the bracket. Another model, the KLICKfix Multi-Clip Plus, is advertised on R & K's web site, but at the time this wasn't available from Zyro, the UK distributor, when I placed my order with a local bike shop. The KLICKfix Multi-Clip Plus has two attachments that fit either side of the standard model to allow more accessories to be fastened in place.

altura_orkney_handlebar_bag_map_view

The map case is waterproof but, sadly, not windproof.

Smaller cyclists with 700c wheels may find, as I did, that the front, detachable pocket droops forward and touches the front tyre, especially when climbing. This is particularly an issue when I have used the front lights; when I tilt the barbag forward enough for the light beams to be at the correct angle, the pocket moves even closer to the front wheel. I use the pocket – which is certainly not waterproof – for sunglasses and the shoulder strap. There is one click fastener on a baggy flap, so the pocket isn't suitable for small or valuable items. The main compartment is, in my experience, perfectly waterproof. Just make sure that the top flap is secured in place.

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The detachable front pocket and the covering behind it bear reflective material.

There are no internal dividers, just a mesh pocket with four separate sections. A plastic clip is useful for keeping your keys in a readily accessible place and that section is long enough to store a few pens or pencils. (I put my mobile phone in the centre section, and a credit card-sized magnifying glass and an emergency tenner in the right side section.)

altura_orkney_handlebar_bag_insert_pocket

There is also small mesh pocket at the bottom of this insert. I never use it.

I've read that the handlebar bracket has broken for some owners, but it seems sturdy enough to me. Just remember not to overtighten the clips when attaching the unit to the handlebars. The main, and most widely-reported failing, is the map case. Most negative comments I've read had been that in hot weather the glue that fastens the Velcro strips becomes tacky and eventually melts. The glue appears to have failed on my map case: on the Belgian canal path between Damme and Ghent, inevitably in the pouring rain, the two Velcro strips held tight, but the glue that held together one strip on to the case simply undid.

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The weakness of the handlebar bag is its map case.

And when it is working as intended, the map case just sits there relying on the weight of the map itself to keep the case in place. When you open the barbag's top flap the map may flop on to your front tyre. No real problem, but if you have a strong tail wind you may find yourself distracted as you try to regather the case because it has blown forward and is resting on front pocket or wheel. I've taken to leaving the front light bracket on with the lights acting as a retainer to keep the map case – and sometimes the top flap – in place.

altura_orkney_handlebar_bag_top_view

The opening to my map case is now kept closed by two strips of adhesive tape.

For me there isn't quite enough Velcro to fasten the top flap securely. If I'm a bit pressed for time and move away sharply after a quick snack stop, the short flaps that fit over the three sides of the barbag sometimes fail to fall in to place properly: the flaps nearest the 'hinged' edge occasionally fold in to the bag itself and this seems to push apart the two strips of Velcro that would normally engage. The top flap can sometimes bounce off on bumpy terrain. Unless, of course, it is held in place by those front lights.

altura_orkney_handlebar_bag_velcro_opening

The fastener for the top flap. There’s not a lot to it.

I considered making some sort of retainer to keep the map case in place. The loops seem to be there for a purpose. However, nothing in the manufacturer’s instructions suggest how they should be used, and I just haven’t got round to doing anything with them.

altura_orkney_handlebar_bag_velcro_closed

Just plain loopy. What exactly are these here for?

I ordered a handlebar bracket for a second bike and, needlessly as it turned out, a pair of clips for oversize bars. So I now have three pairs of clips for oversize bars – and an extension bracket that I have no use for either. Other accessories are available, but I think that I will limit myself to another map case in time.

altura_orkney_handlebar_bag_adaptors_clips

Centre front: three pairs of oversized (31.8mm) handlebar clamps; left: the extension bracket; middle: slightly different packaging for the standard bracket; right: the KLICKfix Multi-Clip

Overall verdict:

performance
ease of use
build quality
value for money

The scores would be higher if the map case wasn't fundamentally flawed, and if there was a more positive fastening for top flap. I was also annoyed to have to unclip the detachable front pocket and stuff it in to my rack bag when it was being scuffed by my front wheel. The RRP for the Altura Orkney handlebar bag at the time of writing is £59.99 (Evans Cycles), but can be had for less money.

altura_orkney_handlebar_bag_guinness

Altura Orkney handlebar bag. Colour coordination is so important.

20 comments on “Altura Orkney handlebar bag review”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    If it wasn't for the bar top brake levers on our touring bikes I'd fit this bag, but those levers are the only ones we use so can't angle them downwards out of the way of where the bag would sit. In Holland we had only rear panniers (Altura Orkney) and the lightness of the front wheel compared to the back was a bit scary, especially when manhandling the bikes with the bars. We'd sometimes end up with the front wheel lifted off the ground and the bike slewing round.

    I also have an Altura Dryline rack bag, which I don't like as the top cover doesn't fit properly but we both like our Orkney panniers (except for the mesh inserts that like you we never use).

    I agree with your value-for-money assessment especially. Altura bags seem rather expensive for what you get.

    Good review Chris, and your beer glass photos always make me thirsty!

  2. Hilary wrote:

    An excellent detailed review Chris. The perfect handlebar bag doesn't seem to exist. I use a Topeak 'Tourguide'. Its well padded, easy to fit , doesn't sag and has a very convenient carrying handle but it isn't waterproof and the mapcase is tiny.

    I've got my eye on an Ortlieb 5 Plus which comes in a very natty blue and black colour scheme to match my bike! It is however very expensive (altho Spa Cycles have them at a good price) and the map case has to be bought as an added extra. It too has had mixed reviews. I may have a word with Santa about it! :)

  3. Chris wrote:

    I almost didn't press 'Publish' for this review. I saw a Michael McIntyre set the other day in which he pulled apart online consumer reviews, here for a toaster: "Settings 2 to 6 are an embarrassment. What kind of a pop do you call that?"

    I couldn’t grab it! “I had to risk my life and do it with a knife.”

    Or something like that. LOL.

  4. Patrick wrote:

    I know what you mean. I've a lawyer son and a lawyer brother with a lawyer wife and they all say if someone inadvertently publishes incorrect facts about a product the manufacturer must offer the writer a chance to correct it. They also said opinions can be expressed quite safely. So it's ok ;-)

    I've looked all over for a way to transfer luggage from the rear to the front on our touring bikes when we're not using the front low-riders. No type of bar bag will fit without fouling the top levers and the gear cables. There isn't a suitable mini front rack either. We need a bar bag solution that carries the bag above the handlebars, not between, or a mini rack that fits.

    Incidentally – unrelated to the Altura bar bag but visible in the top photo – I can recommend Camelbak drink bottles. They're a bit more expensive than normal ones but the drink doesn't taste of plastic even after a few days in the bottle. That's a fact! (with Vimto at least)

  5. Garry wrote:

    I second the Camelbak bottles. I use them.
    I don't have an Altura handlebar bag but have one of their rack top bags. I've used Klickfix for yonks. It's a pretty good system. I've had several handlebar bags in my time. I've two Agu handlebar camera bags and they're good, but not really waterproof. They have a cover but that's not waterproof either. However, a plastic bag does the trick. I've one old huge Ortlieb bag with is brilliant and Mary has a smaller one. I also have a similar Vaude bag.
    All in all, Ortlieb make the best bags. I've a pair of indestructible rear roller classic bags about 15 years old which must have been used on 40 tours. They're as tough as John Prescott's hide.

  6. Mary wrote:

    Great review Chris, I like a review to be complete ie warts and all about a product.

    I have an Ortlieb bar bag for my tourer, but to be honest, when I toured from Liverpool to Lowestoft this summer I deliberately did not bring it. (I didn't want the fussy attachment on my lovely Hetchins). The Ortlieb also has front light issues and computer issues and GPS attachment issues.... lol It seems you either have one thing or the other.

    I agree with HIlary, the perfect bar bag does not exist.

    I didn't miss a bar bag on my tour, I cycled with a rack bag (Carradice) and two rear luggage bags (Ortlieb) and travelled light. By the way, after just 2 years of use and not by any means constant use, my Ortlieb bar bag is falling to pieces, so I must of found a bag not quite as strong as Johns Prescott's hide! :) :)

  7. Mark wrote:

    The Orkney bar bag works fine with top brake levers (well it does on my Ridgeback Panorama), just tilt them downward slightly – a better position anyway. You can get a rixen kaul extended bracket, but you wont need it. I purchased the right clips that means you can remove the front pocket and fix a "utility belt" for lights etc. I emailed altura@zyro.co.uk (Altura distribution UK) about the map case, but they are in denial – if your map case is a poundland special like mine send them an email.

  8. Chris wrote:

    Mark wrote: I emailed (Altura distribution UK) about the map case, but they are in denial...

    Well, I ordered a second map case and I put a map inside it, took it out and put another one in and... guess, what? That's right, the Velcro strips stayed together, but the glue holdng one of the Velco strips came undone and now I have two map cases that are held together by bits of sticky tape. And this one failed before I'd even fastened the thing on my handlebar bag – it still had its bar code label on.

    I think the problem with the Altura bar bag map case is that the Velco strips are just too strong. I wonder if the fasteners would be just as effective if they were, say, in pairs of just two blobs of Velcro – one at each end of the opening – instead of the full width of the map case opening. Just a thought. Thanks for the tip about the utility belt, Mark.

  9. Mark wrote:

    I've posted full details of how to make the utilty belt for lights etc on Youtube (just type in "Ridgeback Panorama"), including where to get the right clips.

    [link to YouTube added by Patrick] Cycle touring bar bag and lights (Ridgeback Panorama)

  10. Patrick wrote:

    Thanks Mark. The Panorama's top brake levers are located by the cables under the bar tape. I don't think mine would be as easy to push down as in the video (at least without removing the tape).

  11. Mark wrote:

    Just got an email from Altura, no change to the map case, but:

    "We have added a small patch of velcro (5cm) to the back section of the lid top and underside of the map case that will keep the map case inposition even if there is a strong tail wind.

    We have moved the lid tabs out to the corners of the lid for easier and more precise location of the lid when closing, we also increased the length of the tabs for easier grip. The velcro lid closure will also be increased in length to make it more secure. We hope that these improvements will greatly enhance the productand we will be receiving samples and testing vigorously very soon."

  12. Chris wrote:

    Hey, Mark, you don't think Altura have taken notice of our comments do you? :lol:

    They sound just like the sort of improvements I would like to see. Now, what about that floppy front pocket...?

  13. Brendan wrote:

    Hi Chris, nice report. Don't see any listing for weight &/or dimensions of bag & KLICKfix fittings.

  14. Chris wrote:

    Brendan wrote: Don't see any listing for weight &/or dimensions of bag & KLICKfix fittings.

    I was tempted to write "me neither", but I have a moment and the digital scales to hand:

    Weight of Altura Orkney handlebar bag (minus strap and front pocket) 738g
    Front detachable pocket 104g
    Rixen and Kaul quick release bar fitting 118g
    KLICKfix Multiclip 27g
    Strap (and tape measure) temporarily misplaced

  15. Stefan Fritsch wrote:

    Hiya, how did you manage to get the lights fitted high enough, so that the light can actually be seen from oncoming traffic? I have an Altura Orkney handlebar bag, but with the Multiclip the lights light the trees and the bag. My Orkney bag had a fitting at the bottom, so that the lights lit the street and could be seen. Sadly, the plastic bracket is broken, and Altura doesn't produce and sell them any longer. I come to the conclusion that handlebar bag and lights simply don't go together. You would expect that there is some company, who actually is run by cyclists, who understand that there is a need for being well lit even if you use a handlebar bag. Altura clearly isn't that company....

  16. Chris wrote:

    Ideally the top of the bag, and therefore the map case, should be angled backwards 30 degrees to allow access to the contents and to more easily read the map. However, this means that even with the multiclip attachment the bottom of the beam is cut off by the leading edge of the Altura Orkney handlebar bag.

    So I have slackened off the cable that holds the the bag in place, tilted the bag further down and tightened up the cable again. This does allow oncoming traffic to see the beam, but crucially I still can't illuminate the road in front of me as the bag casts a shadow. I may try to tilt the bag further forward still, but that would be at the expense of easy use of the bag I think. (And I certainly couldn't make use of the detatchable front pocket as it would rest permanently on the front tyre.)

    I have seen the fixing under at least one other Rixen & Kaul equipped bar bag that allows an upside down light to be slung underneath the bar bag. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as though such a fixing can be retro-fitted to this Altura Orkney model and still leave it 'waterproof'...

  17. Anthony wrote:

    Hi Chris, nice review. My wife has an Orkney bar bag and I have a super C Carradice one. The only way we can have lights on her bike is to fit them on the top of the Vario handlebars, which is quite convenient;with her old straight-barred bike it was impossible to fit lights (without that extra Multi Clip, that is- this review was the first I'd heard of the clip).
    My Carradice bag comes with a twist-on light bar that fits underneath, and which works fine. There are less internal storage pockets, but the size is about the same. The lid closes with two robust plastic clips, which ironically I thought a bit fiddly, and looked enviously at my wife's Velcro closure; I suppose you just have to make sure you close it properly.
    My wife is very pleased with her bag and I am with mine :-)
    You were saying about not overtightening the bag clamp on the bars; my problem is not tightening it enough so that a headwind blows the bag onto the handlebars: I find it tricky to get a happy medium here. It's also because I angle the bag back a bit to clear the cables.
    Must get it right for LEJOG, anyhow...

  18. mark wrote:

    If you look closely at the rixen kaul bracket you can see the problem is the shiny metal handlebar contacting the shiny plastic bracket – theres very little friction which means the bag can slip down, and if you overdo the tightening you strip the thread. If you put a band of inner tube under the bracket, the bag stays in place no problem. Another option for lighting is one of the "headlights" used by anglers and cavers. Fits round the bag and gives a good light. Just like to add that despite a few problems, this bag is GREAT!

  19. Chris wrote:

    Hi, Mark. I wonder if Anthony was writing about his Carradice bar bag:

    my problem is not tightening it enough so that a headwind blows the bag onto the handlebars...

    With my Altura Orkney bar bag I intentionally leave the retaining screws a little loose – but use the cable to maintain the required angle and amount of tension – so that with the bar bag removed I can tilt the extension bracket quick release bracket upwards and backwards to squeeze the Multiclip's retaining tabs towards each other from underneath to remove the multiclip for use on another bike. (If I don't tilt the extension bracket quick release bracket backwards temporarily I find that the cable prevents the Multiclip's removal.)

    I also wonder if Anthony would consider submitting a guest post of his LEJOG if he wouldn't ordinarily post a trip report online... :smile: Thanks for the comments above.


    Added later, some images relating to the Rixen and Kaul Multiclip Plus:

  20. Anthony wrote:

    Mark,
    Thanks for the tip about the inner tube: I've now fitted that on both bag clips, and it seems so far to work a treat. As above, we'll have to see how it fares on the long journey north (only 2 days to go).

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