Bikepackers load their bikes with gear: clothes, camping equipment, food, etc; and cycle off somewhere nice for a while (days, months? :-). It's like backpacking but on a bike!
While when walking you can just carry all you need in a rucksack on you back, when cycling this is not comfortable nor convenient as it puts lots of stress on your back and won't allow you to navigate on tricky terrain. The solution is to strap your gear wherever possible on your bike.
There's a great variety of bags out there, designed to be attached to the handlebars, saddle, frame, etc. Each has a different function and allows more or less weight/bulky things.
In this instructable we present a DIY custom made handlebar bag, designed to wrap a bulky item and with a pocket of its own to keep things at hand (phone, map, lights, etc). It's waterproof and resistant, and can fix a large item to the handlebars. Have a look at the pictures for some ideas! It can also be used standalone to carry easy-to-grab things in your handlebar.
Step 1: Materials
A full list of materials is presented below, together with some approximate prices:
- Fabric: we used a 70x33 cm piece of waterproof nylon ($6.9 for 160x100cm)
- Closed-end zip: heavy weight (8 mm), 25 cm long ($2.1 per zip)
- Polyester webbing (25 mm): total 310 cm ($0.90 per 1m)
- 2 x 30 cm for the back of the bag
- 2 x 25 cm for the front of the back
- 2 or 3 x 100 cm for the tightening straps (to attach the bag to the handle bar)
Apart from the materials themselves, you'll need a sewing machine and resistant thread.
The total price for each one bag is somewhere around $12! It's likely that you need to get larger quantites, so you'll end up with surplus materials, we just built two bags :)
Step 2: About Sewing
A sewing machine is essential as it will make everything much faster and give a better finish. If you are very patient, you could hand sew the bag though.
For every seam we followed the following steps:
- Secure the elements to be sewn together with pins
- Baste with thin thread
- Sew full backstitches with the sewing machine
- Remove the baste.
This is a standard practise and will ensure a nice finish!
Step 3: 1/4: Sew the Zip and Back Webbings
The first thing is to find out which side of the waterproof fabric is intended to be facing out. This is extremely important as waterproof fabrics have a waterproof side, and a breathable side. If you build your bag "inside-out", it will absorb water from the outside and keep it inside! To find which side is which, just put it under the tap and see whether water gets repelled or wicked in.
With the waterproof side of the fabric facing up, sew the zip to one of the small ends of the rectangle of fabric (1). Make sure the zip is facing down when you do this. Once sewed, reverse the zip (now is facing up) and folding the fabric, sew it again (2): this will be the visible backstitch of the zip, make it look nice! This double-stitch adds strength.
Approximately 5 cm below the zip, place the 30cm long webbing from side to side. 15cm from it, place the second one. Sew a total of five transversal backstitches along the webbings (3). Check beforehand that the tightening straps can pass through. You can reinforce the backstitch by adding a piece of fabric behind it.
Sew the remaining end of the fabric to the other side of the zip. To do this, fold the fabric, put it on top of the zip (4) and sew (5). Now you have a closed cylinder with the waterproof face of the fabric in the inside. Reverse it (6) and finish sewing the zip (7), this backstitch will be visible, make it look nice too.
Step 4: 2/4: Sew the Creases
In order to give the bag some volume, we will sew creases in the front side.
Firstly, delimitate the back of the bag: fold the fabric 3cm above the zip; from the fold, measure 25cm of the fabric behind and fold again. The back-webbing should be contained in this portion. This part will be left flat.
The rest of the fabric will constitute the front part of the bag, were the creases will be. We made four creases, 2cm deep each, but you can do as many as you think you need. For our four-crease design: measure 8cm below the zip, mark a section of 2 cm and then 6 cm. Repeat this four times, one per crease (8). Fold them (9) and sew them. Now you have the final shape of the bag with all the sides closed.
Step 5: 3/4: Reinforce the Sides and Close Gaps
Fold 1cm on the sides towards the front of the bag (10). Place the webbings on top and sew its four sides (11). Make sure that the gaps in both sides of the zip are well closed with the webbings.
Now you should have a fully working sealed bag! All that's left is getting the straps ready and decoration.
Step 6: 4/4: Sew the Tightening Straps
Sew one end of the 1m webbing to the “male” piece of the fast-release buckle. For best results, sew the shape of a rectangle and then a cross on it. This will add extra strength to the strap. Finally insert the other end of the webbing in the “female” piece of the buckle.
Step 7: (Optional) Decoration
The bag is totally good to go, but maybe it looks too plain!
Using fabric paint you can add a cool design on the font side of the bag. Other options involve sticking an iron-on patch or sewing something on the front. Depending on the fabric, ironing may not be an option as synthetic materials can burn. Sewing will risk the waterproofing on that area.
In our opinion paint is probably the best option. You can use a stencil to get better finish. If you feel creative you can add layers on the creases so that it looks nice when the bag is full and it's stretched out.
Step 8: Attach It to the Bike and Enjoy!
The bag will be attached to the handlebars, with our without wrapping an extra item. Depending on your bike type and size, you will need to find the best way to attach it.
The bag is quite versatile and can be mounted in a variety of ways using 2 or 3 straps. Have a look at the pictures which show how we attach it to both a road bike and a MTB with several loads.
Velcro straps can be used when the load is light, these are lightweight yet strong.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the outdoors!