Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Look at Berthoud Handlebar Bags and Thoughts on Attachment Options

Berthoud Handlebar Bag, Model 25
I finally received a Giles Berthoud handlebar bag for the Randonneur. It's the Model 25 in gray, which is their medium size and features elastic ties for the pockets instead of leather straps.

Berthoud Handlebar Bag, Model 25
The visual presence of this bag is almost too much for me. There is something about its colour scheme and construction that says "I am French and I am exquisite," and I find this both interesting and intimidating.

Berthoud Handlebar Bag, Model 25
But happily, the Berthoud does not overwhelm the aesthetics of the bicycle. The size is a perfect fit. And the darker fabric and lighter leather combination parallels the contrast between the frame and lugwork. In comparison, the Ostrich handlebar bag on my own bike is more drab and also more bulky.

Berthoud Handlebar Bag, Front Pocket
The bag has a large front pocket,

Berthoud Handlebar Bag, Side Pocket
two side pockets

Berthoud Handlebar Bag, Pockets and Rack Attachment
and two rear pockets. The top flap closes toward, rather than away from the cyclist, which is the opposite of what I am used to with the Ostrich and makes it counterintuitive for me to use - but this is of course user-specific. You can see that leather straps are provided for wrapping around the back of the rack. However, there are no provisions for securing the bag to the rack's platform, which surprised me (Ostrich includes straps for this). I know that some devise DIY systems, and if you've done so I'd love to hear about your process.

Berthoud Handlebar Bag, Books and Clothing
There are leather straps provided for attaching the bag to the handebars, though most opt for installing a decaleur. And here is where we are experiencing a little glitch. Ideally, the owner would prefer to forgo a decaleur: He plans to ride both with and without the bag, and a bagless decaleur sticking out of the bicycle doesn't look great (I agree). The handlebar straps hold the bag up fine, but without being secured on the bottom it bounces on the rack when filled with stuff and going over bumps.  I am also told that the bag can move from side to side without a decaleur, though I haven't experienced this yet during my one test ride so far (with 10lb of weight in the bag).

Berthoud Handlebar Bag, Handlebar Straps
As far as decaleurs go, we had planned to use one of these if going without proved impossible, but I have since been warned that using it with the Nitto lugged stem (as opposed to the regular Technomic stem) is not a good idea, for complicated reasons related to clamp compatibility that I won't go into here.  An alternative would be Berthoud's own decaleur, but it too apparently presents issues with the lugged stem - plus it is fairly obtrusive without the bag on. A headset-mounted decaleur is not possible here, because it would sit too low. So I am seeking a solution, and  also wondering whether securing the bag at the bottom would in itself solve the problem. The bag is not nearly as large as my Ostrich, and I know that some do manage to use it without a decaleur. Sharing of experiences in this regard would be most appreciated.

40 comments:

  1. I used Peter's Weigle's "anti-decaleur" DIY method to secure my Ostrich bag to the front rack. This method completely eliminates any sliding of the bag on the rack:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/49353569@N00/4971213280/

    And my implementation (you can see the black R-clip behind the headlight bracket):

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5517630924/

    I use the R-clip method instead of the leather strap that Ostrich provides. The strap still allows lateral and fore-aft movement of the bag. I like the bag to be rock-solid.

    I'm also using the clips in conjunction with a stem-decaleur. My bike frame is so tall that a headset decaleur would have been too low:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5517042805/in/set-72157625413101060/

    But the R-clip method is so secure that I don't even need the decaleur. I've taken Weigle's method one step further and grommeted the two small holes I poked in the bag for the R-clips.

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  2. Forgot to add, in your client's case, I would propose that the combination of the existing handlebar straps and R-clips would make this bag completely solid. It does involved poking two small holes in the bottom of the bag, but if you grommet them and use nice knurled brass nuts to secure to the clips, it makes for a very nicely finished and detailed mod.

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  3. Jeez, I hadn't realised that your bag was attached to the rack in this manner. Thanks, will have to talk to you about this in person.

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  4. DAMN!! That's a small suitcase!! :^()

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  5. The main compartment of the Ostrich is probably 50% larger : )

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  6. A decaleur discussion is going on over at the RBW list right now. One of the options that came up is this fantastic DIY job. Pretty nice!

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  7. Interesting DIY! Would not work here, because anything sprouting out of the headset area would be positioned too low. Could you post a link to the RBW discussion or it is not publicly viewable?

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  8. Most decaleur's are just bent pieces of steel, maybe you could make your own to suit???

    MASMOJO

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  9. Maybe you could use something like the VO Rackaleur to give the bag additional hold. You would have to cut the bottom part that might interfere with the rack. It has the bonus that when removed no part is left on the stem

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  10. The thing is, I don't think that any type of decaleur/rackaleur setup, pre-made or DIY, is going to eliminate the flopping up and down completely. For that, you need to have a secondary attachment at bottom, either via strap or by alternative DIY method.

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  11. Give the Berthoud a couple years, mine is no longer intimidating in any way. However it is very durable, having put up with my lack of general maintenance, a trip to Holland, a D2R2, mounted on three bikes, and a number of unpaved roads (it could probably due for a wash). I removed the insert and use a VO headset mounted decaleur and VO rando rack. It stays fairly stable, though I have lost it twice on big bumps. I really like the way it opens, since I can easily access it while riding, you know to get food, check your phone, change your shirt, etc. I did find the elastics a bit weak, so I doubled them over so that they held their contents more securely.

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  12. The "Anti-Decaleur" methodology developed by Peter Weigle was used for a smaller bag. He hasn't recommended it for a bag as large as the GB25 that's on the Lovely Bicycle Randonneur - "The bag shouldn't be taller than say a Berthoud GB2286 which is 190mm tall, after that you need a proper decaleur for support." (copied from Peter's Flickr photostream describing this method - http://www.flickr.com/photos/49353569@N00/4971213280/).

    I used the Velo Orange "Traditional Stem Mount Decaleur" on my bike, with a Rivendell lugged stem. It was installed by my favorite mechanic at a LBS. He used a longer stem bolt (these are available from VO), and a spacer to mount the decaleur. I can send some photos if you're interested.

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  13. V: Ahhh, good point. He has a tall HT and a relatively shallow bag so the drop would be different. Here's the RBW discussion. I don't think you have to join the group to view it, but may have to be logged into google???

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  14. I've added a photo to my Flickr photostream that shows the mounting of the stem decaleur here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/37964304@N05/5982776362/

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  15. What about the Kick Flix (or whatever it's called) mount?

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  16. " I don't think that any type of decaleur/rackaleur setup is going to eliminate the flopping up and down completely. For that, you need to have a secondary attachment at bottom"

    I agree. Truly surprising that Berthoud does not make provisions for this.

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  17. BTW: I rode the bike some more today with less weight in the hbar bag. No stack of heavy books, but just my camera equipment, phone, keys, wallet, etc. - normal stuff. The bag did not bounce this time, it was fine as-is. So I am hopeful that securing it to the rack's platform will keep it steady with more weight inside, as well as off road. Fingers crossed.

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  18. Honestly, when the bag is attached with a traditional decauler there really isn't much of an issue with the bag flopping around. That's probably why the GB bags don't have anything underneath. With my Acorn rando bag I don't bother with the velcro straps on the bottom anymore. The solid decauler keeps the bag where it does and the part of the rack that goes through the sleeve in the bag keeps it from rocking on the axis around the decauler. Pretty solid overall.

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  19. This is only a little off-topic: Have you had any problems with your camera equipment in bike-mounted bags? I have a Yashica rangefinder that I carried in a front bag for a while, and I believe a (rather shifty, already-self-repaired) solder joint in the camera came loose due to the bumping. I've been nervous to carry an SLR in the same manner because of that.

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  20. "The bag shouldn't be taller than say a Berthoud GB2286 which is 190mm tall, after that you need a proper decaleur for support."

    I agree, but in V's case, she has the handlebar straps for vertical support, along with drop bars that are just the right height for it. That, in addition to lower rack attachment clips, should obviate the need for a proper decaleur.

    Truly surprising that Berthoud does not make provisions for this..

    I know. I was going to mention this, but I've been trying to be less critical lately :).

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  21. I use this on one of my bikes:

    http://store.velo-orange.com/index.php/accessories/racks-decaleurs/pass-hunter-front-rack-with-integrated-decaleur.html

    It works very well and the look of the rack with the little U-shaped loop is very smart. It does mean you have to carry the little loop with you. I put it in the narrow side pocket of my Ostrich bag and pop it in when I take the bag away.

    Bicycle Quarterly recently found a weakness with another rack that had a similar integrated decaleur but I have never experienced any problem. The rack is very sturdy.

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  22. "I agree, but in V's case, she has the handlebar straps for vertical support, along with drop bars that are just the right height for it. That, in addition to lower rack attachment clips, should obviate the need for a proper decaleur."

    The problem with attaching the bag directly to the handlebars is that it restricts the available space on the bars for some very comfortable hand positions. A decaleur provides an offset from the bars and it opens up the bars for your hands.

    In addition, a decaleur also provides the availability of a very easy detachment of the handlebar bag. This is convenient if the bag is used for shopping, etc. The deluxe version of the Berthoud bags (e.g. GB2586) are provided with D-rings and a shoulder strap just for this reason.

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  23. Pimadude - What are the comfortable positions, like on the tops MTB style?.. The corners, shoulders and hoods are perfectly accessible. The top next to the stem also more or less so, but I never hold my hands there and neither will the bicycle's owner.

    Nick - the one obvious problem with these systems, is that the entire weight of the bag and its contents rests solely on the rack. I would not be entirely comfortable with that on this bicycle.

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  24. Pimadude (earlier comments) - Thanks for the link; that is interestingly done and worth considering!

    As for a smaller bag: The no.22 would make life easier, since it would indeed be fine to stand alone on the rack - but at the expense of functionality. The no.25 is only a few bucks more and can fit camera equipment, books, all sorts of stuff. Seems a pity to limit the size of the bag. Plus I happen to think that h-bar bags look the most harmonious with the bike when they are as large as possible, without going past the handlebars. If I can stabilise the no.25 on the rack platform via somervillain's suggestion, the leather straps on the handlebars should provide sufficient support. They are surprisingly good and they stay put. Also, note that even with the attachment as it currently is, only with over 10lb of books in the bag was there bouncing over bumps. With a lighter load (camera equipment, clothing) there was no movement.

    Anyhow, we will secure the bag to the rack's platform as the first step and see how that goes, then try your method if it is still not entirely stable. Thanks again for the link.

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  25. I'm with Pimadude. Besides securing a bag, a decaleur provides clearance for your hands to be on top of the bars, and ideally it's a quick release system as well. To me these three functions are of equal importance.

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  26. I got the local clothing alteration place to sew some webbing - from camping shop- to the bottom of my VO bag to provide some alternative places for the strap. (Sew,gap sew). Cheap and as it is underneath the bag and flush doesn't affect the aesthetic.

    Tony

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  27. "Have you had any problems with your camera equipment in bike-mounted bags?"

    Unless I'm carrying a point and shoot, I *always* cushion the camera. Whenever I can, I use my Zimbale padded camera insert. That thing is so useful, because it will fit not only into a Zimbale 7l saddlebag, but also into a Carradice Barley and, guess, what, into a Berthoud model 25 as well. See here. If I cannot use the insert, I wrap the camera in a hat, or several hats, or use some other way to ensure it's cushioned and does not bounce inside the bag.

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  28. cyclotourist - Thanks, I am able to view it!

    In re about the rackaleur and klik-fix: I don't want to offend anyone who likes them, but I find these systems unappealing on a classic bicycle like this. I think Pimadude's method, though somewhat laborious, will be just the ticket if we do install a decaleur.

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  29. I know many people swoon over these bags, but I am more struck by the complexity than the beauty of the setup. The colors work, but what a rat's nest of bulky luggage, buckles, straps, pockets, elastic cords, and cable housing:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lovely_bicycle/5979762572/

    I guess if you regularly carry a whole bunch of stuff on your bike, some kind of large bag is useful. However, I would never leave this kind of expensive, attention grabbing bike locked up somewhere on errands, and I would rather take less stuff, carry less weight, keep simpler lines for my own typical exploring rides of a few hours or less.

    To each their own, and I will be interested to hear your comments on other functional aspects of the bike.

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  30. Looks very useful for carrying a camera, as several commenters have pointed out.

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  31. While I'm not sure I would call this a 'rat's nest', I do share the concern that expensive bags like these had better be easy to remove. I would like to try one, if I couldn't remove it easily when the bike is parked, it would greatly reduce the usefulness of the bike. I would hate to come out and find $300 worth of bag and contents missing.

    Do any of these mounting systems allow easy (< 30 seconds) removal?

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  32. Anon - This type of bike is for long distance recreational rides. I agree that it's not the right bike to leave locked up on errands.

    The bag is fairly easy to remove, and it would remain so with a decaleur. But it is not quick-release; it is meant more or less to remain on the bike for the duration of a trip. The pockets have a very real functional purpose, in that it's easier to organise things one might need frequent access to in the course of a ride, such as phone and wallet.

    But this is one of those "to each their own" things. There are certainly bikes and bags out there that would be better suited to run errands.

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  33. I would not want to leave this kind of bike locked up on errands, OR take such a heavily outfitted/large bagged bike on recreational rides of ~60 miles or less. That covers more than 99% of my own rides, leaving very few occasions when I would need the features enough to put up with weight and bulk of the set up. I realize that others may routinely ride longer distances, or may want to carry more than I do on the bike. However, I think many randonneur bikes may end up like SUVs. Idealized based on their ability to bring along lots of things, drive on many types of roads, leap tall mountains, withstand the elements, and transport their drivers to far away untamed places. But then typically used to ride around the city, on bike paths, to coffee shops, and for relatively short recreational trips of half a day or less. If I was riding double centuries or Paris Brest Paris, the special randonneur features might come into their own. I don't do those kinds of distances, and am therefore happier with simpler, sleeker bikes, with much less luggage capacity, but also less weight, much less expensive, and more appropriate for the vast majority of typical riding.

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  34. I think it really just comes down to personal preferences. Sometimes, a ride = non-stop, no-nonesense training ride, with only the things that can fit in the jersey pockets. Other times a ride = stopping for nature photography while switching back and forth between on and off road. For the latter category, a bicycle like this is useful. Not everyone wants the same thing; that's the beauty of it.

    What you are saying with the SUV comparison is valid, but it can be equally applied to a number of other types of bikes. How many actually full-on tour on touring bikes? go off road on mountain bikes? race on racing bikes? cycle on the velodrome on a track bike? Yet each type of bike features characteristics that can be useful or enjoyable even in a limited context. Even if you don't tour, the benefit of touring bikes is comfort. Even if you don't race, the benefit of a racing bike is speed. And so on. IMO it's a good thing.

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  35. >>>How many actually full-on tour on touring bikes? go off road on >>>mountain bikes? race on racing bikes? cycle on the velodrome on a >>>track bike?

    I agree. And this is also why I don't own a touring bike, a mountain bike, a racing bike, a track bike, or a randoneur bike!

    (Or an SUV, school bus, all terrain vehicle, HUMMER, drag racer, stock car, ......)

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  36. I'm in the Pro-Decaleur camp. I use the cheap version from Velo Orange.
    Here's my set-up:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/teesquare/5179270541/sizes/o/in/set-72157624038186789/
    It makes the bag rock solid.
    If I don't need the bag, I just don't put stuff in it, but I always carry a spare tube and a compressed air and a few tools anyway, so the bag stays put.

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  37. "And this is also why I don't own ...a school bus..."

    Now there's an idea!

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  38. Anonymous writes:

    I agree. And this is also why I don't own a touring bike, a mountain bike, a racing bike, a track bike, or a randoneur bike!

    The underlying assumption is that each type of bicycle is only appropriate for a very narrowly defined specific activity. And that any use of a bicycle beyond the confines of its particular intended purpose is unsuitable. This is a rather extreme position, and the analog to the overuse of the SUV is only partly apt. A major objection to the SUV is not just that it is being used for an activity outside its raison d'etre, but that a smaller, lighter, more efficient vehicle ought to be used instead; one that uses fewer resources and pollutes less. This objection has no parallel in the case of the misused randonneur. I am not harmed by someone using a bicycle for a purpose outside that which was intended. If it offends your sensibilities so for a bicycle to not fulfill its whole potential, I am sorry for you.

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  39. I use an ostrich bag mounted to a VO stem decaleur. I added a flat aluminum bar (rack strut) to the front bottom of the bag that slides over the front of the m12 rack and wedges into place, to hold the front of the bag immobile to the rack. That has made a big difference; I did find that the Ostrich waggled a bit. The Ostrich also requires better stiffeners than it has; ideally it should be as rigid as a basket. I cut up a defunct storage container (eg Rubbermaid type thing) from the xfer station swap pile, and that's made a difference as well. The lateral sway of the bag was aggravating.

    And I tie it down to the decaleur with a toeclip strap.My son who I used to tow in a trailer, 5 years later still vividly remembers the bump wherein the bag bounced off, I couldn't swerve around it, we ran it over, and crashed, crushing the bag of peaches in the bag, and ejecting the bags of peaches in his trailer (the trailer didn't roll though, just me). After that was when I developed the strut on the front / must strap down the bag.

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  40. "I use an ostrich bag mounted to a VO stem decaleur."

    That's my setup as well, on my Rivendell. We strapped the bottom to the rack extremely tightly and the thing acts as if it is glued in place. Overall I really like the bag. But I hate the way the decaleur looks when the bag is not attached.

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