Thursday, December 1, 2011

Making a handlebar bag

The bag doing its job admirably

Mounted on the bike

The new bag next to it's (smaller) inspiration, a worn TA bag of unknown vintage

Cutting pieces, sewing on the leather trim and attaching hardware

The bag starting to take shape

Since we finished building the house I've been able to redirect some of my attention to making bags again for the first time in a long while. Ever so slowly over the last handful of years I've been refining my skills and working out solutions to challenges that get in the way of a satisfactory result. The first bag I ever made was a replica of the Rivendell Bicycle Works 'Hobo' handlebar bag. It was a great jumping off point for me; I got all excited while I was making it knew I was on to something, but the bag itself was not going to last forever. I sewed it on my mom's portable Singer, which she inherited from her mom. Since then I've been incrementally getting better at crafting bags. The acquisition of an industrial sewing machine was a big step.

Since the summer, I've been slowly building up my bike to accommodate a traditional French-style handle bar bag. The first step included some frame repairs which allowed for installing a new front rack which in turn provided the mount for installing a generator hub powered lighting system. The last piece of this project was the bag.

Having come across a beat up old TA bag, I used this bag as a model for my new bag but sized it up to what I thought would be a useful size. I used the TA bag briefly and found it too way too small for anything other then light duty service.

I drafted all the fabric pieces on brown paper and then cut them out to make full scale patterns. I then transferred the patterns to the heavy waxed canvas that I was to make the bag from, allowing me to then cut and assemble them.

Sewing the bag was pretty straightforward and went well. The most challenging aspect was sewing the leather edge trim on. I found actually hot-gluing it in place before sewing made the process a lot more controllable and in the end made the process work pretty well.

When the bag was complete I affixed the decaleur through the leather to a strip of maple on the inside of the bag. (A decaleur is a metal fixture that attaches to the back of the bag and seats in the handlebar mount attached to the stem). With some work, the bag now sits just where I want with the bottom of the bag resting on the Velo Orange rack below it.

To my satisfaction, the sizing of the bag worked out just right. It is large for this style bag, but I see no drawbacks and only positives for my needs. It fits a lot of stuff and can accommodate most of what I'd need for almost all of my trips, be it a work commute, a daylong trip, or going out to get some groceries. The top of the bag sits just about at bar height and this to me is one of the unheralded wonders of a handlebar bag: it becomes a very effective windbreak for my hands in chilly weather.

There are a few things I still need to do, such as purchase elastic cord to complete the pocket cover closures and decide on the best way to close the large top cover through the decaleur posts. I'm getting closer to solving that.

This is the first bag that comes close to meeting my expectations in terms of quality of both materials and construction. I've whittled away at the process a little more and look forward to further improvements gained from this effort. I'm proud of this project, but aware of the shortcomings as well. Each one brings me a little further along.