NZ Mountain Biker Spider Handlebar Review

NZ Mountain Biker Spider Handlebar Review
With our Mt Starveall mission penned in the calendar, I began pulling gear together for the trip. Sorting through my stuff, it was obvious none of my existing bike packing gear was quite ideal for a trip like this. My regular strap-on bags just wouldn't cut the mustard on technical and rough trails; I needed something stable and secure. 
aeroe came to the party and sent me out a Spider Handlebar Cradle and Dry Bag, and an equivalent setup for Kieran, my mission companion for the trip.
aeroe set out to create a simple-to-use system for carting gear on your bike, initially developing 'The Freeload Rack', which they ultimately sold to Thule in 2011. Not long after the sale, they began quietly working on a new gear-carrying system, presumably waiting until after restraint of trade agreements lapsed to launch under the aeroe brand. Designed for every mission, from a two-block commute to work to a two-month, multi-country epic, it's a pretty versatile system-so can be used any time you need to carry gear on your bike, bringing down the cost per use.
The entire system consists of the handlebar-mounted Spider Cradle we used during our trip, the Spider Rear Rack, and the more recently introduced Spider Pannier Rack, with the associated dry bags. The entire system is modular, meaning parts of each rack can be swapped over, allowing multiple mounting configurations and helping you to balance the load, or separate gear however you like. The cradle can also be attached to a fork, throwing open the possibilities for how much cargo you can carry.
Compatible with almost any bike, the Spider Cradle was simple to fit to the handlebars. The cradle arrived ready to strap the dry bag on at right angles to the bars (ideal configuration for a fork). I wanted the bag parallel to them so, after a quick disassembly to get the configuration right, I attached the two straps, one on either side of the stem, and tightened up the two 5mm bolts-a quick and stress-free process. There are loads of adjustments on offer, so regardless of the diameter or shape of your handlebars, the cradle should be compatible, even if the handlebar or fork is not completely round. The ease of installation and removal makes switching between bikes or putting away after a mission a cinch.
Access to the bolt heads is limited, so I'd recommend a standard L shaped Allen-key to speed up the process (although a multi-tool does the trick, but isn't ideal). If you run a stem with a particularly wide face plate, it's worth a quick measure-up to check the cradle will sit comfortably over it. The cradle feet barely had room to fit over Kieran's stem -let's just say it was an 'interference' fit and required a bit more persuasion to fit correctly than on my marginally narrower, more regular stem.
Constructed from glass-reinforced nylon, the Spider Cradle system weighs in at 464g and can carry up to 5kg of additional load. There are two standard dry bags offered by Aeroe; the 8-litre I used, and the 12-litre used by Kieran. The sturdy bags are made with small sleeves to allow the cradle straps to be fed through them, keeping the whole load stable and secure. Any old bag could be used, but I doubt it would be as secure-or offer the same peace of mind -as the Aeroe bags. The beauty of using a roll-top dry bag is the ease of access -depending on how tightly packed it is, there's no need to remove the bag from the cradle-just unroll the end for easy access. 
After being rattled and bumped around during a solid couple of days out on the trail, the bags show very little sign of use and I can't see them having any issues, provided they're strapped securely; it's doubtful the bag would ever wear out.
My Aeroe bag was crammed full with a bivvy bag, sleeping bag and Jetboil style cooker ... no room for snacks in there! Kieran's Aeroe bag had a sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and large jacket-with room for more. To keep our bikes as light as possible-and knowing we were in for a lot of hike-a-bike-we put the remainder of our gear into CamelBak packs. Our setup worked well, and I think we could have scraped through two nights away with no resupply of food given how light we were travelling. Any more nights and we would have needed additional space for food, maybe using the Rear Spider Rack and an additional bag just for food and snacks.
I was pleasantly surprised at how solid the cradle was, even under some heavy impacts, stutter bumps and cased jumps -it stayed put, right where I'd attached it, with no noticeable movement or slippage.
The extra weight on the front wheel was noticeable to begin with, when cornering, but after just minutes in we'd adapted and it didn't detract from the ride-until we tried to lift our bikes onto our backs for a hike-a-bike for the 20th time! So much additional weight on the front wheel made jumps feel a bit weird and nose heavy. Again, we adapted to the feeling, but it was still noticeable. What was amazing was how much extra front wheel traction the weight gave us-so confidence-inspiring and not something we expected at all!
I haven't tried the Spider Cradle on a drop bar bike yet, but would assume it will work fine, although depending on how cables are routed; they may foul with the cradle mounting straps, but only time will tell.
Some gear just works like it should and it's obvious the designers have thought through multiple different scenarios, solved problems and answered questions. The Aeroe Spider Cradle is one such item; I can't fault it, it does what it says on the tin and stands up to some abuse. I'd recommend this setup for anyone looking to cart gear on their bike, particularly if you're riding technical MTB trails-I'd be surprised if other systems would be quite as solid. I can't wait to take the setup out on some more missions!

Originally published by NZ Mountain Biker, View here
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