Heading out for an adventure or long gravel grind and need more gear and calories than your jersey pockets can hold? Or maybe you want to keep the weight off your back and allow your handlebar to do the heavy lifting?
Ortlieb started in 1982 after its eponymous founder Hartmut Ortlieb designed waterproof panniers and a handlebar bag. In the subsequent three decades, the company expanded its product lines to include bags for bikepacking, bike messengers and urban commuters. The company produces its products in Germany and distributes them in the U.S. via Ortlieb USA.
Ortlieb offers a dozen handlebar bags. Most are aimed at day-to-day commuting, but the waterproof Accessory Pack we've tested is included in Ortlieb’s Bikepacking line, perhaps a hint that its main purpose is to provide easy access for bikepackers to access smaller items during stops, not while riding. The company's website says as much: "The best place to put your snacks, smartphone, rain slicker and other items is in your ORTLIEB Accessory-Pack."
Our resident pack rats have put the $75 Ortlieb Accessory Pack to the test as a handlebar bag for long gravel rides. Read on to see if it should make the packing list for your next two-wheel adventure.
Pack It Up, Pack It In
On its website, Ortlieb bills the Accessory Pack as … an accessory … for its bikepacking handlebar bags. However, the Pack includes velcro straps that allow it to double as a handlebar bag with a size suited to day-long gravel adventures.
The 206g (claimed) bag measures 17cm tall, 30cm wide and 5 cm deep for a total capacity of 3.5L. Ortlieb prides itself on its waterproof bags, and the nylon Accessory Pack is no different. The bag comes with a roll top and a metal hook to help keep things secure and waterproof.
The back of the bag has velcro straps that allow you to affix the bag to your handlebar. It also includes loops for a strap if you want to use it as a shoulder bag or even waist pack.
For our testing, we installed the Accessory Pack on one of our drop bar gravel bikes. The two velcro straps allowed us to attach it to the drop bar (it will fit on flat bars as well), and a foam pad and strap securely affix the bag to the head tube. Installation was straightforward and took a mere minute.
Ortlieb Accessory Pack Ride Review
Compared to jersey pockets or a small hydration pack, the Accessory Pack can carry an impressive load and certainly takes that load off your back. You enjoy a better sense of freedom and can take better advantage of the sweat-wicking abilities of your high-tech jersey material.
The Accessory Pack allowed us to accessorize our ride with the necessities for a good gravel grind on a bike without bottle cages (’cross is coming, we hear). We loaded the bag down with an insulated long-sleeve jersey, knee warmers, several energy bars and two large water bottles. It took a bit of effort to secure the roll top hook when loaded down with such a haul, but the bag kept it all secure.
With the spring weather and its big temperature swings, we appreciated the empty jersey pockets and ability to dress in layers without worrying where we were going to cram them as the day’s temperature increased. Riding companions can enjoy such carrying capacity as well—as pack rats can bring a surplus of calories—and have plenty to share.
The velcro strap setup kept the bag secure but out of the way even when riding on the flats of our drop bars. The head tube strap kept things secure, even when we had it loaded up with two bottles of hydration.
The Accessory Pack stayed secure and carried our gear as expected. If we had quibbles, they were the result of its primary design as an attachment to another bag. The headtube pad, which only has one hole for the velcro strap, worked its way to the side of the headtube. On rougher roads, we would definitely appreciate having it in place, so one possible improvement would be to thread the strap through both sides of the pad to help keep it in place.
The other challenge we faced was accessing the pack while on the bike. The metal hook enclosure faces forward, making opening and closing the bag while riding akin to distracted driving.
If you are racing, you are likely to forgo the aerodynamic drag of a handlebar bag, but even if just out for a ride, you may want instant access to the contents of your handlebar bag. If that’s the case, you will be disappointed with the front-oriented access of the Accessory Pack. Access is best managed while you are off the bike, but if you're organized and plan right, you can transfer food and gear to your jersey pockets and still benefit from the extra carrying capacity it provides during gravel racing.
Overall, the Ortlieb Accessory Pack was a good accessory for toting our gear and grub for long gravel grinds. Ortlieb's packs come with an impressive five-year warranty that begs the pack rat to put the Accessory Pack to good use. The construction seems top-notch, and we had no issues during our testing.
For more on the Accessory Pack, see the specifications and photo gallery below. Stay tuned for a review of Ortlieb's large-capacity frame, saddle and handlebar bags.
Andrew Yee and Zachary Schuster contributed to this report.
Ortlieb Accessory Pack Specifications
Weight: 206g (claimed)
Material: Waterproof nylon
Dimensions: 17cm x 30cm x 5cm
Max Capacity: 2.2 lbs (1kg)
Warranty: 5 years
More Info: ortliebusa.com