I've always found current project threads entertaining so I thought I'd try one of my own to document the constant chopping and chaning of my bikes some of my more creative efforts making bike packing bags and other bits.
Ever since I really got back into cycling at 18 for commuting purposes I've gradually sampled a few of the niches that it has to offer: fixed gear, cyclocross and XC racing, road bike bunch riding before finally actualising the dream of going on a long tour. It was then that I picked up a second Specialized AWOL frame and built it up with stolen parts from my hardtail and hit the road to ride 6500km from the UK to Greece and back....
I'd previously had a go at making some bikepacking bags for shorter overnight trips on my hardtail, which at the time I thought were well made but in hindsight were super ropey.
But like anything there was a learning curve and my subsequent attempts, making bags for the AWOL to go touring with, were already much better. This is how the big looked when I left:
One bit I was particularly proud of was a DIY mini rack for the seatpost in the style of the Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion. This I made from a length of steel tubing, bent with a pipe bender, and drilled holes in the flattened ends to attach it to a seatpost collar with rack mounts. The rack and the harness have held up really well and I still use them today.
The trip was predictably fantastic and started a real passion for touring more by bike in the future. Although ironically after riding 6500km without issue, two weeks after I returned home I got hit by a careless driver not even 2km from my front door. This left me with 3 broken ribs, a torn rotator cuff, some pieces of glass in my hip and some wicked bruises. While I was out of action and out of work for a while I decided to pursue making some bags and even sold quite a number here on the forum for a while including a few roll top frame bags.
After a few months I got my shit together and got a new job back in Cambodia where I'd worked for the last few years and of course I wasn't leaving without a bike so I opted to take the AWOL this time. Having travelled with a larger bike bag previously and it being a real hassle I knew I wanted some smaller and more manouverable.
So inspired by the Orucase 'airport ninja' design, I savaged a charity shop hiking rucksack and made myself a bike travel bag with back pack straps and removable padding on all sides so it could be compressed upon arrival. The best part of making it myself meant that I could size it to my bike and get it as close as possible to the airline size regulations and although it's not quite there I haven't been hit for oversize luggage in over 10 flights so far.
Pics of this bag to follow when I dig it out the attic.
While I was working in Cambodia I found myself with a month off and no other obligations so I thought I'd take a trip to a destination I'd been longing to go to for as long as I could remember: Japan.
This time I knew I wanted to travel with a bit more minimalist set up and wild camp on my way down the country, so with a bivvy, one change of clothes, and a $5 synthetic sleeping bag cut in half into a quilt my set up looked like this:
By this point I'd migrated over to a 1x10 set up for general Cambodia riding and whilst I was a little apprehensive of the gear range I would have it actually worked out just fine. I dubbed my trip the 'Tour de Konbini' due to the copious amount of convenience store food I ate to keep the budget to a reasonable amount amd in the end I rode 3000km from Tokyo to Nagasaki and back again, Japan completely lived up to every expectation I had and I would go back in a heartbeat.
Fast forward a few months and the AWOL came with to Budapest as I started a two year masters degree and coped with the winter weather just fine:
I also took the time to make myself a new roll top handle bar bag:
Following Budapest, I brought the AWOL for a 3 month stint on the island of Lesvos and enjoyed some primo Greek gravel riding:
Now I'm located in the slightly less spectactular city of Manchester and the plan to transform the AWOL into a flat bar, front loaded, big tyred bikepacking kind of thing with the main source of my inspiration being this excellent example from this very forum's @larsenroad
For a while now I've wanted to swap out the AWOL's stock fork for one with triple bottle bosses on the legs, mostly because I like the feel of a front loaded bike and can definitely envisage a set-up with smaller cargo/dry bags instead of a panniers. Also I wanted a fork with 12mm thru-axle dropouts so I can quickly swap over my front dynamo wheel from my Curve.
The problem is there are not too many options on the market for a steel fork with a standard steerer, the correct a/c and rake with these features at least until I stumbled across the bivi bikes femur fork:
because the forks only come in black or raw finish I thought this was also a good opportunity to send the frame, whose paint was looking pretty tired already for a new powdercoat job in matte black.
At the same time another little project I want to embark upon between now and christmas is another diy version of a popular bag design. This time I want to have a go at carradice style saddle/handlebar bag but in more modern materials and probably closer in design to the Ultra Romance/Swift industries 'Fabio's chest'
The plan is that this will do double duty as a rack top bag for day to day commuting to university on top of the specialized pizza rack but also I want to try out the same idea of using rack struts attached to the fork with a cross beam at the top to act as a basic support to keep the bag from sagging into the wheel:
Ultra Romance is collaborating with someone and trying to market it for a ridiculous sum of money but I'll be using the good old bagman struts from Carradice available from SJS cycles.
I want to do the exterior of the bag in olive drab cordura and the interior in grey xpac and I'm hopefully going to get it done in the next couple of weeks at the local hack/maker's space in Manchester which has two rather heavy duty looking Singer sewing machines available for use.
I also have one other bike in the stable at the moment which feels a good bit fancier than the workhorse do-it-all AWOL, a Curve GXR in steel.
The story behind this is that after getting wiped out by a car a couple of years ago I did actually get a smallish chunk of change from the guy's insurance. At the same time, moving around almost constantly for the past few years had made me finally realised that it was kind of pointless owning anymore than 2 bikes really. So this was an attempt to find one bike to cover fastish road riding and mixed surface stuff and I have to say so far I love it!
The only things that will be changing in the near future are a negative angle stem and probably a little trim of the steerer as well as fitting supernova connector's to the headlight wire to remove the excess and allow for easy swapping between the fork crown and top of bars position.
nice one! bags look great
Enjoyed that, keep it coming ! Look forward to seeing the bag, sounds exactly like what I'm after - make me one when you're done :)
Big fan of all of this! But I’m wondering why you went for a second seat post clamp with the Porcelain Rocket knockoff. The bike has rack mounts on the chainstays, no?
And what is your rationale for rolltop framebags over zippered versions?
Thanks! I may well be ameniable to making you one as well, generally once I have the pattern and process down for a bag I found it pretty easy to replicate.
I did think about just using the chainstay mounts but it would have meant a very different angle for the dry bag or an extra bend in the tubing plus this way I can also swap the whole system over to another bike like my hardtail which doesn't have mounts. As for the frame bags, I don't think zips are inherently a worse option as long as it's a good chunky zip and not one of the waterproof ones. For example the water-resistant one on my half frame bag is pretty much knackered now after quite extensive use despite me cleaning and lubing it. On the up side I now how to replace a zipper so the bag itself should still live on. The roll top bags also take a bit more work to stop the contents bulging outwards and interfering with cranks etc. when you don't pack them carefully.
Great thread, some awesome diy and trips
Ah yes, I did mean adding an extra bend. But I can see how that would complicate things. I’ve bought a cheap PlanetX seat pack for now, as framebags are already a bit daunting. But might see about modifying it to take a similar harness for starters.
Sounds like a chunky molded zipper with a flap over it would be a good option? I don’t think I’d need absolute waterproofness anyway, the stuff that needs to stay absolutely dry can go in the dry bags on my bars or under my seat.
Sweet, look forward to seeing the results. Keep up the good work
Good thread! Whats the A-C on the AWOL fork compared to the Bivi? it looks like an ideal replacement
Cheers! This gonna be good :)
A/C on the bivi bikes fork is 415mm vs. The 405mm of the stock fork but they have the same offset so very minimal change in angle. Only problem was though that I didn’t check steerer length before ordering I just assumed being a new fork it was bound to be long enough, forgot that the AWOL headtube is crazy long! Thankfully the guy behind the brand had a prototype version with a longer steerer as well as a wider crown race base for a better fit with the headtube so he sent me that instead.
forgot that the AWOL headtube is crazy long!
forgot that the AWOL headtube is crazy long!
One of the main reasons I want an AWOL I wish they weren't to sought after in the UK
AWOL is back from the powder coaters and flat bar mode has been engaged. Took it out for a muddy spin along the Mersey canal this morning.
That’s not a canal, that’s a river! I know that route well, absolute mud fest!
If you want tips on nice gravel routes out into the peaks/south Manchester give me a shout
looks fantastic fun, super work.
Progress has been made on my version of the carradice long flap/saddle bag. It’s about 80% of the way there...
Nice bikes, nice bags!
impressive work, do you have a link to the pattern please?
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