Saturday, February 24, 2024

MYOG Stem Bag Pattern and Comparison with Other Styles

A stem bag adorns my new colorful bike.
Recently I fashioned another stem bag, part of kitting out the Hard Rock for future adventures. I aimed to coordinate with the coolest magenta/purple fade frame so with a yard of purple ripstop and some paracord as my only purchase, it's enough for a few projects. All other materials I've collected over the years: webbing cut from old helmets, backpacks, etc., ripstop saved from ground cloth trimmings, and an old greenish quilted jacket for contrasting lining. I resupply rolls of double-side hook and loop attachments using coupons at Joann's fabrics coupons when needed because, by far, that's the greatest expense.

Ripstop and internal material is pretty lightweight. I sandwiched bubble wrap package in the circular bottom and may need to insert side stiffeners, which should be easy, opening one 3" seam, but I'll test as is for now. New England humidity will be the best test of structure.
I tried a different pattern that's much simpler than previous versions (see rust-color bag below). LearnMYOG presents easy to follow patterns and an online tutorial. 

I love how deep the pouch is yet it clears the paint on the frame. We'll see how the material holds up, rubbing against Jack the Bike Rack.
I was attracted to the deeper style with a bit wider mouth, more in line with the Blue Lug example in the last photo in this blogpost. The pattern's downfall though, in my opinion, is the narrow width external pocket. I can't stick my hand to extract, for example lip balm, so I'll relegate that spot for sunscreen and perhaps utensils. It's not wide enough for a cell phone, but that will go in the main pouch anyway. However, I can adapt this feature for future stem bags and wouldn't hesitate to try the pattern again.

I still love these bags, constructed with four exterior and internal panels - a very time consuming pattern - but they lack an external pocket. These are smaller bags overall, but still highly usable. I put two on my mountain bike when needed for extra water storage. The pattern is from

I like that the bag clears the frame, preventing wear on Rachel's sparkly paint job. 
I sprang for a Blue Lug stem bag a while ago, and I must say, this model is an eyeopener! It swallows a large mouth bottle or numerous small items, plus offers a wide external pocket. It's hook and loop attachments are beefier, not as easy to detach, but I rarely remove it, and in fact because of that feature leave it on when transporting the bike via car rack. If there's any downside to this model, it's the lack of contrast lining, which is a feature I've grown accustomed to on my creations.

There's a plethora of stem bags available, both inexpensive models, and crafted ones by local makers. I recommend supporting the local community. They offer the best selection of colors and features. Expect to pay upwards of $50 per bag, but as I can attest, there's a lot of tedious steps involved, and their expertise is money well spent. These bags will last a lifetime.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Ideas for 2024

2024 plans should rock, another year filled with travel, cycling, and visits with family. 

  • I'm recovering from an accident - breaking ribs (falling down stairs - ugh) - but I'm confident I'll be healed in time for a mid-March excursion to the Philly Bike Expo, and if the weather is agreeable, riding on Philly's trail system. 3 weeks out, I'm feeling much better, walking a bit, riding on an indoor trainer, and lately taking it easy on a nearby rail trail on my Dahon. It feels like spring in Vermont so that's aided my recovery, allowing some fresh air. 
  • In the meantime, I'm creating a stem bag and an under rack pouch on Jack the Bike Rack, moved from Miss Rachel to the Specialized Hard Rock where it fits better. The pouch will allow extra storage for smaller items like my sleeping pad and liner, without risk of items accidentally coming loose on rougher rail trails (it happened on the Erie Canal adventure) while my sleeping quilt is secured on top.
  • I continue to dabble with Gouache painting, exploring techniques. I love bright colors and this medium lends itself well with bold, opaque paint. I'll post images on Instagram: @annie.bikes
  • The Bassi Rachel will get a Soma front rack. The Jack the Bike Rack wasn't an ideal companion - sat too high, obstructing vision - so I'm opting for a double rack and panniers setup on this gem. I'll add fenders to the Hard Rock to finish off its capabilities as a touring machine. 
  • Touring ideas (take two) include a loop connecting the Cross Vermont Trail and the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, doable from home! Both trails sustained significant damage from 2023 floodwaters but should be in good shape this year - fingers crossed. It's an opportunity to ride varied terrain, crossing the width of Vermont twice. I plan to load up the Hard Rock and see how it handles its inaugural tour, likely in September.
  • Additional vacation plans. In June I'll visit our eldest son in Colorado. He and his girlfriend will show me Fort Collins's bike trail network.