With gravel riding becoming increasingly more popular than ever it was inevitable that some trends would transfer over to the road. I started noticing handlebar bags around two years ago. Anyone familiar with “the rules” knows that you should only have a saddle bag or nothing at all (I think tool bottles are ok too). I was never really a big fan of having a saddle bag as it ruined the look of my bike but it’s kind of annoying to have everything stuffed in your jersey pockets - not only does this look funny but it also ruins your jersey. I rode without a saddlebag for a few years when I started riding then eventually caved into getting a saddlebag. Nearly a decade later (time flies when you’re having fun am I right?) I got rid of my saddlebag and replaced it with a handlebar bag.
Let’s talk about the benefits.
Ok so It’s kind of amazing not having anything in your jersey pockets - everything I have, even my phone is in the bag. I can carry 3 tubes, spare spokes, extra food my nice silica multi-tool and anything else I need. The good thing about having one of these is you don’t have to stop for food. You just prepare all your stuff and you’re good to go. I did an 8-hour ride yesterday and I didn’t even stop for food - just water. I find it pretty useful to carry all these spares because where I’m riding currently in Malaga you can go hours without seeing another human being especially on a weekday. I’m not home so I can’t just call my parents or friends to come to pick me up. For this type of stuff, it’s unbeatable. There are quite a few available out there from Rapha, Attaquer (I have this one), CHPT3, Restrap(these are cool) off the top of my head.
Now the cons.
Well, it’s a handlebar bag. You can tell how much drag this thing is giving on descents and flats. On rides under 3 hours, I just put a tube, levers and a multitool in a tool bottle and I can just instantly feel it especially on descents. Again the trade-off is pretty good but there’s nothing like having a bottle and a tool bottle on your bike especially when there are fountains everywhere. It’s kind of annoying to see it there in front of you. That’s about it - mostly aesthetic and some imaginary watts here and there.
The funny thing is I used to do 300-600km rides without one - just a saddlebag and a jersey stuffed with a few bars. Now I find myself using it more than I’d like. I think it’s a little different here in Europe because the weather can change and having some extra clothing is always welcomed. Again there’s no one to pick you up if you’re stranded so it gives you some security as well and it saves money on jerseys. I don’t see myself using when I go back to Canada….maybe on a really really big ride.