low trail geometry is preferable for transporting weight over a bicycle's front wheel. However, what does that mean in practice, when applied to bikes with standard road geometry? Will a small handlebar bag make your mid-trail road bike unridable? As someone who's ridden low trail bikes with front loads extensively over the past several years, I would like to share some notes on my own experience.
What allowed me to finally adapt this setup on my road bike, was getting my hands on a handlebar bag that I found acceptable for the purpose. When a bag hangs from the handlebars, I am not comfortable carrying weight in it no matter what the bike's front-end geometry is. If I'm going to put a handlebar bag on my road bike, I want the bag to be (1) low over my front wheel, and (2) sufficiently well-secured, so that it does not sway. At the same time, I do not want to affix a heavy front rack or bulky hardware to my lightweight bike in order to accomplish this. This new-ish handlebar bag from Dill Pickle addresses these concerns. It attaches not only to the handlebars, but to the fork crown, resulting in a setup that is remarkably stable without requiring front rack support. Because my bicycle has a short headtube, it also sits low over my front wheel. All in all, the placement and stability of this setup are comparable to that on my low trail dirt bike.
As soon as I set off I noticed a difference in my bike's handling, and continued to notice it in the course of a 30 mile ride. In simplest terms, I could literally feel the weight bearing down on the front end. It wasn't so much a bad sensation, as a distinct one - like riding a different bicycle altogether. As far as I could tell, the weight did not have a destabilising effect on the bike, either on climbs, descents, or turns. So I felt quite safe cycling with this setup. What it did seem to do was make the front end slower to react, as if adding a slight but discernible delay to my bike's normal responsiveness. More than anything, it changed the "personality" of my bicycle, making it feel slightly tamer and more sluggish. After several photo expeditions, I grew accustomed to the weight. But every time I'd ride with the bag emptied, it would feel like an improvement, like "Aaaaah I have my bike back!" So, while carrying 5 pounds on the front of my Seven certainly does not make it unridable, the bike simply feels better - sportier, lighter, more responsive - without those 5 pounds. By contrast, the low trail Rawland feels no different with the front end loaded versus unloaded.
Since affixing this bag to my road bike, I have carried in it items including clothing, gadgets, cameras, books, even groceries. Over short distances, I've probably ridden with close to 10lb in the bag. As far as handling and overall feel, the formula seems straightforward enough: The less weight on the front, the better and more like itself the bicycle feels. Depending on one's use case scenario, that may or may not be acceptable. For my purposes, it is good enough.