A little bag project.

Rasmus

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Nov 16, 2013
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780
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Stockholm, Sweden.
Hi everyone!

Since I got my new bike in January I have been looking for a good handlebar bag for carrying photo gear. This hasn't been easy, either my Googling skills suck, or there are just not many suitable bags available out there, or both.

First, I purchased an Ortlieb Ultimate6 Classic bag, with the matching camera insert, however, I found the solution rather unsatisfactory. To begin with, there just barely enough place for an E-M1 (without battery grip), the Panasonic 12-35/2.8 and the Olympus 7-14/2.8. Also, the bag is essentially just a big hole where I can put stuff. No side pockets or other places to put various things like extra batteries, filters etc. Well, there is actually an internal pocket, but it's a bit hard to access with the camera insert in place.

My next bag, a Kalahari Swave S-35 had the opposite problem. Absolutely gi-normous for a handlebar bag with a map case on top and every possible side pocket and sub-compartment I would ever need, it was all too tempting to stuff it with way too much gear, causing it to swing rather worryingly up and down on its Klickfix attachment. The bag in itself weighs 2 kgs, which makes it rather easy to exceed the maximum recommended load of 5 kgs for the Klickfix handlebar bag mount. Also, the bag was nearly as wide as my drop bar, which meant that I had to squeeze my thumbs between the bag and the bar when riding on the hoods, which I do more than 90 % of the time. On longer rides, this became rather painful on my thumbs. I guess the bag would have worked better with a flat bar, but the bag is still heavy, and hanging heavy stuff over the front wheel tends to have negative impact on the handling of the bike.

I briefly considered getting a Norco Carson bag. However, the bag is similar in size to the Ortlieb and even though It's marketed as a camera bag It looks very much like another bag that it just one big hole to put stuff in.

Then I stumbled over this DIY project that described a way to convert a generic camera bag into a handlebar bag, and decided this was something I would probably be able to do, so I went ahead with it.

Step one: Find a suitable bag. I knew I would need a bag with one side that was essentially flat and featureless, and a main opening that opened toward that side and went roaming the bag section of my local camera store. Some of the Think Tank Mirrorless Mover and Suburban Disguise bags seemed to fit the bill, with the suburban disguise bags just a little bit on the big side.

Eventually, I settled on the largest of the Mirrorless Movers, the 30i. For some reason, different models of the Mirrorless Movers have their opening in different directions. The 30i opens in the useful direction for a handlebar bag, though.
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Almost immediately I went on to the "Your warranty is now void" step, partly to assess the feasibility of the whole operation, partly because I would have to do this anyway.
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Next step: get a sheet of something that can be used to distribute the load from the Klickfix attachment. The description I had found used coroplast, I used a 3 mm thick sheet of plexiglas. Here, I have partly cut it to shape.
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I never thought I would use the word "Kafka-esque" to describe communication with a carrier, but getting that KLICKfix plate was really frustrating.
They: "The plate is now at your pickup point"
Me: "Ok, what's the tracking number?"
They: "Oh, just go and collect it"
Me: "I tried. I need a tracking number"
They: "Ok, this is perhaps a tracking number: nnnnnnnn"
Me: "Ok, I tried that. They wouldn't recognize it as a valid tracking number"
They: "Ok, try this instead: nnnnnnnnn"
Rinse and repeat. About six weeks after I've ordered the plate and purchased the bag I finally have the plate.
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Test attached on my handlebar. Looks promising.
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Top of plexiglas plate cut.
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Stitched together. I was in a bit of a hurry to get the bag done in time for the bike tour I had planned, so my stitching is rather quick and ugly so I expect I will need to redo this part at some point.
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Bag closed. Still looking good.
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With contents. putting 3-4 lenses and a body in the bag isn't hard, and there are plenty of little pockets for storing small items, a tablet etc, and it isn't crammed.
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The included rain sleeve fits nicely even when the bag is attached to the bike.
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My verdict after using it on a 10 day bike tour is that it mostly worked. The stitching held together. What didn't work as expected is the plexiglas sheet, that turned out to be too brittle for this application, and both top corners have chipped off a bit. Which means I will need to find something stronger. I also assume that stronger than plexiglas ill probably mean I'll have to get the cutting done for me instead of doing it myself. Any suggestions?
 

junkyardsparkle

haunted scrap heap
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A tougher material wouldn't necessarily have to be harder, or harder to cut. The coroplast sounds like a good idea to me, and probably lighter... do you suspect it wouldn't endure the forces involved?
 

barry13

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Hi, aluminum could work. Or even plywood.
Whatever you use, be sure to round the corners so they don't tear into the bag.
 

gnarlydog australia

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Damiano Visocnik
Wonderful project and well executed
A word of caution tho: I fear camera damage. :crying:
My girlfriend did the same to her bike (off-the-shelf bag, no mods) and after a couple of rides with her E-M1 in it, the camera now makes a funny noise on start -up.
Still works but not sure if something shook the hell out that IBIS or something ... there is a lot of vibration on the handlebars
 

docfox

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Hatfield, Pennsylvania, USA
Dear Rasmus,

I would suggest using aluminum plate (1/16" thick 6061-T6 alloy would be a good choice). Aluminum is much stronger and lighter than Plexiglas. You can get small quantities at good prices from www.OnlineMetals.com. They will shear rectangular plates to your dimensions for a small charge, or you can order stock sizes and size and shape as you need. You can scratch the desired shape on the plate with a straightedge and a scribe. Cut the aluminum with a hacksaw and clean-up the cut and round the corners with a fine-cut file. (New, sharp tools preferred!) If you need to drill or tap holes, cutting oil will make the task a lot easier.
 
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VSTR61

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It's a great concept but I too fear the vibes might become too much over time. I've carried a lot of gear on bikes over the years but found that the more fragile stuff needs better suspension. Generally attached to my body rather than the bike or use a wrap of thick foam.

I'm guessing the harsh Scandinavian weather breaks up the road surfaces too. Probably a harsh ride after winter?
 

junkyardsparkle

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I really think the handlebar area is worst for vibration.
While this is true (assuming a lack of heavy front panniers to dampen the vibration), the method of attaching the bag can make a significant difference. The way this set-up is suspended from the nylon fabric seems like it might mitigate things pretty well. It might be interesting to use one of the various vibration measuring phone apps to test some different approaches...
 

VSTR61

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Joined
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Messages
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Location
Perth, Western Australia
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Vic
While this is true (assuming a lack of heavy front panniers to dampen the vibration), the method of attaching the bag can make a significant difference. The way this set-up is suspended from the nylon fabric seems like it might mitigate things pretty well. It might be interesting to use one of the various vibration measuring phone apps to test some different approaches...

See? This is why they pay you the big bucks. I wouldn't have thought of that.
 

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