Luggage My Brompton

Brompton Portrait, With T Bag and Mud

Basil poses by a stone wall, with his T bag:

This was a muddy, muddy ride, even though I didn’t need my rain cape. (That’s the yellow fabric poking out of the mesh pockets in the front of the T bag.)

This is the grubbiest Basil’s been, so far.  I expect this will be a much more common occurrence this month than it was in February when this photo was taken. (Not to worry; he gets a good cleaning as soon as we arrive home.)


An “M” Bag for a Brompton

The “M” is for “modded”, because this bag was made to fit my cut-down S frame.  This is the latest bag I’ve made in my never-ending search for the perfect bag for every conceivable cycling purpose.  (Everybody needs a hobby, right?)

This front bag is made to match Basil’s underseat bag, which accompanies us at all times.

The goal here was was to make a small bag I could use for all-day trips when I’d need to pack a little more stuff than I can get into the underseat bag alone.  But I also wanted a bag into which I could toss my tablet if I wanted to do nothing more than go and sit in a coffee shop and surf.

Inside, there’s a padded pocket for exactly that purpose:

The red ribbon goes under the tablet so that I can pull on the nylon triangle and lift the tablet out of the sleeve easily.  (I love being able to add the features I want to the bags I make!)

The long green flap below folds over the open tablet sleeve.  (It’s lifted out of the way in the picture above.)  I took the front flap off for this shot, so that the tablet sleeve cover would show up better.

I wanted pockets on the inside, but didn’t want to make them myself, so I used commercial mesh pockets I’d picked up at a back-to-school sale.

They worked perfectly.  I added zipper pulls cannibalized from an old bag, since the metal ones on the pockets are a little too small for convenient use inside a bag.

I added a D ring on the upper left for keys and such. (The bag is inside-out here.)

There’s a different sort of mesh bag to the left.  It’s for a water bottle.  I made the sleeve with a deep open hem at the top, so that I can slip a bit of plastic mesh screen next to the mesh, into the pocked made by the hem.

The mesh supports the sleeve, and makes it easy to pop a bottle in or out, without subjecting it to drag against the mesh fabric. Here’s the view from the top:

If I don’t want to carry a water bottle inside the bag, I can remove the mesh, in which case the netting collapses and is easily pressed against the side, leaving that much more room in the bag, as you can see below.

The screen is sufficiently small and light that it can tuck anywhere in the bag for future use.

There are exterior pockets on either side of the M bag.  These lie flat when the bag is fully open.  This photo shows the side of the bag before I added magnets.  (More about those further down.)

Hidden inside are clips for a shoulder strap:

The clips are off-center because the bag, when worn, is weighted slightly toward the frame. Putting the strap closer to the frame makes the bag easier and more comfortable to wear.

Hiding the clips not only makes the bag look more streamlined, but also helps keep the strap from flopping wildly when it’s attached.

I wanted to be able to use this bag infrequently as a wide-open rectangle, but wanted it to have a slimmer profile most of the time.

I sewed magnets to the each side of the bag so that it could be quickly switched from one configuration to the other.  When the magnets are flipped together, the bag is more compact.

I like the way the side pockets open a bit when the bag is folded, allowing ready access to their interior (these will be used for snacks, as a rule, so it might be nice to be able to reach inside easily.  When riding in some areas, one pocket will also hold an easily-grabbed small canister of Halt!, which I devoutly hope I never have to use).

The bag is closed with a single large buckle, hidden beneath the flap.  Taking a cue from the authentic Brompton S bag, I made the flap removable.

The flap is in both of Basil’s colors, and matches his underseat bag, but the bag itself is just green, with black binding.  The removable flap means that I can change the look whenever I feel like it, simply by sewing a new flap.  (Heh, heh . . . why, yes, I do have something particular in mind!)

Here’s the back of the bag, showing the modified S frame, and where the flap attaches to the bag with hook-and-loop fasteners.

(The flap’s not set perfectly over the fastener on the right, so you can see the soft loop fastener just below the strapping. I should check these things before snapping the pictures!)

The bag is lined with ripstop nylon, and all interior edges finished with twill binding.  Plastic mesh provides stiffening for the bag; it’s sandwiched between the main fabric and the lining.  The tablet sleeve is additionally padded with a sheet of closed cell foam cribbed from packaging that either came with my tablet, or with one of its covers.

I’m excited about the potential daily utility of this new bit of luggage, and eager to try it out.  By the time this post appears on the blog, I will already have done so, but as I’m writing this, I still haven’t even seen the bag on Basil!

(Edit: Yep, my posts are out of order, and, though I hadn’t seen the M bag on Basil when I wrote this, I have now, and so has everyone who saw Errandonneuring On a Brompton, Part 2. some days I just can’t keep up with myself.)

Luggage My Brompton

Removable Mini-S-Frame and Wire Basket on a Brompton

When I acquired a wire basket for my Brompton, I attached it to a modified S frame with cable ties.  The cable ties were really easy to use, and the attachment very stable. However, I’m about to make another bag for Basil because I’m crazy and the closet-full I have already aren’t enough I’d like to have a super-small one. Now I want to be able to slip that mini-S-frame on and off the basket without having to find a pair of scissors.

The new attachment system uses nylon webbing and buckles, and some wide hook-and-loop fastening.  I hand-sewed the webbing, with buckles attached, to the top and bottom of the basket, fitting them carefully over the S frame/basket combination.

The buckles had to wrap so that they were easy to open and close, and the strap/buckle combination had to hug the S frame snugly.

The sides of my modified S frame are not riveted in place — that’s so I can swap them out for differently-sized tubing if I choose to.  This means, though, that they should be stabilized, so that the sides won’t vibrate out of the frame while I’m riding. To prevent that,  I sewed wide hook-and-loop strips across the middle of the back of the basket.  (Those unsecured straps to the right and left of the basket are the hook portion of the strips.)

Here’s how the back of the basket looks with the frame completely attached.  (The hook-and-loop strips flop a little bit over the vertical center frame bars; that just makes them easier to grab when removing the basket.)

Here is the back of the basket with the frame removed.

The security of this system is completely dependent on how well the straps and hook-and-loop tape are attached to the basket, so, if you are tempted to give this a try, sew well!  Neither the buckles nor the hook-and-loop tape will slip if they are installed in the right places, so it’s only the stitching that is vulnerable.

Here is the basket on Basil.  (Indoors. Sadly, it’s not a good biking day.) The buckles and webbing add very little weight, and don’t impede airflow much, if at all, but make swapping out the wire basket easy and fast when the frame is needed elsewhere.  I’ve freed up my modded S frame, and can now move on to the next bag — because, naturally, one just can’t have too much luggage for a Brompton.  Right?  Right?

Gear Luggage My Brompton

Wire Basket for my Brompton

I love my Brompton luggage, but sometimes its full service, wind-sail nature is too much.  So I picked up a wire basket.

I attached it to my modded S frame, using black cable ties.

Then I headed off to the grocery store.  Empty, the basket was hardly noticeable; at least, I didn’t notice it.

I stuffed the purchased goods into a nylon shopping bag I always keep in Bail’s under-seat bag, and rode back.  No wind-sale effect, even with the goods packed up.

I’m going to like this basket for short errands.

As I was unfolding Basil, preparing to leave the grocery, a fantastically-well-dressed femme d’un certain age zipped past me, smiled hugely, and said “You look so sharp!”  I went home and took a picture of my garb.  It’s not every day one is so handsomely complimented while wearing a watermelon helmet!

Gear Luggage

Modified S Frame and New Bag

I made this bag before Basil’s under-seat bag, but hadn’t posted about it, so here’s the (belated) description of how that project went.

My extensive Brompton luggage collection lacks one thing — a bag significantly smaller than the T bag, or the Brompton basket, but large enough to carry gear for a longish ride.  Encouraged by discussion on the Brompton forum, I got a Brompton S frame from NYCeWheels, and dismantled it.  Then I sewed a bag to fit.  The result was a bag as tall as the S bag, but quite a bit narrower.

The S frame, dismembered:

If you are going to do this, by the way, spend a (very) few bucks, and get a pipe cutter, which will ensure perfect results.  Oh, and measure, over and over, before applying it to your frame.  Also, pay attention:  I marked the cut points with painter’s tape, and nearly ruined the whole project by considering cutting at the wrong side of the tape.    Measure, label, cut . . . by far the best approach.

The cuts I made reduced the width of the S frame by 4.5 inches.  That’s not a lot, but it is enough to make things  more manageable when I don’t need a full messenger bag.

Unfortunately, I was winging this whole process, and failed to take pictures of the construction. Below is how I reinforced the interior, though, so that the bag wouldn’t collapse.  I used plastic mesh, widely available wherever bad yarns are sold.  It’s sturdy, flexible, and easy to attach to seam allowances, thanks to all those little pre-existing holes.

Once I knew what the frame size was, I drafted the bag pattern and assembled it.  I designed the bottom with a curve.  That way, the mesh could be inserted without cutting it at squared-off seams.  The sides of the bag are just the cordura, with heavy-duty plastic sheeting cut to fit as support.  One side has a mesh pocket:

There’s a simple pocket on the other side.  I’ve been riding in the country, in this photo, so it’s got a bottle of Halt! at hand.

Hidden underneath the over-sized top flap are clips for the optional shoulder strap.  (No, I do not which to discuss the phenomenal quantity of cat hair that has accumulated on this bag even though it is kept out of the way of the herd of felines who share my abode.)

There’s a mesh pocket along the front, too.  I used laundry bags for the mesh, and ran elastic along the top edges of the pockets, to keep them snug against the bag.  That’s worked out quite well.

Here’s the back of the bag.  This is the crucial part of a Brompton bag, as it must accommodate the luggage block on the front of the Brommie.  The top opens towards the front — opposite to how typical luggage is made.  That’s so it can be flipped open from the seat of the bicycle, and items retrieved easily by the rider.  There’s a gap for the frame handle, and a  magnet under each of the tabs to the right and left of the handle.  They allow the top to self-close when flipped back over the bag.  The webbing loops make it easy to flip the top open.

The top is attached in front with two hidden webbing straps, which mean that it will be easy to remove when I re-make the top.  Is it glaringly obvious that the top is too big?  It works, but could be half as deep, and work just as well.  I didn’t really notice that as I was maniacally assembling it.  It’s slated for replacement.

The bag is lined with ripstop nylon, with pockets customized to my use, including open pockets along the back, a mesh sleeve to the left, a zipper pocket in front, and a key clip.   That’s worked out well, and there’s plenty of room for my  jacket or anything other smallish thing I might acquire or want to bring along . . . like lunch.  The side tops aren’t as supported as they probably should be, but, oddly, the bag works just fine.  (I can probably thank the S frame for that.)   I may do a modification there, though.

The whole bag is bigger than I intended, though, as I wished, it’s much less of a sail than the S bag.  (This one will hold my largest helmet, though, which is sometimes quite helpful.)  I do want a yet smaller bag; that’s next up on the agenda:  I want to coffeeneur with wi-fi, and (otherwise) the least amount of other gear possible. (Update: As noted above, that bag is also made, and the subject of this post.)

I have a hand rivet tool, but still haven’t riveted the resized frame together.  The bag’s sleeve (and the tight fit of the frame itself) holds the frame together well, and I’m considering getting some copper tubing to make a narrower bag.  Both bags will carry very light loads, so I’m tempted to skip the riveting all together, so that I can swap the tubing out for the different bag sizes.

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!

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.

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?