Introduction: DIY Bike Map Holder

Picture of DIY Bike Map Holder

A simple, unobtrusive bike map holder made quickly from materials found around my home.

I mainly use my bike for commuting but lately I have found myself doing day rides just for fun. I tend to loosely plot where I'm going on a map, put the map in my pannier and then ride. Sometimes I end up roughly where I expect. Most of the time I need to get the map out en route... A bit inconvenient given the map is in a bag behind me.

One day I will have a handlebar bag or basket. For now I just need a map holder on my bars. Then only reasonable looking standalone map holder I've found is no longer stocked by the retailer because "everyone uses smart phones these days". Hmmm...

So time to get creative. None of the DIY efforts I've found really float my boat. So what are my design criteria?

1) Easy to attach and remove.
2) Must hold an OS Outdoor Leisure map in square formation with two "pages" showing.
3) Must be waterproof.
4) Must be easy to see map i.e. map must be held securely in front of me, not flapping or dangling during on and off road escapades.
5) Must be cheap. As noted above one day (...) I will get a proper bag/basket on a decaleur/rack which will hold a map and do other stuff besides. Thus this will be a temporary solution and I don't want to sink much money into it.
6) Must work with drop bar, preferably putting the map in front of the clamp area and between the ramps/hoods. I don't use the tops, only the ramps, hoods and drops so I don't mind loosing space on the tops but my cycle computer must be accommodated.

Inspiration? I saw this saddle bag support and thought "hmm - could do something like that that wraps around the bars and stem..."

So the simple instructions for this are as follows:

1) Get a length of steel rod and bend it around the stem and bars to make the frame.
2) Cut a plastic clipboard to map-size and strap onto the rod frame.
3) Clip on your map - inside a clear zip lock bag if it's gonna rain.

For the fuller story please read on...

Step 1: What I Used

Picture of What I Used

I wanted to use simple, cheap materials. Here's what I found around my home:

1 Steel rod, about 3.5mm wide and 1m long
1 Lid off a plastic storage box
4 Velcro cable ties
1 Zip lock document wallet

I used the following tools:

2 pairs of pliers (for bending the rod)
Hacksaw and file (to cut and finish the rod)
Saw (for cutting the plastic lid to size)
Soldering iron (for making holes in the plastic)
Permanent marker
Tape measure

Step 2: Making the Frame

Picture of Making the Frame

The frame is formed by bending the rod under the stem (at the handlebar end) then curling it over the handlebars either side of the stem. If this doesn't make sense then the pictures are worth a thousand words. Each.

NOTE: I am not obsessive about the finish on my stem/bars. If you are then use something else to form your bends and protect your stem/bars with tape or bit of inner tube when installing the map holder frame. Having said all that, the best way to get the bends right is to bend it around your actual stem and bars.

Anyway, I decided that in order to make the frame as stable and map-holdy as possible I should continue the bend down around the front of the handlebar. I then removed the frame by unhooking it and unhreading through the cables. It's hard to describe but when it's in front of you it will be obvious how to get it on and off.

So with the frame off the bike I used the two sets of pliers to make sharp bends in each forward pointing piece just after the bar bend. I cut the two ends to the same length then put a 90 degree bend a few cm from each end. Again, the pictures are more instructive than my feeble words.

I didn't make any accurate measurements, I just matched up a typical map and marked/bent/cut as appropriate. File the cut ends of the rod or they might be a bit sharp.

You should be able to see from the photos what bends I made and how it sits on the bike.

At this point the frame is sturdy if you put map-style weight on it but there's nothing to stop it lifting up and potentially coming off. This is taken care of later by strapping appropriately with a Velcro tie.

So now we have the basic frame we need to mount the "clipboard".

Step 3: Making the "clipboard"

Picture of Making the "clipboard"

The easiest way to do this would be to get a simple plastic clipboard, cut it to size then make a few slots so it can be velcro-strapped to the frame. Note I say plastic not plastic-covered. We want this to be waterproof and a plastic-covered clipboard will have its cardboard interior exposed when cut.

Anyway, I didn't have a clipboard of any form so I cut up a spare lid from a plastic storage box. I measured up roughly using a map then cut with a saw as thus was quite thick plastic. Scissors would do if slightly thinner. This lid had a lip moulded into it so I left that intact along the top to help with locating it over the frame.

I used a soldering iron to melt appropriate slots for the velcro straps. Again there was no measuring here, I just put the slots where I thought they should go. You will see there are some unused slots. This is where I changed my mind and made alternative slots as I went along. Trial and error is fun!

You will see from the pictures that I made diagonal cuts across the lower corners. Do this if you want, or don't if you don't want. Or cut it in whatever other way pleases you.

I used Velcro cable ties to attach the "clipboard" to the frame. I also combined a red and yellow tie (one wasn't long enough) to go over and under the rod/bar/stem in order to hold the frame on - without this it can lift up as you push through the air or go over bumps and potentially detach. Guess what - you'll get a better idea of this from the pictures.

Now we're basically finished. I put on a map (inside zip lock bag) and secured it with elastic bands. I will use a bulldog clip when I find one.

Time to ride!

Step 4: Conclusion

It cost me nothing, it's made of reused materials, it's a highly adaptable design, it meets all the criteria I laid down at the start. What's not to like?!

When riding, the only criticism is that there is the slightest side to side movement but this is hardly worth mentioning and the map holder really does do the job. It puts the map exactly where I want it, it readable, waterproof, etc. To remove simply undo three Velcro straps to remove the clipboard (5 seconds) then unhook and unthread the rod frame through the cables (another 5 seconds). It really is that simple.

Next weekend I will try it out on a 70 mile ride and I'll let you know how it goes.


Future Dezign (author)2014-09-05

Good. But I have a doubt. How can it be structurally safe? As in the the rod and the bike handle grip can be loose.

craftclarity (author)2014-06-17

I love it when I see someone hack something together with things from around the house for stuff like this. The bicycle industry has gotten ridiculous, trying to sell you some custom-made geegaw for every possible need you might have....nice 'ible!

meowingtonsPHD (author)2014-06-14

thats such a good idea!

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