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Do handlebar bags interfere with STI shifters/brifters?

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Do handlebar bags interfere with STI shifters/brifters?

Old 11-13-23, 09:44 PM
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Do handlebar bags interfere with STI shifters/brifters?

As I've mentioned before, I'm replacing an old Motobecane Grand Record (shifters on the downtube) with a newer bike for touring and commuting. (I ended up going with a Ritchey Outback frame, but I haven't purchased the components to build it up yet.)

The shifters on the new build will almost certainly be Shimano STIs (either 105 or GRX), but I'm concerned that my current handlebar bag (an Ortlieb) won't be compatible with the brifters (if you'll excuse that piece of potentially outdated lingo). On my Motobecane, the Ortlieb bag I was running pushed right up against the ram's horns of my handlebars: it fit, but just barely. Given that the brifters push inward to shift, I'm worried that this same handlebar bag won't be compatible (because the levers won't be able to be pushed inward--they'll be blocked by the bag). Now, as it happens, I'll probably end up with wider handlebars on the new build--at least 2cm wider, probably 4. So maybe that will solve the problem? But I'm curious to know if this is a known issue--that handlebar bags obstruct the functioning of the shifting levers. (I know, in my specific case, it'll be contingent on the width of my bars and the size of my bag... I thin my hb bag is an Ortlieb 6 plus or something like that; my handlebars will prob be 40cm.) Also, in my efforts to answer this question simply by searching the internet, I noticed various discussions of cables (rather than discussions of the bag itself just blocking the inward mechanism of the brifters). I didn't quite understand the cable issue--is that something I should be worried about? Thanks for any advice!
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Old 11-13-23, 10:01 PM
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A picture of your setup would be helpful. Ortlieb does make an extension that holds the handlebar bag further forward.
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Old 11-14-23, 05:58 AM
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Squishing the cables could impinge them and make them move a bit less smoothly. I had that happen on one bike when I used a handlebar bag.
It can often be worked around by re-cabling the bike with the bag attached so you can add length and re-route the cables to give enough room.

Restrap sells a 'bumper bar' that attaches to the steerer tube and pushes the bag out and gives cables room behind it.
There are a few products like that that should let you keep your current bag, but most of them - like the Salsa Anything Cradle or Aeroe Handlebar Cradle - would replace your current bag.
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Old 11-14-23, 06:48 AM
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You might need to look at a bike that has those brifters (I do not think this is vintage lingo) with a ruler or tape measure in hand.

I have a very old Louis Garneau handlebar bag that is very large and wide. If I had the bag mounted up higher, the pocket would be in the wrong place for my Campy brifter.



I have wide shoulders and have the widest handlebars I can have on all my bikes.

The cable issue is the older Shimano brifters that had cables exposed in between the brifters. A friend of mine used V brake noodles to re-route his cables. Sorry about the photo quality, it is cropped from a much larger photo, but the V brake noodles are clearly visible.



If you have room for a second stem, you might consider that to lower your handlebar bag, more on that at this old post:
Racks/Bags and Interrupter Levers

I am traveling today, I probably won't be able to respond to questions for a day.
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Old 11-14-23, 08:41 AM
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I have narrow handlebars and use a handlebar extension (less than 10 on amazon) to push the bag a bit further away from the handlebars. This solves the issue (and also gives it a bit more clearance from the wheel)
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Old 11-14-23, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by 2WheelWilly
As I've mentioned before, I'm replacing an old Motobecane Grand Record (shifters on the downtube) with a newer bike for touring and commuting. (I ended up going with a Ritchey Outback frame, but I haven't purchased the components to build it up yet.)

The shifters on the new build will almost certainly be Shimano STIs (either 105 or GRX), but I'm concerned that my current handlebar bag (an Ortlieb) won't be compatible with the brifters (if you'll excuse that piece of potentially outdated lingo). On my Motobecane, the Ortlieb bag I was running pushed right up against the ram's horns of my handlebars: it fit, but just barely. Given that the brifters push inward to shift, I'm worried that this same handlebar bag won't be compatible (because the levers won't be able to be pushed inward--they'll be blocked by the bag). Now, as it happens, I'll probably end up with wider handlebars on the new build--at least 2cm wider, probably 4. So maybe that will solve the problem? But I'm curious to know if this is a known issue--that handlebar bags obstruct the functioning of the shifting levers. (I know, in my specific case, it'll be contingent on the width of my bars and the size of my bag... I thin my hb bag is an Ortlieb 6 plus or something like that; my handlebars will prob be 40cm.) Also, in my efforts to answer this question simply by searching the internet, I noticed various discussions of cables (rather than discussions of the bag itself just blocking the inward mechanism of the brifters). I didn't quite understand the cable issue--is that something I should be worried about? Thanks for any advice!
real answer is-- it depends....
As you say, handlebar width makes a big difference. One of my bikes has 42cm wide dropbars and older brifters using exposed housings that come out at the sides (unlike those with under the bar tape housings) and with my regular old Ortlieb mount and handlebar bag, it j-u-s-t works, with the smallest amount of bending of the external cables.
Not enough to interfere with shifting or cause binding, but pretty darn close---but it works.

as noted, it also depends on the actual handlebar bag, so until you have an actual bike and an actual handlebar bag to try it, you can't get a black and white answer here.
Using slightly wider bars can always be a help obviously, so I guess the only realistic thing you can do is to look at bike stores at bikes with given bar widths, and take measurements, hold actual handlebar bags in place and see what sort of shifter inward swing is involved and guesstimate from there.

On one of my bikes, I switched from 42cm bars to 46cm, to have more room for holding a drybag and tent in a Revelate harness, and I'm glad of the extra room (although this bike doesnt use brifters as such)
Do you have a preference for a given bar width? What do you use now?

as always, it's the details that will answer your question really.
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Old 11-14-23, 09:08 AM
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Yeah, dont worry about cables being in the way since it isnt 2013 and you are buying new shifters. The cables are routed under bar tape and a handlebar bag shouldnt be in the way.
With STIs, you probably want 2.5" of room on each side to account for the lever throw, which is 12.7cm total between both levers.

And yeah a wider bar is for sure in order, assuming your old bar was stock when your Motobecane was made. The trend for 15 years was wider bars, and especially 2015-2020 the wider bar was pushed hard since gravel gained in popularity. Now the pendulum is swinging back a bit, but its due largely to racing and an aerodynamic focus. Touring is not aero, lets be honest. Get some bars that are comfortably wide and dont consider anything besides comfort.

GEEK TIME!
One thing to consider is using bars with a bit of sweep to them. Gravel popularized these bars because they give you more steering stability on loose surface when you hold the wider drops, but they existed in a small way long before gravel...in touring. Randonneur bars had canted hooks and drops decades ago, though the angle was significantly less than what is used for a lot of gravel riding now.
There is sweep and there is flare. Both are mentioned frequently, but they are different. Sweep is when the hook of the handlebar is sora angled out a bit. Sweep is when the actual drop part of the handlebar is then twisted outward a bit. There are images below to show both.

Anyways, consider bars with some flare(angle or 'canting') on the hooks and drops. This will tilt the shifter lever out a bit which then frees up some space between the bars. Everyone is different and some love flared bars while others hate em. I think many that hate em just hate the look and either havent given them a genuine try, if they have tried em at all.
Anyways anyways, Something like the Salsa Cowbell is a compact all-road handlebar with some sweep that is relatively mild- 12 degree angle. Then the Salsa Cowchipper is a compact gravel handlebar with some more noticable sweep- 24 degree angle. I use Cowchippers on my gravel bike. The hoods are absolutely comfortable on that handlebar, even with the flared angle. I have ridden countless centuries and long races with the hoods at an angle and find the comfort and shifter usability to be absolutely the same as any of my road bikes with bars that have no flair.
Meanwhile, the Easton EA50 handebar has only 4 degrees of flair and the Ritchey Butano has 12 degrees of flare.

The options are endless- pretty much every company that sells drop bars has at least one flared option and most have multiple options. Pics below help show differences, but I bet even 12 degrees of flare is something that would be minimal yet effective when it comes to gaining some room between the bars.


Pro Discover with 12 degree of flare




Salsa Cowbell, Cowchipper, and Woodchipper handlebars showing the varied flare and sweep.





Picture of Salsa Cowbell, Cowchipper, and Woodchipper from the front to show the flare and sweep differences.





Ritchey Butano with 12 degrees of flare and hoods mounted to show the increased distance between levers.
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Old 11-14-23, 09:34 AM
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One thing I will add that is obviously related to this topic, but doesnt apply directly to the rant on bar options I just posted above ^...

- I dont like weight to be high up or way out in front. Personal preference and everyone is different, but I like my weight to be as low as possible and as close to the frame/steerer as possible. I find it gives me a more stable and consistent feel when riding.
Pushing a handlebar bag out further towards the front of the wheel makes it both high up and way out in front. If you dont mind that, then cool.

If you have an Ortlieb 6+, as mentioned, that thing only holds 5 or 6.5 liters of gear.
There are a ton of other handlebar options in that size that should easily fit within 40cm bars. Like really countless- the handlebar bag market is simply absurd at this point with anyone that has brand trying to get a piece of it. And a whole lot that mount lower and closer to the steerer, if that is appealing.
A couple options out of thousands are below.


Some other options if the Ortlieb really doesnt fit-

Swift Paloma 6liter and 26cm wide.







Swift Catalyst 7.5l and 27cm wide body.

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Old 11-14-23, 09:51 AM
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If you want a handlebar bag on 40 cm bars, you may run into some interference. I normally run 42-44 bars, and there's not much room between shifters and the Ortlieb bag.

I ran across the Thorn accessory bar, and it's been a great solution: Thorn Accessory Bar T Shaped 55 mm Extension (sjscycles.co.uk)

You might also look at randonneur bags on a small front rack. See, for example, the garish purple thing at Randonneur Handlebar Bag - Velo Orange (velo-orange.com) Note that similar bags and racks are available from several other sources, but they all tend to be, um, pricey.
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Old 11-14-23, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
You might also look at randonneur bags on a small front rack. See, for example, the garish purple thing at Randonneur Handlebar Bag - Velo Orange (velo-orange.com) Note that similar bags and racks are available from several other sources, but they all tend to be, um, pricey.
I was going to suggest a front rack and say it should be small/light since the OP's fork is carbon, but the Ritchey Outback fork doesnt have a brake hole for mounting accessories(light, fenders, rack, etc). Pretty limiting and quite frankly disappointing since drilled brake holes are on a ton of carbon adventure forks.
There may be a different way to mount a small rack on that style of fork, I really havent looked into it.
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Old 11-14-23, 12:57 PM
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Incredibly helpful--thank you so much!
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