A DIY routesheet holder for about £1.50

One of the deep pleasures of riding an audax event is following the organiser's own routesheet, line by line.  The routesheet is the de facto gold-standard for describing an event, beyond simply listing the control locations, and the style of the routesheet and words used are the embodiment of the character of the organiser, and so an important part of the event itself, IMO! 

I've toyed with buying a routesheet holder, but I've never quite found one that I thought would suit.  There are big plastic ones, but they are reputed to rattle and fall apart over time.  There are nice metal ones that attach underneath an Aheadset headset bolt, but on the Brompton there's no headset (within reach — it's down by the floor somewhere).  For the first year I used a cut-down wooden clipboard mounted to the handlebar with the bracket off an old lamp.  However, this was mounted on a T-bar extension and so when I switched from the Brompton to the Ribble then it was entirely inappropriate.

The simplest of routesheet holders: a bulldog clip and a ziptie

My friend Roger 'Fidgetbuzz' Cortis gave me the solution: a traditional bulldog clip, also known as a fold-back clip, ziptied to the handlebar stem.  He gave me this info when I was on the Brompton, but it just didn't work for me then because the Brompton doesn't have a stem to ziptie it to.  However, now that I'm off the Brompton and riding full-size bikes, I have a stem to hand.

Put the ziptie around the lower arm and the stem

In its simplest form you simply ziptie the bulldog clip to the stem: the ziptie goes around the lower clip-arm and the stem, not through the clip's spring body.  This works, after a fashion, with the routesheet (folded down to A6 postcard size) resting along the stem just fine.  However, it has certain problems, which I will explain and show you how to fix in this article.

And the beauty of this solution is that it really does cost less than £1.50!

The problems with the simple ziptied bulldog clip are as follows:

  1. The bulldog clip rattles when you're riding along.
  2. The bulldog clip vibrates against the stem, possibly even scratching it.
  3. At night the light of a headtorch is reflected back from the clip arms.
  4. It can be hit-and-miss trying to turn the routesheet while riding.

The bulldog clip rattles when you're riding along

There's a simple fix for this — wrap an elastic band around the two arms:

A simple elastic band eliminates most rattles from the clip

I've shown a white traditional rubberband in the photo above, but I usually use one of those little black ones that you get around an innertube in the pack, because they survive environmental degradation better — and being black they are tidy.  Tie a knot in it if it's a bit too long.

The bulldog clip vibrates against the stem

Another simple fix — put a stick-on furniture foot underneath the clip, between the clip-arm and your stem:

A simple stick-on furniture foot damps the clip against the stem

I prefer to stick it to the clip so it moves with the clip, rather than sticking it to the stem and having to aim for it — believe me, it works better this way.  Tesco sells furniture feet for about £1 in the yellow useful-household-bits display, but you'll only need one; I cut down one of the big, square, foam feet rather than use a felt foot, but that's just my preference.  Ikea feet are just as good, I'm sure.

The clip arms are a bit too reflective at night

If you do any overnight rides with a headtorch then the light reflected from the mirror-like arms will blind you and you won't be able to read the routesheet — been there, done that!  To eliminate the glare you need to wrap the arms in something black, preferably matt black.  I use electrical "shrinkwrap tubing", but simple electrical tape would work fine, or a small offcut of old innertube.

Shrinkwrap reduces glare — before and after

Shrinkwrap's a bit specialist, especially because you need a concentrated heat gun to shrink it, which is another once-in-a-while tool in the toolbox, but the result's worth it if you have the bits and tools.

Inserting the routesheet can be hit-and-miss

It took me a year to work this out — when you're riding along, you'll often have to flip the routesheet over.  I do this without stopping, but I always found inserting the routesheet back into the clip tricky at best, impossible in a strong headwind.

The solution is simple — this whole post is about simple solutions! — you have to add a 'guide tongue' to the clip to simplify targeting the routesheet into the jaws of the clip.  To do this you need a small piece of flat plastic, such as an old library card, or a piece of packaging like this:

Make targeting easier with a small piece of plastic, held in place with electrical tape

Cut the plastic down to the width of the jaws and about three times the depth.  Then insert the plastic inside the jaws and tape it to the bottom of the clip with some electrical tape — black for consistency:

The routesheet guide taped into place inside the jaws of the clip

Why does this work?  I'm an engineer and it's rather neat: without the guide then the jaws open about 10mm or so and you have to aim perfectly to get the routesheet in.  With the guide in place then that 10mm becomes effectively 30mm — it's all in the engineering — and because you aim for the guide then you don't need to worry about hitting the top jaw, making it effectively twice that!  It's incredibly effective, believe me thumbs up

Summary — and waterproof paper

When it's attached to your bike then it's solid and secure.  With a routesheet in it then it's all stable; without a routesheet then you won't even notice it's there.  It's brilliant — thank you Rog!  The photo below shows the one I've been using for the past four months — the handlebars are a bit crowded with Garmin and secondary light fitting, but you get the picture:

The cheap and cheerful routesheet holder I've been using for four months or so

I wish I'd used a bigger tongue of plastic as the guide on that one, maybe I'll replace it with the one I created while putting together this post.  I used a similar version on my Brompton for Paris-Brest-Paris, but ziptied it to the stem of my T-bar extension on that particular bike.

As an aside, I print all my routesheets onto waterproof paper.  This has two significant advantages: the first is that the routesheet is obviously waterproof, so no plastic bags needed to keep it dry.  The second is that waterproof paper is a bit stiffer than normal printer paper and so it stays fixed in place in the strongest of gales — after last year I can positively affirm this to be true!  I use this stuff — it's expensive, but you use only a couple of sheets per ride, at 18p per sheet, so it's far less than even the entry fee — and a box will last literally years.

Nick Wilkinson

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