Culture

The Grind: The handlebar bag Rorschach test

Which of these four types of rider are you? Your knee-jerk response to a handlebar bag reveals a lot.

The Grind is a weekly column on all things gravel.

I love riding with a handlebar bag.

Yes, the storage is handy, but what I really enjoy about it are the various strong reactions a simple bag invariably elicits from fellow riders. Appreciation, annoyance, downright disgust… and the comments are almost always uninvited. It cracks me up.

In cycling in 2o20, the handlebar bag is a de facto Rorschach test, where multiple riders can look at the exact same thing and have very different — and very telling — responses.

With apologies to my psychologist father, here are the four basic types of reactions and thus rider types I have observed. They’re often correlated with age and how a rider self defines (i.e., roadie, cyclist, or gravel rider).

Reaction: Genuine appreciation

“Dude, cool bag. What kind is that?”

Usually under 30, this type of rider reacts with a friendly comment to a handlebar bag. They have usually tried a bag or two themselves, and can debate the merits of different sizes and shapes.

Rider type: New school rider

Reaction: Dismissive sarcasm

“Really? What do you even put in there?”

Usually a 40+ male road rider, this type of rider sees a handlebar bag as a fashion statement, not a storage device. Invariably comments about Instagram and mustaches follow. (Looking at you, Fred Dreier!)

Rider type: Roadie with 15+ years of riding — without a handlebar bag

Reaction: Scoffing

“You know, tourists used to put those on their bikes. They weren’t cool then, either.”

Usually a former racer from back in the day, this type of rider is often agitated at the very presence of a bag. My friend Don, for instance, sees a handlebar bag as a visual statement along the lines of ‘I could be fast if I want to, but I don’t care, and this very-non-aero bag is how I am showing that.’

Rider type: 50+ ex-road racer

Reaction: Curiosity

“What’s that on your handlebars?”

This one comes from riders of all ages, who don’t have an ax to grind one way or the other. They are just making polite conversation, much in the way riders will ask about a bike computer or any other piece of gear.

Rider type: Normal person

Try it for yourself

There are probably other rider types that I’m missing. But those are the most common ones I have noticed. In any event, it’s a fun game. Put a bag on your bars and listen to the comments roll in.

(Bonus move: Bring cookies in your bag, and watch the sarcastic and scoffing reactions change when you pull them out.)