It's funny this post came up, since i was just about to ask about handlebar bags. I ride a 66cm frame and want my bag to be handlebar height, so mounting it on a rack is out of the question (it would sit way to low to access it). I was looking at some of the more traditional looking bags and mounts: Using the Nitto Boxy bag Rack (Nitto F-15) or the KlickFix mount with either the Riv Sackville barsack or the Berthoud GB192 handlebar Bag. I usually ride with a saddlebag, so this could just be for food and light stuff due to weight restrictions.
I've got two Arkel handlebar bags--one large and one small. I started with the large one and was very happy with it. At first, I thought that the large one would cover all bases; that I could just leave it packed near-empty on shorter rides. But eventually, I decided to get a small one as well. The smaller bag weighs almost a pound less (two pounds, rather than three). These are not lightweight options. But they are solid; the zippers are bombproof and are hinged away from you (allowing you to access the main compartment while riding); the mount allows some wiggle room for the cable spaghetti; and I have had occasion to really appreciate the zip-out lining. At >$100, they aren't cheap. But these are bags you can pass down in your will.
I've got the big Nashbar bag which I really like -but I have it low-mounted on a forkleg rack. it's freaking wonderful and I don't have any handling problems on an older Raleigh steel frame with relaxed "sport-tour" geometry.
But if you don't want to go that big or mess with a rack (it's really not that much messing and they are cheap -under $10) you can always go for something like the tiny top-of-bar type that REI is closing out for $10 right now.
But my setup cost me under $50 for the bag and the rack combined. I feel it is well worth it to have stuff right were I can get to it. Just don't overload it and it's fine. Warm gear, fruit, energy bars, and such don't weigh all that much.
'74 Raleigh Carlton Competition w/ Ultegra
After reading this thread, I bought a Topeak Compact Handle Bar Bag, $39. It works great. I find that it affects the handling if it has more than two lbs. in it, one lb. is better. But that's enough for a camera, cell phone, a map or two, and snacks. As you can see, it was easy to install on my standard bars and plays well with Shimano cables. I moved my lights down onto two Minoura Light and Computer Mounts on my forks. I now have more bar top room than I had before. It happened that the leftover shims from the Topeak bag were perfect on the forks under the Minoura mounts.
This is mounted on a CoMo road tandem. This is my first experience with a handlebar bag. I sure wouldn't put a heavier bag on any front end not specifically designed for a bag.
It seems to me that we are slightly faster on the flat with this bag.
Last edited by mander; 04-25-12 at 11:44 PM.
Duck tape along the front edge adds 2-3 miles per hour before flapping stops. I've got an auxiliary bar with a cheap 4-AAA light mounted on top that has a friction fit on the mount; rotate that down and it'll hold the map case up pretty well.
I keep meaning to try out a light shock cord loop around the bag + map case, but I'm not sure it's worth the effort. Maybe if I start riding brevets it'll be useful.
Here's the bag I use. form follows function
I'm not happy with the super-long bolts that came with the Nashbar handlebar clamp and will eventually replace them with some shorter ones when I get around to it.
I put a little bit of bend at the top to put the bag a little bit further forward (about 1/4") but it would work without that.
'74 Raleigh Carlton Competition w/ Ultegra
I use an Ortlieb Ultimate Plus handlebar bag. I got it because it's waterproof, which matters a lot to me here in the Pacific NW. And it IS waterproof - thats the best part. The design of the bag is frustrating in some other ways, though.
The bracket it comes with has a pointless locking mechanism included (surely any thief will just reach inside to steal your stuff). The bracket is also over-complex in it's attachment. There's an aftermarket bracket from Rixen & Kaul that's simpler.
The bag has a couple of small and difficult to get into side mesh pockets that are exposed to the weather and too small to be useful for anything much. It comes with a stiff divider that doen't actually attach inside the bag - just sort of sits there - so items find their way under it. As others have mentioned, the map pocket is unsatisfactory because it only attaches along one side and therefore will flap about in the slightest wind. I solved this using some strategically positioned pieces of self-adhesive velcro on the bag lid and map pocket, but that really shouldn't have been necessary.
So, it's a well made and durable bag that meets my most important criterion of being waterproof, but some strange design decisions by Orlieb prevent it being easy to recommend.