Porcelain Rocket Nigel: The Standalone Handlebar Bag
Porcelain Rocket just released Nigel, a new waterproof, roll-top, standalone handlebar bag designed to carry a camera, phone, gloves, snacks, and other goodies out on all-day gravel rides. We had the chance to give it a try…
First off, where’d Nigel come from? This bag’s namesake was in fact a male gannet, a monogamous, seafaring bird, who met his bittersweet end just a couple months ago. According to the National Post, “Nigel was cut from a different feather than the other birds of his species that, for decades, had flown past the predator-free island of Mana, just off the New Zealand coast, without ever thinking to stop and build a nest.” Over five years ago, New Zealand wildlife officials set up concrete decoys in hopes of attracting gannets to Mana. Nigel was the first to take the bait and make a home on the island. And so it goes, he fell in love with one of the decoys. Nigel was faithful to his concrete companion over the course of several years, until his demise earlier this year, just after several other real birds began nesting on the island (make sure to read the full story).
So why name a handlebar bag after a bird? Like other Porcelain Rocket bags, such as the 52hz frame pack, named after a one of a kind whale, and Albert, the dropper post seat pack, whose namesake is the first monkey that voyaged into space, Nigel is named after one such idiosyncratic animal. The bag is quite unique, too. While there are a few rack-free, standalone handlebar bags out there—most notably Ortlieb’s Ultimate series and the Outershell Drawcord Handlebar Bag—there aren’t any quite like Nigel.
Porcelain Rocket pegs Nigel as their standalone handlebar bag, well suited to keeping snacks, jackets, gloves, shades, phones, cameras, and other small items at the ready. Essentially, with the popularization of all-day gravel rides, Porcelain Rocket envisioned a bag that could work on a drop-bar bike without mounting hardware, providing a convenient place for quick-access items and things that need to remain protected from the elements. Those attributes also make the Nigel a viable option for a traditional touring handlebar bag. This is especially true when there is no need for a handlebar roll, as is often the case when the bulk of gear is carried in panniers or elsewhere.
Nigel is seam-welded from PU-coated 420D fabric, making it fully weatherproof. It has a single roll-top opening with a bungee closure that secures to a clip on the front of the bag. The overall shape of Nigel mimics the shape of a wide lunch bag with a beveled bottom that counteracts the angled placement of the bag. This maximizes space without interfering with tire clearance. Speaking of clearance, Porcelain Rocket states that Nigel requires a minimum 8″ (20.3cm) gap between the handlebar and tire to fit without rubbing. The bag measures about 5″ (12.7cm) deep at the bottom and tapers to 3″ (7.6cm) deep at the top. It is 11″ (27.9cm) wide. When unrolled it’s about 13″ (33cm) tall. When it’s secured with two folds, it measures approximately 9.5″ (24.2cm). Nigel is available in one color, Porcelain Rocket’s signature “LightBlack.”
As shown here with 44cm Salsa Cowchipper bars, there is plenty of room on either side for hand placement. While it might be nice to see spacers added to provide a little more breathing room, it generally feels fine as the sides tend to flare out allowing space to move your hands inward. I might recommend wearing gloves while using it if you prefer a top hand placement or are using narrower bars. Nigel would certainly work with different types of mountain bike bars as well, although I haven’t tried it, and a bit of cable-mashing or adjustment would likely be necessary. But, because Nigel was designed with drop bars in mind, it’s definitely better on drop bars as there are no cables in the way.
As far as installing the bag, there’s no tricky mounting hardware to fuss with. Nigel attaches directly to the bike via three main straps. Each handlebar strap is dual layered. An inner One-Wrap Velcro strap holds the bag in place while the outer compression straps are securely affixed. Lastly, the head tube strap is secured in place with an alligator buckle. A nice die-cut piece of fabric is integrated into the design to protect the frame from strap abrasion.
The interior of the bag is extremely easy to access by undoing the bungee cord that loops around a plastic hook on the front of the bag. Nigel also has two handy elasticized mesh pockets, one on each side, as well as two small side pockets inside, each just big enough for a phone, wallet, or candy bar. There are several welded inner layers that sandwich strategically placed plastic stiffening panels. The back panel (the side that mounts against the bar/head tube) is supported with a full-panel plastic stiffener, so the bag maintains its shape and doesn’t flop around. There is a triangular panel in the front that helps support the bungee clip that fastens the bag closed. The only other elements of the bag are two plastic slats that are sewn into the width of its opening on either side, making it easier to fold flat.
What does Nigel Fit?
– Search and State flannel shirt
– Fuji X100 camera
– Surly flask
– Silca Borsa Americano (phone/wallet)
– Lara Bar
– Justin’s Almond Butter
– Chocolate bar
– Spurcycle Tool
– Leatherman Juice multi-tool
– Ottolock bike lock
- Roll-top flap closure
- Full seam-welded weatherproof construction
- Easy, one-handed access
- Bungee closure that doubles as layer stash location
- Internal sleeves for cell phone/wallet
- Elasticized external stash side pockets
- Three-position daisy chain head tube attachment
- Bartacked in critical stress points
- Duraflex™ acetyl buckles throughout
- Finish PU-coated 420D “LightBlack”
- Volume 6L max
- Weight 325g
- Place of Manufacture Alberta, Canada
- Price $160 CAD (~$120 USD)
- Manufacturer’s Details PorcelainRocket.com
First Look Wrap Up
Given my injury, and the short time I’ve had Nigel in my possession, I’ve only had the chance to pack, attach, play with, shake violently, and roll slowly around the neighborhood a couple of times. So, consider this just a preliminary first look. That said, so far, the Nigel handlebar bag works great. Its reinforced, easy-to-use roll top and simple bungee closure system makes it a breeze to open and close with one hand, even while riding. In addition, the bungee closure doubles as convenient spot to stash a thin wool layer or rain jacket. As illustrated, the interior seems to be bottomless, and certainly holds a lot more than I expected. Also, the mesh pockets are quite handy and their elastic straps seem to hold small items in place.
When I first saw this bag, I wondered—and as many of you are probably wondering at this point—whether Nigel is well suited to tote a camera. Although it’s not padded, it seems to be perfect for stashing a small mirrorless camera in a padded insert or nestled in a shirt or layer. A DSLR and an extra lens will easily fit too (I tried with my 5D) with the grip up and lens pointed sideways, again, nestled in a shirt or base layer.
While there are a couple of little things I’d tweak, such as adding spacers to the handlebar straps, Nigel is a really neat bag, and very user friendly. It’s quite possibly the easiest to access front bag I’ve tried. It’s also extremely weatherproof and in my opinion, the perfect size. Some might complain about the price tag, but consider that each one is handmade, which, according to Porcelain Rocket, is very time intensive. Either way, for those looking for a standalone handlebar bag to keep their camera and other items handy, there’s nothing else quite like Nigel.
As mentioned, this is kind of a first look, so I’ll make sure to update this down the road after it sees a few hundred miles. In the meantime, Nigel is available for purchase over at PorcelainRocket.com.