SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


Low-Cost Handlebar Bag + Front Rack Project

Another rack shot
Originally uploaded by jimgskoop
Following up on a previous post about budget front-rack bicycle bags...

I really like those classic Berthoud bags and shiny Nitto racks, but those accessories don't come cheap. For cyclists on a budget, or especially those of us simply curious about trying out a front bag plus rack, there's no real entry-level option. I wasn't about to drop upwards of US$150 on a combination that I wasn't even sure I'd like! Since I already had a front rack, and I knew that passable modern handlebar bags could be had fairly cheaply (under $35), I figured there must be a DIY option...

The bag is a cheapy from Performance, while the rack is the infamous cheap front mini rack from Nashbar. I modified the rack by chopping off about 2cm from the lower legs and re-riveting the mounting L-brackets to some new holes I drilled. The rack now sits lower, closer to the top of the wheel, which is better both aesthetically and functionally, since it locates the load lower relative to the bike. I also tossed the rack's wimpy-thin steel mounting strap, instead using some thicker aluminum stock (3/4" x 1/8") to fasten the back of the rack to the fork crown. Finally, I fabricated the "decaleur" out of more aluminum stock (1" x 1/8"), resulting in a bracket that runs from the rear of the rack, up to the lower handlebar clamp bolt on the stem. The bag's quick-release plate, which would normally get clamped to the handlebars via a couple of u-shaped brackets, is instead fastened to this upright bracket. The bag still easily clips on and off its mounting plate, except now the bag sits on the rack instead of waving about up high in front of the handlebars. Like most similar bags, this one has an internal frame & plastic stiffener to maintain its shape.

The total cost of this system was around $50 (I already had the aluminum stock, which is available at most good hardware stores/Home Depot/Lowes/OSH/etc.), and took me one late evening to build. In retrospect, I think I subconsciously drew inspiration from the front rack on the bicycle pictured on the cover of the book The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles.

More photos


There may be something to this low-trail business after all.... That bag, plus its contents, weighs around 8lbs according to my bathroom scale. So figure the total load of bag+rack at around 10lbs. Although it noticeably affected the steering of the bike -- making it feel somewhat slower -- it didn't adversely impact the handling of the bike. I don't have much experience with front-loading on a bike (see this and that) but I can say that the Kogswell P/R with this handlebar bag felt better than either of those previous experiements. I even rode the bike off-road and things felt generally OK! More experimentation needed, obviously....

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim -- great idea on the budget bag, I am gonna copy it when I get some time. Cheers, Dan S.

7:54 PM  

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