Christopher Aldgate – '.a frame build'

{} .a Transcontinental Race – bar / saddle bags. {}

Following the Frame builds @

Rapha designer and 2012 24hr TT Champion Ultan Coyle asked me to produce a set of units for the 2015 Transcontinental Race he’s competing in, the race from Flanders – Istanbul. We had about 6 weeks to turn it round. As it turned out not enough time to dwell on the finish but at the last recorded Transcontinental reportage it seems the design held firm through the descent of Col D’Assettia and a Montenegrin taxi strike.

If and when Ultan returns I may get the opportunity to better finish the bags and take some better images.

The brief included two units – a front unit to hold: iphone6 / dynamo power storage units / map cards / USB transformer / gloves / gels etc. And a rear unit to hold mechanical’s, tubes, multi-tool etc – also ideally an overnight bag to specifically hold: bivi / coat / sleeping mat / toothbrush etc. The bottom section depicted here is bolted onto the seat stays but other than the Velcro straps the top unit is only mechanically locked onto the frame via a locking slid mounted on the lid.

Rear aero saddle bag


Specialized were happy to sponsor Ultan with the new TT Shiv model but as the bike didn’t come through in time Ultan thankfully allowed me to crack on and design the units for his Trek Speed Concept instead.

Ultan's bike

The  front and rear units would be home to:

Front – iphone / dynamo battery / map cards / gloves / front light etc. Rear (bottom)  – mechanical, tubes etc, (top) – Bivi / coat / sleeping mat / rear light.

TT bar bag.

We began with a few templates and sketches that were determined by the dimensions of specific contents and aerodynamic fit to the frame. A card template was cut and married to the frame so we could better imagine the final design.

The rear unit/s.

Bag drawings




The front unit.

4050_001-1Bar bag

The pattern was made using various densities of uni-mould foam that get sanded to the required shape. The skeleton foam is denser than the grey foam and resists over-sanding. The pattern is then coated in body filler that’s sanded and then primed with several layers of pattern coat primer. Finally the pattern get several layers of release wax before the mould can be cast. I formed this unit as one and then cut it into the two separate units.

3x PatternClamp1

The above pattern was for the Tri bar clamp.

Next was to generate the moulds. The unit were divided using acrylic sheets into isolated sections that would make up the split moulds. In the blow image a two part mould for the front unit, the two sides of the bar bag, the other units were made as three part moulds.  The first stage once the acrylic sheet is in place, was to apply a thick black gel coat painted on to the unit to form the detailed surface layer of the mould. Multiple layers of fiberglass are then added to give the mould it’s strength.


Mold making1

Split Mould
In addition to the basic units I had to come up with a way to connect and lock the rear units together to stop them from swinging around or knocking the seat post on those alpine gravel roads. The solution… as the two unit are braced onto the frame the depicted slider mechanically locks itself together.

Pattern2Pattern3I then produced the wet lay up and bagged the mould to create the units.


DSC_0083DSC_0071The units were trimmed, the release agent removed and a finish applied.

To generate the lid of each unit, after the moulds were formed, I bagged the patterns once more with carbon laid up only around the lid area and cut the lids to size. The bottom lid slides onto the unit and is held in part mechnically and also by the locking screw at the rear.  The lid to the top rear unit was hinged with this 7g barrel hinge. In 7g I managed to sqeeze a Kevlar reinforcement, carbon pivot and Teflon washes.

7g barrel hinge

12 responses

  1. Ann Harris

    Chris, Thanks so much for sending link. BEAUTIFUL! I assume bag on front is yours also? Is the little a your signature???? What has reception been for this beauty?

    Am so disappointed at a Tour rider dropping out yesterday. I won’t say who because I don’t know if you are up to date yet with your viewing.


    Date: Thu, 23 Jul 2015 12:30:41 +0000 To:


    July 23, 2015 at 4:10 pm

  2. myarseiskillingme

    Reblogged this on my arse is killing me and commented:
    Serious “backpacking”…


    August 6, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    • Indeed. I’m still awaiting proof that along with rider, the bike also successfully completed the Transcon race. Nice enthusiasm ‘Myarseiskillingme’, here’s more DIY’ing from me. […]


      August 6, 2015 at 12:28 pm

      • myarseiskillingme

        Yeah, I’ve seen all of that already. Quite impressive. My background is slightly windsurfing/sailing bent so I’m familiar with most of the stuff. Actually you making me a bit itchy to build my own sea kayak. If I’ll figure out what I need and where from I might make a winter/autumn project. Will see. Big thumbs up man!


        August 7, 2015 at 11:57 am

  3. Super work.
    Did they survive the rigors to Turkey ?


    August 6, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    • He’s reporting that they did but I want visuals! To be honest following the savage nature of the race I’m a little surprised they did!


      August 6, 2015 at 9:35 pm

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  6. Hi. Would it be OK to include your photo of Ultan’s setup on my Ride Far website on the page about aerodynamics? Naturally, I’ll include a link to your page. Best, Chris.


    December 17, 2017 at 9:47 am

    • Thanks for contacting me Chris,
      and please do use the content. I’ll definitely be looking your site! Merry Christmas!


      December 18, 2017 at 8:09 am

  7. Raymond Todoroff

    Was this design completely useless? I’d like to put frame bags on my Trek speed concept to make it a lightweight touring model. Enough storage for a 12 days on the road ie solo self supported across the u.s.a


    October 15, 2020 at 6:59 am

    • Hi Raymond,

      You would probably need to ask the rider. He did manage a 4th in the Transcontinental that year. However, as you’ll know, comfort is a huge part of performance and I suspect he had a better appreciation of this after he finished. Since then he’s raced with a more conventional setup, Open frame, soft bags.

      I don’t think it was a useless design though, Specialised have since adopted it, it was definitely aero, it was very light, it survived a Taxi strike. As far as I can see, Canyon have adopted the front pannier, which I believe was reported as the main success.

      If you wanted to speak with Ultan I’m sure he’d be happy to discuss it with you.

      Good luck!!


      October 15, 2020 at 8:11 am

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