Handlebar bags are one of the best places to carry luggage on your bike. Right in front of you, the contents are easy to reach. A handlebar bag doesn’t increase your frontal area, so it’s aero, and it doesn’t get caught on obstacles when you ride through tight spaces. Handlebar bags have more capacity than most other bikepacking bags, and there’s none of the ‘tail wagging the dog’ effect you get with rear bags, especially when climbing out of the saddle.
Handlebar bags work best when they are supported by a rack. That way, the bag sits as low as possible and doesn’t swing from side to side – both important for good handling. Ideally, your bike’s front-end geometry is designed to accommodate the extra load, but many riders enjoy their handlebar bags on a wide variety of bikes.
Bike makers are finally putting rack mounts on many bikes. Even carbon forks come with them now – but good racks are hard to find. We’ve drawn on decades of rack building experience to design a rack system that adapts to most bikes. Unlike most adjustable racks, the UD racks don’t give up functionality. Rene Herse UD racks (UD stands for Universal Design) work on bikes with disc or cantilever brakes – provided the fork crown has a hole that goes all the way through. (Without that hole, it’s difficult to come up with a rack that attaches securely.)
Analyzing the stresses on a front rack, we found that a firm attachment to the fork crown is essential: It stabilizes the platform. You want this connection as rigid as possible. And yet, many racks use a simple metal strap here that only keeps the rack from rotating forward, but doesn’t add any stiffness. Our Rene Herse racks use a U-shaped tube here that is as strong and stiff as possible.
The platform itself is made from ultra-strong, yet lightweight, CrMo tubing and chrome-plated for durability. UD racks weigh between 221 and 240 g, depending on the model. You won’t find a lighter rack that offers the same functionality.
The diagonal uprights carry most of the weight. They are adjustable to work with almost any fork. Any adjustment introduces a little flex, but it doesn’t matter here, since flex is inevitable in the long stays. (That is why the attachment to the fork crown should be stiff, since it’s the only connection that adds meaningful stability to the rack.)
The Rene Herse UD racks are available in two versions: The UD-1 (above) is intended for bikes with disc brakes. The diagonal stays come in two lengths. Usually, you attach them to mid-fork eyelets, but they’re long enough to reach all the way down to eyelets on the dropouts, if needed. The stays are made from aluminum, so they are easy to cut to the required length.
The UD-2 is designed for cantilever brakes. The diagonal stays attach to the cantilever bosses with our special Rene Herse bolts. You don’t need mid-fork braze-ons to attach this rack – as long as your fork crown has a hole, you can mount this rack.
The UD-2 stays need to be stronger to resist the bending forces at the bottom, so they are made from steel. They come in two lengths to cover bikes with a distance between fork crown and cantilever bosses of 70-114 mm. We’ve measured dozens of bikes with cantilever brakes, from classic sport-tourers to mountain bikes, and that range covers all of them.
All Rene Herse racks have a fender mount at the front. This provides a third attachment point to stabilize your fender, so it’s quiet (and safe) even on rough roads. If you don’t run fenders, no problem – it’s small and unobtrusive.
The UD racks are designed to work with our Rene Herse light mount. It attaches the light underneath the rack, where it’s protected, yet it provides optimal illumination of the road ahead. The Rene Herse light mount allows adjusting the angle of your light without tools, yet the bolts will never come loose. (The attachment to the rack is designed so that the weight of the light tightens the bolt.)
The platform is the same on all UD racks, and the stays are available separately. That way, you can move the rack from one bike to another. Or you can replace a stay in the (unlikely) event that you’ve measured incorrectly and cut it too short.
In addition to the UD racks, there are the Rene Herse M-13 (for cantilevers; above) and CP-1 (for centerpulls) racks. They’re even lighter, but since they aren’t adjustable, they require bikes that are designed for these racks.
All Rene Herse racks have been thoroughly tested in the lab and on the rough gravel roads of the Cascade Mountains to make sure that they’ll withstand many years of hard use. They may be superlight, but their smart design makes them stronger than most.
Together, these racks and parts make it easy to equip most bikes with a handlebar bag. And once you’ve ridden with a handlebar bag, you won’t want to miss the convenience. It’s nice to access your clothes, food, camera… without having to dismount your bike. For more information about our racks, click on the images above.