So… Eh it’s been a while and I’m sorry for that. I certainly didn’t think that it would be this long, events conspired, as they say.. But I’m here and it’s time to write up some MYOG projects for all you lovely people out there. First up is my take on a handlebar bag.
Quickly after getting my racing bike I realised I’m very much the kind of person that likes to use my bike not just for training, but also as a form of transport. No surprises here, after all I am from Denmark and cycling as a means of transport is very much a thing here. And so while a ride across town, to or from work or down to the grocery shop won’t necessarily leave you sweating profusely. A ride from the city and out to my parents certainly will. Now don’t get me wrong I love me some lycra when I’m riding, but sitting down to dinner in sweaty and rapidly cooling bib shorts is just not my thing.
So not long after I got my bike I made a simple frame bag for it, in order for me to bring a change of clothes for those occasions when wearing lycra is either not practical or indeed socially unacceptable.
Of course once I’d made that first bag… I soon started to think about how it would be nice if I could maybe bring a pair of shoes. And maybe a bit of other stuff… Well to be honest a lot of other stuff. Which brings us to the here and now and the handlebar bag or roll.
I judged the handlebar bag to be the easiest bike bag project, right after the frame bag. Which is both easier to make and certainly impacts the handling of your bike less than the handlebar bag does. And yes I do realise that with that in mind the logical thing to do would be to first talk about how to make a frame bag. Unfortunately either I didn’t think to take any pictures or they’ve simply perished along with my old phone, so that wasn’t an option. I will however do an new one at some point so look out for a frame pack how-to coming sometime in the future.
Step 1 – Size does matter
Size matters and even more so if you have a classic road bike set of drop bars. Because the bag sits in that space between your drops, you are limited lenghtwise by the width of your bars. On a mountain bike or any other bike with straight bars you’ll have more freedom to choose what length you want. But if you want to keep using your levers and your drops, without the bag getting in the way, you will need to measure the space between your drops and factor in a bit of space for your hands to grip the drops.
Aside from length there’s also a question of girth or diameter of the roll/bag. This too will depend on the geometry of your particular bike. Here you are limited by the distance from the top of your bars, to the top of your wheel. You won’t get anywhere fast with your handlebar bag resting on your front wheel. Although it will of course add extra breaking power on long descents. – All in all I wouldn’t recommend it.
If you have a long head tube and/or haven’t slammed your stem you might have a bit more room to play around with, than the rest of us. In that case you can experiment with using a bigger size dry bag, one with a bigger diameter. But only filling it up half way, in order to make a short fat handlebar bag.
So first up measure the space between your drops and the distance from the top of your front wheel to your handlebar and decide how big your bag should be.
Or alternatively you can fill one or more dry bags of different sizes(volumes) with clothes and experiment with what size best fits your bike. Then you can simply base your harness on that exact dry bag. Given that this style of handlebar bag is based on creating a harness for a dry bag it’s an easy option, especially if you already have one or more dry bags lying around.
Step 2 – Measure and cut your fabric
Remember to factor in a bit of seam allowance. I went for quite a wide one in order to stiffen up the edges of the harness. No need to think too much about right and wrong sides of the fabric, at this point, since the design is completely symmetrical.
I chose to round the corners, because I like the look of it. But this is more a form, and not a function choice. So you can leave out this step in the process it’s entirely up to you. It might be easier to make round corners look nice and it might save you a tiny bit of weight though.
Step 3 – Get out your sewing machine
- Place the fabric right sides together – right now we’re working with the bag turned inside out, pin it and sew(straight stitch) the pieces together along the chalked line. Remembering to leave an opening in the seam for later, when you have to turn the fabric inside out. If you cut slits along the corners, the rounded edge will come out looking better, with no bunching or overlapping of the fabric in the corners.
- Turn the fabric inside out, pin it along the new edge and sew(straight stitch) along the edge taking a bit more care, to make the seam straight and even, since this is the seam that will show. I did two seams about a centimeter apart, the first quite close to the edge of the fabric and one about a centimeter further in. I did this to try and stiffen up the edge a bit.
Step 4 – Spacers and buckles
To make room for your fingers to grip the tops of your handlebar, you will need some form of spacer between the handlebars and the bag. Here I’ve used some pieces of an old foam sleeping pad. Which does work, but I have no doubt that something less easily compressed would work even better. It’s actually something that I’m looking into for my own bag.
For buckles you could use either side release buckles, triglides or ladderlocks. But I recommend using side release buckles for the straps that hold your drybag. Because they’re easier and faster to undo. And triglides or ladderlocks for the more permanently fastened straps that go around your handlebars. Either will work, the only difference being that triglides might sit more flush on your handlebars, due to their more slim design.
Step 5 – Webbing straps and where to put them
I chose to have three straps but you could probably get away with having just two. If you choose to go with two straps, I would however move them closer to the center of the “roll” so that there’s less risk of the straps sliding of the ends of the usually quite slippery silnylon dry bags.
For me, with where I wanted to attach the roll to my handlebars, it made more sense to add an extra strap in the center of the roll instead. If you have a dry bag made of a less slippery fabric, there might be no need to worry about the straps slipping. I know that they come in a more sturdy version, made from what I would describe as a rubber coated fabric, and these are much less slippery.
- In the above picture you can see I have looped the webbing through the female half of the side release buckles and secured it to the harness with a bartack stitch. Closing the loop and hidding the end of the webbing strap underneath. These particular buckles weren’t adjustable on both sides, only on the male side, which is why I’ve fastened the female part to the harness, and not the male.
- I then straigh stitched the strap to the harness along its length, on both sides of the strap, to keep it from moving around. Finishing off with a bartack stitch, across the strap, where it reaches the end of the harness.
- Slide the adjustable half of your side release buckle onto the loose end of the strap, in this case the male part.
- Optional – fold the strap back on itself, and fasten the end to the back of itself with another bartack stitch. Doing this will keep that half of the buckle from sliding all the way off the end of the strap.
Finally it’s worth thinking about the kind of webbing that you choose to use for attaching the harness to your bars. You want to be able to cinch it down tight and for it not to slip over time with the movement and bouncing of the bag. Some types of webbing are more slippery than others, due to differences in weave and what type of fiber they’re made of.
And that’s about it. Although I do have an update coming for this bag sometime soon.
Check out these posts about MYOG bikepacking bags: