Do it yourself project: Econo Panniers in Cotton Canvas

I bought some largeish army surplus bags at a swap meet, and wondered if I could fit them to my Rivendell imported Nitto rear rack as high style panniers that could also be used off the bike. My goal was to make viable bicycle luggage that could also still be used for other, non-cycling purposes with as little hassle as possible. I think it works; I've carried up to about 25 lbs in the single pannier I've made. No touring yet; but it feels pretty stable, pretty secure, pretty safe.

Here's what you'll need:

--A heavy cotton canvas army surplus bag (the one shown in the photos below is x x x inches overall).

--A 1/2 inch wood dowel

--Some leather laces or something similar

--A riveter and a hole punch, with the same diameter holes, along with 6 eyelet rivets (I have no idea if this is the real terminology, so bear with me, please).

--About a half hour of time.

1. First of all, cut a piece of the dowel to fit the interior dimensions of the canvas bag.

2. Place the dowel along the upper inside edge of the bag; use a pencil and mark a total of four holes, two on either side of the dowel, as widely spaced as your rack and the canvas bag will allow.

3. Punch holes at these premarked spots, and insert eyelet rivets, which you can also reinforce with small leather patches with same size holes.

4. Holding the dowel and bag up to the rear rack, lace 10" lengths of leather cord through the holes, so that both ends are inside the canvas bag's flaps.

5. Tie these lengths firmly and securely around the dowel.

6. With the bag in place, find and mark two more spots for holes that will bind the back of the canvas bag to the vertical supports of the rear rack. NOTE: This will work far better with square sided rear racks than with triangular sided ones; Nitto and Jandd, good; Blackburn and many others, not so good.

7. Remove the bag from the rack and punch these holes, and put eyelet rivets in them as well; remount the bag as above, but this time, add on the leather cording to attach the bag's lower inside to the rack's vertical supports.

8. Presto, you have a pannier for the price of bag, rivets, dowel, and leather cording.

9. Be smart; don't make them so they get into your spokes and make you crash horribly. Only make these panniers if you're not the suing type and confident of your skills and judgement. Otherwise, go buy some.

Above: an image of the dowel, held against the rack's upper edge by the leather cording. Not visible are a total of four eyeletted holes with brass eyelets.

Below: The view of the pannier with the flap down, showing the leather cording holding the dowel and hence the canvas bag/pannier to the Nitto Campee rack from Rivendell. The two toe straps have nothing to do with the panniers; they're for holding on a BMX size U lock.


Below: a rear view of the canvas bag/pannier showing the two other eyeletted holes, and how leather cording holds the bag stable both vertically and horizontally. Note the load supporting sides of the Nitto Campee rack.

Below:  Crude-but clear hand drawn plans