Helmet Cover

Yes, they’re ridiculous, but how could I resist?  Here’s my version of a cloche . . . for wearing while cycling.  In a helmet.

Rear view:

Three-quarters (more or less) view:

Naturally, I made it of hi-viz fleece, because I’m all about visibility.  I don’t want anyone to claim that I couldn’t be seen.  This helmet allegedly came with straps the color of the owner’s hair, which would have been nice.  The red’s a a jarring, but someone who is willing to wear fluorescent green and yellow at all times is probably in no position to complain.

Here’s the pattern I used as a starting point (in the largest size):

My helmet cover lacks all the style of the (red) model on the lower right, because, after all, the helmet is shaped quite a bit differently from a human head.  Of course, as is the case with most helmet covers, when wearing git, I look as if there’s a large fuzzy mushroom attached to my cranium, but I don’t mind.  It’s a very cozy mushroom.

There’s nothing like a discussion of helmet use to instigate hysteria, so I’d like to mention that I’ve read that some people think that helmet covers might prevent helmets from bouncing as they should, in the case of impact.  Let me just point out that, should I go flying, nothing will keep this helmet cover on the actual helmet.  It’s kept in place by a feeble strip of elastic that shifts at the slightest provocation.  That’s by design.  I’m OK with the whole thing.



Gear Luggage

Basil’s Got a Brand-New Bag

When running errands, it’s great to have a large basket or a fairly substantial bit of luggage on Basil’s mounting block; hauling shopping home is correspondingly easy.  But for strictly recreational rides, I want to be able to carry camera, phone, snack, extra jacket, and not much else.  An Internet search turned up this bag:

It’s beautiful, and made, I’m sure, just as well as every other Carradice bag. I love the look, but I wanted at least one different feature, and I also wanted a bag in Basil’s colors (or some close approximation).  So I made my own.

Yeah, I know.  The Carridice is all class, and mine is, well, sportif.  Or, as we say in the USA, “silly”.

The feature I wanted was a magnetic close.  I find snaps difficult to maneuver on a round bag, and I wanted the flap on my bag to close itself — magnets in the flap and bag seek each other automatically, shutting the bag with no effort on my part.

The magnets on the flap are sewn into a small pocket between the two flap pieces (the stitching is the circle above); the magnets for the bag are sandwiched between a square piece of Cordura, which was then stitched all around, imprisoning the magnet. The flap just drops over the zipper, and falls into place by itself.

The zipper keeps everything secure:

My bag lacks the classic leather trim of the Carradice.  I used nylon webbing instead, and hook-and-loop strips for the seat post anchor.  They’re light, sturdy, and do the trick. My bag, like the Carradice, is supported by a dowel.  (I wanted to use a copper rod — attractive, yes? — but realized that I didn’t appreciate the weight as much as the beauty).

The buckles are “hook release accessory straps” I found at REI. They’ll let me remove the bag quickly, but don’t make the method of removal obvious..

I’d originally planned to make another black bag, but Mr. Diarist pointed out that I’d gone to all this trouble to make sure I had the colors I wanted for Basil, and should, therefore, exploit the theme, and customize the bag to match.  I’m glad I did.

My bag may be slightly smaller than the Carridice that inspired it; the size was based on the approximately six-inch saucer I traced to make the side panels.  Finished, mine is about 11 inches by 5.5 inches.  As you can see, the bag is no impediment to folding a Brompton, though it is an inch or so wider, on one side, than the folded bicycle.

The day after I finished making mine, I saw that My Orange Brompton had just acquired the Carridice bag, with which he seems most pleased.  Great (Brompton) minds apparently think alike!


Cycling Cape

When I saw a sewing pattern for this cape, I thought it might work very well for a cyclist, particularly because of the waist cinch, which should hold the cape in place effectively:

I’ve made it in a lightweight PUL material; it’s a coated poly knit that flows nicely, without a hint of stiffness, and is allegedly both waterproof and somewhat breathable.  I’m not sure I’d like to cycle in a heavier, winter cape, but this one should be fine for rainy or misty days.  Here’s the back view:

There’ aren’t any pockets, because I don’t want any extra weight to encumber either it or me.

I figured that smaller Brompton wheels should ensure that there’s no chance of a short cape like this getting tangled, but there’s plenty of rear coverage for a short person like me:

I made this before Basil arrived, and can report that it’s quite comfortable for cycling. Thanks to the belt, there’s no “wind sail” effect, and the “wings” are just large enough for the right amount of arm motion, but not so big that they flap, or contribute much of anything to slowing me down.

PUL is no Gore-Tex, but the open nature of this garment means that I get some of the benefits of a Gore-Tex-like fabric without the substantial expense.  The cape is perfect for damp days when I don’t want to go the whole waterproofing route (as a recreational rider, that’s not going to be a huge part of my cycling life), and it might be an excellent top layer on wintry days, as well.

By the way, the cape is approximately the color of the old, glossy, Brompton yellow.  You can see how different the new matte yellow is in the third picture above.  The new yellow is really more consonant with the high viz green I’m wearing beneath the cape.

Gear Luggage

S Bag Buckle Source (USA)

These buckles from Amazon (USA) are the correct “Stealth” (made by National Molding) type used on my S bag flaps:At $7.45 for 25 buckles, these are quite economical, and useful for many non-Brompton projects, as well.  I’m glad to have them, since my local EMS has been out of these buckles for a month now, and no one seems to know when they  might turn up again.  I’d be glad to support the local [chain] store, but that’s not easy to do when no one knows when, or if, the product will return.  (It hasn’t escaped my notice that the quantity price is less than a tenth of the individual price, either.)

Clicking on my order history at Amazon brings up this page; the Amazon reviews include a lot of complaints about the wrong size buckle being sent.  My specific order was filled by M Y House ;  I don’t know if this was a vendor issue, or something else, but my buckles arrived exactly as described, correct in both form and type.  I didn’t chose the Amazon first-choice vendor because I suspected that was the source of the size  problems, since most people would have chosen the first offered vendor rather than looking further.

You can order from MY House by clicking on the “2 new” below the delivery notice (to the right of the Amazon image), and then placing your order with M Y House from the listings that show up. “Super Saver”  shipping applies.

(I have no association with either Amazon or M Y House, except as a rate-paying customer.)

Gear Luggage

Bend Dexter Flap for S Bag

The last thing I made before my ill-fated trip to pick up my Brompton (no Brompton yet; see previous post) was another flap for my S bag:

The Brompton S bag, has a removable cover, so I’ve been entertaining myself by making custom flaps. This one is Cordura (1000 weight) in chrome yellow and dark green. The strip — bend dexter, in heraldry — is ornamented with Demeritwear badges, which I enthusiastically collect.

Deciding how to arrange them took some fiddling:

As you can see, I originally went for bend sinister, but  decided against it. Nothing sinister going on here, no sir.

The main part of the flap pattern was re-drawn, cut to make room for the green strip, and the strip sewn into the resulting seams.  I was concerned that sewing the band directly on top of a complete yellow flap might make the flap too stiff across the area of the stripe.

Each of the badges has some personal meaning, but, together, they make for a colorful, distinctive, decoration for my bag. Besides, they’re just plain fun!

Other than the badge band, construction was identical to my previous flaps.  (You can see most of the assembly process here.)  I did add the heavy vinyl to the interior; the Cordura, on its own, wasn’t quite heavy enough when lined, as it was, only with ripstop nylon.

Pictures on the Brompton, eventually, when it arrives.


Nice. Really Nice.

Is anyone else as in love with this logo as I am?  Here it is on the S bag strap pad:

So perfect.

(Kool-Aid? What Kool-Aid? I don’t know what you’re talking about!)

Gear Luggage

A New S Bag Flap

My S bag has a removable flap, so I’m entertaining myself by making variations as the whim strikes me.  This one’s made of canvas meant for outdoor furniture. Most of those fabrics are utterly hideous, so I was very happy to find this one, which was more “neutral” than “hideous”.

It seemed a little too neutral once I’d finished putting it all together, so I added the embroidered patch to break up the expanse a little.

You probably can’t make it out, but the bicycle wheel has a valve stem (!) at about 11 o’clock.  The patch came from a great little company called Demeritwear, which has a an amusing collection of patches — de-merits, I guess, to keep the scouting organizations from getting all huffy.

For this version of the S bag flap, I used a much heftier vinyl between ripstop layers than the one I used in the prototype. The vinyl was too heavy to pin, so I used office supply clips to hold the layers together, removing them one by one as I stitched.

I zigzag around these edges (everything except the outer fabric) before adding the hook-and-loop tapes and the buckles, since I don’t want the stitching to show on the front.  Here’s how the inside of the flap looked just before I attached the front material and finish everything with the binding:

Normally, I’d melt the edges of the ripstop used for the lining and interlining, but, since the raw edges are completely encased, I didn’t bother.

A couple of years ago, I bought some shower curtains that used nylon buckles as a design element. No curtain rings were necessary; the fabric was held across the rod by the buckles and webbing.  I cannibalized the buckles, creating a lifetime supply for my stash, and used the short webbing strips to on this S bag flap — so I didn’t have to melt the ends of the webbing either.

Gear Luggage

Custom Flap for S Bag

My Brompton isn’t due for another week and a half (or maybe two), so I’m still anticipating. In the meantime, I thought I’d try to make a smaller bag, like Ortlieb’s Mini O, while I anticipate.  Folks on BromptonTalk had a bunch of good suggestions about cutting down an S frame, so, while out of town one day, I went looking for one.

Instead, I found this S bag and frame for a hugely discounted price, which changed my plans entirely, as I ended up with both the bag and the frame. Having both made me quite reluctant to saw down the frame. I’m going to try living with the S bag for a while, instead.

Based on the price, I assumed the bag was used, but, once I got it home, saw that the bag was in beautiful shape. The flap looked filthy in the shop, but it turns out that it comes that way:  It’s made from a decommissioned fire hose. Those black streaks aren’t dirt; it’s stain from an honorable life before-Brompton. My new S bag was apparently unused (and, it turned out, even had the rain cover tucked inside).

The hose story is kind of cool, but the look and feel are just too urban-gritty for me. (The flap looks asymmetrical here, but that’s due to my poor photography.)  However,  I was willing to buy this particular bag because I knew that the front flap on the S bag is removable, and I planned to make my own. Here’s my first effort:

That’s faux tooled leather, with a polyester binding around the edges.  It looks considerably better in real life than in this picture, but you can see that it needs a bit more substance to look truly right.  The synthetic leather is pretty thin (and it may not wear well — time will tell), so I made a “sandwich” of ripstop nylon/clear plastic sheeting/ripstop nylon behind it, and to provide strong anchorage for the various fasteners.

Here’s what the underside of the flap looks like:

I sewed the the hook-and-loop fasteners and the snap hook buckles to one side of the ripstop pieces, put the “tooled” material on top of the ripstop”sandwich”, and then bound the edges.  That’s all there was to it.

In my vast collection of buckles, I had only one that would mate successfully with the ones on the S bag, which worried me. An Internet search didn’t seem to turn up the correct buckles, so I headed out to stores where I’ve purchased such things in the past.  I struck gold at the first stop: EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports).  Here’s what the package looks like:

The buckles on the bag are stamped “National Molding” and “Stealth” (the “Stealth” is what’s really important), but the package is branded “Liberty Mountain” which may be why I couldn’t find them on the interwebs.

I used two-inch wide hook-and-loop tape, which is twenty-five percent wider than that on the S bag. I keep a supply of two-inch on hand; it worked perfectly well.

I’ve since acquired some far heavier vinyl to beef up the flap.  I’ve also got some outdoor canvas I want to experiment with, and some marine vinyl in chrome yellow.  If my Brompton takes more than another couple of weeks to arrive, I may have a whole new wardrobe for my S bag by the time the actual cycle shows up.

This is my fourth Brompton bag, counting the lightweight one I made myself.  Total number of square feet of the bags may now equal that of a folded Brompton.  Is it possible I’ve got a problem here?


My Present Folder

. . . was built in the late 1960s.  I’ve owned her for decades.

She’s Italian, made by Walter Precision Italiana. Her name is Arianna, and the model is “Week End”.  She’s a one-speed, coaster brake (with single hand brake), and quite heavy.  But she rolls like a dream, even after all these decades.

Note the “M” handle bars.  I think they’re broader than those on the Brompton; it will be interesting to compare the two bicycles, once my Brompton arrives.

Details, for those who are interested, are on this blog post.

Gear Luggage

Lightweight Brompton Bag

So I’m anticipating my Brompton, and I’m getting antsy.  I bought the T bag, and the Brompton folding basket, but knew I’d want a light, closed, bag some of the time, instead of either of the two Brompton bags.  Inspired by a Brompton owner named Jane, and her write-up about her own roll-top bag, I made my own. Gotta pass the time somehow, right?

I read Jane’s pages carefully, examined my own T bag just as carefully, and made the bag up using my own pattern, and customizing it to my own anticipated needs and requirements.

Here’s my bag, lightly stuffed, mounted on the Brompton luggage frame.  It’s made of bright yellow nylon with black accents, black zippers, and black nylon fittings.  (Yeah, I would have loved Racing Green trim, but just try to find the color in the USA.  Go ahead, I dare you.)

My front pocket isn’t as nice as the one on the Brompton bag, which is elasticized, and much more stylish.  Mine is a plain mesh pocket, which I anticipate using exclusively for magazines and the like.  Stretchability wasn’t necessary on this light bag.

My bag closes just like the Brompton bag (and Jane’s bags), with nylon buckles, but I did change up one little thing.  My buckles aren’t symmetrical — they’re designed so that they can be snapped closed on the sides, like the other bags, but the snap side is attached at one top front, and the casing side to the other top front.

This means that I can roll the top down and close it across the top, by joining the buckles, as well as securing the top by buckling the rolled edge down on each side.  (Above, the buckles snapped across the top of the bag, crossing the center strap; below, a buckle snapped shut on the side.)

The T bag has an interior pocket for the rain cover; I added one to this bag for anything I didn’t want to be immediately accessible outside the bag:

I used the same nylon webbing as for the straps to reinforce and support this pocket.

Making my own bag allowed me to customized the panel facing me to exactly the way I wanted to.  You can see the handle of the Brompton frame up top in the picture below (the hole it slips through is outlined in lycra binding), and the block under the curve is the fitting that clips into the luggage block on the Brompton’s head tube (the lower edge of this panel is also bound in lycra):

From the left side:  a large, adjustable mesh pocket for any size water bottle; a zip pocket for power bars, gel, or Shot Roks (that’s human kibble for long rides); a cell phone pocket with a strap-and-lift-tab closure; and, below, a zip pocket for a pocket camera.

The mesh I used is extra-sturdy; I cut up a new laundry bag to make the pockets.  Careful cutting meant no hemming on all that holey  material, which my sewing machine appreciated.

The camera pocket is reinforced internally with a piece of plastic craft mesh, which allows it to keep its semi-circular shape, and lets me pull out my camera without fighting with the pocket.  My camera has a silicone sleeve, so it tends to stick unless the pocket material stands off a bit.  (You can see the pocket in side view in the buckle picture above.)

I added strap clips, and made a shoulder strap, too, though I still need a pad for it.  Like Jane, I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what I want to do about the necessary padding.

This bag was intended to be a lightweight version of the T bag for trips that require carrying light or small cargo, but not the heavier or bulkier items that the original Brompton T bag can handle well.  My version is a fair-weather friend; it’s not waterproof, and very light.  It will do for an extra water bottle or two, and for collecting small shopping or parcels, but not much more than that.  It’s simply meant to provide me with minimal carrying capacity when making strictly recreational rides.

I may still want a closed bag the size of the Ortlieb Mini O.  That might be my next project, as Ortleib hasn’t come out with a bag in either Brompton yellow or British Racing Green.  I’d consider buying a real Mini O if Ortlieb made it in my colors, but if Ortleib combines either color with white, as they’ve done with their current Mini-O bags, I won’t be buying them, anyway, as white strikes me as the worst possible color for a hard-working piece of vinyl.

For inspiration (and a pattern, if you don’t fancy  making your own), visit Jane’s page, and take a look at her fantastic gallery of photos here. (There’s a cowbag, a clear vinyl one, and Jane’s also made one in velvet snakeskin.  And more, lots more.)  As soon as I have a Brompton on which to hang my bag, I’ll be sending my own picture along to Jane, too.

9/3/2012:  Edited to insert a better photo of the bag bucked across the front.