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Frame bags (MYOG)
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David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Frame bags (MYOG) on 03/11/2010 17:02:58 MST Print View

For me, frame bags are one of the essential components of a bikepacking rig. Getting stuff of your back is one reason, using the space made available by your frame is another, but the biggest one is keeping stuff handy on the bike. A properly designed frame bag lets you access water, snacks, camera, and layers while still pedaling.

The classic in the genre is the Jandd Frame bag. Very solid and affordable, but not a full frame bag, and the way in which the bag is not anchored solidly on the frame fore and aft makes the zipper a bit harder to get at with one hand.

Thus, the only real option is custom. Forunately, this is a fairly easy MYOG project. Here's the evolution of one I made recently for my Surly Karate Monkey.

frame bag step 1

I selected a panel loading design, with interior mesh pockets for tools and snacks, and stretch divider in the lower part to keep things tight (so your legs don't hit the bag. A full bag a little less than 3" wide is what I've found to work well for me. I use a pretty low q-factor rig on my bikes, so others might be able to get away with fatter bags.

frame bag step 2

Padding where the bag contacts the downtube and seattube is essential. It mitigates wear between the frame and the contents (make sure to remove your botle bolts, and put some electrical tape over the bolt holes), and keeps things from clunking. I use yoga mat sewn directly to the fabric. Cheap, easy, durable, and doesn't absorb water.

frame bag step 3

Next arrange your end pieces and sew on the velcro in the right spots. I like to cut the whole side from one piece of fabric, and I put the velcro in places that will keep the bag taut for ease of zipper operation.

frame bag step 4

Sew it together, flip it back outside out, and you're done! The orange flap is an overlapping bit of fabric for a drain hole. Sewing up the last side of the stretch divider was not easy as a last step. The seam is not straight, but should hold up just fine.

frame bag installed

Installed. I'm not going to get a calculater and add up the cubic inches, but it's quite a bit. For a summer 24 I could fit everything in here, almost.

I prefer burly fabrics in most things, so I make these out of 100% Ballistics (16 oz a yard!). It's very durable and very waterproof, which is nice when water and mud from your tires are firehosing your bags. Weight weenies, especially those that don't crash their bikes regularly, could get away with Dynemma ends and silnylon sides.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
another frame bag on 03/11/2010 17:11:01 MST Print View

Lev at Brianhead

Here's a simple bag for my full-suspension bike. Just a right side dual-slider zipper along the toptube. No internal compartments.

Ross P Hemphill
(rbimli) - F

Locale: PNW
Yes!! on 03/12/2010 22:52:43 MST Print View

Thanks! :D

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Yes!! on 03/13/2010 08:07:57 MST Print View

Very Nice Dave.
The yoga mat is a great touch, as a concept and a material.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: Frame bags (MYOG) on 03/13/2010 23:29:30 MST Print View

Awesome frame bag Dave.

I made one this winter for my Cross Check touring bike and Salsa Campeon road bike.

on salsa:

on surly:

Made it of a double layer of Nylon. Is holding up well. Only thing is I love it so much I want it on both bikes at all times.

Amazing accessibility. Awesome for commuting as wwell.

It's huge but very light at 11.5oz.

BTW, Great thinking on adding padding on the down tube.

I'm also very interested in this material you used. Like that it's waterproof. Where might I get some or read up on it? Any idea how much it weighs per yard?

My single best innovation was using a 2" velcro wall between the top and bottom pocket of the bag. This allows it the width to be expanded or narrowed. I.E. I usually make it wider toward the front and narrower underneath the seat by the legs.

This summer I should be able to fit all my touring gear in it and my Epic Designs seat bag without even needing a bivy roll.

As you may have seen in the post above I run about 45 fully loaded on my winter / studded tire / backroad / surly cross check touring setup.

And I've got my UL winter road only setup down to about 35lbs.

I suspect by winter I'll be backroad / off roading at about 40lbs and road touring at close to 30lbs.

Going UL really is just as amazing on a bike.

Open up all sorts of multi-sport possibilities like bike+packraft. Am hoping to create a harness so I can go out section hiking on trails like the AT. Using the bike as an approach and exit vehicle and then carrying it on my back like a pack while hiking.

The idea is human power, crossing boundries, escaping trail and road approaches and finding new freedoms to adventure.

BTW, I started a ultralight biking photo sharing group on

Would love it if you posted some of your images on there. Not just your MYOG frame bags but also of your UL touring trips.

Peace, -mike

Greg Lewis
(gpl916) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: Frame bags (MYOG) on 03/14/2010 09:50:12 MDT Print View

Nice work Dave! I can see what my next MYOG project will be.

I have been considering "multi-mode" trips as well. My next bike will have S&S couplers so trips combining, hiking, biking, and packrafting are on the radar.

One that I think would be fun is Flying into St. George, UT and biking to the North Rim, hiking across, and then either riding out from the South rim, or packrafting out. You would need a way to secure the bike to a backpack harness.


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
fabric on 03/14/2010 10:29:05 MDT Print View

"I'm also very interested in this material you used. Like that it's waterproof. Where might I get some or read up on it? Any idea how much it weighs per yard?"

It is 1050D Ballistics nylon. 16 oz per yard. Available from Seattle Fabrics. It is pretty darn waterproof, and very durable.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
packing the bike on 03/14/2010 10:30:28 MDT Print View

"You would need a way to secure the bike to a backpack harness."

I've been thinking about looking into one of the upcoming revisions of the Arctic Dry pack for just this purpose.

Greg Lewis
(gpl916) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: packing the bike on 03/14/2010 10:50:23 MDT Print View

I was thinking something similiar, although they are fairly expensive. I guess part of the beauty of that would be the drypack to use while packrafting in addition to being able to carry the bike.


Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: Frame bags (MYOG) on 03/14/2010 20:00:32 MDT Print View

@Greg Lewis (gpl916) said:

"I have been considering "multi-mode" trips as well. My next bike will have S&S couplers so trips combining, hiking, biking, and packrafting are on the radar.

One that I think would be fun is Flying into St. George, UT and biking to the North Rim, hiking across, and then either riding out from the South rim, or packrafting out. You would need a way to secure the bike to a backpack harness."

Awesome. That's what I'm talking about.

I'm hoping some day we'll be able to settle on a name for this UL multi-sport or multi-mode possibility and promote it as a new form of adventure and travel. Right now I just want to push it to the limit.

Time to start sketching design ideas for my harness.

I need to consult with and recount some of the only bike harness designs i've seen.

May end up steaking the design from a backpack... maybe even making use of premade backpacking shoulder straps and hip belts.

Will be sure to post sketches.

If you're going down a similar route I'd love to see your ideas as they develop.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: packing the bike on 03/14/2010 20:06:59 MDT Print View

Arctic Dry pack? Do tell. Not farmiliar.

I like the way you guys think though.

Anyway you can make the frame bags waterproof and improve bouancy would be cool too.

Maybe the harness could double as a life preserver.

Greg Lewis
(gpl916) - F

Locale: PNW
re; mike on 03/14/2010 22:14:27 MDT Print View

Hey Mike,

The artic drypack was the pack Ryan Jordan used during the artic 1000 journey. It's basically a pack frame that has different sized drybags that you can attach. So it's basically a harness. That is why we were thinking it would be a good start. And the dry bags would be useful for packrafting. the trick would be to adapt it to carry a bike too. They don't make them anymore and are hard to find used. I believe there is a new one on the drawing board for later this year.

It sounds like you have already drawn up a design or two? It seems as though you could modif dry bags for the seat burrito and handlebar roll, and then attach them with the frame to the pack harness.

I have not put any thought into the design yet as I don't have a suitable frame yet.

I am sure you have read some of the trip reports on of bushwacking, riding, and packrafting in AK.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: re; mike on 03/15/2010 06:19:04 MDT Print View

re: Arctic Drypack, aha, makes complete sense. Will check out Ryan's Arctic 1000 trip when I get a chance.

I was thinking of a harness that would most likely go on the seat tube with the handlebars down.

Handlebars would then be bungied up, wheels taken off and placed against the frame. (If it didn't sit to high maybe one could leave the rear on.)

I don't think I'll need the bivy roll in the summer. So there won't be an issue with the handlebars.

Probably need to spin around the seat so the burritto / supertwinkie hangs down.

It's of course all just in sketch phase and the more I think about it the more I think I'll need to make use of a premade shoulder strap and maybe a hip belt as well.

Will try to post some sketches on flickr at some point. Am not yet in any hurry though.

Re: btw, have seen and loved the lost coast expedition... I believe that was posted about on Is my primary inspiration and I will review their harness setup if I can find some good pics. Maybe email them about it.

I haven't however fully disected yet so if there is other stuff on there that might be of use in research please do post.

p.s. what about your own travels, do you post photos or trip journals anywhere.

Derek Goffin

Locale: North of England
Frame bags (MYOG)" on 03/15/2010 07:09:46 MDT Print View

I like frame bags for 2 other reasons. firstly they keep weight in the centre of the wheelbase where it has least effect on bike control and second it is almost perfect for aerodynamic baggage. I suspect that bike packing light might be better as bike packing light and sleek. If you can fit your tour luggage in a frame bag and a racktop bag you must be able to go further, especially on road.

Greg Lewis
(gpl916) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: re; mike on 03/15/2010 16:46:32 MDT Print View

Hey Mike,

I have not really been into the the online journals/ posts until recently so I don't really have anything online. I will start posting a little more in the next few months.

My mountain bike setup consisted of a light backpack, a drybag strapped to the seat, and a smaller one on the bars. Right now I have a small rack on the back for my daughters seat- so I make use of that.

These kits held a myog down quilt, a myog tarp, and the usual UL bp gear, plus a multi-tool, a little lube, spare tubes, and duct tape.

I am looking to switch to a Ti cross bike with the S&S couplers so I have been scheming of how to attach it to my kayak, and how to carry it on a pack. I do have a road bike but I consider it a little fragile for trips. I am working on getting systems in place and planning travels for later this year. I need to put a good bike trip on the calendar (as well as a few others). I had lanned to ride the Iron horse trail across WA, but the tunnels are closed and I am not sure if there is a good way around.

Two articles on bikepacking that I found facinating are;,309.msg2970.html#msg2970,17.msg43.html#msg43

There are a few others too. The other site i refer to is the Adventure cyclist assoc.


Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: Frame bags (MYOG)" on 03/21/2010 05:43:37 MDT Print View

@Derek Re: light and sleek...

Good point. I'd given most of my thought to weight savings but frame bags also tremendously reduce front wind profile as well. Especially after I drop the winter bivy roll.

Perhaps I'd not really considered the aerodynamic qualities of frame bags over traditional panniers because the whole idea of frame bags comes from off-road touring and self supported races like the Iditarod Invitational and Great Divide mountain bike race (GDT / GDR) where the focus was on reducing and securing swinging weight. Certainly not aerodynamics.

The truth is not many (if any) besides me have applied these frame bags to on road touring where they likely do have much more of an impact on aerodynamic qualities then on anything else.

It will be interesting to see how this affects the amount of miles I can do in a day out touring. I was topping 120 last year toward the end of the year.

Thus far I've only gotten them in on a 24 hour overnighter getting in only about 80 on the second, but it was a partial day and I broke and then replaced a pedal at a local bike shop right in the middle of the ride.

Given that I'm not yet in shape post winter I'm thinking I should be able to quickly regain my 120 and hopefully move toward the 150 mark. (One of my summer goals.)

I must state though this setup is not about speed... it is about efficiency, and above all comfort. I want to be be able to as easy and comfortably as possible and more miles is a byproduct of being able to spend more time comfortably in the saddle as it is the small increase in speed.

It's imperative to me I reach my 150mile a day goal over repeated consecutive days while still retaining the time to stop and smell the roses. i.e. break a pedal, chat with locals and people I meet along the way, and take lots of photos.

I have no idea how many miles I'd be looking at if I was racing nor do I care to find out. In the RAAM they do some 250+ or even 300+ a day solo... that's not what I'm about.

== major changes toward UL touring ==

Here's a little analysis on major performance changes over my UL road setup.

Keep in mind I still have a true blood steel touring bike that and I only use this setup for light touring in areas where the quality of roads is known... i.e. mostly in Ohio. You might even think of my UL touring rig as my UL Ohio touring setup. Ohio has some of the best roads and hills in the whole country.

1) from steel to aluminum & carbon frame

Cross Check to Salsa Campeon = stiffer, lighter, more responsive frame

2) 22.5mm touring/cross rim to 19.5mm road rim

Salsa Delgado Cross to Mavic Open Pro. In combination with tire choice = dramatically less spinning weight. Add this in with lighter overall weight and you get an amazing and downright addictive responsive in climbing that few tourers have experience or even dreamed of. Hill country touring is at the heart of my obsession with UL touring.

3) 35mm tire to 25mm tire

I love the Conti Travel Contact 38mm (measuring in more like 35mm) that I use on my steel touring bike and prefer them for touring, especially dirt / back roads. However on the UL rig I'm using a Conti Gatorskin 25mm. I'd prefer 28mm but the 25mm seem to be working fine and are the biggest tire that can fit on my Campeon frame.

In addition to offering less rolling resistance this also dramatically decreases spinning weight, which once again when combined with the lighter rim and stiffer frame makes for dramatically more responsive power, especially when climbing hills.

4) XT mountain drivetrain to ultegra road drivetrain:

Most interesting neither are new stuff, both are circa 2001. When it comes to cranks the older stuff can be just as good as the new. In fact I prefer my 9-speed stuff over any 10-speed stuff if purely for the durability and cost savings of maintenance over time. (10 speed cog sets, chains and components are so expensive.)

Not sure how much of a speed / efficiency gain the road drivetrain is over the off road, but I definitely like the precision of the STI road shifters over the Tiagra bar end shifters I'm using with XT. In fact I may replace my Tiagra shifters soon. I do love the durability of the XT drivetrain thus far. I was just thinking and I believe I'm still running the original XT bb! Even though it's only been on the touring bike for about a year and 5-6k miles (previously was used only off road) that's still remarkable durability. Comparitively I toasted my first outset bearing BB in about 18 months of riding. More on this later.

Unfortunately there is one negative on my otherwise beautiful Ultegra UL road touring setup. My ultegra cranks on my road bike are a double... a triple is a must for touring, especially in the hills where I most like to play. Am about to upgrade it to a triple.

5) Traditional panniers vs. frame bags

I dropped 11.5 lbs just in the weight of racks and the traditional pannier bags by switching to frame bags. I repeat, 11.5lbs in racks and empty pannier bags!

The pannier bags and racks added up to about 13 lbs! Meanwhile my main frame bag weighs 15.5 oz and my seat wedge / super twinkie / buritto seat bag weighs about 11oz. There is also the weight of the gas tank (stem bag) and, the gear net and the stuff sack for my winter bivy roll, but these are negligible. Probably another 5oz total if that.

Traditional waterproof pannier bags are tremendously heavy it turns out. Weighing in at about 2-2.5lbs each. Surprised me actually. They are not only extremely heavy but grab a lot of wind as you ride (as Derek pointed out).

That explains why I could never get my traditional touring setup below 55 pounds. However it's not just the weight, as Derek (Gofflin) has pointed above it's probably the front wind profile and drag reduction that is the biggest performance difference of all these listed.

6) Though I'm sure I'm forgetting something important I think that's it for now.

== a word on components ==

I've never been much of a person for showy gadgets.

The Cross Check is a perfect example. It like it's cousin the very popular LHT (Long Haul Trucker) are all about value. They're work horses.

In fact the Salsa is far and away the showiest bike I've ever owned. Though I love it, being so showy is not my style.

That said I typically avoid the highest end components like XTR, Ultegra and Dura-ace. Primarily this is on the basis of cost. Not just up front but the cost of things like replacement chains and cogsets. However I also believe that Shimano is probably compromising some durability for weight and performance in these lines (as they probably should be). Contrary to how I approach all my other gear in which I'm perfectly willing to push the envelop of durability I play it much closer with bike components because if these fail I'm stranded or worse hurt.

Unlike other gear failures of certain things like frames, wheels and some elements of the drive train can be ride or tour enders. Anything I can replace with a bit of ingenuity and my small bag of parts and tools on the side of the road requires a little bit more consideration.

At 19.5 pounds sans gear and bags the Campeon is as light as I dare go.

While I love it's steel and carbon frame and ultegra groupo I'd probably lean more toward Shimano 105 and an aluminum or titanium frame for more practical UL touring. Also something that takes a wider tire. It will always be a "go-fast" road bike that i have the luxury of occasionally taking out for an occasional multi-day ride.

As per off road or back road touring... just one word. XT. Love it. Though I suppose there's also a comparable SRAM groupo I've not yet tried.

Edited by mmeiser on 03/21/2010 05:52:15 MDT.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
frame bag on 03/30/2010 09:37:21 MDT Print View

Thanks for posting the info about making a frame bag. I took the easy but costly path a few years ago and bought one from Jeff Boatman at Carousel. It's a terrific piece of equipment. I'm about to replace my rear-rack/panniers with bags from either Carousel or Epic, and I'm looking forward to the change.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
frame bags and seat bags on 03/30/2010 17:59:04 MDT Print View

Amy, I have a seat bag I made and use, and it works fine. The design and execution hurdles are exponentially greater than with a frame bag, especially a big one like that in the first post here.

If I ever wrap my mind around it, I'll post a how-to for seat bags, but don't hold your breath. Eric and Jeff earn their money on those things.

Dawn Opland
(d_opl) - F
Frame bags (MYOG) on 05/24/2010 15:39:42 MDT Print View

Mine isn't nearly as nice as the one Dave made, but I just finished a frame bag made from 1.5 mil poly, 0.5-inch velcro, and duct tape. It weighs in at 6.55 oz and seems like it will hold up; I'm mostly concerned about the velcro attachment points coming loose.