New to the DIY and bike commuting scene, but...
August 1, 2010 8:44 PM   Subscribe

Hope me make an awesome DIY bike pannier!

After searching extensively, I cannot find a bike pannier that meets my requirements in my price range (I'm a college student, so my price range is as close to free as humanly possible). As such, I've decided to make one out of a fairly waterproof messenger bag that I have lying around already. BUT...I want it to be the envy of all the broke bikers out there.

I'm looking to modify this instructables method. I want the hooks to work like the ones on this messenger/pannier, so they fold in and don't claw my back/rip my clothing when i'm carrying it around as a bag. (There is a thumbnail image of the back of the bag on the Amazon page that shows the hooks). For this purpose, I am thinking of using two of these swivel hooks to hook the pannier to the top of the rack, but I need a way to secure them to whatever I put in the bag to stabilize it. I'm thinking of using the same coated clamps used to attach the bungee, but definitely open to suggestions.

I will also be adding a bungee to secure the bag to my rack according to this method.

So here are my questions:

1) Does anyone know of really good swivel hook options or stabilizing materials options that I'm unaware of. I've looked for a good vinyl board or hardboard and come up with nil, so bonus points for a good suggestion of a place to buy these or an alternative material.

2) Suggestions for sewing velcro and fabric onto the heavily padded, synthetic back of my messenger bag.

3) Good way to reinforce the bottom to help the bag keep its shape that will also make the bag more waterproof.

4) Any obvious problems with my plans. Please please please be brutal and point them out now before the bag comes apart and I lose a week's worth of homework assignments on the road.

Extra Credit (and unrelated): I bike with my dog, sometimes at night. What are some places that sell really good doggie (or modifiable-to-doggie) reflective or light up gear to keep him safe? I live in St. Louis, and internet shopping is fine.
posted by hoperaiseshell to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Gatorboard. It's like corrugated cardboard but made out of plastic or vinyl. It's available at most art supply stores. I use it to keep my panneirs from getting caught in my wheels, and have a cut out that's stuffed flat into the bottom that helps it hold its shape.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:19 PM on August 1, 2010

Reusable grocery bags have a flat piece in the bottom. May not be stable or strong enough for pannier use, but it's certainly cheap enough to test out.

Please post pics of the finished project, because this is awesome!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:28 PM on August 1, 2010

First the disclaimer: IANYS (I am not your seamstress). All of my panniers have been bought. Having said that, for your swivel hook option, you might take a look at the Arkel cam lock hook kit. This guy used one and a messenger bag to build what you are describing, might be good for some ideas. Good luck!
posted by kovacs at 9:31 PM on August 1, 2010

Also, here's a link to a reflective dog vest at Cabela's, a source for outdoor and hunting gear.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:32 PM on August 1, 2010

Response by poster: Supersquirrel: I'll definitely post pics and construction steps when I'm done. Also, you get bonus points because the doggie vest is so CUTE!

Jon_Evil: Is gatorboard durable enough to hold in screws? I'm researching, but I'm a bit confused as to how tough it actually is. Would I drill into it or make holes with an exacto knife, and would the screws be able to push upwards through it under stress?
posted by hoperaiseshell at 9:45 PM on August 1, 2010

I have a pannier, with a long shoulder strap. To stop the hooks from digging into me while walking, I just carry it with the hooks pointed away from me.
posted by antiquark at 9:54 PM on August 1, 2010

Slightly off topic...but dirt cheap...Kitty Litter Panniers!
posted by BigJuiceMan at 10:20 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

stabilizing materials options that I'm unaware of. I've looked for a good vinyl board or hardboard and come up with nil, so bonus points for a good suggestion of a place to buy these or an alternative material.

You can get rigid fibreglass board designed for making signs out of. It'll be thin, so you'll want to drill right through it and put a bolt on the inside (like the kitty litter panniers guy has done).

Another option would be to just stick a milk crate on the back and put your messenger bag into it.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:28 AM on August 2, 2010

I saw this in Make recently; might be something you're interested in: DIY Bike Trunk. The cost ends up being a piece of sheet metal and some rivets. (Hopefully you can find a metal cutter of some sort and a drill.)
posted by jrockway at 3:55 AM on August 2, 2010

If you are worried about screws ripping through the material then you need large washers.
posted by nestor_makhno at 4:18 AM on August 2, 2010

I think the hooks shown in your instructables link (here) are better than swivel hooks, as they will allow the pannier to hang closer to the bike. I wondered if this hook could work?

I think if you stiffen the side of your bag, you probably won't need to stiffen the base, and it will make it easier to carry if the base is flexible.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 5:23 AM on August 2, 2010

When I made my old panniers I used any old bits and pieces I could find. What worked surprisingly well were these coat hooks. The ones I found clipped perfectly onto the rack and had nice rounded ends. I used two per pannier, plus the usual elastic strap at the bottom. The hooks don't protrude very much either, although probably a little more than if they were fonding hooks.

At the time I considered another option, which was to use an adjustable strap to fix the bag to the pannier - that way there are no hooks at all - it's just a matter of sewing on a few loops of fabric to run the straps through. You can buy luggage straps with adjustable plastic clips pretty much anywhere, and they're very durable.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:31 AM on August 2, 2010

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