The Bike Bag Dude Handlebar Roll and Sling is a simple concept – think ‘hotdog-like bag for backcountry mountain biking’ and you’re halfway there.
The Roll (the ‘corn dog’) is a tube of tough, waterproof fabric, with Velcro-sealing roll-top closures at each end.
To mount the Roll to your bike you wrap the Velcro straps of the Sling (that’s the hotdog bun) around your handlebar, as snug as poss, with the Sling empty and dangling from its straps.
Once the Sling is attached to the bars, you shove your gear in the Roll and close up the ends (so it poofs out, like a corn dog). Then strap-wrap the Roll / corn dog in the Sling / hotdog bun, using the straps of the Sling to secure the Roll tight against the handlebar. And that’s it, you’re ready to go.
Or so the theory goes, but the first couple of times I tried to do this, I inadvertently attached the Sling to the bars with a bit of space between the two. When I started riding, that bit of length turned into slack, which allowed the Roll sway and shudder with the vibrations from the terrain, giving the Sling the momentum it needed to work even looser. I had to keep stopping to tighten everything up, or the whole package would droop down onto my front tyre. After my third trip with the BBD Roll and Sling swaying and shaking, I discovered I’d worn away the paintwork on the head tube of my bike – it was time to swallow my pride and find out what I was doing wrong.
Kath and Kedan Griffin at BBD got back to me very quickly. They patiently explained how I could improve my loading technique – ‘You have to snail-curl the Velcro around your handlebar really tightly’ – and emailed me a couple of visual aids to nudge my imagination in the right direction. It worked. ‘Snailing’ is the business – and my new favourite verb.
The BBD turns out a pretty tidy product. I’ve done a bit of work with needle and thread in my time, so I know a sturdy, well-chosen, well-placed seam when I see one, and the standard of work on the Roll and Sling is good enough to earn it a spot on my gaze-and-drool shelf. But I’ve made this piece of kit earn its keep. It’s withstood rushed and rough packing, jostling in the boot of the car, the usual trials of use and my failure to read the instructions.
The Roll and Sling are made of a fabric called VX Series Laminate, which is a type of sailcloth made by a company called DIMENSION-POLYANT. Apparently, it’s made of layers of fibres that are laminated together. If the TLC I’ve been handing out is anything to go by, this posh sailcloth stuff is tough, and just the stuff for bike bags. It also seems to be waterproof – a trait that’s supported by the Roll’s flat-fell seams and Velcro and roll-up end closures. During a trip to Roaring Meg Hut, up Cardona way (in the New Zealand South Island, where the weather can change with little warning), I assigned my beloved downie jacket to the care of the Roll to protect it from weather hazards with not a thought about using a second stuff sack.
That sailcloth, combined with whatever has been used to line and stiffen the wrap part of the Sling has proven to be pretty tough. It survived my earliest attempts to attach the system to my bars, which led to one or two instances of the straps slackening off and the whole package dropping down onto my front tyre. (A problem that disappeared once I had the low-down on snailing the Sling straps.) On a later trip through Central Australia – home to a surprising variety of prickles and thorns – I discovered that the Sling also doubles as a sturdy camping seat mat.
Up until I discovered the BBD’s Roll and Sling setup, the handlebar of my mountain bike had held nothing heavier than a bike computer and lights. I’d always assumed loading the bars would affect the steering, the way a handlebar basket does. But unlike those picturesque-but-useless traditional baskets, the Roll loads up close to the bars, so it doesn’t drag the front wheel round in spontaneous steep turns.
With the Roll, my bike’s handlebar has become a good place to distribute some of the carrying-weight on backcountry mountain bike trips. The Sling positions the Roll pretty close to my bike’s axles, height- and length-wise, so the bike handles almost as compliantly as it does sans baggage, and having a bit of the weight at the front of the bike actually helps keep that front wheel on the ground on climbs.
The Roll can hold up to 10 litres of stuff (that’s around 10.5 liquid quarts), so it’s a good place to pack the bulky stuff, like the tent and clothing, and is a good place to to stash all those small but heavy bits and bobs for camping, with space for a luxury or two. (Coffee maker, you’re back on the list!)
Who is this Bike Bag Dude?
The ‘Bike Bag Dude’ is actually a dude and a dude-ette – Kedan and Kath Griffin. They design and sew the Bike Bag Dude bike bags from their workshop, which is at the back of their house in Newcastle, just north of Sydney in Australia. The BBD ships around the world. For more info, check out Nic’s Bike Bag Dude Frame Bag review.