Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag and rack review: well-built, very roomy and easy to get into

The big, bold, retro-looking Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag has a large carry capacity and is easily accessible on the move

Cyclists using Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag and rack
(Image: © Pat Kinsella)

Advnture Verdict

An excellent gear-carrying option for bikepacking and cycle touring adventures on relatively smooth surfaces, from lanes and gravel roads to fire trails and non-technical tracks, the Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag is stylish and made from good materials. It can hold heaps of kit on the inside and outside, and it is very easy to access when you’re on the move. It performs less well on lumpy, bumpy technical trails, however, when the lid bounces around. You’ll need a rack to use it on your bike, though, which makes it an expensive investment, but used in the conditions it’s designed for it will provide long-lasting and useful service. The pack is easy to remove from the rack when you’re parked up, and it comes with a shoulder strap for use while walking.


  • +

    Large volume

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    Accessible while riding, with one-hand opening

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    Extra mesh pockets

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    Weather resistant

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    Protective semi-rigid construction

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    Reflective features for safety

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    Good range of colors


  • -

    Requires (expensive) rack

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    No waterproof seal

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    Lid bounces when riding rough ground

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    Semi-rigid construction means it can’t be packed down during travel

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    Retro look not for everyone

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Meet the reviewer

best fleece jackets: Artilect Halfmoon Bio Pullover
Pat Kinsella

Pat has hiked all over the world, his adventures taking him to Mont Blanc, the roof of Western Europe; the Norwegian Alps; the highest peaks on Australia; and New Zealand’s Great Walks – among others. He’s an experienced tester of hiking footwear and gives each pair a thorough thrashing before reviewing.

Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag: first impressions

The huge Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag, mounted on its own bespoke rack (required, but sold separately) is one of the hero products of the bikepacking storage range that resulted from the recent and ongoing collaboration between Swedish pack and outdoor apparel makers Fjällräven and Californian bike gurus Specialized. Both brands are renowned for producing top quality gear, so my expectations were high.

Cyclist using Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag and rack

You’ll need to buy a specially designed rack to attach the Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag to your bike (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

• List price: bag: $100 (US) / £90 (UK) / €100 (EU); rack: $100 (US) / £90 (UK) / €100 (EU)
• Materials: outer: Vinylon F; lining: 100% recycled nylon
Interior volume: 9L
• Size (HxWxD): 23cm x 28cm x 20cm / 9in x 11in x 8in
• Weight (empty): 703g / 9oz
Compatibility: Can be used on most mountain and gravel bikes
• Colors: Ochre / Red / Black / Green

The design decisions definitely came from the folks at Fjällräven, with the prevailing style being much more European than North American. This handlebar bag in particular has quite a retro look and feel, not dissimilar to Fjällräven’s signature Kånken Classic Backpack, one of the world’s most famous and instantly recognizable daypacks

Not everyone will love this look, to be honest – it does give off a certain bike basket vibe that some people might struggle with, especially in the brighter colors. Personally, however, I love its capacious storage space, the protective semi-rigid construction, the extra mesh pockets and the fact that it’s so easy to access the main compartment. 

On the downside, you do need to invest in – and spend time setting up – the housing rack before you can get packing and set off riding the trails. This rack is essential in order to use the pack on the bike, so it’s a shame that bag and mount aren’t sold together as a combined package. The bag does come with a shoulder strap so you can carry it when you’ve parked your steed and you’re walking around, which is a nice option to have, but the primary purpose of this pack is definitely for cycle touring, bikepacking, commuting and other pedal-powered missions.

The combined rig isn’t cheap, but it’s well designed, robust and well put together, for years of adventures in the saddle, whether you’re riding a mountain bike, a gravel bike or a commuter bike. But how does it compare to some of the other best bikepacking packs on the market? I’ve been trail-testing the Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag for the last year to find out.

Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag: design and functionality

Cyclist using Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag and rack

Attaching the aluminum rack to your handlebar is pretty quick and easy, and mounting the bag on the rack even easier (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

As mentioned, the Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag can be carried as a shoulder bag while you’re walking, and a removable strap is supplied for this purpose. But although this might be useful for those times when you’re parked up and you want to take the entire bag with you for a stroll (or to a café or bar), as opposed to leaving it on the bike, this product is primarily designed as a gear-carrying container for bikepacking. 

Before you can use it for this purpose you first need to buy and install the metal rack, which is (annoyingly) sold separately. Setting the aluminum rack up on your bike is pretty quick and easy to do, however, with a couple of clasps attaching to the handlebars, one on either side of the bar stem. A cord then loops over the center of the bars to keep the pack from drooping when you add weight, or when riding across rougher ground (this latter element is a bit fiddly, and doesn’t feel particularly effective or robust).

Rack for Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag

The rack sans bag. Annoyingly, it’s sold separately and is not cheap (Image credit: Fjällräven/Specialized)

Mounting the pack on the rack is also easy to do – you simply feed two straps beneath the metal rungs, buckle them shut, pull the straps tight and make sure any excess material is kept securely out of the way with Velcro tabs.

When it comes to the bag itself, comparisons with Fjällräven’s other storage solutions don’t stop with style and appearances: like most of the brand’s bags and backpacks, this handlebar bag is made with hardwearing, weather-resistant Vinylon F material, backed by a semi-rigid casing and a lining made with 100% recycled nylon.

Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag and rack

The Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag cradled in its bespoke rack (Image credit: Fjällräven/Specialized)

With a rounded top, the overall shape of the bag is a bit like a treasure chest, and since it boasts almost 10L of interior storage space, you can fill it with all sorts of valuable kit for bikepacking escapades. In addition to this, there are mesh pockets on both sides of the bag, and also on the top.

The opening side of the pack faces towards the rider, to make it easy to access while cycling. When you’re carrying the bag over your shoulder, the top of the main compartment shuts with a popper mounted on a piece of leather on a looped elastic cord; but when the bag’s mounted on the bike, the only way to keep the pack shut is by looping the elasticated cord around a purpose-built hook on the metal rack. While this doesn’t provide a waterproof (or very firm) seal, it does make opening the bag with one hand quick and easy while riding.

Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag: on the trails

Cyclist using Fjällräven/Specialized handlebar bag and rack

The lid is fairly secure on smooth surfaces but bounces irritatingly on rough surfaces (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

I’ve been testing the Fjällräven and Specialized bikebacking bags out over the course of a full year, using them for numerous bikepacking adventures, both on my mountain bike and my gravel bike. These outings have included various escapades across Dartmoor in spring and fall, to a spectacular solo bikepacking mission to cycle to England’s highest pub in the Yorkshire Dales – following the Swale Trail along the eponymous river from the brilliant Dales Bike Centre before pedalling over Black Moor (along a rare rideable section of the Pennine Way) and Stonesdale Moor to the 528m-high Tan Hill Inn, where you can camp on the moor, near the pub. 

I was also lucky enough to join a two-day trip around the Peak District with a bike-guiding company called Pannier while using this pack, accompanied by representatives from Fjällräven and Specialized, starting from Sheffield city center, riding over Hallam Moor and the High Peak, past the iconic climbing crag of Stanage Edge, to camp in Edale, beneath Kinder Scout.  

I love this handlebar bag for its generous load capacity and ease of access while on the move. It provided the perfect place for me to carry my large DSLR camera while riding, enabling me to grab the camera in seconds when I wanted to stop and shoot something, and there was ample space to wrap the camera in a down jacket that came in useful later in camp. If you’re cycling in uncertain weather, it’s the perfect place to have a waterproof jacket or some warm gloves

Fjällräven/Specialized Handlebar Bag mesh sides

There are mesh pockets on both sides of the bag (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

The lid can be opened with one hand while you’re on the move, so you can fill the pack with pieces of kit that you might want to access whilst riding, including GPS devices, but you can also use the large space to carry bulkier items like camping stoves, fuel and food.

The exterior side mesh pockets are ideal for stashing snacks, or perhaps a Buff-style scarf or sunglasses, while the mesh pouch on the top is an excellent place to keep a sheet map and compass, if you still use such things to navigate or at least confirm your position (as I do).

While impressive for its carry capacity, however, I did discover a few niggles with this pack. The material it’s constructed from is weatherproof, but the way it shuts when mounted on the rack (with an elastic cord looping around a hook) doesn’t create a waterproof or particularly secure-looking seal.

Cyclists using Fjällräven/Specialized Handlebar Bag and Rack

Its large capacity may tempt you to overfill the Fjällräven/Specialized Handlebar Bag but carrying too much weight can affect the way your bike handles (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

The lid actually bounces around (and even peeps slightly open) when you’re riding over rough terrain, making an annoying noise and prompting you to question the safety of the contents. You can purchase a fully waterproof cover separately, but along with the bag itself, and the rack, that all adds up to a pretty hefty invesetment.

The cord intended to stop the pack tilting forward is fiddly and flimsy, and if you don’t use it the bag will definitely droop as soon as you put anything heavy in it (carrying too much weight on the bars is best avoided anyway, because it can affect the way your bike handles on tricky trails).

Pat Kinsella

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and Instagram here.