The beauty of cycling is its accessibility. A bike, whether it’s old or new, cheap or expensive, is freedom on two wheels. Kitting out your bike doesn’t have to be costly either. Upcycled plastic buckets make sturdy, reliable panniers for urban commuting or weekly visits to the local farmers market. Throw on some stickers and you’re ready to roll.
- Two rectangular plastic buckets, such as kitty litter or condiment tubs (these can be purchased empty online or found at restaurants; ask around!)
- Four anodized metal hooks with ¼" holes; we used wall hooks from a home goods store
- Eight grommets with installation kit, sized to fit your bungee cord
- Two 15-inch lengths and two 4.5-inch lengths of 1" nylon webbing
- Four ½" ¼-20 screws
- 12 ¼" flat washers
- Eight ¼" lock nuts
- Four ¾" ¼-20 screws
- Two 18-inch lengths of bungee cord; (the length will depend on the size of your bike rack)
- Two metal S-hooks
- Utility knife
- Drill with ¼" and 3/8" bits
1. Prepare the buckets
Using a utility knife, carefully remove the extra plastic from one side of both buckets. This will allow the hooks to sit flush against the bucket walls.
2. Drill hook holes
Place two hooks on your bike rack about 5-6 inches apart (depending on your rack). Hold a bucket to the hooks with the lid lip just above the rack. Mark where the hook holes hit.
Using the ¼" bit, drill a hole at each mark. Trim away any extra bits of plastic. Repeat with the second bucket.
3. Install hooks and carry strap
Put grommets on both ends of a 15-inch piece of webbing following the instructions on the grommet kit. This will be the pannier carry strap.
Place a hook on top of a webbing grommet and align the holes with a drill hole as pictured above. Insert a ¼" ¼-20 screw, and thread a ¼" washer and a nut onto the screw inside the bucket.
Tighten the nut with a screwdriver and a wrench. Make sure the hook is straight and can’t rotate or move around. Repeat at the other hole, making a loop with the webbing. Repeat on the second bucket.
4. Install retainer strap
Place a bucket on your rack. Measure 2 inches above the rack’s lower bar, and make two marks about 4 inches apart as shown.
Install grommets on each end of a 4.5-inch piece of webbing.
Align the webbing with the marks, and re-mark at the grommet holes. Use the ¼" bit to drill a hole at each grommet mark.
Place a ¼" washer under a grommet and insert a ¾" ¼-20 screw into the bucket and tighten a washer and a nut on the inside. Repeat on the other side so the webbing sits evenly between the two holes. Repeat on the other bucket
5. Install bungee cord
Mark a spot 1.5 inches below each hook. Switch to the 3/8" bit and drill a hole at each new mark.
Install grommets at each hole to protect the bungee from sharp edges.
Crimp one S-hook onto a length of bungee cord.
Insert one end of the bungee cord into a grommet and knot on the inside of the bucket to secure. Thread the loop and the S-hook under the retainer strap, with the un-crimped hook facing away from the bucket.
6. Bonus step: Add reflectors
We decided to add reflectors to our panniers. On the side of the bucket that faces back when placed on your bike, drill a hole using a 5/42nd bit (or whatever size your reflector requires).
7. Install panniers on your bike
Place the upper hooks over your bike rack.
Attach the S-hook to the lower part of your rack—adjust the bungee length as needed to create a snug hold.
8. Hit the road
Deck out your panniers with stickers as desired and get cruising. Whether they’re toting groceries or a change of clothes, these durable panniers are the perfect, low-cost kit for a bike friendly life. Throw on some DIY bike fenders and you’re ready for an urban cycling adventure.