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  1. #1
    country city-girl i wish's Avatar
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    Features on the perfect handlebar bag....

    I am thinking of making some handlebar, stem and/or seat bags and am interested in what features people would like to see on bags. Is waterproof-ness important? What about the closure? Pockets? Map case? Mounting system? Size? Durability?
    I've made a couple handlebar bags, and am very interested in what people would be looking for in that type of product.
    I'm open to any input...
    Here are links to descriptions and pics of the ones I've made...
    My first bag
    Brother's bag
    Dad's bag

  2. #2
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    There is no one "perfect" bag. Down that path lies madness.

    That said I like my Ortlieb. Solid attachment, easy to pop off, optional map holder. I believe they also make a padded camera insert for it.

  3. #3
    country city-girl i wish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    There is no one "perfect" bag. Down that path lies madness.
    Yeah...
    I am basically interested in what people would want in a handlebar bag. Or stem or seat bag.
    I know I won't be able to create the 'perfect' bag for everyone.... I'd go crazy!

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    Senior Member shipwreck's Avatar
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    I need a super light bag with lots of capacity, stability, weather proof, versatile, removable, compressable, You know, the basics. Since I could not find what I wanted, I had to do the diy route as well.


    [IMG]ht



    My bags are a pretty different route than the box design, but they are doing pretty well for me. They are made from nylon taffeta, and various coated fabrics I had laying about. Really should make some more now that I have used them and know what I would change. These were the first and only efforts. The front bag lifts off a velcro sling, and has velcro loops for the bar. I designed them for long distance ultra light touring. They are bigger than they look the lid unsnaps and spreads out to cover a overflowing emergency chocolate cake purchase Sometimes I roll the lid up, and just use the elastic cord to close things if I need to access the bag while riding, and have a small load.

    Not trying to highjack with a "hey look at these" thing, just sharing what worked for me. I like the bags you have made, lots of work and they have that something(soul?) that a purchased bag might not. Personaly I don't need all the leather straps and buckles, but they do look good. Lots of folks like them.

    Just flipped thru your blog, and your Panniers are pretty nice. Thats a lot of work. you know what they say, do it yourself and slave...
    Out of curiosity, what do all your bags weigh? There are a lot of people who really care about that.
    Last edited by shipwreck; 07-29-11 at 11:10 PM.

  5. #5
    country city-girl i wish's Avatar
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    I'm really not sure how much any of my bags weigh, but I know they aren't the lightest. I used 18oz canvas and leather, and neither of those materials are light. I'll try to weigh them soon and post their weight here....

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    Weight is definitely a consideration for me. I have an Acorn boxy bag and while it's really good it weighs around 700-800 grams empty. Canvas and leather are heavy! I would be interested in a boxy bag made of ballistic nylon a la zugsters.

    Your bags look ok but i really like external pockets like on berthouds and acorns. At least two on the back, one to hold my cel/ camera for easy access and one for ID and money so that it remains very secure when I'm rummaging around in all the other pockets. A third pocket in front to hold tools and tubes is nice. my acorn has two more pockets on the sides that are totally flat; I use one to stash my brevet card and the other is for holding bar wrappers and other garbage until I can find a trash can. Having all these pockets keeps the central area of the bag free to stash food and clothes, and reduces the amount of annoying rummaging and rearranging as you look for things in the jumble.

    map/ cuesheet holder is a given for me.

    Your toggle style closure system is great. I had a zippered bag and it didn't tolerate being overstuffed anywheere near as well.

    Edit: And how about a boxy bag in some colors other than black or tan??? is it impossible to get canvas in red or blue?
    Last edited by mander; 07-31-11 at 12:24 PM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by i wish View Post
    I am thinking of making some handlebar, stem and/or seat bags and am interested in what features people would like to see on bags. Is waterproof-ness important? What about the closure? Pockets? Map case? Mounting system? Size? Durability?
    I've made a couple handlebar bags, and am very interested in what people would be looking for in that type of product.
    I'm open to any input...
    Here are links to descriptions and pics of the ones I've made...
    My first bag
    Brother's bag
    Dad's bag
    The most important thing about a handlebar bag is to mount it low, ideally on a front rack. My first five years of randonneuring I used a handlebar bag cantilevered off the handlebars (mine was a Lone Peak H-100, but it uses the same mounting system as the popular Ortlieb handlebar bags). This is certainly acceptable, but you are constantly having to work to overcome the steering forces that the bag causes. Putting the bag lower on a front rack significantly diminishes those forces, so at the end of the day (or of multiple days) you are less fatigued. So the extra work to pedal around an 11-ounce front rack like a Nitto "Mark's Rack" is more than offset by the reduced work in having to wrestle the steering with a bag cantilevered off the handlebars. And if you also have a low trail fork, life gets even better.

    As to the bag itself, I finally ended up using a Gilles Berthoud 28, because it is big enough to haul all of the food, spare clothes, repair kit, etc. for a 400Km. With a capacity of 12.8 liters and weight of 1202 grams (including the rack and deacleur) it weighs 94 grams per liter. By contrast, the Lone Peak H-100 on the same rack and decaleur holds 9.8 liters and weighs 1132 grams, which is 115 grams per liter. So an extra 70 grams (2-1/2 ounces!) gets me an extra 3 liters of carrying capacity. The Lone Peak H-100 mounted directly to the handlebars weighs 709 grams, or 80 grams per liter. The Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Plus Large is 78 grams per liter. So those definitely might seem more efficient than the GB28. But the weight of the rack is well worth it in diminished fatigue, so optimizing grams per liter turns out not to be efficient for long rides.

    Nick

  8. #8
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    I am quite happy with this vintage bag made by Avenir. I think I bought it in the mid 1980s. I had to bend up a custom frame to hang it from because the steel rod frame that came with it was sized for a quill stem and would not fit on a threadless stem. If I had a choice, it would have side pockets of mesh instead of waterproof fabric.

    IMG_4828.jpg

    IMG_4907.jpg

    IMG_4847.jpg

    It is almost impossible to see, but there is a pocket under the handlebars, it is small but a good size for heavier small items like tools. Sidepockets for gloves and I also shove a bandana in the side pocket. Map case on top. Pocket in lid. Lid can be held closed with a strip of velcro instead of using the zipper if I so choose, the velcro is better for when I want fast access to my camera. The front pocket is virtually unusable when on the bike, I use it for paperwork and maps that I look at when I am off of the bike. One thing I do not like is the rounded bottom, it is shaped that way because of the way that the stiffener is installed. Thus, when off of the bike it won't sit on a table. Fabric is waterproof but the seams are not and I have not bothered to seam seal the seams. If I want something to stay dry in it, I would also carry a small drybag. If I used the shoulder strap (I don't use it) I would be unhappy that the bag hangs at an angle and not vertical because the D rings are at the front of the bag instead of the middle. The steel frame is heavy but the bag is quite light so it might be lighter than some of the others out there that use the more modern brackets.

  9. #9
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    1) Aerodynamic, not box-shaped or with random bulges, flaps, and buttons sticking out all over.
    2) Don't have to buy a separate rack, decalier, and all that to hold it up- if that stuff is needed, just sell it with the bag.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  10. #10
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    After looking at the bags you made, I have to say that I think you are doing an incredible job and make beautiful bags! Looks like they are already made to be used with racks and/or decaleur. I might suggest a couple of velcro strips on the top to attach a map pocket to. Maybe you could have a couple of decorative leather strips or pieces with velcro on the back of them to put on when map pocket is not being used to keep the bag looking nice. They are very good looking bags! Perhaps some pockets on the side. Just flat pockets is enough in my opinion. I have a bag with pockets on the side like I suggest and will try to get a picture up here soon. Pockets (1).jpg Another handlebar bag I have has a small pocket on the inside sort of hanging from near the top; it runs the width of the bag on the side closest to the rider. It is very handy for putting small items in so they are not floating around in the bottom under everything else. I'll get a pic of that up too. Pockets (3).jpg

    All in all, I think you are already doing great. As for seat bags, I like the Carradice design of the Nelson long flap and think that design in various sizes is good. For waterproofing, oilcloth canvas or maybe oilcloth hemp cloth if there is such a thing would probably be good.

    I also enjoyed your blog. Keep up the good work.
    Last edited by Ciufalon; 08-03-11 at 10:38 AM.
    Be the person your dog thinks you are.
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  11. #11
    country city-girl i wish's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for the replies! I appreciate the detailed descriptions....

    My bags would probably be a little heavier than the Acorn bags, but I'm not sure, since I haven't been able to weigh them yet....

    I see pockets are rather important....and I will be putting some on my next bag! I could use some on my current bag...the small items and extra change get very lost in the bottom...
    Hmmm...mesh pockets on the outer sides....good way to keep rain from collecting...

    I used heavy canvas on my bags for durability, and the fact that it is a natural product. Weight wasn't near the top of my priorities. A weight-conscious bag would be rather different to make...

    Heavy canvas was pretty hard to find in any but natural, white and black colors, in my experience. It got pretty pricey for colors.

    Quote Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
    1) Aerodynamic, not box-shaped or with random bulges, flaps, and buttons sticking out all over.
    I'm not sure what you mean by aerodynamic....rounded? wedge-shaped? oval?

    My waterproofing is similar to oilcloth, but I think it may be slightly more flexible. True oilcloth is linseed oil-soaked canvas. I don't know what is considered oilcloth now...
    I used 50/50 linseed oil and beeswax for waterproofing. I found it very waterproof. Heavy rain most of the night with my bags full...everything inside was dry! The tops of the bags were even pooling a little....
    That method seems to work, but it seems to be slightly heavier than untreated canvas.

  12. #12
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    It sounds like your waterproofing worked very well. I thought about wax, but was concerned that in areas where temperatures are high it might melt and not hold up. I happen to like the toggles you used and think they look nice. I also like the use of natural fiber cloth. All in all, your bags are some of the nicest DIY bags I've seen anyone make and they are really nice looking.
    Be the person your dog thinks you are.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Wow - I'm glad all those cyclists are using handlebar bags. As they give up aerodynamics and the ability to safely draft and pick out obstacles along the road - I can look like a better cyclist - just by NOT using one.......

    Low rider's are the only viable front-of-bike area luggage solution. Attaching luggage near the handlebar will always be a needlessly inefficient and dangerous use of bicycling accoutrement.
    Sorry about my comments - I thought you wanted honest feedback.
    2003 Lemond Wayzata - 2002 LeMond Malliot Jeune

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    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    I've heard plusses and minus about handlebar bags, but never heard the safely draft and pick out obstacles objections...sounds like that's a lot bigger bag than what I've seen, maybe.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  15. #15
    country city-girl i wish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Cranium View Post
    Wow - I'm glad all those cyclists are using handlebar bags. As they give up aerodynamics and the ability to safely draft and pick out obstacles along the road - I can look like a better cyclist - just by NOT using one.......

    Low rider's are the only viable front-of-bike area luggage solution. Attaching luggage near the handlebar will always be a needlessly inefficient and dangerous use of bicycling accoutrement.
    As for aerodynamics, you body is wider than any handlebar bag.
    I can easily avoid trash on the road with my bag on, and it is pretty large.
    Drafting could be an issue with such a bag as mine, but a smaller one would solve the tire view problem.
    There is a tiny bit of extra instability on my bike (Trek 7.2fx) when the bag is heavily loaded. My dad rides a Peugot, and just told me that he can easily ride no-hands with his larger bag heavily loaded. It greatly depends on the type of bicycle how "dangerous" a handlebar bag is.
    I personally prefer the handlebar bag to front panniers, since it is a lot more conveniet. But then, I am not competing, needing to draft, etc.

    Anyway, I was asking for what people would look for in a handlebar bag, not one's views on handlebar bags in general....

  16. #16
    Randomhead
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    I really don't think that drafting is an issue, at least I've never found it to be an issue. Of course, I'm not following at racing distances, maybe a foot back. Even while drafting, I look for obstacles a little further out so I don't have to swerve at the last second. The only time I've ever stared at the wheel in front of me was when I was in over my head and didn't want to get dropped; I don't do that anymore because it's not conducive to a long distance ride that takes many hours.

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    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    "As for aerodynamics, you body is wider than any handlebar bag"

    I've heard this line of reasoning before. The problem is that "drag coefficient" is usually defined in terms of frontal area. But that doesn't mean that aerodynamic drag is ONLY determined by amount of frontal area. If you change the shape of an object, you change the drag coefficient, even if the frontal area remains the same- and that's the entire point of streamiining a vehicle.

    In actual practice, people hanging square bags on the handlebars aren't the same ones trying to optimize aerodynamics of a bicycle, so nobody measures drag on stuff like this. If there was large difference, you might be able to discern the difference with a power meter. If the difference was rather modest, probably not.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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    The Bicycle Quarterly wind tunnel test (that I'm sure will be discounted because somebody doesn't like Jan or because Bicycling! doesn't push them or whatever) showed very slight additional drag for a large blocky handlebar bag on a rack. The additional drag was less than a similar capacity seat bag.

    Also, Cranium's opinion on the matter leads me to believe that he's never actually used a good handlebar bag. His objections are nonsense.

    Beyond that, I agree with whomever wrote that it's impossible to please everyone (or even a majority) when it comes to handlebar bags. Several people have mentioned weight as an issue, for instance. That's a perfectly valid concern for them, but not even on my list. Somebody else wants one that doesn't require rack mounting, while I refuse to have anything to do with a bag that doesn't. So IMO, the only rational approach to building a new handlebar bag is to design it to offer something that existing ones don't.

    For whatever it's worth, I want a "constructed" bag that maintains its shape. I want it to be water resistant at the very least, and I want a clear plastic top for protecting my map. I don't have to have a bunch of side pockets, but a couple of small ones are useful. It has to be designed for rack mounting, and I want easy-to-use closures rather than the very elegant but completely annoying straps and buckles. IOW, I want a Berthoud, so unless you can make it every bit as good for a lot less money, it's hard to see why you'd bother...

    Luck!

  19. #19
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    "Somebody else wants one that doesn't require rack mounting, while I refuse to have anything to do with a bag that doesn't."

    I think I was the only one that mentioned the rack. I don't object to the rack, I just think if it's required, it ought to come with, and/or be incorporated into, the bag. As opposed to spending $200 for the bag, then another $150 for the rack to hold it up. And, it seems to me that if the rack and bag were specifically designed to work with each other, you'd have a lighter and more stable system when done. Keep in mind, we're discussing the "perfect" handlebar bag here, not what is actually out there.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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    Ah, understood. And I suppose I can see your point. Getting it all to work well together can be quite a feat. I'd be afraid, though, that a propietary rack would require a proprietary bike to fit!

  21. #21
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    The Bicycle Quarterly wind tunnel test (that I'm sure will be discounted because somebody doesn't like Jan or because Bicycling! doesn't push them or whatever)...
    Won't be me, I like Jan. I just disagree with him on a few things.

    I don't use a handlebar bag so I have nothing else constructive to say on the subject. If you start talking about seatpost rack mounted bags I might.

    btw I wish, your bags look like they are very finely crafted!
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    Won't be me, I like Jan. I just disagree with him on a few things.
    Like what color the sky is, and which direction the sun sets, and...

  23. #23
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    Like what color the sky is, and which direction the sun sets, and...
    Yep. In all my conversations with him he has always been a very amicable guy. I don't have a bad word to say about him.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
    "Somebody else wants one that doesn't require rack mounting, while I refuse to have anything to do with a bag that doesn't."

    I think I was the only one that mentioned the rack. I don't object to the rack, I just think if it's required, it ought to come with, and/or be incorporated into, the bag. As opposed to spending $200 for the bag, then another $150 for the rack to hold it up. And, it seems to me that if the rack and bag were specifically designed to work with each other, you'd have a lighter and more stable system when done. Keep in mind, we're discussing the "perfect" handlebar bag here, not what is actually out there.
    A standard Gilles Berthoud bag will fit on many different front racks. I have three bikes that I use my GB with. So having the bag and rack be an integrated system would actually be a negative from my perspective.

    Frankly, the rack is the easy part. It's the decaleur that is complicated and hard to integrate. In my case, I had to do some MacGyvering to take stem-mounted decaleurs and get them mounted to my specific stems (Nitto Technomic was easy, the no-name single-bolt threaded stem on the tandem required a little more work, and the four-bolt Ritchey stem on my Gunnar was a real pain -- I machined a piece of stainless to go "sideways" and drilled two holes on the side for the stem bolts, and two bolts perpendicularly down the middle to bolt the decaleur to it).

    But the advantage of having a low-mounted, securely-mounted handlebar bag is just tremendous compared with a high-mounted, floppier handlebar bag.

    Nick

  25. #25
    country city-girl i wish's Avatar
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    Ok, I finally weighed "my" handlebar bag. It is the first one I made. It is about 1 1/2 lbs (680 grams) including the shoulder strap. That doesn't include the hanging apparatus or the rack.
    I don't know how this compares with other bags...

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