How to make a MTB mapboard


Click on photo to enlarge

When doing any sort of navigation event (Trailquest, MTB-Orienteering etc) on a bike you will find it is much easier (and often safer) to navigate if you can have the map always in front of you rather than stashed away in your pocket. This can be achieved by attaching the map to a handlebar-mounted mapboard. Mapboards can vary from the very simple ice cream container variety to the $150 commercial variety (see www.mapsport.co.nz).

Below are brief instructions for two trusty durable designs we have come up with. The first board rotates so you can turn the map (some people prefer to orientate the map to the direction of travel), while the second board is fixed (although could easily be adapted to rotate) which would suit those who prefer to always keep the map orientated the same way. These boards are both A4 size. Maps in long Trailquest events are often A3 size but handlebar widths do not usually allow for much more than A4 size. To get around this fold the map to A4 size showing the area you are riding through at the time.

These two designs are just to give you some ideas of how you can easily make a fairly durable mapboard at relatively little cost. We are happy to discuss these designs with you further if you want, so feel free to email us at xc@paradise.net.nz or phone us on (03) 322 7886.

Design one:


In brief, a piece of acrylic is bolted to a piece of thick closed-cell foam that is attached to your handlebars and stem via a piece of Velcro.

Shopping List:
  • Foam - about 190 mm sides, square (or triangle to decrease weight) and about 40 mm thick. Purchase from places like Para Rubber
  • Velcro - 25mm wide, long enough to go around your handlebar stem and through the foam.  Alternatively you can just use a bike pump Velcro strap that you can buy from bike/kayak shops (as seen in photo).
  • Acrylic sheet - 3-5 mm thick, A4 size. Note that the thickness and grade of the acrylic will determine how it stands up to a crash etc. Acrylic strength varies from breaking with the slightest force to being able to be bent in half without breaking. There are several acrylic suppliers around so discuss with them what sort of acrylic is suitable. You often can pick up an A4 size piece for nothing from an offcut.
  • Bolt, nut, washers - bolt approx. 30mm long, washers approx. 30mm diameter
  • Foldback clips - 4 (plus spares cos they sometimes get jiggy with it)

    1. Hollow out one side of the foam in the shape of a letter T to match the shape of your handlebars and stem (see photo below).
    2. Cut two slots in the foam about 50mm apart for a Velcro strap to go through to attach the board to the handlebar stem.
    3. Make the strap out of 2 lengths of Velcro (one hook and one fluff) or use the pump strap as explained above.
    4. Drill a hole through the centre of the acrylic.
    5. Drill a hole (diameter of bolt) through the foam.  Ideally this should be just above the centre of the shaped out T in a position that will prevent the bolt/nut from hitting the handlebar stem.  The location of the hole in the foam will determine where the board sits on the bike.  It needs to be forward enough that your knees do not hit it when riding, but back enough  to protect the board in a crash and so that you can see the map clearly.
    6. Enlarge this hole to the diameter of the washer to a depth of 10-15cm (depends on foam thickness and bolt length (may not need to be recessed at all).
    7. Use bolt/nut and large washers to attach the board to the foam. The tension of the nut can be used to adjust how easily the board rotates.
    8. The map is held onto the board using four foldback clips.

      Click on photos to see a larger image


    Design two:
    In brief, an aluminium clipboard that is attached to the bike via 3 Velcro straps.

    Shopping List:
  • Aluminium A4 clipboard - (approx $15 from Warehouse Stationary). Wooden or plastic clipboards could be used to cut down costs but they are not be as durable. If you want to use aluminium but want to cut down costs you may be able to purchase a piece of aluminium sheet and round the corners off yourself. I choose the clipboard option to make life easier.
  • Velcro - 20 - 25 mm wide, long enough to go around your handlebars and foam.
  • Self-adhesive closed cell foam - three pieces about 15 mm x 50 mm by 16 mm thick (you can use offcuts from a bedroll and double sided tape or glue if you prefer) - sufficiently thick enough to hold the board away from the handlebar stem. The amount of foam required will be determined by your handlebar and stem shape and size and where your cables etc go.
  • Foldback clips - 2 (or 4 if not using clipboard), approx. 25 mm wide

    1. Cut two slots about 20mm apart in three places that will allow straps to attach the board to the handlebars and stem (see photo below).
    2. Make the straps from Velcro.
    3. Fix the foam to the bottom of the board between the slots (see photo below).
    4. The map is held onto the board using the clipboard clip at the top and a couple of foldback clips at the bottom.



    Click on photos to see larger images


    Be creative and have fun!

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