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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12 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. 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
  7. Andrew

     /  October 13, 2014

    And you can get a flexible noodle almost as cheaply, which helps if there is less gap than the picture.

    Reply
  8. Meejoir

     /  April 27, 2016

    I realise this is an old post but I’m having the same issues with my Modolo Gran Fondo bars and a Topeak bar bag – the shifters work fine but they’re aesthetically awful – either pushing them forward or to the rear of the bag just looks messy. Thank goodness for your blog.

    I’ve just ordered a couple of noodles and I’ll update you on my progress. Presumably with a bit of reshaping, the noodles are a nice snug fit into the levers?

    Reply
    • He Meejoir,

      Yes, the V-Brake noodles work fine. It’s been four years since I posted this and they are still working just fine.

      Agree with you on the aesthetics to. It just looked like a mess with the cables pressing up against the bag. So much better with the noodles.

      To answer your question, I didn’t install it myself, but they seem to fit nice and snug as if they were original equipment. I didn’t even realize at first that they swivel up and down as well, so when I turn the bike they move up and down as the bike moves.

      Do keep me posted as to your progress. I’d love to see pictures as well. Not sure if you can leave them in the comments here. If not, send me a link.

      Ty

      Reply
  9. Mr Dave Mitcheson

     /  May 10, 2016

    Hi Ty!

    My noodle work is completed! I bought a set of 90 degree v-brake noodles and the first thing I did was spray them black (I’m a bit OCD when it comes to my touring bike – components MUST be either black or green!!!). As you can see I have a slightly unusual set of of handlebars – but even with my Modolo Gran Fondo bars, the original set up was fouling the Topeak Tour bar-bag (although as mentioned previously it didn’t really interfere with the shifting).

    The kit I bought came with the rubber boots which, although were a tight fit, I used them to cover up the join between the noodle and the cable which looks pretty good. The noodles cost about £2 on ebay.

    I cut about 5cm from the gear cables – although i think I could have cut a little more.

    I used a grinder to wear down the nipple of the noodle to exactly the correct length and I’ve got to say it fits like a glove into the sti shifter! I’m sure I could have done an equally good job with a small hacksaw or a file as the metal on the noodle tip is quite soft. It’s like it was made for the job! They can be pointed downwards (as shown in the picture) or they can be turned around level – either way they completely navigate around the bar bag. I’ve added a little zip-tie in front of the head tube to keep the cables tidy.

    I’ve taken her out for 30 mile spin and the shifting was immaculate – no difference whatsoever to how it was before. They’re not the flashiest of shifters either – but the Tourney units are the only 7 speed sti shifters Shimano make for my vintage old Raleigh! It looks so much tidier than it did before.

    Here are a couple of photographs of the finished work. (I hope this works, it’s on Dropbox)

    Thanks again for posting the original piece, it’s a great solution to bar bag mounting – it’ll certainly help on my TDF trip through Normandy in July.

    If you ever find yourself in the north east of England I’ll buy you a proper pint of real ale!

    Cheers!

    Meejoir.

    Reply
    • Hey Dave,

      Looks very cool. I’ll bet it looks even better with the bag. Great job and thanks for the update.

      As I am a long-time Monty Python and Red Dwarf fan, of course England is on my list of places to go someday for sure, so I might look you up for that pint!

      Cheers!

      Ty

      Reply

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