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Bike handlebar bag: how and which to choose

One of the most used accessories for bike trips, after side bags, are handlebar bags that assure the comfort of having items of quick and frequently use at your fingertips. But which are the parameters to consider when choosing a handlebar bag for cycling tourism? Let’s see what we have to pay attention to when buying and how to choose the right one

Index

How to choose a handlebar bag for cycling tourism

Having essential items (wallet, telephone, map, keys, glasses...) at your fingertips is handy and avoids you to have to get off from the bike or contort yourself to reach the rear bags in case of need. This is why we use handlebar bags during cycling tourism and this is why we recommend it to you too.
There is no standard suitable for everyone: according to the bike ride you want to face and the type of cycling tourism you practice, you’ll have to choose the most proper handlebar bag. It makes no sense to hook a bag of 8 or 10 liters (very spacious) to the handlebar if you’re going to use it only to put inside your wallet and home keys for excursions of 1-2 days, as well as it will be useless to buy a very expensive waterproof handlebar bag and then put into only your glasses and keys.

Features to consider with handlebar bags

As we have already seen for the bike panniers for cycling tourism, also in the case of bike handlebars bags it’s necessary to evaluate mainly three parameters:
  • capacity;
  • material;
  • handlebar connection
Let’s see in detail these three characteristics:

Capacity

Generally the capacity of these bags varies from 2 to 8-10 liters. If you want to transport a reflex camera and maybe also a lens, you’ll have to have big, spacious bags. On the contrary, if you need it only to put in it glasses and phone, you can make do with a bag of 2-3 liters.

Material

Rely on  waterproof bags or bags made of polyester or, even better, in cordura internally covered with waterproof material. Alternatively pay attention that the "rain cover" is rather thick and solid. Check also the inner padding: often items contained in these bags are fragile and protection becomes important. Generally, high-quality ones have a layer of coated foam rubber. An alternative are stiff bags that assure a higher protection but which are also more fragile.

Handlebar connection

It’s the key element, especially if transporting considerable weight (2-3 kg) like a reflex camera with lenses. Often a purchase turns out to be wrong because of the connection: bags slide down because of their weight or move sideways on disconnected grounds, causing unpleasant undesired jumps. Recently many efficient connections have been designed. These systems, among which the famous Klickfix, are made up of a lock, in most cases in plastic, where the bag is snapped (sometimes also a key is available to lock the bag and avoid theft). The lock is fixed with two rings or with a metallic rope enveloping the handlebar: in both cases it’s essential that there’s also a rope passing under the handlebar pipe to give higher vertical stability to the connection!
 

Bike handlebar bag: five very used models

We will leave to a later in-depth analysis the comparison among some models of bike handlebar bags. For the moment we'll limit ourselves to recommend you five models among the most used by cycling tourists from all over the world, suitable also for long trips

Arkel: lthis Canadian company is little known in Italy but is among the most appreciated ones in America because of the solidity of its products. We cannot say that the price is the strong point of this company since the handlebar bags which produces, according to the price list,  cost 125 € and 165 €, but the handlebar connection system in aluminum looks really solid and stable as well as the material. The presence of a side small net and a front pocket increases its versatility.

You find further information on the Arkel’s web site: attention to possible customs duties if you buy online

borsa da manubrio bici arkel

Topeak TourGuide DX: I used this handlebar bag (capacity of almost 8 l) of this Taiwanese company in New Zealand when it didn’t have yet the metallic rope to help support the weight of transported items and I must say that I had quite a lot of difficulties to keep a decent balance. For some years I have had a smaller Compact of 2 liters (that in the cover picture) with this "rope" and I haven’t had any problem anymore. The Topeak bags I refer to are valid both for padding and resistance but they aren’t waterproof and also the rain cover provided with the bags doesn’t stand strong storms: in this case I recommend to make a thicker covering and with a better grip. All in all anyway the quality-price ratio is, in my opinion, more than good. Recently also Topeak has put on the market a waterproof Drybag of 7,5l of which, though, I have no current information.
You'll find Topeak Tourguide DX on Amazon for aboout 80€

borse da manubrio topeak tourguide

Zixtro Photo Tourer: We have had this bag for about three years and we have treated badly on the roads of Italy and Europe. Its main merit is its rigidity that excellently protects the reflex camera or anything you decide to put into, while the handlebar connection without a rope passing under the pipe hinders a lot its stability when overloaded.

borse da manubrio zixtro photo tourer

Ortlieb Ultimate: as regards bike bags, this German company is, undoubtedly, the most renown in Europe. Its products are of high-quality but this doesn’t mean that they are the best and their price is often much higher than that of a less known product but of same quality. That said, we cannot but mention its handlebar bags since many cycling travelers use them with satisfaction. We personally don’t like very much their handlebar hooking system (our idea is exactly the same of our friend Felino and about it, if you’re curious, you can read his article but unfortunately it's in Italian: Ortlieb da manubrio, una rogna importante) with the presence only of the metallic rope to support the whole transported weight. For the rest, the magnetic closure seems an excellent solution as well as the rigid cover
You'll find the Ortlieb handlebar bag on Amazon for about 80€

borse da manubrio ortlieb ultimate

Vaude Aqua Box: the main competitor of Ortlieb in northern Europe is another German company. The Aqua Box handlebar bag by Vaude has a capacity of 6 liters, is waterproof and made in polyester with rigid cover and magnetic closure. The benefit compared to Ortlieb is the Klickfix fixing to the handlebar which, in our opinion, is better. Details (transparent map-holder compartment, pocket with zip, detachable shoulder strap to transport the bag on your shoulder...) are a very similar to those of their competitor, as well as the design.
You'll find the Vaude Aqua Box on Amazon for about 66€

borse da manubrio vaude aqua box
Leonardo

Cicloviaggiatore lento con il pallino per la scrittura e la fotografia. Se non è in viaggio ama perdersi lungo i mille sentieri che solcano le splendide montagne del suo Trentino e dei dintorni del lago d'Iseo dove abita, sia a piedi che in mountain bike. Eterno Peter Pan che ama realizzare i propri sogni senza lasciarli per troppo tempo nel cassetto, ha dedicato gran parte della vita al cicloturismo viaggiando in Nuova Zelanda, Balcani, Norvegia e molti altri paesi. Ultimamente ha trascorso dieci mesi in bici nel Sud est asiatico e ha attraversato le Ande in bici.

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