Rene Herse Handlebar Bag Stiffener

Small things can make a big difference, especially on long rides. With handlebar bags, it’s important that they don’t flop around as you ride. That is why they are supported by a rack at the bottom. At the top, keeping the bag from moving from side to side is helpful as well.

Berthoud bags come with a sturdy (and quite heavy) cardboard stiffener. This makes sure they hold their shape, but it also turn the bag into a rigid box: The bag no longer conforms to the contour of the rack – it slides and rattles when you go over bumps. Most riders discard the cardboard stiffener. The bag by itself is stiff enough to hold its shape OK, but a little more stiffness at the top would be nice.

Enter the Rene Herse bag stiffener. Originally designed for the ultralight handlebar bag for the Concours de Machines (which didn’t have enough leather to be stiff on its own), we’re now offering it as a separate part. It’s superlight – just 47 g – and it fits snugly inside the popular Berthoud handlebar bags (GB 22, 25, 28).

With stiffeners like these, it’s important that they are not too stiff: They need to flex a bit, rather than transmit all vibrations and shocks to the decaleur.

The Rene Herse Handlebar Bag Stiffener is equipped with Velcro that connects to the small internal flaps of the Berthoud bags, holding the stiffener securely in place. You can drill the aluminum material to attach a decaleur. You can also use the stiffener with a bag that is attached directly to the handlebars with leather straps. That is what I did during this year’s Solstice Ride, and it worked great for 400 miles (640 km) on rough gravel roads and singletrack. Now that it has proven itself under the harshest conditions, we are offering it in the Rene Herse program.

The Rene Herse Handlebar Bag Stiffeners are made right here in Seattle, and they are in stock. Click here for more information.

In other news, we also received a new shipment of our fenders, including the 650B XL fenders designed to fit on 650B x 48 mm tires. Click here for more information on our fender program.

16 Responses to Rene Herse Handlebar Bag Stiffener

  1. Martin Petersilka July 1, 2019 at 5:11 am #

    Hi, I use this stiffener together with the ultralight handlebar bag, and I drilled through the aluminum and through the rather narrow leather strip ( located at the opening of the bag) and attached it to the compass decaleur. This proved to work fine on my bike during long rides.
    However, when looking at the first photo in this article, the stiffener seems to sit just below the narrow leather strip. Is this just accidental, or is this the intended position of the stiffener inside the bag?

    • Jan Heine July 1, 2019 at 7:43 am #

      You installed it correctly: The stiffener and decaleur should attach to the leather strip – that is why the leather reinforcement is there. For the photos, the stiffener was used without a decaleur and without the bag attached to the handlebars, so it could sag down a bit.

      • Martin Petersilka July 1, 2019 at 8:14 am #

        Thank you for clarifying !

  2. Jacob Musha July 1, 2019 at 2:34 pm #

    This will be a great help to anyone who hasn’t already made a similar stiffener for themselves. My GB 25 is supported by a Rene Herse rack at the bottom and a rigid decaleur at the top, just high enough to allow it to sag over the rack a bit, like in your fourth photo. Despite this, I encountered three annoyances that I was surprised were never addressed:

    1. The bag would flop around during corners or over bumps. It would run into my hands, the handlebars, and not sit straight. I made a stiffener like the one shown here to fix this.
    2. Rigid items carried in the bag (Ensure bottles, for example) rattle endlessly on the rack since there is only a thin layer of cotton in between. A rectangle of craft foam fixed this.
    3. The bag itself clunks over bumps, more-so when it’s mostly empty. I think what’s happening is the whole bag is bouncing enough to become airborne and then fall back down onto the rack/fender. It almost makes me wish I were deaf! I still haven’t solved this one.

    As Sheldon Brown said, “Aside from the whoosh of the tires on the road, and the clicking of the freewheel, a bicycle should be silent.” I will continue to work on this, as I cannot tolerate a rattling bicycle.

    • Jan Heine July 1, 2019 at 2:41 pm #

      Regarding 2, we usually pack out bags so that soft extra clothing is at the bottom. There are items that we carry only for emergencies, and those are go there. A piece of foam will do the job, too.

      Haven’t encountered issue No. 3. Do you use the stiffener? In that case, yes, I can see it happening, as it creates a rigid box rather than a soft piece of luggage that conforms to the shape of the rack.

      • Jacob Musha July 1, 2019 at 4:41 pm #

        The cardboard stiffener? No, I threw it away almost immediately. After examining the bag I figured it out. The leather strip that runs along the bottom of the bag is sagging through the rack enough to hit the top of the fender over bumps. Looking at the fender and the leather, it’s clear they’ve contacted many times. A final piece of foam appears to have eliminated the clunking, which was shockingly loud. I’m glad this post prompted me to fix this, my ears will thank me!

  3. John Duval July 1, 2019 at 9:50 pm #

    Is this compatible with the cell phone pocket? My bag has skewed to one side since I got that accessory.

    • Jan Heine July 1, 2019 at 10:20 pm #

      It is fully compatible with the cell phone pocket, since the cell phone pocket has Velcro on both sides. It’s intended to go between the inner flap of the bag and the original cardboard stiffener. The Rene Herse stiffener just replaces the cardboard stiffener, so it works the same way.

      • marmotte27 July 1, 2019 at 10:48 pm #

        I made the same kind of stiffener myself lately but without velcro. I thought about adding it if it proved necessary. So far that hasn’t been the case.

        • Jan Heine July 1, 2019 at 11:21 pm #

          Stiffeners without Velcro are usually fine. The Velcro just makes it a bit stiffer yet, and prevents the stiffener from moving inside the bag…

      • Karl Sanchez July 4, 2019 at 5:34 pm #

        Interesting; I recently ordered one of these same pockets from your web store and it came with Velcro on both sides (hook inboard, loop outboard). I was pleasantly surprised as this let me attach it securely to my own stiffener.

        • Jan Heine July 4, 2019 at 9:01 pm #

          You are right – I was confused. It’s intended to attach to the original stiffener, and the new one just replaces that. I’ll correct my other comment further up.

  4. Rick Thompson July 2, 2019 at 12:42 pm #

    How do the Berthoud bags interface with the rack? I am not finding any images of the bottom of these bags, do they just rest on the top of the rack or do they attach? I do see the strap for the tombstone on the back, maybe that is all that is needed.

    • Jan Heine July 2, 2019 at 1:33 pm #

      They just rest on the rack. That way, they are easy to remove. Without the stiffener, the contents sags into the spaces between the rack tubes, which effectively locks the bag onto the rack. The strap on the backstop serves to keep the bag on the rack when you lift up the front wheel, jump the bike, or hit a big bump.

  5. Rod Bruckdorfer July 4, 2019 at 11:02 am #

    Reminds me of the stiffener I have in my Berthoud bag I purchased from Boulder Cycles about 6 years ago.

    • Jan Heine July 5, 2019 at 12:37 pm #

      Many of us have been running these stiffeners on our own bikes for many years. It’s just that making one takes a lot of work, but making 50 allows you to set up machines and make it a bit easier.