Introduction: Customized Bicycle Ditty Bag

About: I'm an engineer who loves to solve problems by creating new products and finding useful ways to improve existing products. I like working in many different disciplines which helps me learn new skills and conti…
Bike bags are great.  The problem is, my road bike is a rather odd shape and many of the common saddle and storage bags to carry a small pump, spare tire, tools etc, will not fit on the bike in a desirable spot. In addition, sewing a customized bag of your own is much cheaper and infinitely more fun!

This instructable will walk you through the steps to making a storage bag to strap to your bike. I believe that while this project is relatively simple, dedication to small details in the planning and construction of your bag will result in a great looking bag that matches the quality of many bags on the market. 

Here I will divulge what I learned, mistakes that I made, and possible improvements to the art of sewing your own bike bag.

Step 1: Design

This is probably the most important step. Determine where you think that a bag would best serve its purpose without interfering with riding or other components of the bike. The type of riding you do will also impact your design. If you race, there's a really good chance you'll keep it simple and minimal. If you mostly just go on leisurely cruises, you can afford to be more experimental and innovative.

My bike frame is extremely tall and I prefer to have my seat positioned more forward which eliminates the possibility for me to simply buy a saddle bag and strap it to the underside of my seat. I also didn't want to have a storage bag on the front side of the seat post so that I might add an additional water bottle holder there.

Because my frame is so tall, there is a large amount of space between the seat post, tire and seat stays. I determined that this would be an ideal spot for my bike bag since it is out of the way and will introduce a minimal amount of additional aerodynamic drag. The only problem I saw with this location is that it will see a lot of spray from the tire during wet riding conditions.

Once you have your location picked out, measure the dimensions and relative angles on the frame. Be careful when considering the width of your bag. Once completed the fabric can easily bulge at the sides and seem much wider than you might have intended. If you race that can be bad, but if the bag is for a cruiser it won't matter that much.

Next consider the opening. How big, long, where and by what means? A zipper is obviously a great choice, but don't forget about velcro or just be creative. Keep in mind that if it somehow comes open during a ride, you REALLY don't want your stuff falling out!

Another key to your design is the attachment mechanism. This has to work in coordination with your opening i.e. they can't effectively overlap. Racers: the smaller and lighter = the better. Cruisers: anything goes. Rope, straps, buckles, magnets*, anything! 

* I think it'd be really cool to sew some magnets into the fabric and have it appear to just "float" on the bike!

Fabric is the last consideration. Your type of riding and typical riding conditions will help with this decision. Here are some of the big differences in fabric that you should consider: weight, drag (smoothness), strength, water resistance. 

So you have the location, size and shape of your bag picked out. Now you'll take that and break it down for sewing. There are many ways to do this, but here's how I like to do it. 

Treat your bag as if it were a rigid object and evaluate each geometric shape. Mine happened to be mostly triangular. Draw them on a sheet of paper. Instead of cutting out each geometric shape and sewing them together, butt some of the common ends together and just fold there. This involves less sewing and therefore a better similarity to the original design. I broke my bag down into two separate pieces. One piece comprised both side triangles and the front (attached to the seat tube) while the other piece was the bottom and rear (opening) face.

Step 2: Sewing

Now the fun begins. Lay your fabric out and draw your pieces using a straight edge. Then measure out an additional 1/4" - 3/8" to allow for the sewing. Cut the shapes out from the outermost lines. Now when you start sewing the pieces together, you can match up the original lines and know that all sides will line up properly.

To keep everything straight, I designate the pencil marked side as the inside of the bag and sew it inside out so that once I'm finished, there are no visible stitching seams or pencil lines. 

Remember to sew in your attachment system!!!

Step 3: Opening (Zippers)

For my bag, I went with a standard zipper. Here's how I like to sew them. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the process.

The rear face of my bag was one piece across its width. I marked out a vertical line down the middle and horizontal lines on the top and bottom where the zipper starts and stops. I cut along the vertical line and then about 3/8" in both directions at the ends perpendicular to the vertical line.

The zipper is also sewn inside out to hide the seams. To do this I laid the fabric outside face up and then laid the zipper upside down on top of it. Now as you see them, match up the right side of the zipper (would be left side if it's right side up) with the left side of the vertical line. This is matching the left outside face of the fabric with the left outside face of the zipper. Sew that, then repeat with the right side. 

Step 4: Additional Notes

As you probably noticed, I didn't include any designs for attaching my bag to my bike. I was a bit pressed for time and decided to figure it out later. That was a mistake. Once the bag was completely sewn together, I was more limited in my attachment options. I did include two loops sewn into the side/rear seams. This way I could use rope or wire to hang the bag from the seat post. In the end, I had to hand sew a strap and some velcro to the bag. This would have been much easier and quicker if I had planned for it since I could have sewn it with a machine before the bag was completely sewn shut. 

My bag material is mostly cotton since it's black and it's what I had lying around. To aid in water proofing the bag, I cut a piece of nylon fabric and mated it to the bottom of the bag before sewing it to the sides. I mated it so that once the bag is pulled right side out, the nylon will be hidden on the inside. 

If I was really thinking ahead, I would have realized that the zipper face of the bag is going to see the most spray from the tire. In that case, I would have lined that side of the bag with nylon as well.

That's why it pays to plan out your bag in its entirety before you begin sewing!

Step 5: Go RIDE!!!

Finished! Now throw you new bag on your bike, fill it with gear and show it off!!!
Epilog Challenge

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge