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Hairy Hands 03-21-13 09:48 AM

Handlebar Bag Dilemma
I have a lot of thoughts running thru my head at the moment concerning whether or not to get a handlebar bag, and what my needs really are.. First I have a low trail bike so handling would not be an issue... I have an Arkel Tailrider bag on a rack out back which seems to have enough capacity for most of my extra clothing and rando gear.

What I am lacking is easy to access stuff like food, phone, charger, arm & leg warmers, stuff that I should not have to stop for to access.. Ive tried a Bento bag and it hits my knees when out of the saddle climbing, and it also is not rigid enough and flops around. My top tube is a funky design and wont hold the bag right.

Arkel has a large and small handlebar bag.. I like the small but the map case is not removable and I am worried the case will yellow and crack with time and then I wont be able to replace it.. The larger bag has all the features I like but weighs 1lb more, and looks really big to me.

Is having a front and rear bag just too much crap for the typical 1200k? Should I not be so worried about the weight of it all? Are their other features in a handlebar bag I should be concerned with? (PS. I wont be using a front rack, so it will have to clip to the handlebar)

I guess Im worried that I will be dragging around to much crap for a rando, but I like the idea of having a few extra items, plus having access to them while riding.. Please discuss, and help me decide what to do. Thanks

ronocnikral 03-21-13 10:52 AM

I used to have an Ortlieb handlebar bag (i believe Wayne at the touring store has them on sale right now). I was one of the few randos in Houston with one. It seemed to fit everything I needed within reason (I kept a small underseat bag for some tools and what not). I then moved to a carridice pendle with sportman rack, and kept the handlebar bag. Then I upgraded my bike and got a berthoud bag which mounts on a low rider. I went through 2 1200k's with the handlebar bag and pendle. In the future, I will just have the berthoud bag as I can hold an extra water bottle or 2, rain gear, sweater and tools. This is with a little extra room to spare for things like a sandwich or snacks, which is the main advantage to having a handlebar bag IMO. If it's cold, I may strap some cold weather gear under my seat.

Commodus 03-21-13 11:06 AM

Well weight matters, but not a lot. In terms of cargo capacity, it just depends on your personal philosophy regarding randonneuring. Some folks like to carry everything they'll need on the ride, taking the term 'self-sufficient' literally, but most make liberal use of the drop-bag service available at virtually all longer events.

If I were you, I would take advantage of the fact that your bike is low-trail and fit a very small front rack and put a bag on it. This will solve your access problems and not add any weight over your current setup. In fact, since the Arkel bag is fairly heavy you may even save weight. You will have a similar amount of capacity.

If you want to keep your current setup (and I wouldn't blame you, it's a very nice system, I love Arkel stuff) I would suggest the small bag. I think you'll find because of the height of the bag (no rack to put it down on) it will affect your steering, and lighter is better. The map cases are fairly generic, and several companies sell similar bags so I don't think you'll ever have to worry about not finding a replacement. In addition, mine is many years old and not nearly as nice as the Arkel and it's still going strong.

Hydrated 03-22-13 02:49 PM

I have both setups on my bikes: The Arkel Large Bar bag that I use on a couple of my steeds and an Ostrich/Nitto M12 rack/decaleur setup on my '84 Trek 520.

I really really like the features and construction quality of the Arkel... but I almost didn't buy it because it weighs in at around 2.75 pounds with the mounts and all. But then I weighed my bag/rack/decaleur setup... guess what? It is a grand total of 2 ounces lighter! And that is with the Ostrich bag... it is a very light bag at just under 800g. I would almost bet that if you were to use a really nice bag *cough-cough* Berthoud *cough-cough* that it would make the bag/rack setup heavier than the large Arkel handlebar bag.

Now there are pro's and cons to each setup:
  • The rack/bag puts the weight down as low as possible. This is good and can make a big difference in handling.
  • The Arkel bag is much more waterproof than my Ostrich bag and has much nicer features on it.
  • The Arkel bag can be moved from bike to bike quickly. In fact, if you buy additional mounts for the bag, it takes about 10 seconds to move the bag to another bike.
  • The Arkel bag does not require racks that mount to your fork with special braze-ons or P-clamps.
  • The Arkel bag is not suited for heavy loads at all. The weight is up higher on your bars and will adversely impact handling with much weight in it.

I really like both bag setups, but they are good for different tasks. The main reason that I bought the Arkel bag was to use it on bikes that didn't have racks for either practical or aesthetic reasons, and I've been really happy with it.

But I do loooove the look of a traditional rack/decaleur setup on the right bike.

StephenH 03-22-13 04:52 PM

My opinion: Food doesn't need to be carried on the bike at all (unless you have food allergies and tote everything with you!).
And phone, charger, arm & leg warmers are things you stop to use, put on, or take off.
So none of it really needs to go in a front bag.

Homeyba 03-22-13 06:59 PM

It's always been my philosophy that the more room you have to carry stuff, the more stuff you will carry. It's a basic law of randonneuring physics. ;)
I hear it said that the weight doesn't matter a lot. That often comes from riders who are strong enough for it to not matter. If you spend any time at the back of a 1200k during the last 600kms it can be very illuminating. From my observation, it's the riders who can afford it the least that are the ones carrying the most junk on long brevets. It kind of balances out the front riders who are carrying the least. I'd look for the happy medium. Just for reference, 1lb will slow you down 15-20 second over a mile of 4% climbing, assuming the same wattage each time. That isn't a lot in and of itself but accumulated over 1200kms (or even 400kms) it's going to have an effect in either a slower time or more fatigue trying to ride the same speed. Especially if that 1lb is more like 10lbs+.
If you are a strong rider and can reach the controls with plenty of time to spare then I say carry all you want. In fact, I'll give you some of my stuff to carry ;) but, if you are struggling to meet the time cut-offs then maybe it's time to re-evaluate what you are carrying amongst other strategies.

Bekologist 03-23-13 07:27 AM

i really like the ortlieb front bag in the medium size.

it can be opened and closed easily on the fly, and serves as an excellent rolling snacktray...

You can put a subway sandwich in it and eat it while riding with ease. Fill it with a little ice to keep some beverages cold towards the end of day.

I've also ridden quite a bit with an Ostrich front bag on one of my bikes.

I find this size bag carries a lot of stuff I DON'T need to access while riding. Nice place for everything, but big, heavy all by itself, and has that tendency to get filled up with stuff like homeyba mentions.

dbascent1986 03-23-13 08:11 AM

Carradice zip roll bag is my choice.

Amesja 03-23-13 09:06 AM

Any handlebar bag with integral handlebar mounting clamps can be mounted to a "faux handlebar" decaulleur mounted to a front rack a little above and behind the rack. Mounting a bar bag lower and hugging the front wheel on a front rack will make a huge difference in how that weight is handled by the bike's front end. With the center of gravity low and directly centered over the axle the effect on the steering will be much more neutral.

I'm of the opinion that a little weight isn't a big deal and my comfort is more served by having stuff I want and need when I want and need it instead of "going without" when I want/need it. This comfort and convenience FAR outweighs the mythical slowing down or increased energy required to lug an extra pound or two up hills. Having a place to stash snacks, and clothing layers immediately and conveniently without having to get off the saddle is HUGE.

My bag of choice is the massive Nashbar handlebar bag mounted to the front rack low and off the bars on a decalleur and right over the front wheel.

Comfort and utility trump weight-weenieage any day. When you are tired and haggard having creature comforts makes all the difference in the world. Stuff packed in a back rack bag or pannier might as well be in your car hundreds of km away IMHO..

Road Fan 03-24-13 05:01 PM

I'm building up my Terraferma to take a front load, on which to train up the the 200k level after about 18 mo of minimal cycling. I'm haveing a problem with a front bag that is narrow enough fo my narrow bars. I like a width of about 37 cm at the front of the hooks. I discovered this by riding a SAGGED tour a few summers back, essentially metric centuries several days in a row. Those SR Rando bars felt very natural - I guess I have a narrow chest. Right now the bike has 42 cm Noodles. But with a Berthoud bag on the front rack , there won't be much room between my hands on the hoods or hooks and the side pockets of the bag.

An unforeseen (by me, at least!) aspect of constructeur integration!

What front rack bags are a little narrower than the Berthoud GB 25s and similar?

Amesja, do you know if Nashbar is still selling that big bag you refer to? I think you were experimenting with Topeak a while back, improvising decaleur or other support devices.

Amesja 03-24-13 05:22 PM

I'm pretty sure that Nashbar had both sizes of the handlebar bag available the last time I looked.

I'm thinking of modifying the decalleur of mine to go without the handlebar mount part to save some weight and some ugly bulk in front of the head tube. I was thinking of chopping down the plastic bar mount and removing all the bar-gripping material behind the button on the quick release and pop-riveting on some alloy angle brackets and then pop-riveting them to another alloy bit that will, in turn, bolt to the rack. But I don't want to do this until I assure myself that I can purchase a new handlebar mount should everything go sour!

Amesja 03-24-13 05:29 PM

They have the small one here for $14.99 right now.

And they have the larger one here for $29.99 at the moment.

Those are pretty good deals if you ask me compared to other handlebar bags on the market. They are not without their flaws but the bags, with a little bit of work, are pretty nice. The biggest thing was lubricating the zippers so they moved easier, breaking the bags in so they weren't so stiff, and chasing all the loose threads with a lighter to melt them back and seal them so they didn't unravel later. It took me about a half hour to prep my bag like this and after a season of use it looks just like new. The zippers keep getting better and better the more I use them. I've re-lubed them once so far just to be sure but I don't even think that was necessary. The bag is heavy-duty rip-stop nylon. I don't think it will ever wear out unless the UV light degrades it some time in the distant future. The stuff is TOUGH. Short of the seams ripping out (and I took care of that by melting back all the crappy seam stitching that was wasn't tied off properly and thermally welded the thread and the fraying cut fabric ends at the seams) It should last forever.

unterhausen 03-24-13 05:39 PM

I have no idea how wide a GB25 is, but I have a hard time seeing how an Acorn Boxy Rando would interfere with anything

Homeyba 03-24-13 07:53 PM


Originally Posted by Amesja (Post 15421908)
I'm of the opinion that a little weight isn't a big deal and my comfort is more served by having stuff I want and need when I want and need it ...

Just out of curiosity, how much did your bike weigh (loaded and full of water) at the start of your last 1200k? I assume you have no problems making controls on time. No arguement here on the comfort issue. It's important to have what you need on the bike when you need it.

njkayaker 03-25-13 07:33 AM


Originally Posted by StephenH (Post 15420079)
My opinion: Food doesn't need to be carried on the bike at all (unless you have food allergies and tote everything with you!).

It appears you are assuming that he's thinking of carrying all of his food. Many people carry some food. That's basically the normal case. He's probably thinking of doing that.

Hairy Hands 03-25-13 11:15 AM

Thanks everyone for your thoughts! The furthest Ive ridden with my latest bike creation is 400k, so its still a work in progress... I'm using a cf cyclocross bike as a base for this and when using the Bento bag it sits on the top tube and when strapped down tight interferes with my cables since they all run on top of the tube instead of the bottom. It also flops around a bit when I'm climbing and hits my knees... I could not find a hard sided bento bag..

Currently all the immediate need stuff I carry are in my Jersey pockets, including my route sheet. In theory I liked the idea of having my map, food, arm & leg warmers, phone, and light rain jacket in Front of me instead of on my back or in my rear bag. The front bag would allow me to wear non cycling specific jerseys (no pockets), it would give me easier access to my stuff, puts my route sheet in front of me, and so on.

I went ahead and purchased the Arkel small handlebar bag to try.. It weighs 2 lbs total, and if I use it wisely by not carrying extra junk it should work well for me. Worst case scenario is I'm out 125 bucks for rando riding, but I can always use it if I ever decide to take up touring:rolleyes:.

Hydrated 03-25-13 11:47 AM


Originally Posted by Hairy Hands (Post 15429285)
The front bag would allow me to wear non cycling specific jerseys (no pockets)...

That's one reason that I use a handlebar bag... so that I can wear regular wicking t-shirts in this brutal Georgia heat. I often use my bike to ride into town (God... I sound like John-Boy Walton) and run errands so I don't want to wear a cycling specific jersey.

unterhausen 03-25-13 12:48 PM

I strapped my bento bag on top of my stem because I couldn't stand it in the normal location. Works fine

Homeyba 03-25-13 01:40 PM

They also make clips that you can use to hold your route slip on your stem or bar.

unterhausen 03-25-13 01:44 PM

all of the cue sheet holders I have seen pre-made hold it behind your handlebars where it will hit your knees

ILClyde 04-03-13 03:47 PM

Anyone have any experience with the Topeak Tourguide?

LucF 04-03-13 06:56 PM

I was faced with the same challenge, i.e. wanting to carry some of my stuff within reach, but couldn't have a handlebar bag because I use aeros.

In case you're not happy with the Arkel handlebar bag, here's the solution that works for me.

I use a frame bag sold by MEC, the large model of this one. It costs 18$, weighs less than a pound and the velcro straps are big enough to fit on the huge Cervélo tubes. Because of the bag's geometry it will not fit on all frames, so beware. Also, there's no way it will hold what would fit in most handlebar bags. It holds a bit more than 2L, which is not much.

I use the frame bag to carry a 2-3 hour supply of Hammer Perpetuem tablets, all my granola and electrolytes tablets that I add to my water when I refill. The rest of the Perpetuem tablets go in a Vaude seat bag along with rain gear, tools and first aid. Every 2-3 hours I stop to replenish water and move tablets from the seat bag to the frame bag. Food-wise I can be independent for up to 400 km.

I don't use maps so the frame bag works for me. You'd need a map-holder if you were to go the frame bag way.

Homeyba 04-03-13 09:15 PM


Originally Posted by unterhausen (Post 15429979)
all of the cue sheet holders I have seen pre-made hold it behind your handlebars where it will hit your knees

I have one that attaches to the stem. There was a company selling them at the Great Western Bike Rally a few years back. It doesn't have a name on it so all I can tell you is it's blue. ;) It may be Kucharak or something like that. I know that's not much help other than they do exist.
This one is kind of like it but it's black, not blue. :)!gxgQO8hyhM...e-Sheet-Holder

LucF 04-03-13 11:21 PM

These look like heavy duty handlebar map holders. Haven't tried them.

fietsbob 04-03-13 11:54 PM

Mount a Zzipper fairing in front, and the bag makes no additional aero drag.

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