Astral Handle Bar Bag: Quick Review
We recently had a look at two bags from Lead Out!, one of them being a small ‘burrito’ bar bag that I found useful enough to leave on my road bike full time.
But I did wonder if a bit bigger bag would be even more handy for the gravel bike. Not a full width bag that would be more like an overnighter deal, but just a Momma Bear bag. And that is what the new bar bag from Astral is…a Momma Bear of a bar bag that seems well made and functional, although a few tweaks might be suggested.
What It Is: The Astral handle bar bag, like the Lead Out! bag before it, straps to the handlebar on either side of the stem and fastens with a bit of shock cord around the head tube or wherever makes the most sense. It has two stretchy side pockets that are big enough to hold odds and ends and has multiple lashing points sewn into the front of the bag. The same lash points on the upper section of the bag allow for side to side adjustment of the bar straps in case you need to work around conflicts.
There is a bungee cord on the front of the Astral bag that is pretty lightweight, but looks like it would hold a light jacket, etc. The rest of the bag is a generous single compartment, large enough to easily hold a standard water bottle with room to spare. One thing to note is how well the Astral bag holds it’s shape even when empty. As well, the way the opening is rotated up when unzipped makes the bag very easy to access.
There is a very small 1/4 pouch of sorts sewn into the inside of the lid that I assume is to hold a cell phone. My iPhone in the ‘normal size’ just fit into it.
I received the bag about the time I was heading out on a solo loop that would be 40 miles of riding before any resupply, most of that being uphill. Although I always ride with my Tangle bag (slim frame bag) on the Lynskey, not having the Astral handle bar bag would have seen me grabbing my lightest Camelbak and using it for food and essentials to keep my jersey pockets empty.
I put a large mini pump and a water bottle in the Tangle Bag and all the items you see on the table into the Astral bar bag. There was still room left over. The rest of the Tangle Bag was held for shed layers…arm and leg warmers, etc.
It all worked really well, although there were some things I would change/address, and then there is the small elephant in the room that affects all bags like this.
To begin with, the small bungee that fixes the bag to the head tube is too short. Astral is aware of this and is already supplying longer cords. I would like to have a secure way to hold keys/fobs so they do not get lost in the bag’s internals. Astral is already looking at this as well.
I would not mind longer bar straps as well so I could ‘relax’ the fit of the bag and let it sag a bit lower. As it is, it prevented my Bontrager blinky from sitting pointed level down the road. It also got in the way of cables/hoses like all of these bags do.
Enter the elephant into the room.
Real estate success is often defined as “location, location, location” as well as the saying “never get involved in a land war in Asia”. But I digress. The handlebar and stem areas are precious and crowded. Computer brackets, lights of all kinds, cables, hoses, bells….it’s all trying to live in harmony.
Getting a bar bag to be there as well is asking a lot. Now if you have an electronic shifting set-up, you have less cabling clutter to deal with. But I do not want to give up my daytime safety light or computer mount to run a bar bag. Of course, I made it work, but I am not sure what the easy answer is.
I do plan on swapping out the main straps for a longer set to allow the bag to drop a bit lower. It will also allow for more free movement in the bag, so we shall see how that plays out. I already had gone from a bar mounted computer bracket to a steer tube mounted type to allow for a new light I have been testing, I prefer the computer out in front of the handlebar, not behind it, so I am moving it back.
At The Finish: It seems that some kind of simple ‘spacer’ between the bag and the bar would let a bag sit out enough to allow for free cable movement (I had some cable bind on sharp turns) and reduce issues with other bar mounted widgets. I also would not load any bar bag down with heavy items. Now the Astral bag is not big enough to overload in any serious way, but that location is not a great place to carry heavy things unless you are riding a touring bike with frontal weight taken into consideration.
Then there is the thought of aerodynamics. Or the lack of it. Of course the bar bag is a bit of a shoe box into the wind, but frankly any reduction in pure speed is more than made up for by the practical aspects of the bag. If you get entered into a gravel bike TT race, just remove it for max zoominess.
Besides all that, the Astral handle bar bag is really quite good. It is easy to get into and is a very useful size. It looks well made and the main shortcomings I noticed are already being addressed by Astral. I really enjoyed having it on the big ride and I expect to use this quite a bit. Frankly, I cannot see why every gravel rider would not want one.
For a first effort from a wheel company, it is really quite well done. It’s a keeper.
For more about the Astral Handle Bar Bag see the webpage here.
NOTE: Astral sent over the Astral handle Bar Bag to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We were not paid, nor bribed, for this review and we will always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.