The other night I received an email from Bicycle Touring Pro reader, Linda Imle. Her message read:
From what I can tell, Linda is really asking two questions. Her first question is 1) “Do I really need a handlebar bag?”… and 2) “If so, what size handlebar bag should I get?”
To give you my thoughts of the matter, I’ve produced the following video where I talk about the two major reasons I believe using a handlebar bag is beneficial.
What’s important to note here is that using a handlebar bag, like many things with bicycle touring, is a personal choice. There is no rule that says you must or must not use a handlebar bag. In the end it comes down to 1) what kind of tour you are going on and 2) your own personal preferences.
First of all, the length of your tour plays a small part in deciding whether or not you need a handlebar bag simply because those taking a trip just a couple days in length can get away without one. For these people, reaching back into their panniers (or down into their trailer) each time they need to access their things won’t be that big of a deal.
But for someone who is planning to spend weeks, months, or years on the road, having a handlebar bag can really come in handy.
The difference here is that those on shorter tours can usually put up with stopping each time they need to access their things. This small aggravation won’t be that big of a deal when conducted for just a couple days. But for those planning to be on the road for an extended period of time, stopping and bending over (or getting off the bike) each and every time they wish to take a picture or check the map can become extremely draining as time goes on.
The second big part of deciding whether or not to use a handlebar bag is determining exactly what items you wish to carry in the bag so you can access them easily while out on the road. In the video above, I talk largely about the benefits of using your handlebar bag to access two important items – your camera and your map.
However, not every bicycle traveler will deem their camera and map as important as I do. But for those of you who feel your camera and map are just as important to you as they are to me, then I strongly recommend the use of a handlebar bag.
So Linda, and anyone else who might be asking themselves, “Do I really need a handlebar bag?”, here is my advice to you:
The truth is, you do not need a handlebar bag for bicycle touring. The use of a handlebar bag is a personal choice. But if you are like me and you value your camera and the photos you take with it… and you hate to stop every single time you need to look at your map, then using a handlebar bag makes life on the road a whole lot easier.
In regards to the size of handlebar bag you should use, that again is up to you. For me at least, any good handlebar bag that is to be used for long distance touring should be big enough to carry your camera (and any other items you wish to easily access while you are on the road) and it should have a map case of some kind built into the top of the bag so you can view your maps without having to stop your bike every time you need to look up directions.
For those who have traveled with a handlebar bag in the past, what do you think about my advice here? Do you have any other tips for Linda or those who might also be asking themselves if they really need a handlebar bag? Why do you like your handlebar bag? Or why do you hate it? Weigh in by leaving a comment below.