The best handlebar bags for cycle touring and commuting in 2021 compared
Some travelers do not consider the handlebar bag as essential for cycle touring, although you certainly won’t fail your bike trip without one, it’s still one of my favorite piece of equipment when traveling by bicycle.
Choosing the best bike handlebar bag is not easy, there are quite a few out there, some may be more suited for daily bike commuting or short trips, while others are specifically designed to withstand the hardships of long bicycle expeditions.
With the rise of the bikepacking style, a new generation of handlebar bag has come out, and more and more people are considering the handlebars as a perfect space to store your gear.
In this blog post, we’ll cover the more classic style of handlebar bags, trying to help you chose the best bag for your needs.
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Classic Style VS Bikepacking Style
The new generation of bikepacking handlebar bags is mostly rolled waterproof bags using a harness to attach them to the bars. They are generally used to store a sleeping bag or even a small tarp tent.
Although I find this style cool, good-looking, and maybe more aero-friendly, I think there are a lot of disadvantages that make the handlebar bag lose its original, and in my opinion most interesting feature.
These front bar bags usually, if not always, open on one side, making this almost impossible to reach the gear while cycling, most of the time will be necessary to untie the bag from the bars.
You may argue that there’s no reason to access your tent or sleeping bag while cycling, and my answer will be “so why are you storing it in the most accessible place?”.
Traditional handlebar bags, on the contrary, open from the top, usually with a lid on the side of the rider, this way allows easy and quick access to what’s inside.
Why you should consider a handlebar bag
This ease of access to some of the gear is just great. Having what you might need while riding within hand reach, taking it out without dismounting from the bike it’s a huge gamechanger.
Besides that, most handlebar bags have a quick release system that allows you to take them off the bike with a single movement and bring them with you as messenger bags using the included shoulder strap.
What to put in a handlebar bag
The handlebar bag is the best place to store your valuables, such as ID, passport, wallet, keys, and everything else you really do not want to lose or have stolen.
Detaching the bag from the bike and bringing it with you every time you leave your rig unattended will make you sure you have your dearest items always with you.
My favorite piece of gear to put in the handlebar bag is, by the way, my camera.
Whether you use a DSLR, a compact camera or just your phone it just amazing having the possibility to shot a picture without getting off the bike, you can just stop, take the camera and shoot!
Some bar bags are specifically designed to store DSLR cameras and lens, with padded interiors and dividers.
We got to test the previous version of this handlebar bag during our recent North-European tour, and we can guarantee not a single drop of water gets in, even under a serious downpour like those we constantly experienced in Norway.
This revamped version of the MSX-Mainstream Handlebar bag definitely sets itself as one of the best handlebar bags in the market.
Stiffened with rigid plastic on all sides, with reinforced lid and the bomb-proof Click fix mounting system, this as sturdy as a handlebar bag can get. It can be loaded with up to 8kg of stuff!
It comes with a flexible internal separator to create different compartments as the user pleases, it also has two internal pockets (one on the lid and one on the inner side) and two small external side pockets to ensure everything is stored properly an always on-hand.
An additional velcro on the top of the lid allows you to put on a map-case or any other velcro element.
Two side rings to attach the included shoulder strap turns it in a very comfortable “purse” to carry on your walks. The strap is padded and doesn’t hurt even when the bag is fully loaded.
The Topeak Tourguide is a full-featured handlebar bag with a QuickClick quick-release bracket and shoulder strap that makes it easy to take it with you.
For extended touring, day trips, and commuting, this bag features a special space to mount your cycle computer, a clear map cover, a 3M reflective strip and safety light mount for increased low-light visibility, and an included rain cover for additional weather protection.
Topeak’s QuickClick system is built into every bag they make. This Topeak’s proprietary quick-release mounting system allows fast and easy tool-free mounting and removal of the bag.
A simple slide and click and the bag is secure. To remove, a simple push of a button unlocks the system for easy removal.
The biggest of the Topeak handlebar bags with its 7 liters of capacity. This super durable multi-featured handlebar bag also comes with the proprietary QuickClick mounting system bracket.
Designed for extended touring, day trips, and commuting, the TourGuide has a divided main compartment, a front zip pocket, top pocket, clear map pocket, a clip for a cycle computer, plus a 3M reflective strip and AlienLux mount for added nighttime safety.
The Durango is a cheap handlebar bag for those who are on a budget. It attaches to the handlebar with a 3-point tension mounting system. It features a large exterior pocket with covered zipper and Scotchlite reflective trim.
This is a well-made bag for the price. If you are expecting high-end touring gear, this is not it. Although the plastic insert definitely helps the bag hold its shape, the bag itself droops due to the strap mounting system.
The Bushwhacker Durango needs a rain cover to be waterproof. A useful and cheap handlebar bag for everyday commuting and occasional touring.
The small Roswheel LOHAS Series 3L handlebar bag comes with a built-in map holder. Made with 400D Nylon, PU leather, and transparent PVC, the whole bag is filled with EVA cotton for better protection and better shape-keeping.
Like most bike handlebar bags it comes with an adjustable shoulder strap. The Roswheel has a well-structured design, 3L capacity, one main compartment, two zippered side pockets, and front pouch, besides the top map holder.
Roswheel claims this bag to be fully waterproof. It is attached to the handlebar using T-shape velcro straps.
Roswheel LOHAS Series 3L Features:
Weight: 0.62 lbs / 300g
Materials: 400D Nylon, PU leather, PVC, EVA cotton pad
Last but not least of the Roswheel series of handlebar bags, simply named Waterproof (Chinese brands often lack creativity when it comes to engaging names). This versatile and budget handlebar bag is fully waterproof with welded seams and roll-top closure system.
While cycling, it’s a bicycle front bag. While walking, it turns out to be a shoulder bag, coming with a shoulder strap and buckles on each side. The PVC fabric makes it easy to clean.
Thanks to three velcro straps and two buckles on each side, it can be installed in a few seconds without any tools. The reflective LOGO print increases visibility at night.
Ortlieb doesn’t need any introduction. These German brand is leading the bike touring bags’ market for decades. The Ortlieb Ultimate 6M Classic has been tested by thousands of long-distance cyclist on countless bicycle tours.
Made of waterproof polyester, it includes a top reinforced with magnetic closure and the proprietary Ortlieb locking system that provides stability and security, once the bag is fixed to the handlebar, both the top and the bag can be secured with one hand.
Wallet, id, and keys can be safe inside the interior compartment with zipper, which incorporates also a carabiner for the keys, while a detachable shoulder strap allows you to carry the bag with total comfort when off the bike.
The bag is suitable for handlebars of up to 31.8 mm and tapered handlebars but not suitable for carbon handlebars). The front carries a 3M Scotchlite reflective element. It’a compatible with Ortlieb maps and mobile cover. The bag comes in two different sizes.
This is for sure one of the best handlebar bags for bicycle touring on the market, but the price is almost double to the second most expensive ones.
Specifically designed for DSLR cameras the Ibera BIke Mini Camera Pak is the small version, a bigger version is also available for those carrying more lenses or bigger DSLR. The stored gear can be easily accessed.
The bag has a sturdy click mounting system which makes it suited for extended bike tours, besides daily commutes and day trips.
It fits large DSLRs, lenses, and additional camera accessories which are sure to stay in place thanks to the padded removable divider, with reinforced sides to protect fragile items.
The lid is angled with a clear map sleeve for easy viewing of maps or even a phone.
With multiple compartments, external bungee cords, padded shoulder strap for off-road use, reflective trim to add to low light or nighttime safety, and an all-weather rain cover shields, this bag looks like great value for its price.
Another king brand when it comes to bicycle touring and outdoors, in general, is Vaude. The Aqua Box is a great single compartment handlebar bag, made of fully waterproof PVC-free tarpaulin material and featuring a strong and reliable Klick-Fix adapter.
It features reflective elements, an inner removable zip pocket, and a shoulder strap. The quality is very close to the Ortlieb but the price tag is lower.
Here comes the King-Size of the handlebar bags. This compact but huge waterproof bag allows the bike expeditioners to keep important items close at hand when traveling or commuting.
It keeps your phone and map visible and dry in the clear map sleeve, features a phone pocket, keeps contents dry and dust free due to the IP54 welded construction and the roll-top closure.
The visibility is increased thanks to reflective accents, and safety is added by the integrated attachment point for safety light. Quick access to snacks or other small items is made easy by the mesh side pockets.
Note that some sellers do not include the mounting piece in the shipping, which must be purchased separately.