Berthoud Bags: Straps for Elastic-Loop Closure Models

 

rinko_bags

Berthoud handlebar bags are wonderful, and we’ve been selling them for years now. I even wrote once that they were “unimprovable”. It turns out that they can be improved after all!

The model most riders prefer is the “standard” version, which uses elastic loops to close the pocket flaps. The “luxury” version uses leather straps and buckles, which sounds nice until you try to open them one-handed while riding, or with cold hands while stopped – it’s fiddly and can be frustrating. However, the “luxury” version also has rings and a removable shoulder strap, so you can more conveniently carry your bag. In the photo above, you see me with my bag wedged under my arm, while Natsuko Hirose carries hers comfortably slung over her shoulder.

After experiencing the difference first-hand, I asked Gilles Berthoud whether he could make the “standard” elastic-loop bags with shoulder straps for us. He agreed, and we now have them in stock. Since it’s a custom model, there is a small upcharge. We continue to carry the standard version as well. The photo below shows the loops, but not the strap –  a webbing strap is included with this model.

3_bag_comparison_lp

Berthoud handlebar bags are available in three sizes, depending on how much room you have between your stem/decaleur and your front rack. Taller riders get bigger bags – which makes sense, since their spare clothes take up more space, and they tend to eat more food! (All the handlebar bags we sell must be supported by a front rack. They can’t just dangle from the handlebars, where they are high and floppy, to the detriment of your bike’s handling.)

gb_28_np_lp

We also asked Berthoud to combine the strap loops with our “no side pocket” special model (above). Having the side pockets removed saves weight, makes the bag more aerodynamic, and gives more room for your hands on the bars, which is especially useful if you like narrow handlebars. The first shipment included only the largest “GB28” model with loops. The other models will follow at a later date.

My handlebar bags are far from worn out – even though I bought my first one 15 years ago – but I might just get another one for those trips when I take my bag along while visiting museums, or travel by train Rinko-style.

Photo credit: Hitoshi Omae (cover photo)

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Compass Cycles, that turns our research into high-performance components for real-world riders.
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26 Responses to Berthoud Bags: Straps for Elastic-Loop Closure Models

  1. cbratina says:

    I have found the elastic loops a hassle to use. So I converted my Berthoud pocket flaps to Velcro which works MUCH better. This bag works great as one that is left on my bike most of the time. I have also found that the zippered pockets on our Topeak Tour are very handy and much more secure. We have found the Topeak Tour QuickClick great when touring as we keep our passports and money in it and can easily pop if off multiple times per day, through it over our shoulder, and comfortable walk around with it. Still hoping Berthoud comes out with a smaller bag closer to the Tour with a QuickClick.

  2. David says:

    This is a good improvement. I never understood why they were missing in the first place. I find that the differences in the product range of Berthoud Bags are often a bit odd…

    • Fortunately, Berthoud is willing to customize the bags if you ask nicely and order a certain number.

      • marmotte27 says:

        “order a certain number”
        There’s the rub when you live in France and don’t want to order a customized bag right around the world in Seattle. I asked GB nicely for a bag without side pockets, and got no answer…

  3. It’s nice that Berthoud is willing to accommodate design changes for their retailers. Personally, I enjoy the flat side pockets, and on the couple of bags I’ve had custom made, I spec those pockets specifically (

    • The side pockets are good for small, flat items like empty energy bar wrappers or train tickets. I like being able to stuff a used wrapper in there without fumbling for a closure cord. I don’t experiencing them taking up more than a few mm of lateral space and my hands have plenty of room with 41mm Grand Bois bars.

      • Do the flat pockets fill with water when you ride in the rain, since they don’t have lids?

      • I ordered a custom bag with those pockets from a small boutique bag maker, and they puckered open from imprecise fabric fit and did let some rain in. But the Acorn implementation of the side flat pocket seems to be really good, the pockets always lay flat against the side and don’t pucker outward to allow water to drip in (unless you try stuffing something bulky in there, but flat paper items and crumpled up wrappers seem to work well). I haven’t noticed rain water getting into them. The small overhang from the main top flap seems to shed the water, like the eave of a roof.

  4. claytonsf says:

    Only thing missing now is the zipper inside pocket under the flap.

    • I assume you would use that pocket as a secure spot for cards, cash and keys? I tend to use a ziploc bag, which I can place in the bag or in my jersey pocket. The ziploc bag probably wins out for weight over the additional cloth and zipper.

      When the top flap gets too heavy, it makes it less pleasant to use the bag.

  5. Dan Connelly says:

    Maybe it’s a bit of heresy but have you considered something like 3M Dual Lock? It’s a far more durable variant on the Velcro theme. My experience with looping an elastic strap around a hook is it’s cumbersome with a handlebar bag mounted close to the bars, since you need to extend the loop between the bag and the bars.

    • Fred Blasdel says:

      The trick is to loop the elastic back over the rear end of the stem, rather than down to the built-in hook. I do it most of the time even when there’s room in front of the bars.

      • Frank says:

        This can interfere with using the tops.

      • I find that I only need to close the top securely at high speeds. I use the tops only during uphills at lower speeds, so I can just unhook the loop if I need to access the tops.

        When I am touring, I usually thread the loop between decaleur and bars to the hook, since I don’t open the bag that frequently, and I am carrying items that should never fall out (camera, etc.). During brevets, I access the bag more often, and I never use the little hook, instead looping the elastic over the back of the stem.

  6. Frank B. says:

    My favourite Berthoud bag is the Grand Bois variant with open, flat side pockets, elastic loops and of course with straps …

    Currently I use the standard GB 28 version without the rings. Because I often need straps, I tied two pieces of parachute cord (3 mm diameter) with bowline knots around the decaleur bar, then hooked a webbing strap through these. Works like a charm.

  7. Johan Larsson says:

    Would it be possible to let some bags stay in Europe to be sold directly through your contacs here? (Anders/Veloform/Sweden in my case…) I would like to buy one “no side pocket” special model, the tallest/biggest one.

    /Johan

  8. Bob Hall says:

    I sewed up my own bag using a pattern found here:

    http://ifihadabikeblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/diy-handlebar-bag.html

    It’s SOOO nice to be able to modify it as you please. No need to order 10 bags from France to get the modifications you want. I spent probably $40 on materials for my bag. I went ahead and made a second one for my wife:

    HIs & hers randonneur bags

  9. AdamBike99 says:

    I’d like to see a Compass/Swift Industries collaboration. Two local Seattle companies who already have much overlap. In fact, I introduced Theo to Jason Goods (Owner of Swift) yesterday morning during #coffeeoutside

  10. Andrew says:

    All this time I’ve taken for granted the features on the Berthoud bag that came with my GB bike. No side pockets, elastic loops, zipped pocket under lid and carry strap loops…

  11. In my opinion it would be a better idea to have GB make the deluxe bags with elastic closures. There are more nice features than just the shoulder strap on the DLs. Larger leather patch on the bottom, zippered pocket in the lid and the possibility to slide the bag onto a properly designed backstop on the rack (Instead of a fixed strap).

    • It’s interesting how many different opinions there are about the “perfect” Berthoud bag. To me, the original Sologne models, designed at a time when these bags still were used on high-performance bikes (as they are again now), were the best. All later “improvements” have detracted from the function, with the exception of the shoulder strap – and that only when touring. During a brevet (with perhaps the exception of PBP), my bag doesn’t come off the bike anyhow…

      The larger leather patch just adds weight without any tangible benefit. The zippered pocket in the lid makes the lid very heavy, so it’s harder to open the bag on the move. And if the bag is half-empty, the heavy lid tends to slide down into the bag. The rear strap has the advantage of being adjustable, and all you need to keep the bag secure (since it’s also attached to the handlebars/decaleur at the top).

      However, I respect that others have different visions, and fortunately, Gilles Berthoud is willing to entertain special model requests. So I am sure somebody will produce the bag of your dreams eventually.

  12. Emily says:

    This is a nice improvement.

  13. Gunther says:

    Just for curiosity and off-topic: what kind of 3/4-pants are that on the first picture?

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