Arkel Big Bar Bag: not for the aerodynamically inclined

Non-STI brake levers, bar ends and wide handlebars give you plenty of room for the Arkel Big Bar Bag. The only question is: do you need this much storage?

I’ve been using a Jandd rack pack on the back of a tandem (first a Trek, then a custom Co-Motion) long enough that I don’t remember when I bought it. That’s what happens when you buy quality: you lose track of everything about the product except its daily utility.

But a rack pack at the back of a tandem just isn’t as convenient as a handlebar bag for the captain of the machine.

A front bag gives you an easy-to-reach place for a map and a camera. I tried to replace the rack pack with a couple of admittedly inexpensive handlebar bags over the years, but neither came close to the quality of the Kirtland bag I used in the late 70s.

So I always went back to the Jandd. It was at the wrong end of the bike, but it was made with stout material and the zippers never failed. Not even when we stuffed it with purchases from a visit to Islandtime Books on Wisconsin’s Washington Island.

Then I saw a Canadian-made Arkel Big Bar Bag at the Midwest Tandem Rally and finally, this spring, got the handlebar bag I should have bought years ago.

I’m impressed by the thought that went into the design. The attachment system is just like a 1903 Oldsmobile Curved-Dash: no plastic anywhere.

The polished aluminum handlebar clamps look great, with or without the bag. Bolt them on and leave them. Got a second bike? Buy an extra set of clamps. Stainless steel receivers on the back of the bag slide over the front of the clamps. Properly adjusted, the bag is easy on, easy off.

The Arkel website does a great job of summarizing all the features of the Big Bar Bag, so I’ll just mention one other feature, the inner liner: it’s high-visibility yellow so I can see what’s laying around in the bottom, and it zips out of the main bag for cleaning. Nice.

Just got it, so no extended-use report today. Just a picture to let you know the Big Bar Bag is really big. You can’t tell from the picture, but those Noodle handlebars are 46 centimeters wide (that’s center to center mid-curve on the drops). If you travel solo, or just can’t wrap your mind around the real estate commitment of the Big Bar Bag (26.7 centimeters wide), the Arkel Small Bar Bag (22.3 centimeters wide) will do just fine.

American material. Canadian manufacturing. The Arkel Big Bar Bag.
Wide road bike bars? Meet the Nitto Noodle.
Headed for Door County, Wisconsin? Get your Sarah Vowell books here.

About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
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2 Responses to Arkel Big Bar Bag: not for the aerodynamically inclined

  1. Craig Burgess says:

    Looks like a nice bag. By the way, I still have my old Kirtland handlebar bag, thought it hasn’t been used in years. Fishing the mounting bracket under/around the stem and bars became improbable with modern cable routing. And by modern, I mean aero brake modern. Not even “brifters.” Too bad, because it was (and is) a great bag. It’s sister (in matching yellow), an under-saddle, two-chambered “sock” of a tire/tool bag, still sees daily use, at least on those days that I ride my road bike. It’s been through so much that you can hardly find anything legible on the large “Kirtland Tour Pak” label that still graces its side. But that’s the great thing about quality gear – in all the important ways (like how well they work) they last damned near forever. The young wrench at the local shop put the bike up on a workstand a couple of weeks ago and he had to remove the bag to clamp the seat post. I jokingly told him to be careful with it – it was an antique. I think he took me seriously. He stared at the thing like he’d never seen a drawstring closure before. Kids.

  2. Just reread Craig’s note, above. Within the past couple of days, he transferred ownership of the “old Kirtland handlebar bag” to me. So look for an article on the Kirtland, someday. Speaking of which, anybody know anything about “modernizing” such bags, perhaps with a decaleur and front rack?

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