Bringing a handlebar bag to a carbon-tubed road ride in England is a spicy move. But without a fleet of downtrodden domestiques to shoulder your extra gear, kit-stowing alternatives are thin on the ground when it comes to long days in the saddle. Most roadies resort to overfilling their jersey pockets with snacks and supplies, tweezing tyre levers and inner tubes into tight little saddle bags. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; for road riding purists, or the double-butt bottle rocket triathlon gang, a jersey and seat pack works. For the rest of us - especially those who regularly run out of water on hot rides - handlebar bags make a lot of sense.
Americans are a lot more casual about the whole handlebar thing. The West Coast of the United States is home to a number of small, independent bike bag brands making a variety of Groad (road meets gravel), urban cycling, touring and bikepacking bags. And although its roots undoubtedly stem from the French randonneuring tradition, it took a West Coast revival to turn the humble bar bag into something you’d happily strap onto your road bike.
Here’s our pick of the best road bike handlebar bags.
Ornot Bar Bag
Shaped like a St Bernard’s whisky barrel, and depending on the contents, just as restorative, the Rickshaw-made Ornot Bar Bag wouldn’t look out of place even on the most aero of road bikes - those colours pop. One-handed zip access reveals a roomy interior - think a light outer layer, inner tubes, keys and snacks - and dual side pockets with elastic cinch cords holster a phone, wallet and a quicker access snack. Front webbing straps are especially handy for momentarily hooking sunglasses.
Secured via dual velcro bar straps, and a lower head tube elastic bungee cord and toggle, the Bar Bag holds tight, even on the jumpiest of terrain.
Downsides? Zip entry is easy, but you won’t get a mirrorless small body camera or similarly wide items in without a fight as the opening only goes so far. Weather protection is also ‘resistant’ at best, albeit good enough for Ornot’s stated kit list.
Road Runner Burrito Bag
Coming in at roughly half the size of the Ornot Bar Bag, the Burrito by San Francisco-based Road Runner is a simple, small road bike bar bag, designed to swallow a couple of snacks, a tube and a lightweight outer - the bare essentials for a day’s swift road riding. Unlike the Ornot model, it’s made without internal reinforcement, so it won’t easily hold shape when empty; but fill it up, choose from one of the many colour options on the Road Runner site, and it will complement the front end of even the most esoteric steel machine.
Attached via velcro straps, the Burrito sports a water-resistant YKK zipper that should extend the water resistance of the bag for a few minutes.
Riders looking for more space should check out the Burrito Supreme.
Outer Shell Drawcord Handlebar Bag
Despite appearances, at 8" x 4" x 5”, the Outer Shell Drawcord Bag (also known as the world’s best camera handlebar bag) is smaller than Ornot’s offering. But what you get is an arguably more practical bag, shaped as it is in a rectangle form, with a cheeky drawcord lock closure that makes cinching it up from the saddle a breeze. With its wide aperture, it can reportedly fit up to up to six 12 oz. cans, or, carry food, layers, tubes, levers and of course, as the Radavist pointed out, a mirrorless camera.
A semi-rigid frame keeps the Drawcord at attention when empty, while on the outside, three pockets provide generous space for quick access items; a zippered 4th interior pocket rounds out storage duties. Clearly sensible to the needs of audaxers and adventure cyclists (because doing 500km in one go obviously isn’t adventure enough), Outer Shell fashioned the inside of the Drawcord with a white contrast X-Pac fabric, which makes finding a pencil to mark your midnight brevet card a little less of a schlep.
Makeshifter Canvas Works’ The Hangdown
Currently out of production pending an imminent remodel, the waxed canvas Hangdown from Portland’s Makeshifter Works sports a pleasing form factor that ‘hangs’ off your handlebars, providing easy access to its zippered ‘mini-pannier’ interior.
Secured via easy to adjust locking cam buckles on the bar, and a low down bungee cord secured with a (wooden!) toggle to the head tube, the Hangdown can accommodate a layer, lights, tools or snacks. Taped interior seams and an envelope opening help resist water ingress.
Shop online (soon) at Makeshifter, or if you are in Portland, pop into Becky and her partner Kevin’s new bike and accessories emporium, Golden Pliers. Well worth a visit.