In a previous post I showed you how to make your own panniers. I’ve seen my site show up in the Google search results for this keyword so I thought I’d share some of my experiences with them.
My bike with fully loaded bike buckets.
This past summer I toured the US Pacific coast using homemade panniers or bike buckets. I made the buckets using cat littler or mayonaise buckets, rope hooks, bolts, and webbing. They were easy to make and pretty cheap compared to buying good panniers.
The buckets preformed really well. I made it all the way from the Canadian border to the Mexican border without breaking a bucket. One of the front buckets cracked but I was able to stabilize it using a discarded inner tube I found on the road. The cracks resulted from the bucket swinging on the mounts which stressed the plastic. In my how to guide I mounted the hooks at an angle to counteract this swinging. I haven’t tested the new design on a big tour or a big ride but the riding-around-my-block test camp out positive.
Bike bucket repaired using an inner tube.
The buckets were super useful. I loaded them to nearly full and strapped things to the top for easy access. They held so much that loading them completely full is a bad idea, it gets to be too much weight. They are amazing for lugging things around town or on long tours.
The main drawback is their profile. In any kind of wind they act like sails. If the wind is against you it is very apparent. If the wind is with you you literally sail down the road. It is amazing when that happens.
Overall I’m really glad I made the buckets. They weren’t just cheap and useful, they were recycled and a medium for art. I got a lot of comments of the art and the design of the buckets while I was on tour. So much that I wanted to sell bike bucket kits on the internet. I never did anything with that because the design improvements I had in mind didn’t pan out, at least not with the most commonly used racks. My current design should work for all racks though.
I feel like I should really use this paragraph to sell you on the idea of bike buckets. Instead I’m just going to add another picture.
Fierce! Oh and nice bike buckets.
If you have any questions write a comment and I’ll answer it asap!
How to Go on Tour – Thoughts From a Cyclist That Rode the Pacific Coast (Part 1)
Whenever I tell people about my big Canada to Mexico tour they invariably say what an accomplishment it is. I reply with a smile and a word of thanks but really I’m thinking something different: “There is no reason why you couldn’t do it too.” I saw all kinds of people on bike tours while I was riding. With every cycle tourist I met I saw a different way to go on tour. The range of people was truly vast; I met a trio in Oregon that was riding 100 miles or more every day; in California I met a man who was touring with a broken ankle that never healed. The biggest difficulty in touring is finding a system that works for you.
Camping vs Hotels
There are some big categories of ways people tour. How you spend your nights is the biggest division. You can either stay in hotels and bed & breakfasts or you can camp. Obviously sleeping with a roof over your head and a mattress under you is going to be easier. Of course the big drawback of doing that is going to be cost. In OR and CA the cost for a hiker-biker site in the state parks is about $5. Staying in those hiker-biker sites also lets you meet other travelers.
Training is the largest amount of preparation you will have to do before going on tour. No matter what you do to train you are going to have to do a lot of it. When you are on tour the object isn’t to exert yourself to the fullest every day. That approach is not sustainable. Instead your goal should be to find a balance between exertion and distance. What you do for training will determine how far you ride each day. Training methods don’t have to be complicated, just go for a long ride at least once a week. Each week increase the length of the ride. Simple. When you feel like the rides are getting too easy or take too long start adding weight. If you are going camping I’d recommend an overnight or weekend trip to work out the bugs. Once you have that down you are ready to roll!
In part 2 I’ll focus on eating while on tour.
Ian Harper is an avid cyclist and publishes a blog about bike maps and other topics. The blog also hosts a bike map creator web app.
In this simple guide I’ll show you how you can recycle a square bucket and make your own panniers which are incredably useful. I used four panniers just like this on a 2100 mile Pacific Coast tour with great success. This kind of panniers are also called Bike Buckets.
Things You Will Need:
- A bike with a rack
- A drill.
- Wrenches, screwdrivers, and/or allen keys.
- A razor blade or a sharp knife.
- A plastic bucket.
- 2 rope hooks.
- 2 bolts
- 2 nuts
- 4 washers
- ~ 60 inches of 1 inch wide webbing
- 3 webbing slides
- 1 side release buckle
The things you need for this project are pretty standard except for the webbing and webbing hardware. I was able to find everything at a local hardware store and a sporting goods store. If you can’t find webbing in your area you can always try Suitable buckets are also easy to find. Mine came from cat litter and mayonnaise. It is worth asking around for the mayonnaise buckets because they have much better lids.
- Using your razor blade cut out a portion of the ridge next to the bottom of one of the handles.
- Drill two holes in the bucket just under the portion of the ride that was cut out.
- Align a rope hook with one of the holes and tilt it toward the edge of the bucket. Make a mark on the bucket where the second hole of the rope hook is positioned.
- Drill holes where the bucket is marked.
- Bolt the rope hooks on the bucket. Put the washers on the inside of the bucket.
- Strap the bottom end of the webbing on to your rack using one of the webbing sliders.
- Put the bucket on your rack.
- Wrap the webbing around your bucket, around the top bar of your rack, and back over the side of your bucket. It should hang down to about the middle of the bucket.
- Attach the free end of the webbing to the top bar of your rack using a slider.
- Starting from the top of the webbing pull it taught over your bucket. At the halfway point of your bucket cut the webbing.
- Attach the female end of the buckle to the top piece of webbing using the last slider.
- Attach the male end of the buckle to the bottom piece of webbing. The male end should not need a slider to attach.
- Give yourself a pat on the back!
I’ve gone through a few different versions of this design. In this version I tilted the rope hooks so the natural wobble of the buckets will be lessened. Prior designs where the hooks were vertical had a tendency to crack along the sides of the hooks. While not new to this design the quick release buckle makes life a lot easier. You could make this work using only sliders and adjusters. A previous design of mine used this but it was cumbersome to take on and off.
You may want to wrap something around your rack or around the hooks. After heavy use the hooks can damage your rack. I’ve wrapped webbing designed for rock climbing around the hooks with good success.
Of course you will need to determine if this will work with the brand of rack you have. The majority of racks I see are the universal delta racks which work well but don’t have a horizontal bar at the bottom of the rack. For the purposes of this demonstration I attached the bottom piece of webbing in a way that would mimic a delta rack. As soon as I took that picture I moved the webbing to the horizontal bar. If your rack has one I’d suggest using it.