- handlebar connection
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.
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.
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
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€
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.
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€
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€