How to make your own DIY handlebar bag

snowy day in Boulder

No bike adventures today.

Bummer. Snowy weekend, two weeks after what I hoped was the last snowy weekend of the winter. I tried to get out in the mess, all dorked out with pogies, vapor barrier liners, ski mittens, and studded tires, but the snow, ice, and slush was too much. Even the flatlands were treacherous, with icy precipitation forming rutted parallel tracks on all road surfaces. If I had more bike or more skill I may have been able to make it work, but today all I had was excuses. I lamely walked my bike back home after a pitifully short ride with several near-falls. Bummer.

cold weather bike

Pogies, goggles, studded tires… didn’t quite cut it on the snow and ice

That’s the bad news. The good news is I have the perfect opportunity for a snow-day arts and crafts project. Here’s the situation: I could use a small, lightweight front handlebar bag for short trips around town. It should be able to stash a U-lock, some small things like keys, phone, wallet, a bit of food, and a windbreaker + gloves. It should be lightweight, easy to take on and off, easily portable off the bike, and cheap enough that I won’t sweat leaving it outside while shopping.

I have a bunch of miscellaneous bags from my running alter-ego, and one of them is just about perfect. It’s a medium-sized waist bag with a sleeve for a water bottle, a decent-sized pocket, and a bungee cord on the outside for extra clothes. It can just barely hold everything I need, including a U-lock, and it’s easy to carry it off the bike around my waist. This is a particularly nice bag, but odds are you can find pretty decent stuff lying around your house or at Goodwill. The only problem with this bag, and other common fanny packs, is no good way to attach it to the bike. Enter weekend project.

Waist pack for handlebar bag conversion

Waist pack for handlebar bag conversion

To attach the bag to my bike, I’m going to sew some webbing loops onto the bag. The loops should give a sturdy attachment point to quickly and easily mount the bag on my handlebars with velcro or toe straps. The modification should not weaken the bag or make it any less comfortable to wear.

Speedy Stitcher awl

Speedy Stitcher awl

For this project I am going to use a Speedy Stitcher awl. This bad boy is plenty strong enough for leather, so the nylon webbing and bag material should pose no problem. I’ll start by cutting some nylon webbing into short lengths just long enough to make a loop. Remember to singe the ends with a lighter to keep them from fraying.

3-4 inches of webbing is enough to make a loop.

3-4 inches of webbing is enough to make a loop.

Pull a little bit of waxed thread through the eye of the awl needle, then insert it through the bag and nylon webbing. Start from the inside to the outside, so the knot won’t rub your clothes or skin when you wear the bag. Pull some thread through the needle once you reach the other side. You want enough thread to cover all your stitches, plus 6 inches or so more in order to tie a knot when you’re done. Pull the needle out the way it came in, leaving the thread sticking out on the other side.

Leave some extra thread on the other side so you can easily tie a knot when you're done.

Leave some extra thread on the other side so you can easily tie a knot when you’re done.

OK, now time to make a stitch. Insert the needle again, a few millimeters off to the side. Pull a little thread through the needle in order to make a loop, and insert the loose end of the thread through the loop. Pull the needle back out the way it came, closing the loop tight and creating a stitch.

Pull the loose thread through the loop and pull tight to make a stitch.

Pull the loose thread through the loop and pull tight to make a stitch.

These stitches are strong like bull, so you don’t need all that many. I think 4 or 5 is plenty. Try to make your stitched area as wide as possible in order to distribute the load and decrease the chances that the thread will pull through. Bonus points if you can make a tidy square or diamond pattern. When you’re done stitching, poke your needle through one last time and pull 6 inches or so of thread through. Snip the thread near the needle, then tie the two loose ends of thread with a good square knot. You can put a dab of glue on the knot if you’re worried about it coming undone.

Pull some extra thread through, then snip near the needle.

Pull some extra thread through, then snip near the needle.

A square knot should work fine. Cut off the excess thread after you tie the knot.

A square knot should work fine. Cut off the excess thread after you tie the knot.

Repeat this process for the second webbing loop. If you like, you can add a third loop at the bottom of the bag too, so you can attach it to the headtube with some elastic cord. Two loops at the handlebar is plenty for this particular bag though.

All sewed up and ready to go.

All sewed up and ready to go.

Good enough. I'll test it out when the weather's better.

Good enough. I’ll test it out when the weather’s better.

The Speedy Stitcher costs less than $20 and it pays for itself pretty quickly once you learn how to use it. Give it a try and see what random stuff around the house you can turn into bike accessories. It’s a good way to spend a snowy afternoon.

NAHBS 2013

Ellis Cycles

Ellis had some functional and beautiful bicycles on display, several of which took great liberties in stretching the definitions of their respective bike genres. For example, the stainless steel travel bike had the profile of a road bike and looked capable of fast club rides, but it also had long reach brakes and clearance for wider tires for long rides on dirt roads or even trails.

Another highlight was the yellow drop bar 29er, a cross between a road bike and mountain bike that looked like the best of both worlds. This bike made me ache to go exploring the fire roads and forest trails in the foothills.

One other bike at the booth, a luminescent lavender road bike, had a finely tapered fork crown that seemed to almost disappear between the headtube and fork blades. Ellis said he used a plug-style fork crown and filed the transition area ultra-smooth for a seamless transition. I tried to capture the effect in photos, but I think you really had to be there to fully appreciate it.

I was fortunate enough to get some face time with Ellis and talk to him about some of his bikes on display. The amount of thought that went into accommodating his customer’s desires for the ultimate travel bike was really impressive. It was evident in speaking with him and the was extremely attentive to details and really passionate about producing the best possible experience for his customers.

Littleford

This 26″ touring bike was really well thought out and had a ton of custom touches that really added up to a super nice touring bike. The finishing was really interesting, instead of paint it was “burnt” with a “browning” solution, basically an acid chemical that coats the entire frame with a thin coat of rust that won’t rust any further. In person the frame treatment looked very classy, and it showed off the fine work around the fillet-brazed joints. Having owned a travel bike, I know first-hand just how easy it is to nick the paint, so this type of acid treatment makes a lot of sense. This bike had custom-built racks and several small details, like plating on the rack and top tube to protect the frame.

Shed 6

Felix Fried at Shed 6 showed us this cool commuter bike. Felix’s story was really inspirational – a mechanic by day and framebuilder by night who pulled himself up by his bootstraps. Felix’s bike had a lot of cool touches in common with larger more established framebuilding outfits, like internal cable routing, an elegantly curved fork, and trick integrated lighting.

Helavna Cycles

Koushou K. travelled here from Tokyo to show off this great looking commuter. He left it unpainted to show off the fine fillet work at the joints. Although you can’t tell from my detail photos, this bike was equipped with a nice set of workhorse components and looked like it would make a great all-around bike.

Avery Cycles

Perhaps it was the color scheme or the components selected, but this exhibit from Avery Cycles really stood out. This bike looked like a capable and comfortable bike for riding up mountain roads, hitting some light trails, or just running errands. I was really digging the dark color scheme with the chrome accents. Like several other distance-oriented bikes at the show, this design used Paul centerpull brakes to good effect.

Harvey Cycle Works

Harvey had this randonneur bike on display which exhibits the class and elegance of traditional bike design with the mod cons of disc brakes and a generator hub. This 650b design looks more than capable of some rough dirt roads.

Weld One / Ogre

This bike seemed like a mix between an artistic statement and a science project. It beared some resemblance to the terminator. I couldn’t take my eyes off this bike in person – the geometry of the trusses were really intricate, especially at the chainstays.

Breadwinner

This collabo between Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan had a whole line of bikes to display. I only captured a couple photos of the Continental road bike, which was my personal pick of the litter. It’s billed as an “all road bike”, with room for 700×28 tires, a little on the skinny side for my tastes but it looks both fast and comfortable for long rides on paved roads. They also had a cool porteur-style city bike on hand.

Sanomagic

This Japanese builder had exquisite wooden bicycles on display. Each bicycle runs about $22,000 USD each, which includes all wooden components (frame, fork, wheels, stem, handlebars, seatpost, even the seat is wooden). You might suggest this bike is all show and no go, but the builder was showing off footage of a rider jetting past competitors at a local race on the 20″ wheeled bike.

Black Sheep

Black Sheep had some really interesting Titanium fat bikes on display. The integrated cargo rack and truss forks (one of which featured a rather unique suspension!) had us taking lots of photos to capture all the curvy swoopy details.

Gangl

Gangl’s exhibit was like a museum of classic bikes, some of which were built by others and restored by Gangl and others which were instant classics produced by Gangl. I really like how Gangl’s titanium bikes have a sweet classic vibe to them. Don’t get me wrong, I like the modern brushed titanium look as well, but the Gangl designs were a really appealing alternative to the more industrial modern titanium designs.

Yipsan

Yipsan had a cool porteur bike with a flower-inspired front rack on display, as well as a classic rando bike with what has to be the highest offset fork I have ever seen in person. The fork seemed well matched to the jumbo handlebar bag mounted to it.

Nova

The framebuilding supplier Nova had some cool displays at the event, including a large array of lugs and tubes. These lugs and tubes were like polished jewels and were fun to examine outside the context of being melted onto a bike.

Cherubim

As always, Cherubim has other-worldly bikes on exhibit. The combination townie/aero bike seems to have gotten the most attention, with its sculpted “hybrid” handlebars, but I liked the red road bike more. The way the stem flowed smoothly into the frame, as well as the smooth gussets at the frame joints and the swoopy seat stays, added up to a really nice looking bike that actually looked fun to ride too.

Richard Sachs

The bikes on display from Richard Sachs all looked perfectly finished. I’m not sure what else to add… classic designs and flawlessly executed.

Spectrum Powderworks

Spectrum had a really cool collection of restored vintage mountain bikes to show off. I’m sure Spectrum did a great job on the paint, but I was more interested in the old school purple ano components.

Moots

I’m normally not one to go all gaga over titanium for titanium’s sake, but Moots had some really cool designs at NAHBS that I wanted to share. Their Great Divide race bike, for one, looked like it would not only tear up the North-South crossing in a scant three weeks, it also looked pretty good for just about any type of road / trail you could throw at it, and able to carry a light but sufficent load for touring while at it. And of course you couldn’t have missed the trail-building fat cargo bike…

Hed

Hed had their new gravel grinder wheels mounted to a demo HED-branded gravel road bike. The bike itself looked pretty nice, with disc brakes, wide tire clearance, and independent seat stays and chain stays.

Retrofit

Retrofit had a number of groovy bikes, but I was drawn to the road frame with the wide tires. I can’t say I’m a raving fan of the curves (they seem a little too out there for me), but I like the practical nature of the wide clearance and how they were able to get that clearance comfortable with centerpull brakes – a nice alternative to cantis.

English Cycles

I was deeply impressed with the way English’s bikes are designed as a system. Pencil-thin seatstays, custom racks, inverted steerers, and completely one-off components adorned several of his bikes in order to achieve desired traits such as lightweight cargo for the Great Divide racer and aerodynamics for his person TT rig.

Vendetta Cycles

Even though Vendetta was one of the last booths we saw, their work made an impression on me even after my senses had been dulled by hours of chrome and steel. Vendetta’s bikes strike that elusive balance between classic and modern, function and form. The purple road bike with the rack mounts and fenders, in particular, looked like the kind of bike I would actually gladly shell out money for.

Others

So much cool stuff, so little time to document everything we saw. There are several other great builders with bikes on display, which we only got a few photos of or weren’t able to identify after the show. Please drop us a line in comments if you recognize a bike and know who to attribute it to.