Bar Bag Grouptest

Bags from Rapha, Restrap and Wizard Works

I often get asked which bar bag is the best for a gravel (or any other bike for that matter) and it’s always a difficult question to answer as everyone’s bike is different. I also get asked why I don’t put stuff in my jersey pocket. The answer there is if i put all the stuff listed below in my pockets the jersey might collapse, I don’t always wear a road cycling jersey so have no pockets to use and finally, if you’ve ever ridden off road in the UK most of the time anything in a back pocket will soon have a coating of mud.

The things riders need to carry is different too and how they configure their handlebar is different. For example i use a GPS computer but it sits on a mount that is attached to the top cap on my stem. many people prefer the out front computer mount that attached to the actual handlebar and this can mean the computer interferes with the way a particular bar bag opens and functions. Some people will be bike packing and fill their easy to access bag with snacks and necessities that they need on the go so a bag that is easy to open and close again without stopping is the ideal for them. Others are just out for a day ride with no time stresses so stopping and accessing the bag isn’t an issue. Cycle commuters might want to fill the bag with a light for emergency use, tubes and a pump and a weatherproof jacket etc etc. So you can see there are lots of needs and I can only base this review on the sort of stuff I carry in a bar bag. Here’s the not quite definitive list of things I’ve put in the review bags.

A GoPro and mini tripod, Gore Shakedry jacket, inner tube, multi tool and tubeless repair gadget, cycling cap and my phone. these go in every time. At other times depending on the bike I’ve added a mini pump, at least two sandwiches and lately some gloves. All the test bags were able to carry this amount of stuff easily, some with room to stuff other things in and some at capacity.

The Rapha Bag

First off let me say that Rapha did not send this bag to me. I’ve asked in the past for items from them and they told me they do not support independent reviews, make of that what you will. I know that their bar bags are very popular though so I purchased one for this test. One to see what they are actually like and two to see what Rapha are afraid of when they haven’t paid for a review!

The Rapha bag differs from the Restrap and Wizard Works bag in that it is a rectangular design rather than a barrel shape. It’s capacity is 2L. Made in Vietnam the bag’s material has a smooth almost artificial feel to it and that has proved to be fairly durable and shower proof. the interior is lined on the back facing the bike and on the front facing forwards. The front lining also has two interior mesh pockets, these are useful to keep cards or keys separate from the rest of the contents and stop all the rummaging about at café stops or petrol station picnics. The bag also has a front zipped exterior pocket which is also useful for quick access. I used it to great effect for storing travel tickets. The fastening system on the Rapha bag works well and easily clips together over handlebars and can be cinched down and locked if carrying heavier loads. The plastic clips do rattle annoyingly when riding though even when tightened down. They do not however come loose over bumpy terrain. The bag has a stabilising strap that fits around the bike head tube and it does a good job of stopping the bag from bouncing around. The straps have limited placement points though and if you run lights, a bell or other stuff on your bars there maybe issues with fitment especially if you want the bag dead centre.

The bag has no stiffener inside and as such heavier items do find their way to the middle and you can suffer a bit of saggy bag syndrome. The Rapha bag is the only one of the three that comes with a carry strap as standard and this is useful as the quick release nature of the mounting clips means it easy to take the bag with you if you leave the bike. There have been no durability issues throughout the test, I have heard that the mounting points have had warranty issues but nothing of that nature has happened.

The placement of the zip may make access slightly more difficult if you use an out front computer mount.

The Restrap Bag

Restrap very kindly sent me one of their Cannister bags to try out when I asked them If they’d like to join the grouptest. The fact that they are confident to do that is notable when you choose which bag you might like to buy.

The Restrap Cannister bag has a barrel design and is hand made in Yorkshire of a cordura fabric with one YKK zip along the top. The capacity is 1.5L. The interior is lined with a contrasting colour material which aids finding stuff in low light conditions. This also stops rattling of items such as keys etc, some of us absolutely hate that! There are no inner pockets but the cannister does come with a pocket at each end of the exterior and those are elasticated. There is a light loop on the front but non of my front lights were compatible with the loop and so I wasn’t able to try it out.

The retention system is a simple webbing strap and clasp, these are fixed in position so there’s no way to adjust them for bar items, I struggled with this on night rides where the light mount forced the bag to one side, aesthetically not at all pleasing, good job it was dark! The bag has a headtube retaining system that uses paracord and a spring clip. This is easy to use and secure. Once cinched down and the clip is in the lock position the straps did not come loose even with heavier items inside. Restrap provide sponge spacers which fit on the straps to enable you to get you fingers behind the bag and allow more hand positions. Unfortunately because there is nothing stiffening the bag this just seemed to make the saggy bag syndrome the cannister suffered from even worse. I had no trouble with hand positions on the other two bags that don’t have these sponge spacers.

The cordura fabric is pretty bomb proof and the bag looked the same at the end of the test period as it did at the start. There are no rattles from the straps but the fixed nature of those straps and the sagginess was a disappointment. Fix these issues and it’d be a top quality item.

Wizard Works Lil’ Presto Barrel bag

Wizard Works also wanted to join in the grouptest fun and their bag is hand made by a small team in London, they sent out a Lil presto barrel bag straight away after I contacted them.

The Lil’ Presto is another cordura bag this time with a YKK “aqua guard” zip along the top. There is webbing along the front and the rear of the bag allowing many mounting options so no issues with cluttered bars or the bag being off centre. The retention system uses Voile straps and what an absolute delight these are to use, easy to cinch down or adjust even when riding. The Voile Strap fixing is easily the best out of all three systems on the test. The bag is secured around the head tube to stop unwanted movement with a paracord and spring clip. Even here there are 3 mounting points. There are no internal pockets but the bag is lined and is what Wizard Works call a “hard shell” design. in short this gives the bag structure and rigidity so no saggy bag syndrome here. The lining also stops rattles from items jiggling on the harder shell. There is a pocket externally either end of the bag but these are not elasticated

The bag proved to be durable, weather proof and I’ll admit because of the design it was the one I used to most, It has only slightly more capacity that the next biggest bag on test from Restrap but it was surprising how much stuff the Lil’ presto could take. Being able to open and close the bag was great for snacking and especially for me as I’m constantly taking the GoPro and tripod in and out if the bag. An out front computer mount may slow this down though

The lil’ presto can be used with a shoulder strap but you’ll have to buy that separately. The Wizard Works bag is around £20 more than the other two but for the numerous mounting options, the voile straps and the hard shell design I’d say it was totally worth it.

To make the bag perfect I’d add a paracord “bungy” strap to the front just for those emergency sausage roll purchases when the bag is already full. Luckily for a few quid more Wizard Works will do a custom bag including colours

mounting tips

All three bags on test sit low enough to run a light on the bars without effecting the light pattern on my bike but your bike might be different. The best tip for mounting I can give is give your cables and hoses a trim. Long cables sticking out the front of the bike will interfere with the bag and make it sit higher or give issues when turning the bars. Nice short (obviously not too short!) cables also look great when there’s no bag on the bike too.

You can find more details about the bags below (non affiliate links)



Wizard Works

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