Real world experience
We recently enjoyed a cycling journey through the mountains and peninsulas of County Kerry in southwest Ireland.
This was an excellent opportunity to try out my new xPac x10 handlebar bag and a set of roll-top panniers. We do lots of rides locally and make occasional longer trips regionally, but rarely do we get the opportunity to use our bags day after day for nearly two weeks. Both performed great and I was grateful for the hard test they received. Making and using are two distinct aspects of bringing a bag to fruition and its important to get that immediate feedback that extended, repeated, hard use can bring.
My handlebar bag is a medium size and has the optional exterior side-pocket feature that I really appreciated. As the saying goes: A place for everything, and everything in its place. This is easier when you've got lots of pockets to keep things sorted and I was able to access food, clothing, electronics, wallet and other items quickly and efficiently. Tools were housed in a matching tool roll in the front pocket and that system worked well. If I needed anything I knew just where to go and the tools were easily accessed from the roll.
Likewise, the panniers were great--this was my first time using roll-top bag and I really liked them for the quick and easy access they provide. The roll-top also creates a nicely adjustable storage space that accommodates greater or lesser amounts of stuff.
The back roads of County Kerry are frequently lined with blackberry bramble and there was a certain amount of brushing up now and again when we had to move to the side to make way for a passing car or to lean over for a few ripe berries. Despite some abrasion, the bags did fine. I suppose that's the periodic hazzard of low-rider mounted panniers.
We traveled with a friend who used mostly bike-packing style bags and he was certainly hampered in mounting and removing his bags whereas my bags were simple and quick to mount. My handlebar bag employs the combination of a Dock-It™ decaleur and a set of RaClips, while the panniers are held onto the rack with the traditional hooks and bungee. Our friend also struggled to pack easily because the small bags required care to fit things in while having the big spaces of the handlebar bag and panniers allowed easy and quick packing.
As long as all the pocket covers were hooked in place, I was completely confident in the stability of my bags and the only time anything went awry was when I laid the bike down on its side the panniers had a habit of unhooking from the top bar of the racks. Despite being a minor annoyance, I'm contemplating a solution to keep this from being an issue. Likewise, I find the elastic/hook pocket closure to be simple and effective, but I'd love to figure out a system that almost closes itself.
I posted a few more pictures and a bit more about our trip on my non-bag blog Yurtville
Cyclist and craftsman.