Buyer's guide: Bar bags

Bar bags are a cyclist's handbag. Okay, so they're not quite as fashionable but they do keep your valuables close - use them to stash a camera, passport, sun cream, snacks for the day or a guidebook.

Bar bags are a cyclist's handbag. Okay, so they're not quite as fashionable but they do keep your valuables close - use them to stash a camera, passport, sun cream, snacks for the day, or a guidebook.

They're easily removed too, so pop into the shops and all your important stuff stays with you. On top of all this, they provide the perfect base for displaying your route map. Here's what to look for in your ultimate touring accessory.

Map case

If you tour or day ride a lot in the UK, one that will fit a folded OS Landranger is useful. Waterproofing is also very practical.

Closure

Snaps, zips or velcro tabs. Look for a fit that's tight enough to keep out dust, but is also easy to open and shut.

Inside

Internal compartments are good to keep change and the like from jangling about. Padded camera inserts are often available, or you can make your own from foam.

Reflective piping

Most quality bar bags will have a reflective strip - some even have a mount for fixing a light.

Pockets

Side pockets are handy to stash a few easy-to-reach snacks - the best have a velcro tab or are elasticised to stop goodies escaping on rougher terrain.

Construction

Look for a solid bar bag that won't sag on the handlebar. If it's not waterproof, a cover is handy. Some have padding too.

Packing

On the whole, we'd recommend running your bar bag as light as possible to minimise its effect on your bike's handling, which is particularly noticable when the going gets rough, or if you're running suspension forks. Touring bikes with slower steering cope better with heavier loads high up but it's not ideal. Bar bags also provide limited protection from vibration. Ortlieb and Vaude offer padded camera inserts (£12) that are great for an SLR, keeping it protected and ready for that perfect shot - though lumping round a big camera will affect your bike's handling.

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