Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bike Map Holder

My friends from Team-Virtus are clamoring for me to post some photos of my super high tech rotating bike map holder.

I used to be known on the team for great nav through the woods but you put me out on a road on a bike and bad things happen. A few examples include: During the Mission 18hr in 2009 we hop on our bikes and head off down a road through town to a river and the paddling section. We are cruising along and we run into the interstate!?! Oops, I had put the map away and went left when I should have gone right and 2 miles later we are at the interstate instead of the river. During the LBL Challenge in 2009 we transitioned to our bikes, headed off down a gravel road and down a huge hill. After about a mile I was thinking "hmmm.... we should have hit that blacktop road by now" so I pull out the map and sure enough, wrong way. Back up the hill we go.

As the teams navigator one of my least favorite things to do is say "Uh guys......I think that we went the wrong way down that hill......" Then everyone turns around and looks at the hill they just had fun flying down and starts silently cussing. No one ever says anything out loud, except for me. I used to be plagued by those moments until I made my bike map holder so that I could keep in contact with the map at all times during the bike section.

AR and Orienteering specialty gear websites sell these things for like $80, and no doubt they are superior to mine but mine costs around $1.50 and works for me.

It basically consists of a 12X12 notebook cover for the board, those big paper clip/clamp things to hold the map in place, a bunch of steel and rubber washers, and a round wood block to put some space between the handlebars and the board and a plastic round clamp thing that I got off a bike lock holder.

The clamp is the hardest piece of the puzzle, basically it could be anything that can clamp down on a round handlebar that you can put a bolt down into. I am sure there is lots of stuff at the hardware store that would work, I just happened to have a bike lock attachment on hand that fit the bill. Here is another look at it

I use one of those locking nuts on the bolt that goes down through the whole thing so that when you rotate the board, the washers just slide against each other instead of unscrewing the bolt. Putting a piece of rubber between the handlebars and the clamp is also essential to keep it in one place. Also, my handlebars are tapered instead of round so I used some electrical tape on the handlebars to build them up to compensate for the tapering.

For the board I used a binder notebook cover because it is a bit flexible and pretty water resistant. At first I used a fiberglass clipboard but after a pretty good wreck it shattered leaving jagged pieces everywhere and wasn't too safe. I used to just slip the map into the clear plastic sleeve, but I found that clamping it on with the paper clips is easier.

I have been using it for about a year now and since I have had it, I don't think that I have made any real big bike nav errors. In my opinion riding down a gravel road one handed while reading a map is just asking for trouble. For me the map holder works great, it keeps me in contact with the map and I don't have to take my hands off the bars to read it. Another benefit is that it keeps some of the mud from spraying up into your face.

There are tons of these homemade jobs out there. If you have a different design or suggestion, comment to the post and let us know about it.



  1. Thanks for posting this. It's just what I need to prevent any future bike nav. errors, which seem to be a real team-morale killer. The map holder looks great. I'll post pics of mine when I'm done.

  2. Nice. This is going to save me a lot of headaches. Thaaaaaank you!

  3. Nice design. It's simple and effective. I totally agree with the importance of a having a map holder for bike nav, we went through the same exact experiences. I'll share some features of my design that you may want to consider, it doesn't add much cost, I think my map holder was about $13, which is still pretty reasonable.
    Board: A 12x12 piece of 1/8" LEXAN with the corners cut off so it is easy to rotate. Lexan brand is important. It won't shatter... ever. But any other clear plastic will. Lexan is super tough, it can be bent easily to 90degree bends or more.
    Clamp: An electrical conduit holder at a hardware store is about the same diameter as your handlebar.
    Standoff: I used a fully threaded long nut with a hex head bolt going through each end. Use locknuts where appropriate and thread locking compound and large washers and you should be good to rotate without falling apart.
    Map Holding: I use elastic cords run across the face, then little pinch clamps. I found the binder clips to be loud and annoying, rattling all the time. We've also found that the heavy duty twist ties work real well to hold down the map too.

    I can show you my map holder at LBL if you are interested. Or, if you want, let me know and I can send you some photos.

    Scott (bushwhacker)