Rockgeist BarJam Review (with the Horton accessory)
Rockgeist made some big modifications to their flagship handlebar system last year. The BarJam Harness saw a meticulous redesign using locally machined alloy brackets and integration with the welded waterproof Horton accessory pouch. After a few months of testing, find our full review of this incredibly stable system here…
There are a several good handlebar harness systems on the market at this point, from both small makers and large companies alike. So, what’s different about the Rockgeist BarJam Harness system? The first time I heard about it, a friend told me it was the most rock-solid handlebar bag system out there. And as it turns out, it was conceived with stability in mind. Back in 2016, Rockgeist founder Greg Hardy was bikepacking in the Arizona Trail 300 event—a ride he’s completed several times—in part to put products he’s working on through their paces. According to Greg, he was testing an older version of the harness that used foam spacer blocks, and because it was bouncing around so much on Oracle Ridge, he had to stop on multiple occasions to re-adjust it. “It just didn’t do well with chunky singletrack descents and couldn’t handle the weight of a full accessory bag sitting on top of it. And it kinked my brake line at some point,” Greg said. Back in the shop, Greg and Eric Wever—Rockgeist’s only other employee at the time—came up with an idea to use a simple extension bar to leverage a pair of Voilé straps to support the weight.
To accomplish this, they stitched up a fabric harness to attach to a carbon bar held in place by a pair of aftermarket aluminum brackets. This immediately solved the stability issue. Another fortuitous result was that the brackets extended the clamp area in front of the handlebar and solved another common issue with handlebar bag systems: it freed up space for the brake, shifter, and dropper cables to pass behind it and protect them from getting jammed up and rubbing against the bag.
After a period of testing, the BarJam was released in 2017. I’d heard about it way back then, but waited to try it until last November. Reason being, Rockgeist proprietor Greg Hardy kept insisting that big changes were in store. The original version of the BarJam utilized aluminum handlebar brackets and a carbon bar that were both made in Asia and were widely available aftermarket. They worked well, but as Greg explained, “That version served as a proof-of-concept for a highly functional harness design.” Greg wanted the end product to be stronger, made locally, and finished to perfection.
Released last September, the current production version features completely new, locally machined handlebar hardware, a Washington state-made carbon bar, and a few other new details. Not to mention, Rockgeist modified Porcelain Rocket’s Horton waterproof pouch design to integrate with the BarJam harness for this release, adding the already unique, quick access, fully waterproof accessory storage bag to the system. I’ve put several hundred miles on the complete system for this review. But before I dig into how it all performs and works together, let’s go over each of the components within the system and how they’re set up.
The Rockgeist BarJam Harness
The Rockgeist BarJam Harness system (excluding the Horton) consists of five main components: the two alloy brackets, a carbon bar, a pair of Voilé straps, a dry bag, and the harness itself. At the heart of the system is the Pi-shaped mini-rack that’s made up of two alloy handlebar brackets and a carbon bar. The mini-rack effectively carries the load, removing the need for load-bearing straps on the handlebar itself. This not only frees up space on the bar, it moves the load outward and down, providing a cavity for cables to pass through and reducing interference or crimping.
Each handlebar bracket has a three-bolt, two-piece design machined from 6061 aluminum right in Asheville, North Carolina. While the imported brackets that these replaced worked fine, they didn’t feel nearly as sturdy as the new ones, and they didn’t have the Rockgeist branding emblazoned on each one, either. As Greg adds, “As demand grew, we switched to machining the hardware locally. While this increased the price, it also increased the strength and quality of these parts. It’s also important that we are now keeping our money within our small mountain town and pay machinists who we share our local trails with.” Aside from some of the fabrics and webbing hardware, and the Utah-made Voilé straps, the carbon bar is the only main component in the system not made in Asheville, but it’s made in the USA by a small carbon company in Washington state.
The brackets attach to the bars by clamping the top plate to the detached bottom plate via two standard M5 stainless steel bolts that thread into the bottom. This locks each bracket onto the central stem clamp area of the handlebars. I tested the 31.8mm brackets, but they’re also available in 35mm clamp diameter to accommodate modern mountain bike handlebars. On the other side of the bracket, there’s another M5 bolt that tightens the slide-in tension clamp area to the carbon bar. Once that’s mounted to the bars and tightened up, you can install the harness.
The harness itself was left unchanged in the current version. It’s a relatively simple design made out of X-Pac with reinforcements sewn in where needed, a couple of daisy chains, and a single strap with a compression buckle that serves to hold the drybag in place so the two Voilé straps that thread through rectangular looplocks can be properly cinched down. The two 25” Voilé straps serve as the muscle of the system, tightening the bag to the carbon bar. The harness also has two other points of attachment: a pair of one-wrap velcro loops loosely attach the harness to the carbon bar, though these don’t really do anything other than hold it in place when the Voilé’s aren’t engaged.
On the underside of the harness, there’s another vertical daisy chain with three positions for a headtube strap. According to Greg, future versions will come with a round foam puck with two slots—like the one used with the Nigel handlebar bag—to space and pad it where it secures at the headtube. For the record, I got rid of the webbing strap that came with it and replaced it with a Voilé Nano strap and a square two-slot foam block that I had lying around. In my opinion, the Nano strap should replace all webbing headtube straps at this point. Based on my experience, it’s far more secure and less likely to abrade the paint or material on a head tube.
Rockgeist included their Ultra PE Dry Bag, a two-sided roll bag made from HMWPE (Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene), a super-durable, lightweight, waterproof fabric that’s made by ECOPAK. The bag features a single stitched seam down its center that’s taped twice with Dyneema tape for a waterproof seal. I used it during a couple of decent rain events and never had an issue with contents getting wet; I always stuff a down quilt in directly, so that matters.
The BarJam Harness fits dry bags ranging from 8 to 30 liters in volume. The Ultra PE Dry Bag has a volume of 8-13L and a 6.5″ (16.5cm) diameter. It’s 28.5 x 10.75″ (72.4 x 27.3cm) when laid completely flat. While the dry bag is nicely made and works well, it’s a little short, in my opinion. Even at 28.5” in length, each roll closure eats up about 5″ (12.7cm), so the 28.5″ double end bag turns into a max length of about 18.5″ (47cm). When I discussed this with Greg, he mentioned that they’re working on a single closure version that will likely have a finished length of about 28″ (71cm). That translates to a max length of 23″ (58.4cm) when closed. It will have the same diameter, which seems about perfect to me. For the record, they’ll still offer the double-opening version, too.
Having said all that, I’ll add that the double-opener fit everything I wanted—which is always my entire sleep system—during a trip where I was using a small one-person tent. It was a squeeze, however, and I was only able to close one of the sides with two rolls. I would have to change my typical packing strategy if I were bringing a larger tent, such as the three-person Big Agnes Fly Creek I often pack when riding with Virginia. Nevertheless, like other handlebar harnesses, you can also strap additional items into it, such as tent poles or another smaller dry bag, so there are options.
- Compatibility: Bracket clamps for either 31.8 or 35mm handlebars
- Material: 6061 Aluminum Bracket, carbon fiber bar, stainless steel bolts, X-Pac harness
- Weight: 284 grams (31.8mm bracket assembly, harness, and a pair of 25″ voile straps)
- Weight: 409 grams (System with Ultra PE Dry Bag)
- Weight: 586 grams (Complete System with Horton)
- Volume: dry bags ranging from 8 to 30 liters
- Price: $185 USD (Harness, straps, and bracket assembly)
- Price: $82 USD (Ultra PE Dry Bag)
- Manufacturer’s Details: Rockgeist.com
The Horton accessory bag was originally designed by Porcelain Rocket and happened to be released in 2017, too. It was made to work with their own handlebar harness system, previously called the MCA. According to Scott Felter, the Horton was named after the Dr. Seuss elephant based on the fact that it rolls up and sits on the “nose” of the bike. After the merger in 2019, Rockgeist set out to reengineer the Horton to work with the BarJam, and the resulting bag is pretty close to the original, from what I recall. It’s made from the same welded PU-coated nylon, featuring the same roll-top design with an elastic cord that attaches to the cord lock and holds the roll top closure in place.
Attaching the Horton to the BarJam and handlebars is fairly simple but a little more tedious than other accessory pouches I’ve used, to be honest. First, there are two anchor straps that are used to position the Horton and keep it from sliding downward. These have two one-wrap velcro pieces that go on the handlebars on either side of the stem. Then there are the two Voilé straps that thread through the daisy chains on the back of the Horton.
With all four straps, I found it best to just leave the Horton on the empty harness at camp. Ideally, there would be a quick-release system to make it easier to remove, bring into the tent, then install the next morning—perhaps this could come in the form of plastic quick-release clips built into the harness. It works well as is, but it’s just a little cumbersome. And if you’re using this system on a big tour, it would be nice to be able to quickly detach the Hoton independently to carry into a store or around town. Generally, that’s the only real con I’ve found with the BarJam/Horton system.
The Horton is about 11.5″ wide by 5.5″ tall (29.2 x 14cm) and about 3″ thick (7.6cm) with the roll-top all the way closed. It’s perfect for storing smaller items that need to stay dry. I loaded it with a cycling cap, wool gloves, a spare camera battery, my headlamp, some snacks, and sunglasses, and there was still room to spare.
Aside from the fact that it’s waterproof, the great thing about the Horton is how easy it is to access what’s in it. It shares the same opening as the Nigel Handlebar Bag and the Big Dumpling hip pack, two other Rockgeist products that I really like. You simply grab the built-in tab on the elastic cord, pull it free from the hook-shaped cord lock, and presto. Closing it is just as easy, and it’s all doable with one hand. It’s a great system and I’m glad to see it employed throughout their product line. Better yet, the Horton (and Big Dumpling) both come in the Coyote tan color now, too.
- Model/Size Tested: Rockgeist Horton
- Actual Weight: 187 grams
- Place of Manufacture: North Carolina, USA
- Price: $80
- Manufacturer’s Details: Rockgeist.com
- Super stable drybag harness system; perhaps the most stable on the market
- New brackets and bar seem exceptionally well made and durable
- The handlebar brackets free up room for cable housing, which is a unique benefit to this system
- Dyneema bag and Horton are highly waterproof
- Horton is difficult to remove and the two vertical stabilizer straps are excessive, in my opinion
- I’d prefer a single-opening dry bag that’s slightly longer
There’s a lot to love about the Rockgeist BarJam handlebar harness and the Horton accessory bag. All included, it’s a complete handlebar bag solution that’s different from anything out there. It offers what I would consider the most user-friendly and versatile means of up-front storage: a dry bag that’s easy to attach and detach for off-bike packing and unpacking. Plus, it has a clever, easy-access waterproof accessory pouch, best-in-class stability, and a unique bracket solution that’s more cable-friendly than standard handlebar straps. In its entirety, the system isn’t without cons, and I think there’s room for improvement with the Horton’s attachment. But, as you might assume by proxy of it being last year’s gear of the year award winner, the benefits vastly outweigh the minor gripes, and the BarJam is quite special.
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