Kayakers, rafters and canoers have always relied on Watershed Drybags, the industry pioneer of 100 percent submersible drybags, to keep sensitive gear dry. Now, Watershed is hitting the bike trails with the Watershed McKenzie ($129), their first-ever handlebar bike bag!
What I loved
- Made in the U.S.A. With so many products mass-produced and made overseas, it’s a pleasure to see a product that is neither. Waterhshed products are designed, tested and handmade in North Carolina. As a result of this commitment to quality, expect your Watershed product to take up to two-weeks before it can be shipped.
- Outstanding Durability. The Watershed Mckenzie is made from polyurethane-coated Cordura fabric to make it highly abrasion-resistant and environmentally friendly. Seam joints are triple-layered and welded instead of sewn.
- Waterproof. Watershed takes the concept of a Ziplock bag to the extreme with an airtight and waterproof seal called the ZipDry seal that can sustain up to 300 feet of underwater pressure.
- Secure handlebar mounting system. Mounting is simplified with an adjustable bungee cord and two substantial Elasto-Lok Ice Axe buckles that fit any width of handlebars. A Velcro loop on the back attaches to the stem for extra security and stability.
- Performance. I did not find that a fully-loaded McKenzie detracted from my bike’s handling. Where it can detract, however, is when the McKenzie isn’t fully loaded. As a result, it bounces on the handlebars and is distracting. I mitigated this by adjusting the side buckles to secure the roll top (a la roll-top drybag style) and tighten the compression buckles.
- Reflectivity. For cyclists who ride at night, the Watershed McKenzie offers a high visibility 3M reflective tape that reflects headlights and street lights. It also has a webbing loop on the front to attach a blinkie light.
- ZipDry seal opening. The ZipDry seal, the pizza resistance on all Watershed drybags, will not snag, break or get caught on fabric, like standard zippers. It’s also glove-compatible, even with bulky winter riding gloves. However, there is an art to opening the ZipDry seal. Although it’s instinctive to grab the two tabs on each side of seal and pull apart in opposite directions (like opening a bag of chips), don’t. Even if you do manage to open the ZipDry seal this way, it requires strength and could tear the tabs. Instead, simply grab each tab and pull them towards each other in an “S” motion along the length of the seal until a small opening appears. Then pull to open all the way.
What could be better
- Lack of internal organization. For bike commuting, I like separating items to make them easier to retrieve. A tool pocket would be a nice feature on future iterations. It’s possible that this could add to the weight but I would be fine with reducing the size to maybe ten or twelve liters to off-set the weight.
- Time-consuming to open. The McKenzie has two side buckles, two front buckles and the ZipDry seal. Entering the McKenzie in a hurry to retrieve a wallet or a phone is a three-step process. In future iterations, an enhancement could be to simply omit the two side buckles or add a slash pocket for carrying items like a phone or wallet.
Final thoughts and a parting shot
As a sea kayaker, I’m familiar with Watershed products. Specifically my Watershed Aleutian deckbag. The deck of a sea kayak is never a dry place. From waves that continuously slap the deck to the full submerging when rolling, I’m always impressed with its performance and the thoughtful details and quality craftsmanship that Watershed added for the sea kayaker.
In a market that is flooded with waterproof cycling bags, the Watershed McKenzie’s outstanding handmade in the U.S.A quality and durability gives it a definite edge as Watershed emerges into the cycling accessory market. It’s not perfect, it has its two annoyances which I stated above, but it’s a great start and I’m look forward to/hoping to seeing more cycling products from Watershed. Panniers maybe? Come on, Watershed! You got this.