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A Double-Handlebar System

Adding a second "handlebar" to increase room for accessories

Topic: Bicycle Touring  
Categories: Touring bikes


Copyright © 2006-2014 By Brian Huntley - (contact)

Status: Completed Aug 2006
Last update: Monday August 7, 2006 06:30 (US/Pacific) (edited Tue 26 Aug 2008 19:08 (US/Pacific))
17,635 hits since August 5, 2006 (hitcounts updated nightly)
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Increasing handlebar space

Most bike tourists seem to love gadgets. We have the mirrors, odometer/computers, bells, and lights that many commuter cyclists have, but we also add on handle bar bags, compasses, bear spray, GPSs, iPods, etc, etc, etc. Or we would, if we could fit the dang things on our handlebars!

My new (February 2006) bike has drop bars, which limit space somewhat, but more important, it has "Cyclocross" brake levers, which consume almost all the available "flat and straight" space. Worse yet, the diameter is oversized, so some of my 'must have' items don't fit. So I decided I would add a second bar for accessories (notably my home-made bar bag.)

The construction was fairly simple, since my bike has a "threadless" stem (which most modern bikes have) and lots of vertical spacers (which most bikes don't have.) I specified "non-cut steer-tube" when I had the bike build, partially because I wanted to sit nice and high, and partially because I had this in mind. I also asked the bike shop to use a variety of spacer sizes so I could easily adjust the height later. I got three large and three small spacers, I believe. If you only have large spacers, your local bike shop should be able to sell you some smaller ones for a nominal fee.

Next, I got a second stem. One inch stems generally cost about $20 and up ('way up, if you're so inclined), so I went to a local shop that specializes in used bikes and parts. They charged me $7 CDN for a nice aluminium stem that was similar to what I had (but in silver.) I then removed my stem and the spacers, put the new-to-me stem on upside down (so it pointed down, not up), and played with the combination of spacers, etc, to get my original stem back to the same position it had been in.

Note: When working with threadless stems, loosen all clamping objects (the stems, the brake guide, etc) first, then the top cap. When re-tightening, work the opposite way, getting the top-cap on tight first, but not to the point where it interferes with the turning of your bike, then tighten everything else in sequence, working down from the top. Be prepared to cycle through this a few times to get the "sweet spot" of smooth braking and easy turning. Since the only tools required are one or two allen keys, consider carrying them with you on your first couple of rides, in case you need a small adjustment.

I didn't bother drilling the stem for my front cantilever brake cable, as it works fine just moving around the stem. If I had V-type brakes, this wouldn't have even been an issue.

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The cables (including the front brake and the computer cables) go around the new stem. Note that the silver brake cable guide has been offset to allow this. Alternatively, I could have drilled a vertical hole through the lower stem to allow the brake cable to be vertical, but this would have meant disassembling the brake and possibly a new cable.

Once I had my new stem in place, I needed a bar. I had an aluminum MTB bar, but decided to prototype in ABS plastic instead. I happened to have the remainder of an eight foot section of plastic conduit I bought for another project ($1.50 at Home Depot), so used that. It was a little small in diameter, so I 'shimmed' it with aluminium furnace tape (not "duct tape"!) I cut it to 30 cm (about 12") in width. I liked the ABS so much, I decided to keep it. Once I was happy with the spacing, etc, I took the stem and bar off as a single piece, painted it black with a rattle can, and let it dry overnight before re-attaching it.

After a few days normal use to let the paint harden, it was time to attach the handlebar bag. In the past, I've used the "bent rod" form of bag support, which consists of a 1/4" metal rod bent into a sort of Y-shaped fork, with the two tines of the fork going through sleeves on the side of the bag, and the center wrapping around the stem and over the bars. It takes 11 bends to make one, and it's a real pain to get it perfectly symmetrical. This time, I decided to simplify things.

Since the "handlebar" was ABS, it was easy as anything to drill two holes completely through them, roughly parallel to the ground but rising slightly with respect to the front of the bike. I then inserted two 1/4" threaded rods, cut to a 6.5" length, and bolted them in place. Note: I could have used carriage bolts, which tend to max out at about 6" for the 1/4" size. Frankly, I wasn't sure what my eventual dimensions would be, so I bought some threaded rod ($1.76 for 36") and cut my own instead. I double nutted them on the back side and ran a single nut down the front side. I may replace the back nuts with wing-nuts for ease of removal, later.

Finally, I fitted my handlebar bag. I used wing-nuts to hold it on for the shake-down cruise, but really it doesn't need them, as the friction of the threaded rods in the nylon sleeves is enough. I didn't bother to use the 'bottom tension' straps, either, as I've found them to be fairly useless on long tours (I break them a lot, too.)

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About as aerodymanic as a cinder block, but nice and visible.

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That's it - I'm ready to roll!

About the bag itself - it started life as a 'mini cooler' type lunch box - about a six-pack size. I removed the stiff ABS liner, leaving a nice shiny aluminized interior that's easy to find stuff in and is waterproof - much nicer than my old 'real' bag. It's plenty big enough for my camera, wallet, passport, maps, cell-phone, and snacks.

I also attached buckles near the bottom for the afore-mentioned tension straps, and cut off the carry strap. One side of the bag had a loop-and-buckle to adjust the strap - it got its buckle cut off and the loop is now a sleeve for the rod. On the other side, I left a length of the sewn-in strap and doubled it back to form the other sleeve. All connections were pop-riveted and also secured with Gorilla Glue, and all cut nylon straps were melt-sealed with a lighter to prevent fraying. Holes for the rivets were made with a soldering iron.

I also rivetted two lengths of elastic strapping to the top of the bag as a map holder. The map is usually in a ZipLock bag to protect it from rain, sweat, and drool. I slip a small compass in the bag, too, where it's as far from the steel bolts and electronic computer on the handlebars as I can get it.

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The shoe-lace loops through the prong sleeves are for a double-snapping shoulder strap, for off-bike use.

When I've finished my touring for the summer, I'll remove the prong bolts and add my winter lights to the bar - I'll have a ton of space for them, and all my old lamp supports fit the ABS bar very well.

"A Double-Handlebar System" Copyright © 2006-2014 By Brian Huntley - (contact). All rights reserved.
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