03 July 2011

Moving Forward: Setting Back A Carradice Bag

A couple of weeks ago, I described one of my rainy-day DYI projects that resulted in an easy-on, easy-off Carradice Nelson bag for my commuter.

Now, I'll describe another project I did the same day I did that one.  It also involved a Carradice bag:  in this case, the Barley.  Actually, it involved two of them.

Some cyclists complain about "thigh slap" when using traditional-style Carradice saddle bags, particularly on racing bikes.  That is because those bags were designed when bikes, even the racing variety, had shallower angles.  That meant that saddles sat further forward on seat posts and seat tubes than they do on modern bikes.  Also, Brooks saddles, for which Carradice saddlebags are designed, sit further forward and have less room on the rails to set them back than most saddles designed at a later date.  

The so-called Bagman is designed, in part, to alleviate this problem.  It looks well-made enough, but it weighs and costs nearly as much as some good racks.  (I own one, which I haven't used yet, for the possibility of using the Nelson longflap on Arielle or Tosca.)  Plus, it's not the easiest thing to install.  Finally, it mounts on the saddle rails and, depending on your saddle and where it's positioned, you may not have enough room on your rails to install it.

So, I adapted someone else's idea and added one of my own to set the bag back.  

Here's the idea I adapted:  I took two short pieces of PVC pipe, which you can find in any hardware store, screwed them together, filed one end to fit on the seat post and wrapped them in black tape. Then, instead of using the strap Carradice provides for attaching the bag to the seat post, I took a cheap strap and threaded one end through the pipe, into the part of the bag designed for the strap, and back into the pipe, which I cinched around the seat post.

After I installed the bags and rode them a couple of times, I discovered something else.  Canvas bags, like leather saddles, become more supple with use.  So the bag "collapsed" around the pipe, and sometimes (depending on whether I slid back on the saddle), my thighs grazed the ends of the bags.  

If you're familiar with these bags, you know that there's a wooden dowel that runs across the top.  When you attach the bag to the slots or loops on a Brooks-style saddle, you loop the straps around that dowel.  Well, I installed another dowel like it across the bottom of the bag, at the point where the pipe meets the bag.  

I fastened the dowels with small wood screws.  That is how Carradice attaches the original dowel, so I figured those screws wouldn't harm the fabric.

A few days after I made the modifications, I got caught in a pretty fair downpour.  (Is that an oxymoron?)  I am happy to report that everything I had in that bag--my camera, notebook, an extra layer and, ironically, a tube of sunblock--remained as dry as Charlie and Max were in my apartment.

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