On my own bikes, I use Gilles Berthoud handlebar bags without side pockets. The side pockets tend to get in the way of my hands when I ride bikes with narrow handlebars. Furthermore, the pockets probably increase the wind resistance of the bike (although the bag alone acts as a fairing and may make the bike more aerodynamic, especially when riding in the aero tuck.) And finally, removing them saves about 150 g in weight.
On one bag, I removed the pockets, but this left traces where the stitching had been. For my new René Herse, I asked Gilles Berthoud to make a bag without side pockets. In the photo below, you can see how leaving off the side pockets frees up the space around the handlebars.
You also see the rear pockets, which are perfectly located for small things I want to access, like chapstick and electrolyte tablets, without having to dig through the bag. The front pocket is less accessible, so I use it to store small things that I rarely use, like tools, toilet paper and a tooth brush. The map pocket on top is sized to fit the French Michelin maps, but also handles my cue sheet, brevet card and ziploc bag with money and credit card. I have found that I really don’t need any more small pockets. Before I removed the side pockets on my first bag, they usually were empty anyhow.
Several customers asked about getting bags without side pockets, too, so we ordered a few more. They are available in the gray-blue color (we call them “blue,” but Berthoud calls them “gray”) in three sizes. Supplies are limited.
I love Berthoud bags for their durability, practicality and beauty. I also appreciate the conditions under which they are made in France. Years ago, I asked Gilles Berthoud for two sets of panniers with old-fashioned straps instead of the current plastic attachments. Gilles Berthoud replied that they could make them, but I’d have to wait for five months, because the employee making the bags was on maternity leave. I was happy to wait while she took care of her baby. When the bags arrived, they were wonderful, and every time I use them, I am reminded that there is so much more to our shopping decisions than price alone.
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