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San Util Roly Poly Handlebar Bag: More Than Meets the Eye

The Roly Poly is a made-to-order bar bag from our friends at San Util. Although officially a 3L design, Jeff found the Roly Poly felt much larger thanks to the roll-top design, two side stretch pockets, and adjustable external webbing loops. Read on.

San Util Roly Poly Handlebar Bag: More Than Meets the Eye

For nearly a decade, I was a skier. I skied as much as possible, chasing the perfect turn from Lyngen to Los Andes. I distinctly remember when that changed. I was sitting on a chairlift, on a particularly cold day in the Canadian Rockies, when I realized I’d rather be biking—I’ve been a cyclist ever since.

Bikes have blurred my fragile work/life balance on many occasions. One of my first bikepacking trips was an unofficial Tour Divide time trial with a friend. Between personal trips and filming Choosing To Live, I’ve ridden most of the Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies Guidebook routes, Chile’s Carretera Austral, and dozens of week-long or weekend overnight trips.

Over the past decade, I’ve made short films for bike brands, written stories for a variety of bike-focused publications, and participated in a few social media campaigns. While making a film for Salsa Cycles, I fell in love with Cumberland, BC, and moved to the small community that is fortunate to have one of Canada’s best trail networks.

Although I still love bikepacking, I don’t get out as much as I should. Instead, I pick and choose ambitious “done in a day” style rides that push my limits, like an ambitious bikepacking trip, but most often end with a pizza and pint back home.

This transition has made me rethink how I carry gear on my bike. I prefer bottle cages to stembags, which means I often skip the frame bag. I’ve been making due with a 5L saddle bag, but I’ve always thought a handlebar bag would make riding essentials - snacks, sunscreen, layers, and repair kits - easier to access. I ordered the Roly Poly Handlebar Bag expecting it could become a staple on my gravel adventures. I was also curious if it could hold up on more challenging terrain during marathon cross country mountain bike rides.

About San Util Design

Because I’ve dedicated so much of my life to both skiing and cycling, I wanted to check out San Util Design because they design a variety of custom bags for both sports. Their gear is made in their Winter Park, Colorado, based workshop and comes with a lifetime warranty that is easy to appreciate from boutique manufacturers. Owner, Adam Nicholson, is honest about how his products stand out in a market full of great choices. He simply promises “amazing customizations, quick turnaround times, and products designed by people that play in the mountains.”

I experienced all three when I ordered the Roly Poly Handlebar Bag. I jumped on the site and picked my preferred black and yellow design. While I’m still kicking myself for not ordering the Splatter colourway, my choice does blend perfectly with some existing Apidura bags I use regularly. San Util designed, made, and shipped my bag within a week; however, they advertise a 2-4 week delivery time.

Installation & Fit

Installation speed and ease are crucial for a handlebar bag. When I stop for lunch on a long ride or bikepacking trip, I don’t mind leaving my gear on the bike, but I always take the handlebar bag with me. It's where I carry my phone, wallet, cash, and other valuables.

The San Util Roly Poly uses a simple system with two Voile straps fed through a webbing daisy chain that allows for custom width selections. An elastic cord loops around the head tube. I timed it and it took less than 10 seconds to install.

Once installed, the bag never moved. I’ve used a half dozen handlebar setups on different bikepacking trips and I have never seen a product held so securely. I think it’s fair to credit the bag’s simple design, while also acknowledging that Voile straps are infinitely better than any webbing system.

Design & Construction

As soon as I picked up my box at the post office, my eyes fell on their custom printed, paper-based packing tape that felt like a nod towards both sustainability and customer relationships. It was a nice detail, especially since it filled an integral part of shipping rather than creating an unnecessary unboxing experience.

I always read the descriptions and look at pictures, but I love the moment when a new piece of gear finally lands in my hands. The colours jumped out. The exterior looked fantastic, blending seamlessly with the Apidura top tube bag on my gravel bike and the Thief Lunch Box that I use on other bikes. I was a bit surprised by the garish orange interior and I’m glad it’s hidden away inside. The build quality feels good. The two main panels are ecopak EPX200. It’s durable, waterproof recycled fabric that is widely used by many manufacturers. The rolltop clips shut with two large buckles that are easy to use with gloves. Inside the large main compartment, two small pockets help keep essentials - cash, wallet, or a passport - separated from other gear. There is an additional front zipper pocket, which is more than large enough to hold my Google Pixel 6 Pro phone.

External webbing adds to its overall carrying capacity. The two adjustable loops that can cinch a stuff sack or additional items against the bottom of the bag are highly functional. It would be possible to carry a bivy sack or lightweight tent because of this setup, meaning it could be used on short overnight trips or lightweight ultra racing. Because I tested the bag throughout the winter and spring on Vancouver Island, I mostly used these straps to carry my rain gear that was too bulky - and often too muddy - to fit inside.

The daisy chain and elastic cord down the front seems less useful. The cord doesn’t seem strong enough to secure items. I would be too afraid that things would rattle loose and fall into my wheel. Two stretching side pockets add even more to the carrying capacity, though I always find this style pocket largely goes underutilized. Because they’re located below the rolltop buckles, they’re surprisingly difficult to access when the bag is closed.

I immediately noticed its similarities to my Field & Forest camera hip belt, so I tried it as a camera bag. While it easily fits my Sony A1 with a 70-200mm f4 lens, I would want to add some padding before riding anything offroad. The bag sits firmly against my handlebars and head tube, which would rattle the camera badly.

The Field and Forest hipbelt, and other rolltop bags that I’ve used, close with a single central buckle. While it’s a fast system that is easier to manage one handed, the dual buckle system that San Util Designs uses feels more secure and waterproof.

Usage & Performance

The first time I biked the Comox Logging Road, I was on a bikepacking trip traveling from Port Alberni to Campbell River. I still remember checking the map and seeing the road closely parallel to the shoreline. We thought we would cover the remaining 20 km to Courtenay at a fast pace, completely oblivious to the incredible amount of climbing on this road. It’s almost never flat, climbing more than 500 m over 14 km between the Cruickshank and Puntledge Rivers. Since moving to the area, it’s become one of my favourite rides. It’s now 50-km out and back from home, with plenty of stunning scenery and little traffic. The mix of smooth gravel and shocking washboard is just like most private forestry roads that don’t receive much maintenance; they’re typically only graded if there is active logging taking place.

It was the first place I tested the San Util Roly Poly bag. It was lightly loaded with a flat-tire kit (plugs, tube, pump), raingear and a couple bars. I know this road well and I descended the first downhill fast, ignoring my instinct to brake despite running into some unexpectedly rough washboard. The bag might as well have been welded to my handlebars. It didn’t move even when wild vibrations threatened to knock my hands loose.

Towards my turn around point, I discovered what I consider the bag’s only shortcoming. It’s not even a design flaw, so much as my own oversight. A roll top bag is extremely difficult to access while riding. Can it be done? Sure, but not safely while pedaling a rough gravel road or in the middle of a race. I had to stop, relocate my riding snacks to my jersey pocket before continuing. The placement of my head unit was another challenge, as well. I use the original HammerHead Karoo 2 mount that holds the head unit 2-3 inches in front of my handlebars. This meant the rolltop opening was directly beneath it, so I had to work around it. While not a big deal, it is worth considering. The system works best without a front-mounted head unit.

For subsequent rides, I’ve organized my kit differently. I reinstalled my top tube bag, which I use for bars and gels. Inside the Roly Poly, I carry food I intend to eat off the bike - burritos or sandwiches for lunch on longer days - and layers I expect to need throughout the day. I also leave $20 cash in one of the internal pockets, for emergencies, and keep my phone in the front zipper pocket. In an ultra race, this might be the perfect place to carry an inreach or spot. It is secure, yet easy to access. Overall the setup works great and I haven’t tried to open the bag while riding again.

On a more recent and longer ride, I also carried my rain pants. They were filthy, so I didn’t want to place them inside the bag. The external straps worked perfectly, holding them tight against the bottom of the bag. The rain never arrived and the cloud cover burned off. It soon became the warmest day I’ve enjoyed this year, so I ended up adding my own wind layer, long sleeve jersey and my wife’s jacket to an already full bag. Luckily the bag holds much more than its suggested 3L capacity.

Earlier this winter, I eagerly watched the Atlas Mountain Race. I follow both Detours Cycling Podcast hosts, Mel Webb and Cynthia Carson, on instagram and wanted to watch their progress. I also became enthralled with the idea of an ultra-distance race on my Cannondale Scalpel. After seeing the Roly Poly handlebar roll stay in place during rough gravel descents, I decided to try it on my mountain bike. Although I never tested it on a truly long-distance effort, I did ride most of two 2023 BC Bike Race stage routes in Cumberland. It took a few attempts to secure the bag, but once I had it mounted behind the tangle of cables on my xc bike, it held secure for these extended rides.


The custom bikepack bag market is a crowded landscape and there are plenty of unique options. While this isn’t a revolutionary product, it is a well thought out solution with excellent build quality. Little details like the front zipper pocket and small internal pockets - great for cash or cards - adds to its function. The external webbing lets it carry far more than its 3-5L internal capacity. I didn’t find the stretch pockets particularly useful, but that isn’t necessarily a complaint. They barely add any weight to the design and aren’t in the way. They’ll be there if I ever need them.

The long roll top is exceptionally waterproof and does nearly double its carrying capacity, but it also makes it virtually impossible to access while riding. It’s a tradeoff that I find myself accepting. It might become frustrating if I use this bag in a long gravel race or bikepacking event when I want access without stopping.

San Util Design delivers on its promise to combine easy customizations with quick turnaround times. The Roly Poly has 169 possible colour combinations and mine was sewn and sent almost immediately. In a quick email exchange with the owner, I also had the impression I could ask for more unique customizations.

Whether it’s the company motto or merely a good catch phrase on the homepage, the phrase born in the mountains to play in the mountains feels like an appropriate way to describe the quality. It feels like a well made bag that will endure for years to come. As somebody slow to part with gear, it’s a quality I appreciate.

✓ Pros
Extremely quick installation that is extremely secure and doesn’t bounce, even when riding rough roads.
The bag looks fantastic and its color choices make it easy to either select a unique look or blend it with the overall aesthetic of your bike setup.
It carries more than expected from a 3L bag, especially when using the external straps.
Fast production and delivery times, especially for a custom product.
Lifetime warranty that covers everything except “some dumb thing you did.”
✕ Cons
Exterior stretch pockets aren’t easily accessed while riding because they’re located under the rolltop buckles.
Not easy to access essentials - snacks, sunscreen, etc - while riding.
Not currently available in Canada. (typically)
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