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Old 04-16-08, 09:25 PM   #1
stevage
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Handlebar bags vs front panniers

I currently have a set of rear panniers which I don't like much for commuting, and to increase storage for tours, I plan to buy 1 or 2 from the following set: handlebar bag, front panniers, racktop bag with foldout panniers. If I get a handlebar bag, it will probably be the big Topeak MTX one - I've tested it and it will just fit* my Tricross Sport, I just need to rotate the extra brake levers out of the way. http://www.topeak.com/products/detail/34

But I wonder: how does a handlebar bag affect handling? Much worse than lowrider panniers? I think I would really like being able to reach wallet, keys, phone, map etc without getting off the bike. I could get the smaller one, but costwise, one or two big bags is cheaper than 3 or 4 small ones.

I particularly want to mount stuff on the bars/fork to counterbalance the rear. I don't like the feel of pushing around the bike at all when it's so rear-heavy. But with just the handlebar bag fully loaded, and no panniers or rear bag, how will the handling be then?

Thanks for any thoughts, suggestions etc.

Steve
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Old 04-17-08, 04:43 AM   #2
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Front panniers and handlebar bags typically serve two completely different functions.

The handlebar bag is best suited to carry things that need to be at your fingertips or things that you want to take with you if you go in a store or whatever. This includes your money, check or credit cards, camera, cellphone, etc.

Front panniers are best suited to carrying heavy, but less bulky stuff. They are good for getting weight low and forward. They typically carry stoves, fuel, cooking gear, food, maps (on a trip long enough to need a lot of maps), spare parts, and other heavy stuff.

I don't think the handlebar bag hurts handling all that much, but it shouldn't carry too much heavy stuff. Front panniers on the other hand are the best place to carry heavy items. My preferred approach is to use small rear panniers along with front panniers and a handlebar bag.
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Old 04-17-08, 07:41 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Front panniers and handlebar bags typically serve two completely different functions.

The handlebar bag is best suited to carry things that need to be at your fingertips or things that you want to take with you if you go in a store or whatever. This includes your money, check or credit cards, camera, cellphone, etc.

Front panniers are best suited to carrying heavy, but less bulky stuff. They are good for getting weight low and forward. They typically carry stoves, fuel, cooking gear, food, maps (on a trip long enough to need a lot of maps), spare parts, and other heavy stuff.

I don't think the handlebar bag hurts handling all that much, but it shouldn't carry too much heavy stuff. Front panniers on the other hand are the best place to carry heavy items. My preferred approach is to use small rear panniers along with front panniers and a handlebar bag.

I fully agree. I'll add that front bags actually improve handling. And don't go overboard on size. Large bags just encourage you to carry more stuff that you probably don't need.

There are a couple of things you can do, stevage, to make the bag fit better. First, if you have STI, you can direct the cables around the bag with V-brake noodles so that the bag is level. This is how it should look



Secondly, most people run their cross brake levers wrong to begin with. Most people run them like these


The lever is parallel with the tops of the handlebars. To use them, you have to bend your wrist upward which is an unnatural position for your hand. You don't have much squeezing power there. Plus, if you have to use them a lot, your hands will get sore eventually.

You should set them up more like a mountain bike lever...below



When my hands are resting on the bars in a relaxed manner, my fingers are naturally resting on the levers. They may look like they are too low but, trust me, it's a very natural position. My wrists are straight and I can brake all day without hyperextension or fatigue.
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Old 04-17-08, 09:11 AM   #4
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Thanks for the tips - I actually suspected as much with the cross levers. Because they're wrapped in the handlebar tape, they're not the easiest to rotate, but should be ok. Boy I really like having them though. I read one reviewer who said after 3 days he never touched them. I use them all the time, for holding the bike steady when I'm not on it, when coasting up to lights and stretching my back, when going down really steep terrain, etc.

I probably will get the bigger bag. I'm just so sick of panniers flapping around, getting caught in wheels, clips breaking etc. Obviously all panniers aren't like that but mine are

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Old 04-17-08, 09:46 AM   #5
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I am going to totally disagree and say that handlebar bags will affect your handling in a negative way.

I have known a couple of people who were convinvced there was something wrong with their headset, they had scary high speed wobbles in their steering. Both times it was fixed by taking off the handlebar bag.

If you're carrying any amount of weight on the front, panniers are the way to do it. In my experience they make the bike more wobbly at slow speed, ie. starting out, but more stable at high speeds.
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Old 04-17-08, 10:16 AM   #6
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If you want to lower your handlebar bag for better handling and to free up some real estate on your bars you can use a second stem or a Thorn accessory bar. I mounted my Ortlieb bar bag lower on my Thorn Sherpa.

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Old 04-17-08, 10:40 AM   #7
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The classic light touring set is a big handlebar bag and a saddle bag-- the reason for this balance. If you want to stick with Topeak gear, (and it's cheap and works ok, for the most part), try a handlebar bag and a trunk. Mess around with your load intil you find a good balance.
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Old 04-17-08, 07:03 PM   #8
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>If you want to stick with Topeak gear, (and it's cheap and works ok, for the most part)

...and my preferred LBS stocks it. I'm finally seeing the light in terms of actually being able to play with stuff before buying. Friend of mine has one of the racktop bags and is really happy with it after a couple of years, never uses panniers except for touring.

What kind of front rack is that btw? Lowrider with shelf would be a nice combination...

Steve
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