DIY bicycle pannier with Bicycle Garden

· Thursday September 19, 2013

Your father taught you how to ride when you were little, or alternate childhood narrative. Do you still ride? Or does it all seem too hard?

Bicycle Garden are here to take away that hard-seemingness, ie making it seem easy and “planting the seeds of bicycle knowledge”. For over one year now, this co-op of volunteers have been hanging out at the Addison Rd Markets in Marrickville every Sunday with tools, maps, bicycle education and general friendliness for all and sundry. They help with everything from advice to minor repairs on the spot. They also run regular workshops outside of the markets, like bicycle mechanic workshops, or Pedal Power with St Vinnies, which re-homes bikes for asylum seekers, or pannier-making workshops at the Green Living Centre in Redfern. Here, I'll show what I learned for our Little Footprints project.


A pannier is a saddle that attaches to your bike rack at two points. They are great because rather than loading up a backbreaking backpack with watermelons and beers and pumpkins etc., you can put them in your pannier and suddenly life's a dream. However, the corporate pannier can be pretty expensive. But Bicycle Garden have tried and tested various materials, and they showed me how to make one for about $10.

You will need:

stanley knife
screwdriver (non electric)
a bike tube (an old one will do, we just need a bit of it)
one packet of pannier hooks (makes two panniers, you can buy online from Wiggle)
8 big washers (we used ¼" flat machine washers)
8 small washers (we used 3/16" spring washers)
nuts and bolts - we used a 4mm x 20mm bolt set
one bucket, satchel or saddle-shaped bag
if you use a soft bag, a sheet of cornboard/corflute
optional: S hooks (38mm)

You can basically modify anything to become a pannier.


Go to Reverse Garbage and find some nice old hessian satchels, or waterproof plastic backpacks (any saddle-shaped backpack will work!), or even a big old 10L yoghurt or icecream tub from any successful Australian juice and smoothie vendor.


I used a bucket, because that is novel, but the exact same technique is used to turn a material satchel-shaped bag into a pannier (except for the cornboard, more on that below).


Get our first bolt, and put a small washer, then a big washer, onto the bolt. Then get your pannier hook and screw in the bolt, careful to make a straight thread.


It should look like this (make sure you put the screw in on the correct side).


Then we get our bucket or satchel. Line it up with your bike rack to see where the pannier hooks should go in. For a bucket, the pannier hooks should go in near those little structural ridges. Make a little indentation with the pannier hook screw.


Then use your screwdriver to slowly wiggle that indentation into a big indentation


Then chop it off on the other side with a stanley knife. This is better than just poking the screwdriver through, which could damage the bucket's structural integrity.


Then you put your pannier hook screw through the hole like so!


On the inner side of the bucket/satchel, thread a big washer, then a small washer, then a nut onto the screw.


Tighten the nut, a few turns past the washers being flat.


Repeat. There should be two hooks on one side, spaced a good distance apart but not too close to the edges of your bucket/satchel.


Now, as mentioned, a pannier should have three points of contact with your bike rack. We have created two, and the third needs to be at the bottom of your bucket/satchel to keep it from swinging and bouncing. Clip your pannier onto your bike rack and have a look at where its bottom hangs down to. My bike rack has this little wiggle bit at the end (see below). We are going to loop some tube around this, so if your bike rack doesn't have this wiggle bit, you can use an S hook to create one.


Cut off a length of bike tube. This is going to attach our pannier bottom to our bike rack. It needs to loop around in a praying shape - with the two end-points of the tube coming up and crossing over each other like praying hands, to meet the inner wall of your bucket/satchel near its base. This will make more sense as we proceed.


Make a mark on the tube and on the bucket/satchel where they meet.


Make a hole at that point on the bucket/satchel as before.


We get a screw with a little washer, then a big washer threaded onto it, and wiggle that through our tube (may need a bit of help from the Stanley knife, but don't shred the tube).


Put it through our third hole.


On the other side, put a big washer, then a small washer, then a nut on as before. Tighten. Above is a bird's eye view into the bucket. If you made your pannier out of a soft bag, cut a strip of corflute/cornboard/any stiff cardboardy stuff to sit against this wall of your pannier (the inside wall, that sits closest to the bike rack). This just makes sure it keeps the right form.


Now we are raring to go. You can see the pannier is just like any other pannier, except we made it. It hooks onto one side of your bike rack, and…


At the bottom, the the rubber tube loops around the base of your bike rack. And you can take it on and off with ease.

Thank you Bicycle Garden! Everyone else, Take the Tap™ pledge today.

This article is part of our new 'Little Footprints' series, made possible with support from Tap™, a Sydney Water product.