Installing a handlebar bag on your bike will change the way you ride. To get the negatives out of the way first; it will make steering a little heavier and you will lose some of the responsiveness of a clean, lightweight set of handlebars and front wheel.
However, on the up side you will have created the most useful storage space on your bike right. Anything that reduces the need to rummage around in panniers must be worth having! For touring I love the more robust feeling of some weight on the front, it really helps keep stable and straight in a side wind and makes your front brakes far more effective by giving your front tyre more traction. In Spain on an early tour of mine, a friend called Sandra complained that her bike was vibrating and stuttering when she braked with the front wheel, I took the bike and raced it up and down the road a few times aggressively jamming on the front brakes to see if I could replicate the problem, but I couldn’t.
It wasn’t until I leaned back slightly to better represent the lighter weight she would have placed on the front wheel that I discovered the bike was so heavy laden on the rear compared to the front that the front tyre was skimming over the surface of the road during braking, causing the whole bike to jolt about and lose control. Needless to say that was a dangerous configuration and some weight over the front wheel would have made the bike much safer!
The convenience of a handlebar bag can’t be overstated. When you sit on your bike it helps to have as many things to hand as possible, brakes for example would be pretty useless if you couldn’t get to them quickly, and gears too; they’re not bad to have at your fingertips. The same goes for your cycle computer, bell lights and any other attachments you might have. Installing a handlebar bag dramatically increases the amount of stuff you can access whilst still riding, chief amongst them are cameras, documents, sunglasses, suncream, snacks and maps.
When you finally stop pedalling and decide it’s time for a rest, a good handlebar bag will detach from your bike and accompany you to the roadside café, pub or whatever and will hold everything you need for a short stop.
Additionally it might be a good place to put all of your valuable particulars; passports, tickets, expensive items ,etc. so, if you have to leave your bike for five minutes you can take it with you and be assured that your most essential items are with you.
Fitting handlebar bags on butterfly bars
Fitting most handlebar bags is easy on straight bars, but for butterfly bars, and any other handlebar that reaches forward into the space usually occupied by the bag, you may have to use an extender. The arm, for example, that Ortlieb uses to hold it’s handlebar bags on with is quite short and is incompatible with butterfly bars, to mount Ortlieb bags to butterfly bars you must purchase an extender that holds the bag further away from the stem.
I have been using this system for years and for several tens of thousands of miles of touring and I can say that it’s very robust and does not, bend, droop, rattle. It’s rigid and durable and I would recommend it.