How to Have a Large Handlebar Bag with STI Shifters


STI shifters with V-brake noodle adapter

I thought I would post this, as I know many randonneurs like to have a front handlebar bag but have been dissuaded from doing so if they had STI shifters. Two reasons. First is that if your handlebars are not wide enough, the shifter levers will hit the side of the bag. The other reason is the STI shifter cables usually poke into the side of the bag, and make opening and closing the lid problematic, as well as accessing the side pockets. In fact, when I was first looking into buying my large Gilles Berthoud  bag, a few experts advised me against it.

Top view. Unobstructed access thanks to Vbrake noodle adapters.

However, Gabe at BoxDog Bikes pointed out that as long as the levers don’t hit the side of the bag when shifting, I should be ok.  Luckily, that was the case, so one hurdle down. He also suggest using a Vbrake noodle to route the cable. I didn’t end up doing that at first, as the setup was functional.

However, it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing as the cables pushed against the side of the bag, and pinched the top, ruining the clean lines.  I also had to be very careful when taking the bag on and off. Once the cable got underneath the bag, and had I not noticed it, would have affected steering significantly.

It was just  awkward opening the bag while riding, particularly on a long brevet. Closing was also tricky, as I had to push each side down again against the cable to really shut the bag properly.

So after a few months of this, I was in Huckleberry Bikes, which is where I bought my Salsa Casseroll. I mentioned Gabe’s idea to Kevan, their ace mechanic. He was intrigued and said he would like to try it. He took a Vbrake noodle, cut down part of it to make a clean angle, and installed it.

Clean front view with Vbrake noodle adapter.

In practice, it works great. I can see no downside to having this setup. I really like my STI shifters, and had come close to getting rid of them and getting down-tube shifters to accommodate my handlebar bag.

However thanks to Gabe’s original “out of the box” thinking and Kevan’s tweaks and application, I think there is no reason not to have the handlebar bag with STI shifters with this adaptation.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Another alternative is to run the latest Shimano gear – the current 105/Ultegra/Dura Ace route the gear cables along the handlebars like the brake cables (under the bar tape), so there is no interference with a bag.

    Reply
  2. How do you like your Casseroll? I have one of the previous generation frame sets and….find it a bit firm front and rear. I also have a Surly Pacer and think it’s a more comfortable ride. Love the bag…and the fenders!

    Reply
  3. @Hamish – the cheapest you’ll pay for a set of 105 brifters is somewhere over £150. At about £5, this noodle-based mod is a work of genius!

    Reply
  4. @Hamish – That would work too, but I wanted to be up and running quickly and not spend a lot of money. The bag cost enough already! ;)

    @Karl – Right, I could have done a more expensive fix, but I like this solution. Most of my fellow randos think this looks like it is the way it is supposed to be. I thought it might look strange without the bag on, but to me it looks just fine.

    One thing I neglected in the post is that the noodles actually move up and down as I steer the bike. Very nice effect. Form with function!

    @Joe – Sorry for late reply! Yes, love my Casseroll. Doesn’t feel stiff to me, but this is my first road bike, so I don’t have a good frame of reference. I did my first double century on it last month, “The Davis Double” here in Northern California, and it performed like a champ!

    Reply
  5. Lynda Petek

     /  November 25, 2012

    It seems that someone has come up with a solution to use vbrake noodles to re-route the STI shifter cables with some achievement.

    Reply
  6. Curtis

     /  June 6, 2014

    that trick with the noodles is awesome! i’ve been looking for a way to adapt an old road bike for light touring and brevets, but the shifter cables were an issue for carrying bags. looks like i just need to buy some vbrake noodles and find a creative mechanic. thanks for the post!

    Reply
    • Hope it works well for you. Mine has been in place for a while now, and still works great.

      Ty

      Reply

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