A solid handlebar bag is a key part of any bikepacking setup, but the premium options can be spendy. If you don’t want to drop $150+ on a handlebar bag, consider the affordable RockBros Bikepacking Handlebar Bag.
RockBros was one of the first Chinese budget brands to embrace cheap bikepacking bags, and one of the only budget-friendly handlebar bag options back when I bought mine. Today there are other affordable options available, but the RockBros bag still stands out for its large capacity, durable materials, and sturdy, stable design. Mine has seen around 1000 miles of bikepacking on trail, gravel, and pavement, and is still in excellent condition.
The RockBros bikepacking handlebar bag, together with its roomy add-on pouch, holds up to 20 liters of cargo (less on drop bar bikes). You can even strap on an extra item like a small tent for a super-loaded front end — not recommended for technical riding. The handlebar mounting straps are integrated into the bag, in contrast to a harness + dry bag system, which has its pros and cons (more on this below).
I’ve updated this review a few times since I first wrote it, and I’ll tell you up-front how the story ends. I no longer use my RockBros handlebar bag, and I’ll explain why down below. But I do still recommend it for the right person and circumstances: budget-conscious, flat handlebars, plenty of bar-to-tire distance, and a need for large capacity. In that case it’s a solid option for those looking to try out the bikepacking bag style without paying two or three times as much for a premium brand.
Here’s everything I like about the RockBros handlebar bag, a few things I don’t, how I get the most out of it, and how it compares to other bikepacking handlebar bags.
RockBros Handlebar Bag Review
Price: $75 on Amazon
Capacity: 14-15L (bag) + 5-6 L (pouch)
My Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Review Summary: The RockBros Front Roll Handlebar Bag + Pouch is a solid choice for bikepackers on a budget, especially if you ride a flat bar bike with plenty of space between your bars and front tire. The combined max capacity of around 20 liters is a great way to carry a sleeping bag or tent, plus plenty of snacks and other small items in the pouch. The soft attachment system is surprisingly effective and versatile. My biggest gripe is the buckles; the straps loosen over time on rough ground.
Pros and Cons
- Good value for money
- Flexible handlebar mount with adjustable height
- Sturdy and durable materials
- Roll closure on both ends
- Convenient shock cord for holding extra layers
- Pouch is large and very convenient for snacks
- Versatile straps can hold an extra item (tent or dry sack) in addition to front roll + pouch
- Front roll is tricky to stuff while on the bike, especially between drop bars
- When an extra item (eg. tent) is strapped to the roll bag, the straps loosen over time, risking tire rub
- A bit big and burly overall, not a minimalist or lightweight piece of gear
Design and Features
The RockBros handlebar bag set includes two pieces. They’re designed to work well together but can also be used separately:
- Front roll bag that attaches to handlebars (also available on its own if you don’t want the pouch)
- Detachable pouch that attaches to front roll bag, or to handlebars alone for day ride.
The set also comes with a few standalone adjustable straps with buckles. These don’t have an obvious intended use, at least as far as I can tell, but have been quite useful for attaching and cinching down gear in all kinds of places on my bike.
Front Roll Bag
The main bikepacking handlebar bag is essentially a cylindrical dry sack with two soft mounting points that attach to your handlebars. Both ends have a roll closure with buckle, which is handy for accessing small items during the day.
On a mountain bike with flat handlebars, the capacity of the main bag is an impressive 16 liters and the double roll closures are handy for accessing extra layers you might need during the day. On a drop bar bike like my Salsa Fargo or Long Haul Trucker I need to roll the ends quite a few times to reduce the width, and opening and closing the ends is less convenient. This makes the bag a better choice for flat bar bikes in my opinion, since some of its best features (large capacity, double-ended openings) are rendered moot by drop bars. However, the bag WILL work with drop handlebars as long as you account for this decrease in capacity. Even on my drop bar bike there is plenty of room for my lightweight down sleeping quilt.
The mounting system is unusually robust for a bag at this price point. It combines sturdy hook-and-loop straps with a set of optional foam spacers, allowing some flexibility in position of the bag. The spacers keep the bag from resting directly on brake and shift housing (though not as much as a rigid mount would), and allow for adjusting the bag height to help with tire clearance or optimal positioning relative to drop handlebars. I’ve found the mounting system to be reliable and solid.
In addition to the mounting straps, there are two long straps with metal hooks that wrap all the way around the front of the bag. As far as I can tell, these are for attaching an extra item to the front of the bag. I use them frequently for my solo tent. When not needed they can be shortened and hooked into place on the front of the roll bag.
These straps are very convenient for the added capacity, but they have two major shortcomings. First, they loosen over time on rough ground, causing tire clearance issues for smaller bikepackers on small bikes. Second, the metal hooks seem like a disaster waiting to happen. They don’t lock into place and the straps are about the perfect length for catching in your spokes, which would obviously lead to a bad crash. This hasn’t happened to me, but I reinforce the metal hooks with rubber bands to make sure it doesn’t — see Problems and Solutions below for more detail.
The criss-cross of shock cord on the top/front is one of my favorite features, in fact I’ve replicated it with my own DIY version on other bags I’ve used. It’s super convenient for stashing gloves, a light jacket, or even the occasional sandwich. The add-on pouch, which I’ll describe next, attaches by hooking into two loops on the front of the roll bag in a way that still leaves most of the shock cord accessible.
Add-On Front Pouch
The roomy front pouch adds a ton of value to the RockBros handlebar bag set; in fact it might be my favorite part of the whole setup. It comes with the two-bag combo but is also available separately and can be used on its own for day rides, or added to a different handlebar roll bag if you get a little creative with mounting.
With a max capacity of 5 or 6 liters, this roll-top bag holds a surprising amount of stuff. It’s roughly the same size as the Revelate Egress and Ortlieb accessory pack, maybe a tad bigger. It’s significantly bigger than the pouch that comes with the Salsa EXP Anything bundle, and in fact I’ve used it with a Salsa EXP cradle at times when I wanted more capacity. I use the pouch mainly for snacks, headlamp, gloves, anything small that I might need to access quickly during the day. It’s very easy to open with one hand while riding, though closing it while riding is harder (the Revelate Egress design does better here, as it should for over 2x the price).
The back of the bag has several different mounting options, including wide hook-and-loop straps to mount directly to handlebars without the full roll bag. There are also two vertical loops for passing some kind of horizontal strap — perhaps for converting into a hip pack — and some small loops for attaching to the roll bag via metal hooks.
Integrated Bag + Mount Style
There are two broad categories of bikepacking handlebar bags: modular systems with a harness / cradle and separate dry bag, and integrated systems where the dry bag mounts directly to the handlebars. The RockBros bikepacking handlebar bag is the latter, which means it has the same pros and cons as other bags in this category.
The biggest con, in my opinion, is the lack of flexibility. With a harness like the Salsa EXP Cradle or Revelate Handlebar Harness (see my review here) you can swap out dry bags for different purposes. For example I like to use a larger-diameter dry bag with a rigid fork when tire clearance isn’t an issue, and switch to a smaller dry bag for fast-and-light rides or mountain biking with a suspension fork, all with the same harness. You could even forget the dry bag entirely and use the harness for a tent, packraft, etc. But with an integrated system you’re stuck with a single size bag.
The other con to an integrated system is the challenge of packing and unpacking, especially in the rain. When the dry bag detaches easily from the harness you simply throw it in the tent and unpack / repack it there. With the RockBros bag you need to stuff it while it’s attached to the bike. This can be a bit of a hassle, especially with drop handlebars. I find it’s best done with the bike lying on the ground.
The main advantages to an integrated system like the RockBros bag are simplicity and stability. You never need to worry about the bag wriggling loose from harness straps, as can sometimes happen with a narrow dry bag on drop handlebars. For certain setups it may be more fuss to mount and unmount a dry bag than it is to stuff and unstuff it while on the bike.
Some people like integrated systems best, but I’ve come to prefer a modular harness + dry bag system. This is a major reason why I no longer use the RockBros handlebar bag for bikepacking.
If you’re looking for a modular system that’s comparable in price to the RockBros bag, check out the REI Co-op Link Handlebar Bag or Roswheel Handlebar Bag. Both are less expensive and offer the flexibility of a modular system, but neither has a handlebar mount that’s as flexible and robust as the RockBros.
Front Tire Clearance
I’ve used the RockBros handlebar bag on a size small Salsa Fargo (29″ wheels) and a 50 cm Surly Long Haul Trucker (26″ wheels), both with rigid forks. There is plenty of tire clearance on both, EXCEPT when the extra straps are used to attach another item, like my tent, to the roll bag. These straps tend to loosen over time, especially on rough trail, allowing whatever they’re securing to slip lower and potentially rub on the front tire.
The straps are easy to tighten, but it’s a pain to keep doing it over and over. They can be made to loosen more slowly by positioning elastic bands near the buckle, but this doesn’t stop it entirely. In the comments below a reader suggested tarp clips to secure the tail to the main strap, which might be worth a try.
It’s worth noting that if I were to run a suspension fork on my small 29er Fargo this bag would ride way too low. Taller folks might be able to get away with it, but smaller riders would either need a rigid mount system like the Salsa EXP Anything Cradle or a much smaller bag.
Is the RockBros Handlebar Bag waterproof? I’ve yet to fully test it in pouring rain, but it’s been good in light rain and with the ends rolled securely I would expect it to be fully waterproof. That said, I never trust any single bag to keep my down quilt dry in cold and rainy conditions. I use a kitchen trash bag as an inside liner, which works great. I just need to make sure I remember which end the opening is on when it’s time to get my quilt out.
Problems and Solutions
Any bikepacking bag can have its issues, even the expensive ones. Bikepacking bags are tricky to get right across the whole spectrum of riders and setups. Cheap bikepacking bags tend to have even more issues, and this one has a few. Here’s a summary of the inconveniences I’ve encountered and how I solved them.
Drop Bar Width
As with any handlebar roll bag, drop handlebars significantly decrease the capacity. I’ve found two ways to eek out a little more:
- Use the foam spacers to position the bag a bit lower. Especially if you have flared drops, like Salsa Cowchipper or Woodchipper bars, this will give you a bit more capacity.
- Use an adjustable strap around the ends to cinch down the bag’s horizontal length after rolling the ends as tightly as you can. The bag actually comes with a strap that’s perfect for this. I’m not sure this is the intended use, but it works great.
- Depending on the shape of your drop bars, you may be able to position an extra item, like a tent, so it hangs below the drops or sticks out in front. The bag width may be limited by the width of your drops, but the extra item can extend beyond them.
Potentially Dangerous Buckles
The straps are convenient for holding an extra item like a tent, but the non-locking metal buckles make me nervous. During rough riding I have seen these buckles start to slide loose, and have noticed that they are theoretically the perfect length to catch catastrophically in my front spokes.
This has not happened to me, but I take steps to prevent it, and I don’t want it happening to you. I use a rubber band around each buckle, as shown in this picture, to make sure the metal hook can’t slide out of the fabric loop.
As mentioned above, the straps can be used to attach an additional item like a tent. Unfortunately they tend to loosen over time, especially on rough terrain, and need to be re-tightened frequently. I’ve found that cinching the little elastic loop (meant to hold the tail of the strap) right up against the buckle slows this a bit, but doesn’t stop it entirely. A reader suggested tarp clips in the comments below (clip the tail to the main strap) which sounds promising. Note that if you don’t need to attach an extra item, this isn’t an issue and the bag itself stays in place nicely.
Other Cheap Bikepacking Handlebar Bags
In the budget category, there are now a few other well-priced offerings. To consider:
- REI Co-op Link Handlebar Bag (harness style)
- Roswheel Handlebar Bag (harness style)
- Topeak Frontloader (harness style)
- Rhinowalk Bikepacking Handlebar Bag Set
I haven’t personally tried any of those cheap handlebar bags, but I have a few observations if you’re comparing them to the RockBros. All except the Topeak are cheaper than the RockBros. all except the Rhinowalk lack a front pouch, and all except the Rhinowalk are modular harness + dry bag style. All except the Topeak use a more minimalist handlebar attachment style without spacers, which is not ideal in terms of cable rub but does help the bag ride higher and tighter on bumpy terrain. None of them have the shock cord I like so much on the RockBros, but you could probably add your own DIY version.
If you’re really on a budget or just going out on your first ride or two, don’t overlook one of the most classic budget bikepacking gear hacks of all time: a dry sack attached to the handlebars with two straps. Some people incorporate a handlebar extender to lift the bag away from shift and brake housing.
The RockBros Handlebar Bag isn’t perfect, but it’s a good value for the right person. I especially recommend it for the budget-conscious rider who needs a large capacity handlebar bag, rides a big bike or rigid fork (so has plenty of space above the front tire), and ideally rides with flat handlebars to make full use of the bag’s width and double-ended opening.
Other Bikepacking Resources
If you found this review helpful, you might also like these other bikepacking gear reviews and tips:
- Moosetreks Frame Bag Review
- RockBros Saddle Bag Review
- Big Sky Soul 1P Tent Review
- Creative Budget Bikepacking Gear Ideas
- Water Purification for Bikepackers
Or, check out the full list of bikepacking resources here.
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