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Bike Handlebar Bag Guide: Picking out your go-to bag

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Getting Started:

ortlieb-ultimate-compact-three-bags-studio With a handlebar bag, you can keep your phone close, and your snacks closer. As one of the most popular bike bags around, handlebar bags have the inherent design of keeping necessity gear within arms reach. You can carry food, electronics, replacement bicycle parts, and other small, compact items without the worry of having to mount a bike rack. The simplicity of the handlebar bag makes it quite versatile for many uses, while small features can offer advantages for specific transport needs. Comparing features like organizational pockets and dividers versus ruggedness and waterproofing are important when choosing which bag is right for you. A great everyday bag for small storage, no bag can quite match the level of convenience as the handlebar bag.

ortlieb-ultimate-compact-red-mounted-on-child-bikeA handlebar bag sits on the valuable real estate at the front of your bike. The ability to reach items while riding comes in handy on any type of biking excursion, especially when grabbing a bit of gel, or a bite of an energy bar is required. Most standard handlebar bags have the opening snaps or zippers facing towards you, so you can easily open the top while riding, grab a snack, and close it back up while still keeping your cadence. Another convenience factor of handlebar bags is that they do not require a rack, like bike panniers and rack-top bags do. No need to worry if your bike has enough mounting eyelets, if there will be enough heel clearance, or other compatibility issues. They are designed to attach to any bike, and mount and dismount with ease.

The material is another feature that should be taken into consideration when picking out a bag. Handlebar bags can be broken down into two levels of water protection: waterproof and water-resistant. Waterproof handlebar bags are made from materials such as dry bag style PVC or treated, heavy-duty Cordura. Features like seams, pockets, and zippers all diminish the bag's ability to seal out water, therefore most waterproof handlebar bags offer fewer organizational features than their water-resistant counterparts. For the best of both worlds, there are water resistant handlebar bags which offer tight fitting rain covers, an easy solution for protection during an unexpected rain shower.

Accessories such as rain covers, map cases and shoulder straps are either included or available separately for most handlebar bags. Lone Peak offers the bare bones handlebar bag, so you have the opportunity to accessorize with a rain cover or shoulder strap if it's necessary. Other bags like the Vaude Road I include all of the bells and whistles for an all-in-one package. Ortlieb falls somewhere in between the two. As one of the most rugged handlebar bags around, the completely waterproof Ortlieb Ultimate 5 includes a carrying strap, while still having the option of adding either a map case or GPS Case depending on which set up you prefer.

ortlieb-ultimate-medium-classic-black-moab

Helpful Accessories

  • Map Cases and GPS Cases: ortlieb-ultimate-classic-couple-with-map-case Location, location, location. What better place to keep a map or navigation system than right in front of you? Handlebar bags provide a perfect surface for mounting accessory items like a map case or GPS holder so important location information doesn't go unnoticed. Even traveling with important electronics like a smart phone or mp3 player is made easier with water proof cases that can be integrated into your setup. Instant access, right at your fingertips.
  • Camera Inserts: Organization and keeping items secure is a main priority when riding with gear on the bike. Ortlieb offers a camera insert with adjustable Velcro parts that can be moved as needed so your nice camera stays securely in place no matter what the terrain.
  • Rain Covers: Water resistant bags typically have a rain cover option for light, unexpected showers. Vaude includes a rain cover within a stealth back pocket, while Lone Peak offers the rain covers separately.
  • Shoulder Straps: Dismounted, a handlebar bag can instantly transform into a carry bag with the simple addition of a shoulder strap. Increase the versatility of your handlebar bag and bring your gear with you while off the bike.

Mounting System Styles and Considerations

  • Bracket Mounting Systems: The bracket style systems are the most secure mounting systems available. They are an ideal set up for touring to minimize rattling. Ortlieb carries a popular bracket style mounting system that locks the handlebar bag to the bracket. This system requires looping a wire through the bracket and around the handlebars. Vaude utilizes the similar KlickFix system which does not lock, but is easier to install because it uses clamps around the handlebar instead of the full wire wrapping. The one drawback of the bracket mounting is that the wire wrap system is not recommended for carbon fiber handlebars.
  • vaude-handlebar-bag-mounting-kit-stock
  • Velcro Mounting Systems: Very easy to swap between bicycles, handlebar bags which include Velcro mounting are best used for commuting, and carrying fairly light necessities. Lone Peak offers some smaller handlebar bags which utilize these Velcro mounting straps and work great for a cruiser or towney bike. The larger Lone Peak bags switch to the bracket mounting system to accommodate the weight of a heavier load
  • Odd shaped Handlebars: There are various solutions available for those quirky handlebar issues. For narrow handlebars or when limited space is available for mounting, the Ortlieb Mounting Extension piece comes in handy. This places the bag an extra two inches away from the handlebars to create more space for your hands, cables, or computer. Over-sized handlebars can be an issue for fixed bracket systems which have clamps that go around the handlebars instead of the full wire wrap system. Lone Peak and Vaude utilize the fixed bracket system, and offer over-sized clamps to replace the standard size.
  • Multiple bikes: All of the bracket style handlebar bags can be easily transferred between bikes by attaching a bracket to each of your bicycles' handlebars.

For further information on bike handlebar bags, please review our Bike Bag FAQ's and our Bike Bag & Rack Comparison Chart.

Our Brands:

vaude-road-I-handlebar-mounted-site-image Ortlieb Handlebar Bags: Ortlieb has two sizes of handlebar bag, Medium and Large, along with two waterproof fabric options, the PVC Classic fabric, and the Cordura Plus fabric. All bags include a carry strap and mounting system, but the plus style bags include an internal divider as well. Ortlieb also offers the largest array of additional accessories for handlebar bags. Handy items like a map case, GPS Case, camera insert, and locking mounting system make the Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Handlebar bags ultimately versatile. If you don't want to carry much, or need a more paltry bag to make room for your auxiliary brakes or hand positioning, the Compact Ultimate 5 is a smaller version of the Ultimate 5 handlebar bag, made to hold only the essentials. The Compact includes a shoulder strap, but is not large enough to accommodate any of the additional accessories.
Racktime Handlebar Bags: The Racktime Handlebar bags use the same solid mounting system as Ortlieb, but are geared towards commuting and fair-weather touring. Available in the water resistant Cordura fabric, Racktime bags include a multitude of organization options with outer zipper pockets and mesh pockets, along with internal pockets and elastic holding straps for securing small items in place. Since these bags are not waterproof, Racktime includes a bright orange rain cover in a stealth zipper pocket on the top of the bag. A Racktime map case is available as an accessory, along with the Ortlieb camera insert which is compatible with the Racktime Bar-It bags.
lone-peak-h2o-outback-handlebar-bag-blue Lone Peak Handlebar Bags: One of the best water resistant handlebar bags around, this US brand out of Salt Lake City, Utah, makes basic handlebar bags that are tough, and easy to use. With a large variety of handlebar bags, Lone Peak has many options for size, color, and mounting. Rain Covers and Shoulder straps also are available as extras for all of the handlebar bags. The smallest size bag, the Lone Peak H-H20 Outback, mounts with Velcro securing straps and has an integrated water bottle holder with included bottle. This kind of bag is ideal for short trips on a hot day. At the other end of the spectrum is the largest Lone Peak bag, the H-100 Alta handlebar bag. With a total volume capacity of 660 cubic inches, and a bracket style mounting system, the Alta is a good choice for touring.
Vaude Handlebar Bags: The Vaude Handlebar Bag selection includes both water resistant and waterproof fabrics. The Road I bag is made of water resistant, rip stop honeycomb Cordura fabric. With tons of organizational space, easy zip-open lid, and integrated orange rain cover and map case, the Road I is one of the most versatile bags around.

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