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Converting an old camera bag into a handlebar bag?

Old 08-12-20, 02:49 AM
  #1  
ShannonM
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Converting an old camera bag into a handlebar bag?

I have these things:


Side view
1985 League Fuji.





Old, unknown, American-made, stiff cowhide camera bag

I do not have these things:
A car
Money
A clue

As I was going through the camera bag, it occurred to me that it would make a really nice handlebar bag, if I could modify it to mount to the bike.
I'd like for it to be easily removable as well, so it can also be my purse / utility bag / lunchbox for daily life.
So, assuming that I'm not crazy, (in this context, anyway,) how might I go about it?

--Shannon
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Old 08-12-20, 04:39 AM
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I recently did something similar - converted a cordura lunch cooler to a front bag. Easy, but..... I installed a front rack on my Fuji TS so this bag only needed a stiffener on the bottom and a couple of Velcro straps bolted in. For you: be sure the bag does not hang down and swing into the front brake cable. Possible wear and damage. You need to decide how to attach it. Many options. Do an image search on bicycle front bags and review all the options. This could take a while. It would be faster to install your bag on the rear for now, while you're planning for the front.

Also so consider rain protection. Your leather and your zippers will not do well in rain. Even a plastic grocery bag will help but needs to be tied on. An idea: consider this bag sacrificial. Learn a lot from it then make another one profiting from the mistakes you've made. Keep us posted.
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Old 08-12-20, 09:45 AM
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Bodged a handlebar bag with a mount relatively permanent , bolted on, not QR, using handle bar water bottle cage mounts .
long 5mm bolts, and spacers..& added stiffeners inside the bag..
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Old 08-12-20, 12:00 PM
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I have no suggestion for how to mount it. But, I have a suggestion for something you probably had not thought of yet.

I have bought some older Louis Garneau (spell?) handlebags over the years and found that they lacked adequate stiffening and would sag badly.

Example:



And that was with a handlebar bag that the manufacturer had already added some stiffening to. Your camera bag lacks that.

I added two pieces of Aluminum bar stock, 1 1/2 X 1/18 inch to the bracket that are bent to go underneath to add support to the bottom. I initially tried two pieces that were 3/4 X 1/8 that was inadequate but the wider pieces seem to work well. They are attached at the mount and extend underneath. I do not have a great photo, but you can see them here on teh same bag that is on a different bike.



Whatever you do, the lack of stiffness of the bag will probably require some retrofitting.
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Old 08-12-20, 12:48 PM
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I don't see how you can do it without spending money. If you just suspend it from the handlebars it will flop around. You need either a rack to support it underneath or something like this to attach it to the handlebars:




https://www.amazon.com/KLICKfix-Hand...3REWJ9YHE3MM1Q

I think it should open towards you when you're on the bike, so I'd remove that outside pocket and attach the Klickfix there. I have no experience with Klickfixes so I can't comment on how well it works.
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Old 08-12-20, 05:11 PM
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What I did

Thanks to all who advised. Long-term, I think that adding a KlickFix or equivalent mounting system to the bag is what I'll do. Looks like costing about 50 bucks.

For now, I decided to see if I could mount it to the rack and seatpost. Using the two fixed parts of the camera bag's 3-piece shoulder strap and two nnylon MTB toe straps, I did this:






It fits tight, doesn't wiggle or sway, and looks great on the bike. Only downside is that the very stiff leather lid is right up under the saddle, so it doesn't open all the way. If that turns out to be really irritating, I'll try to solve it, but for now, I'm going to ride it like this. (And clean up the leather a bit.)

Thanks again for all the help,
--Shannon
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Old 08-12-20, 09:35 PM
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I used zip ties on the shoulder strap ring of an old camera bag mount to my trekking style handlebars.
I recall getting very creative with zip ties. The bag would always want to tilt so I added zip ties in various locations (after punching a couple holes in the camera bag).
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Old 08-13-20, 05:24 AM
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Originally Posted by ShannonM View Post
Thanks to all who advised. Long-term, I think that adding a KlickFix or equivalent mounting system to the bag is what I'll do. Looks like costing about 50 bucks.
...
I have nothing against creativity and innovation, but there are some good handlebar bags out there like the Ortliebs, if you spend $50 on an experiment you are almost half way there. And the Ortlieb would work better on a rainy day than your old camera bag.

Sierra trading post has one on sale, but a bit smaller.
https://www.sierra.com/made-in-germa...r-bag~p~892dv/
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Old 08-13-20, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by ShannonM View Post
Thanks to all who advised. Long-term, I think that adding a KlickFix or equivalent mounting system to the bag is what I'll do. Looks like costing about 50 bucks.
look for some super old or damaged quick-release bags on ebay or at goodwill, transfer the hardware over.

you'll find that even with the stiffener from your old panniers, the leather won't hold shape. you can solve this with an L-shaped metal bookend, drilled and mounted between the quick-release mount and the back of the bag, with the lower part of the L supporting the bottom of the bag.

your other problem will be rain. that old leather bag will absorb water and get soft, while also drenching anything inside. and the weight of the heavy waterlogged, now soft, leather, will ruin your bag fairly quickly. coatings and seam-sealer might help some, but better keep ziplocs for the inside stuff, and find/make a waterproof cover for the bag.
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Old 08-13-20, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I have nothing against creativity and innovation, but there are some good handlebar bags out there like the Ortliebs, if you spend $50 on an experiment you are almost half way there. And the Ortlieb would work better on a rainy day than your old camera bag.

Sierra trading post has one on sale, but a bit smaller.
https://www.sierra.com/made-in-germa...r-bag~p~892dv/
I agree with you. The complexity of fabricating an adequate bar bag and mounting system is far greater than making a good set of panniers, and when the project is completed the results are often less than satisfactory. Even with commercially made "water resistant" bar bags and a rain cover, imoisture got inside the bags. The Sierra Trading Post's cost for the Ortlieb bar bag is a good value. I've carried my expensive camera gear in my Ortlieb bar bag for over 20,000 miles of touring , and that means a lot of rain. Never had a problem, because Ortlieb gear is waterproof. My wife's bar bag stays on her bike year- around.

We have had Ortlieb bar bags for about 10 years, and our daughters are using their Christmas presents (the bar bags) for the first time on this tour.


The bar bags, with our camera gear, wallet, passport, and cell phone always come off the bikes when we leave them. However, they were on the bike up to a few minutes before I took this picture.


Last edited by Doug64; 08-13-20 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 08-13-20, 05:37 PM
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I took another photo today, this shows the aluminum support I made much better than previous photo, it is two bars of aluminum, 1 1/2 inch by 1/8 inch. There is a bit of inner tube rubber sleeve on the end so that the aluminum does not chaff and abrade the bottom of the bag. When I hit a bump, it bounces a little bit, but it keeps it in position much better.



This was on an old Louis Garneau (spell?) bag, not water proof but I have a rain cover for it.

***

If you are new to handlebar bags, they are great when used with a quick release bracket, I can keep all my valuables in it when touring so that I can carry it in restaurants and grocery stores with me, etc.
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Old 08-13-20, 06:50 PM
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Putting a Camera in it?
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Old 08-13-20, 11:18 PM
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no idea how practical but it looks cool on the rack. doesn't brooks sell leather bike bags ? couldn't a sealant be applied ? cows don't leak do they ?
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Old 08-14-20, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by mark d View Post
... cows don't leak do they ?
sheeesh! city slickers!

https://tse3-mm.cn.bing.net/th/id/OI...x?pid=Api&rs=1
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Old 08-14-20, 06:42 PM
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Got a different bag

After turning my old leather camera bag into a saddlebag, which worked pretty well, I ended up getting this barely-used Topeak rack trunk with fold-out panniers from my Stepdad:






I added a toestrap to the front, held to the bag with the velcro straps, to minimize the wiggles that corner-strapped bags can have.

--Shannon
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Old 08-15-20, 04:18 AM
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If you have canti brake bosses the cheap tiny front sun lite rack that was everywhere a few years ago makes a great way to carry a camera bag as a front bag. It is just big enough for a camera bag. They were available for about $12. They are less common now, but you can find one on ebay for under $10. I prefer it to a handlebar mount even for my bag that was designed as a handlebar bag. I didn't bother to attach the bag super securely. I just set the bag on the rack and used the shoulder strap to keep it in place. It was quick and easy to grab the bag and take it with me.
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Old 08-18-20, 05:46 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
If you have canti brake bosses the cheap tiny front sun lite rack that was everywhere a few years ago makes a great way to carry a camera bag as a front bag. It is just big enough for a camera bag. They were available for about $12. They are less common now, but you can find one on ebay for under $10. I prefer it to a handlebar mount even for my bag that was designed as a handlebar bag. I didn't bother to attach the bag super securely. I just set the bag on the rack and used the shoulder strap to keep it in place. It was quick and easy to grab the bag and take it with me.
+1 on this, especially given how big your frame is. You've got a lot of room between bars and front wheel to work with, so it would be easy to rest the bag on a rack there and not have to worry about supporting it securely and maintaining rigid structure while it's hanging on the front of the bars. If you can improvise a decaleur type mount, that would make it really secure on the rack, but it's not necessary.
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Old 08-18-20, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by AeroGut View Post
+1 on this, especially given how big your frame is. You've got a lot of room between bars and front wheel to work with, so it would be easy to rest the bag on a rack there and not have to worry about supporting it securely and maintaining rigid structure while it's hanging on the front of the bars. If you can improvise a decaleur type mount, that would make it really secure on the rack, but it's not necessary.
I probably didn't really sell the approach, so I'll comment a bit more to say I really liked it and found it superior to a handlebar mount for those cases where it is an option. I even went so far as to mount one on a bike that didn't have canti bosses using p-clamps, but that is kind of a kludge. It worked but wasn't as nice as the canti boss setup.

There are other little racks that would work. Some of them are crazy expensive though. I bought several of the sun lites at $12 a piece and them pretty adequate. I even used them as a rear rack and loaded them more heavily than they were intended to be with no failures. One on the front and one on the back works great for my old rigid MTB for UL on/off road touring. My newer MTB doesn't have canti bosses or I happily use them on it.

I cringe when I see something a similar size for $85 even though it is undoubtedly higher quality.

BTW, I have also just strapped a little camera bag to the stem and let it hang in front of a bikepacking style bar roll. It just sort of hung in front of the bar roll by it's straps. It stayed fine and was quick to grab and take with me. Not sure if it would work as well with a bigger bag, but it probably would. I guess it would depend on frame size, bar height, and size of the bar roll. If you were nervous you could add a bungee, but I didn't bother.
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Old 08-18-20, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
...
BTW, I have also just strapped a little camera bag to the stem and let it hang in front of a bikepacking style bar roll. It just sort of hung in front of the bar roll by it's straps. It stayed fine and was quick to grab and take with me. Not sure if it would work as well with a bigger bag, but it probably would. I guess it would depend on frame size, bar height, and size of the bar roll. If you were nervous you could add a bungee, but I didn't bother.
There are a few brands of handlebar bags that hang in this location that also have extra cords (or maybe bunge) to the sides that attach to the drop bars below the brake levers to keep the bag centered.
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Old 08-18-20, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
There are a few brands of handlebar bags that hang in this location that also have extra cords (or maybe bunge) to the sides that attach to the drop bars below the brake levers to keep the bag centered.
The old Cannondale handlebar bags had two bungees that went down to the front skewer that did the same thing. I've never used one, don't know how they work overall. I do know that the drop-down panniers on the Topeak use a similar arrangement, and it works quite well... no flopping, even with a bag of ice in one and a bottle of wine and a liter of soda in the other. (Plus a mile of terrible road and skinny tires.)

I think that, when I do this, I'll probably use something like the Cannondale system. Attach two long tubes of leather to the sides for the "tuning fork" stem-mount support, then run bungee cord and slide-locks from the D-rings. One down the fork and a shorter one to the handlebar. Three points per side. Should be pretty stable, and leaves nothing on the bike when not in use.

I don't think a front rack is a thing that I want on this bike. Caliper brakes and no eyelets on the fork... the QR-mount PDW front fender is a bit of a pain in the keister as it is. Mounting something like the Nitto / Riv "Mark's Rack" would likely be a new level of suck. Plus, I won't always be carrying a full DSLR kit, so most of the time the rack wouldn't have anything on it.

Thanks again for everyone's thoughts. Seems like this is a topic that could be usefully generalized well beyond my specific bike / bag scenario. I've learned a lot already.

--Shannon
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Old 08-18-20, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by ShannonM View Post
The old Cannondale handlebar bags had two bungees that went down to the front skewer that did the same thing. I've never used one, don't know how they work overall. ...
Was not just Cannondale, back in the 70s and 80s, all of the handlebar bags hung from a steel frame that was a cantilever off of the handlebar and stem. That steel frame was like a spring, you hit a bump and everything bounced up and down, the bungee was used to hold the bag down.

I used to use an Aveneer (spell?) brand bag that hung from such a frame, ten year old photos.



Some of the bags back then had a flat bottom, mine was a rounded bottom so it would not sit upright on a table. And it took several minutes to remove from the bike or to re-install later, that made it a major hassle if you wanted to take your bag of valuables into the grocery store with you.

The steel frames were sized for a quill stem, I had to make my own steel frame that was wider for the threadless stem.

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Old 08-18-20, 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Was not just Cannondale, back in the 70s and 80s, all of the handlebar bags hung from a steel frame that was a cantilever off of the handlebar and stem. That steel frame was like a spring, you hit a bump and everything bounced up and down, the bungee was used to hold the bag down.
(quote snipped...)
And it took several minutes to remove from the bike or to re-install later, that made it a major hassle if you wanted to take your bag of valuables into the grocery store with you.

The steel frames were sized for a quill stem, I had to make my own steel frame that was wider for the threadless stem.
Despite those flaws, it seems to me that the steel cantilever was still a superior approach, in that it kept the bag out in front of the tops of the drop bars.

In my (admittedly suspect) memory, the removal procedure of "slide forward on frame, unclip, slide off" was pretty painless.

I've not done test fitting, but as far as I can tell from pictures it appears that even the Ortlieb and other clikc mount bags have just a tiny gap. And many seem designed for MTB bars, strapping on with zero space between bar and bag.

Does anyone still make the cantilever style front bags?
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Old 08-18-20, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by tgot View Post
...
I've not done test fitting, but as far as I can tell from pictures it appears that even the Ortlieb and other clikc mount bags have just a tiny gap. And many seem designed for MTB bars, strapping on with zero space between bar and bag.

Does anyone still make the cantilever style front bags?
I think you will find that most handlebar bags have a good amount of space between the bag and handlebar. The farther forward, the farther the center of gravity is in front of the steering axis (the steerer tube), that can impair handling.

When you say MTB, I assume you mean something like a harness to hold a bikepacking dry bag on flat bars, but with those bars you never have your hands on that part of the handlebar.

I have not seen any handlebar bags that hung from a steel frame like that since the last millennium. I bought mine in the 80s.
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Old 08-18-20, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post


The bar bags, with our camera gear, wallet, passport, and cell phone always come off the bikes when we leave them. However, they were on the bike up to a few minutes before I took this picture.
Doug64 , Can you comment or photo on the spacing of bar in front of the bars?

I'm trying to understand the mounting requirements for the Ortliebs, and bag positioning. It looks like the clamp.onto the bars does not have to resist twisting around the bar, but that a cable loops around the stem (as a permanent install*) to prevent downward rotation of the bag.

Is the bar to bag gap reasonable? More than 1", even with sway?

I'm also looking at the clamping and wondering if I'd have to rewrap the bars and reposition the aero brake cables.

Any feedback you can offer would be welcome.

My immediate thought was a smaller bag than the 6L, but who knows. The price of the linked bag is pretty good for Ortliebs.

Thanks!
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Old 08-18-20, 10:41 PM
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This might help:



I started using cyclocross brake levers to take the pressure off my shoulder when I had shoulder surgery. There is plenty of room between the bar bag and the levers.



There is no need to retape the bars, unless your bike's bar tape is close to the bar. Even then, all it would take is to tighten up the spacing of the last 5 wraps of bar tape. There is not any "sway" with the Ortlieb bar bags. They are pretty solid.

A different bike, but it is the same setup.



This is the best side view I could come up with. Check BIke Tires direct. The Classic 6 bar bag is on sale for $77. It will give you the savings when you put it into shopping cart. https://www.biketiresdirect.com/prod...-handlebar-bag


Last edited by Doug64; 08-18-20 at 11:19 PM.
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