Bikepacking Bags Design Preview

In my last post I spoke about wanting to make a bikepacking handlebar bag for my final project. As a reminder, bikepacking is riding a bicycle, usually on trail, for at least one overnight/camp. I have been interested in the sport for some time, but it is quite expensive to get into. To save some money, I decided that I could make at least one of my own bags. I specifically thought about the handlebar roll. I explored several aesthetics and bounced ideas off of friends, but I realized that I was missing one key factor, the bike.

Photo of my bicycle

After all, bikepacking is only possible because of the bike. Once I realized this I took a long look at my bike to try to get inspiration. At first I noticed the handlebars; wide, swept out and down, perched. I had thoughts of birds of prey. Then I started thinking about the name of the bike, the Redwood. That made me think a lot about the greed color of the bike. Could I create a nature aesthetic to make it look like a tree? No, it looks too manmade. Acknowledging that I wouldn’t be able to hide the engineering behind the bike, I decided to go in another direction. The Indian Model 741 motorcycle used in WW2!

[1] WW2 Model 741 by Indian Motorcycles

With the idea of the 741 in mind, I started thinking about every way that I could possibly make my bicycle look like a motorcycle (and yes, I did consider putting a motor on it). There are a lot of overlaps between the bags and accessories that people put on bicycles and motorcycles. On top of that, many of the necessary components are the same.

Cardboard mockup of bags used to imitate a 741

In the image above, we can see 4 main cardboard pieces. On the back end there is a tent roll and panniers. On the front end I created a “Gas Can” top tube bag and an ammo can. I plan on adding these 4 custom components to the bicycle, as well as some off the shelf elements, to achieve my 741 aesthetic. I will be making the tent roll and top tube bag out of green army canvas and the panniers out of leather or canvas. If I can find some, I will be repurposing actual ammo cans for the front storage.

Since I am just as concerned with function as I am with form, I need to consider a few things with my bags/containers. The most important consideration is waterproofness. In order to be useful for carrying my warm clothes and sleeping bag, the bags will need to be able to handle any weather that I will be riding through. Since the mid-19th century people have been waxing canvas to make it waterproof. I plan to explore this technique. For the ammo cans, I received the advice in my pod to add rubber gaskets to seal their holes. If I use the original lids, they should then be waterproof too. The leather bags might just need to be taken off for bad weather trips…

Over the next few weeks, I will breakdown the materials that I currently have, go to the army surplus store to get any more that I can, then sew everything together. I plan to let the sewing process develop as needed while I am learning. I will also need to spend time drilling holes into the ammo cans and waxing the canvas.

[1] Berk, Joe.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Josh Negrey
    April 4, 2021 9:33 pm

    This is such a cool project and I am really excited to see how it turns out, I am glad to see that you decided to go with waxing for your bags. I hope that not only it turns out well, but you enjoy using it too. I think you may need some chrome/SS to help match the indian perfectly but otherwise looks great!

    • James Brown
      April 7, 2021 8:18 am

      Thanks Josh! I am excited to see how it turns out too. I have thought about the chrome look and what I can do to bring it in a little, but I’m not sure which components I could do it on. I think maybe I could get some shiny water bottle cages, but otherwise I have been a little unsure. I could have done the rear rack in chrome, but the one I already bought is all black. We’ll see if I can figure it out.

  • Hey James,
    I think that this is the coolest project that I’ve seen in this class. I already thought that when it was just the bikepacking bags, but now that you are modeling them off the old motorcycle I think it’s even better. I’ve always wanted to get into bike packing because I have always loved biking. The on thing holding me back was the cost of the bagsand making an investment for something I may end up hating. I have an old Brooks leather bike seat that looks a lot like the style from the motorcycle. Not the most comfortable seat, but if you wanted to mock it up on the bike to see what I looks like I’d let you borrow it. I’d want it back tho cuz those old brooks seats are pretty expensive haha.

    • James Brown
      April 7, 2021 8:20 am

      Ben, that is quite the compliment. I will do my best not to disappoint. I definitely agree about bikepacking being prohibitively expensive. I’ll make sure to let you know how making the bags goes, and maybe you can make some yourself. I would definitely like to use the brooks seat for my final glamor pics on this project!! That vintage leather look would really achieve what I want this bike to look like.


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