Even a sports car has a small trunk. Because in the real world, you need to carry a few things. On a bike, you’ll have more fun if you bring a few spare clothes (or a place to put the layers you take off as the day heats up). You’ll need some food for the road, and maybe you’ll bring a camera. And perhaps you’ll even want to stop at a farmers’ market on the way home.
Once you are able to carry these essentials, your riding will be transformed. It happened to us: With a light rain jacket in our bag, we now venture into the mountains even on days that have a “slight chance of rain”. More often than not, it stays dry, but we no longer worry about the weather. And most of all, we’ve found that our bikes aren’t any slower because of the light loads we carry.
What bag to use? As randonneurs, we take bags seriously. During randonneur rides, the clock keeps ticking. To keep stops short, we want to access our luggage without dismounting our bikes. To prevent getting lost and losing valuable time, our map (or route sheet) should be visible at all times. Randonneuring has a long and proud tradition, so it’s little wonder that the bags developed for and by randonneurs offer the best performance, even for casual cyclists.
Randonneurs figured out early that a handlebar bag is the best way to carry your things on a bike. Not only is a handlebar bag accessible without dismounting the bike, but the bike also handles better than with a rear bag: Bikes are steered at the front, so a front load is easier to balance. A rear load always has that “tail-wagging-the-dog” effect, especially when you rise out of the saddle.
To work really well, your bike should be designed for the front load, with a low-trail geometry that reduces the wheel flop at low speeds, along with a front rack that supports the bag low and flex-free over the front wheel. But even when retrofitted to your existing machine, a handlebar bag will transform the way you ride, and open new horizons.
We’ve tried many different bags, and we’ve found that traditional materials, like cotton duck cloth and leather, still offer the best performance. These materials are lighter than most synthetics, more waterproof, and more durable. Some of our own bags have given more than a decade of service, and still are going strong.
“Even after 50 hours of almost non-stop rain during Paris-Brest-Paris 2007, the contents were completely dry.”
– Jan Heine, Bicycle Quarterly Summer 2008
(long before Compass started selling Berthoud bags)
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Berthoud Standard Handlebar Bag$260.00–$270.00
Berthoud for Compass Handlebar Bag, Smooth Sides$265.00–$285.00
Berthoud for Compass Handlebar Bag, Side Pockets$275.00–$285.00
Berthoud Alex Singer Mini Bag$148.00
Ostrich L-100 Rinko Bag$85.00
Ostrich SL-100 Rinko Bag$108.00
Ostrich Tube Covers$26.00
Ostrich OS-500 Airplane Bag$248.00
Berthoud Classic Panniers$399.00–$515.00