By Lynne Fitzsimmons
My long rides are typically brevets and permanents — randonneuring events of at least 200 km (124 miles). These are unsupported, ridden in varying weather conditions and sometimes go into very remote areas. So I need to carry sufficient food, tools, clothing and spare parts. And I want to access stuff without needing to get off my bike and rummage through a pannier.
I’d wanted to put a Boxy bag on my front rack but none met all my requirements. Then Acorn Bags announced its new Rando, which I selected for these reasons:
- It has turnbuckle clasps on the rider-facing rear pockets. They are much, much easier than traditional leather straps and buckles to open and close, especially when wearing full-finger gloves.
- The main compartment opens from the rear. If one is coordinated, the contents can be accessed easily while riding. The compartment has an elastic closure — also easier to manage with full gloves.
- The bag mounts with Velcro straps to a front rack. It can quickly be removed when I leave my bike in a less secure area (there’s an optional shoulder strap).
- I can slide the rack’s rear arm through a leather sleeve on the bag for extra stability.
- The big map case (9.75×4.5 in. or 24.8×11.4 cm) means less map flipping.
- It has the retro aesthetic I wanted.
The Boxy Rando is installed on my go-to bike so it has been used for trips for groceries, club rides (spare gloves, hand warmers, a few other light items), a 100-km rainy and windy populaire (spare gloves, hand warmers, extra hat, a bit of food), and a 200-km rainy and windy permanent (1.5 lbs. of food and spare gloves).
I know what you’re wondering: How did this bag with load affect handling?
My Rivendell Bleriot has a floppy front end, but I am able to easily ride it no-hands without the bag. With it and a moderate load, as in the permanent, still no problem. Not so much, though, with nearly 4 lbs. (1.8 kg) of groceries, but I bet I could have pulled it off given a bit more practice.
The fact that the bag is mounted on a front rack, and not suspended from the handlebar or a stem-mounted decaleur, may also add to stability. The bag has 2 stiffeners. I removed the larger one because I felt I didn’t need it. It’s a 3-sided piece of plastic that fits inside the bag in sleeves on the sides and along the bottom.So far I have not noticed the bag losing its shape or wobbling.
My longest ride in the rain was 12.5 hours. The bag, made of cotton canvas duck, didn’t leak. A friend noticed this, promptly bought one and used it in Rando Hell Week in British Columbia, where she rode 200-, 300- and 400-km brevets in horribly wet weather (common sense intervened before the 600 km). She reported no leakage.
Will Acorn’s Boxy Rando work on your bike? I have my handlebar (38-cm width) relatively high and use bar-end shifters. The bag sits low enough that there is no interference with my brake levers. Another friend wondered if it would work on her bike with Campy Ergo shifters and a lower bar position. It looked like a tight fit, but she borrowed the bag to ride a 600-km brevet anyway.
I had many opportunities to check out competing handlebar bags before this bag became available. (The start of any brevet involves lots of geeky equipment discussions, comparisons and evaluations.) I knew what worked well and what didn’t.
The Acorn Boxy Rando has all the features I prefer and most riders are likely to need. It is easy to access, very well-constructed and highly water resistant. I expect to be using it for many miles and years to come.