There are many ways to add cargo-carrying ability to a bike. Bike bags come in different capacities, attachment types and are commonly categorized by where they are affixed to the bike, e.g. saddle bags, top tube bags and- you guessed it – handlebar bags.
In the of cycling accessories world, few products can match the versatility and usefulness of handlebar bags. While not considered an essential item for many riding situations, the practicality of handlebar bags makes them a great add-on to all kinds of bikes, from fast road racers to burly mountain bikes, and especially adventure, backpacking, touring and gravel setups.
Handlebar bags now come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. There are compact and inconspicuous bags designed for quick rides, all the way to gigantic cargo haulers made for carrying camping equipment and bikepacking gear.
There is also a variety of mounting options to suit the different handlebar shapes and front-end configurations on different kinds of bikes.
Handlebar bags can be dismissed as unfashionable in certain cycling circles, but there is no denying that they add a significant measure of convenience to your ride.
They help you plan your rides without having to compromise on carrying essential gear on account of lack of cargo space, and offer a sleek alternative to ungainly pannier bags in situations where you simply need to organize your gear more than carry big loads.
Handlebar bags also transfer weights from the rider’s body to the bike, which brings the center of mass to a point lower to the ground, thus improving handling.
Anatomy of a handlebar bag
There is a dizzying array of options when it come to the latest crop of handlebar bags, but the basic features of a handle bar bag are as follows: there is a main compartment where most cargo goes, plus supplementary pockets or smaller compartments where you can stash smaller items where ease of access is a priority (e.g. energy gels or food).
Many bags offer water-proof construction, reflective detail for enhanced night visibility and hook-and-loop accessory straps. Attachment to the handlebar is most commonly done by means of soft straps made from materials that would not scratch or mar the finish on your handlebar or frame.
In this article we have a look at some of the best handlebar bags currently offered on the market.
1. Small handlebar bag: SpeedSleev Diego Handlebar Bag
At 8 inches wide by 3.5 inches tall, the SpeedSleev Diego handlebar bag makes a great option for those who only need to carry the bare essentials without adding too much weight or bulk to their bike’s front-end.
The Diego bag has enough space to fit your keys, a small multi-tool, a road bike inner tube and maybe a small snack. It features a rugged ballistic nylon shell construction, water-resistant zipper with pull tabs and a simple yet secure dual Velcro straps for handlebar attachment.
For those looking for a slightly larger handlebar bag without going too large, SpeedSleev also makes the Diego in a larger version which offers double the capacity of the regular Diego.
2. A handlebar bag for mountain bikers: Wolftooth BarBag
This one is a personal favorite of mine when I am out on my mountain bike on longer rides. The unique thing about the Wolftooth BarBag is its asymmetrical shape that is designed to fit closely to the inside of mountain bike handlebars on either the left or the right of the stem (it comes in left or right-side mounting versions).
The BarBag has a firm nylon body weighing only 98g and a lid with a transparent panel that is super easy to open one-handed even with full-finger gloves on.
The BarBag has a very modest capacity of 0.6 liters, but I’ve found it more than enough for those long mountain bike rides where I want a few extra gels and a few other small items.
The BarBag is attached to the handlebar and stem simultaneously with three Velcro straps, which makes it very fairly bounce-free over rough terrain. It’s small profile and sleek shape makes it very well-suited to fast-paced rides where a larger bag may be too bulky.
3. Weather-proof handlebar bag: Revelate Designs Sweetroll Handlebar Bag
Revelate Designs claims that the Sweetroll Handlebar Bag is 100% weatherproof. It has a one-piece construction with roll closure on either end. The Sweetroll comes with welded seams, daisy chain webbing and spacers to offset it away from the handlebar and minimize friction with brake and shift cables.
The Sweetroll comes in two sizes, 11L and 15L, and is compatible with both flat and drop handlebars. Revelate Designs also offers add-on accessory pockets that could increase the cargo capacity of the Sweetroll.
4. A handlebar bag for carrying camera gear: Chrome Industries Doubletrack Handlebar Sling
Made by Oregon-based company Chrome Industries, the Doubletrack Handlebar sling isn’t designed specifically as a camera bag. However, its shape and dimensions make it very well suited to this application.
It has a semi-rigid nylon shell construction with 70d poly liner, which allows it to retain its rectangular shape even when vacant. Two elastic mesh side pockets allow quick-access to small items.
The Doubletrack can also be worn as a sling bag with a crossbody strap (which tucks away in the bag when it is on the handlebar), allowing the rider to grab and go when needing to take the gear off the bike. It has a 5L volume and a magnetic closure top flap.
>>> See also: Lead Out Mini Handlebar Bag Review <<<
5. Modular handlebar bag: Stashers v3.0 Modular Insulated Adventure Bag Black
Stashers is a new company, but their modular Adventure Bag offers a very interesting and distinctive feature: the ability to attach in different configurations (i.e. not only to handlebars, but also to the frame) as well as the ability to stack more Adventure Bags by attaching them to each other, allowing the rider to add or degrease cargo capacity according to the needs of the rides they planned.
The Adventure Bag is insulated and comes with a removable food-grade liner. Stashers even sells a carry strap accessory that allows their bags to be carried on the rider’s body if there is a need to take it off the bike.
6. Bikepacking handlebar bag: Ortlieb Handlebar Pack
Ortlieb is a company known for making very high-quality bike bags, and their handlebar Pack appears to conform to that reputation with its durable and well thought out construction.
Coming in two versions, 9L and 15L, the Ortlieb Handlebar Pack has dual-sided roll closure, exterior compression straps that allow accessory attachment options and mounting points that allow adding additional Ortlieb accessory packs for a larger load capacity. The Ortlieb Handlebar
Pack is designed to be attached to the handlebars with spacers. Similar to many larger bike-packing handlebar bags, they might not fit narrow drop bars and are best suited to wider gravel drop bars or flat bars.
7. Simple handlebar bag: Moosetreks Handlebar Bag
This is a great option for those who just want to carry an additional water bottle and a couple of small snacks on their rides. The Moosetreks Handlebar Bag features an insulated rip stop nylon construction with draw cord closure.
It can fit bottles up to 32 oz and has a drainage hole built into the bottom of the bag to allow easy cleaning and draining. This bag also has three exterior mesh pockets allowing quick access to small items, and securely attaches to bike using a 3-point strap system.
Its compact and vertical design means that you can add another on the other side of your stem if you wish to carry more food or another bottle.
8. Cheap handlebar bag: Lumiere & Co Handlebar Bag
For the last item on this selection, I’ve chosen a handlebar bag that stands out from the competition in just one area, the price.
It comes with many of the features of more expensive models such as zippered and netting pockets, inner compartments, and detachable shoulder strap, but it’s only water-resistant, not waterproof and it’s certainly not lightweight.
The Lumiere & Co is a really simple handlebar bag and a great alternative for those looking to try out a bag of these characteristics for the first time without having to commit to the big money spending.
Best Use: Road, gravel, commuting
Material: 700D Nylon
Dimensions: 25 x 10 x 10 cm
Weight: 335 g
Some notes on what to look for when shopping for a handlebar bag
Choosing the right handlebar bag depends on some key criteria:
1. How long are most of your rides?
For riders who go on quick 1-2 hour spins, the smallest of handlebar bags may offer them the basic convenience of freeing up their pockets and secure storage for small items like car keys, snacks and wallets. Long-distance riders will want the additional load-bearing capacity of larger bags.
2. What do you need to carry?
Are you a backpacker? Do you need to carry camera gear or other fragile equipment? The answers to those questions are important to determining the type of handlebar bag you need. If you often need to carry expensive electronics you might need to find the most robust bag with additional internal padding and good weather-proofing features like sealed seams to prevent moisture ingress from damaging your gear.
3. What type of handlebar does your bike have?
While the basic design of most handlebar bags is similar, not all bags will fit all kinds of handlebars. For example, the Wolftooth BarBag featured above is designed to fit on the inside of mountain bike flat or riser bars, and comes in right- or left-hand side specific options, so have a good look at your handlebar’s shape and width before deciding on a handlebar bag!
As with many other cycling items, there’s not a universal set of rules when it comes to choosing the right handlebar bag. It all depends on personal choice, experience, and needs.
Above all, consider the type of terrain and length of your rides, they’ll determine the bag that will best suit you as well as the number and size of the items you must carry.
Versatile and convertible handlebar bags are always a safe option to guarantee that all your cargo needs are met whatever the conditions.
Hani Morsi is a seasoned multi-discipline cyclist with a particular liking for mountain and gravel bikes. Hani is also a mountain bike coach, trail builder and experienced bike mechanic.