Nov 11 2009

The Box Revisited:
The Louis Garneau HB-09 Handlebar Bag Goes on the Road

I’ve been very pleased with how well my Louis Garneau RR-16 rack trunk has performed since I bought it in May, so when the matching Louis Garneau HB-09 handlebar bag came back in stock recently at Performance Bike, I decided to take the plunge and buy one. I’ve already given my first impressions of the HB-09, but I’ve now had a chance to use the new bag on quite a few rides. Here’s what I learned while…

Getting to Know the Box  As the name suggests, the Louis Garneau bar bag is essentially a box. It has two outside mesh pockets (one on each side) and two roughly ovoid zippered pockets on the front. A buckled flap with adjustable straps fills the gap between them. This can be used to carry a spare jacket or to hold your helmet when you’re shopping. Do you need to tie one on? Then you’ll be glad to know that a bungee cord zigzags across the top flap. The bag also comes with a generously sized, adjustable shoulder strap that clips to D-rings on either side of the bag—a big plus, and something I’ve long wanted. The bright red color is pretty nifty, too, as are the reflective accents.

Now here are some photos:

LG Bar Bag

LG Bar Bag

LG Bar Bag

LG Bar Bag

LG Bar Bag

LG Bar Bag

So much for appearances. After getting acquainted with my new bar bag, I was eager to begin…

Putting the Box to Work  One thing was obvious from the start: The Box has plenty of room. Organization was a problem, however. My old Transit Pro bag is amply supplied with internal pockets and attachment points, so it was easy to find things when I needed them in a hurry. The Box is somewhat less accommodating. Here’s a peek into each one, with the Transit Pro on top and the Box beneath:

Transit Pro Bar Bag

LG Interior

The mesh pocket on the underside of the Box’s flap is handy, but it would better if it had a zipper. The interior, however, is a partition-free zone. I remedied this with the help of a cutdown Vella Burgundy wine box, trimmed so as to come no higher than two inches from the top of the Box’s main compartment. It was just the right size for the tools and accessories I carried in my Transit Pro. while the remaining space in the HB-09 was left for other stuff, from my heavy cable lock to small items of clothing that I might need on a ride:

LG Interior

I use ziplock plastic bags and recycled film cans (collector’s items now) to hold loose tools and odds and ends of hardware. And there’s still plenty of room for other things, like the sleeves of my Performance Transformer jacket-vest, full-fingered winter gloves, and a headover.

Then, having attended to the interior of the Box, I turned my attention to the exterior. The front pockets swallowed up a small first-aid kit, folding reading glasses (in a tiny hard case), a Swiss Army knife, and a plastic bottle of hand sanitizer, leaving a little room for a few other small sundries:

LG Exterior

Now it was time to hit the road. Before long, I’d warmed up enough to strip off my Performance vest, so I rolled it up and tucked it under the Box’s front flap…

LG Exterior

Where it stayed put, despite the wretched state of the roads I was riding. I could have packed my light fleece shirt under the lid or tucked it under the bungee, too. Make no mistake, the Box can carry a good-sized load, yet it leaves most of the real estate on my ‘bars unencumbered.

LG BB in Use

Want a sidelong glance? OK.

LG BB in Use

And now here’s the big picture:

LG BB in Use

Notwithstanding the misleading photo, the full bag doesn’t droop, though I did angle the bracket up a bit after my first ride, in order to discourage the contents from shifting forward with every jolt in the road. Loaded as I’ve described, the Box weighs about eight pounds. Despite the pummeling it got from cracks and potholes, however, the bracket kept its grip, the bag stayed put, and the zipper showed no tendency to jam.

I’m impressed with bracket. It holds the bag securely, yet releases easily and quickly. Just pull back on the large red tab and slide the bag off. (I’ve mounted the bracket a smidgen off-center deliberately, in order to allow the front brake cable to describe a smooth curve where it exits the bar tape on its way to the hanger.)

LG BB in Use

So far, so good. I really missed the transparent map window in my Transit Pro, however. But that was an easy shortcoming to remedy. I just slid a Cyclo Active map case under the bungee and secured it with hook-and-loop tabs:

LG BB in Use

It’s time to sum up. Now that I’ve put a few hundred miles on my cyclometer with the Box on my ‘bars, here’s the…

Bottom Line  As was the case with the Louis Garneau rack trunk, the HB-09 bar bag is reasonably priced, brightly colored, and well constructed. The bracket is easy to fit, and it seems to hold up well to abuse. The Box lives up to its name. It doesn’t topple over when you set it down—the Transit Pro is prone to doing just that—and it holds most anything you’d want to put in a bar bag. It’s not perfect, though. The fabric isn’t waterproof, and there’s no rain cover. (I’ve borrowed the rain cover from the Transit Pro and stowed it in the inside mesh pocket. It does the job.)

Now here are the highlights and lowlights in brief:

On the Upside

The Box is…

  • Voluminous.
  • It has a well-designed bracket and a…
  • Shoulder Strap, along with…
  • A good selection of external pockets.
  • Its bright color and reflective accents make it stand out.
  • It also has a flat, firm bottom,
  • Smooth-sliding zippers, and…
  • Good proportions.

On the Downside

There’s…

  • No rain cover, and…
  • The zippers aren’t weather sealed.
  • Nor are there any internal dividers, and …
  • There’s no map sleeve.

In other words, the Box is a keeper. I’m not going to throw out my Transit Pro, of course—it’s served me well for something like 8000 miles, and I may need to call on it again—but the HB-09 is shaping up well. Will it also give good service for 8000 miles? We’ll see.

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