Hack your messenger bag to make a bike pannier

Picture of Hack your messenger bag to make a bike pannier
bag on bike.jpg
I have a couple of messenger bags that I don't use very often (coincidentally, i also live in San Francisco). After some doctor-says so, I decided to lighten the load on my back and shoulders so I converted the bag to a pannier.  The whole process took about 1 hour and cost me less than $30.  The project uses only basic tools and all materials can be found in your local hardware store.  The grommets are actually carried at my hardware store but if you can't find them, try a craft store.  I started by making only one pannier.  I actually find it very easy to ride with just one, even when it is weighted down.  You could always make a pair if you like feeling balanced.  It is also designed to be easy to snap on and off so you can carry the bag with you.  This is roughly based on other folks ideas but I tweaked it with the addition of grommets, rope clips, and the "chain quick snaps".  I've been using the bag for about a month and it is working perfectly.  Also, my landlord says I look cool.
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

One messenger bag (re-purpose an old bag!).

3/4" Stainless steel machine screws (#10) - 2     $1.50 ea
#10 Stainless steel hex nut and washer- 2 - $0.50 ea
3/16" rope clips - 2     $0.88 ea
Grommet size "0" - 6     $3 dozen
Grommet size "2" - 2     included with grommet tool
Blue Hawk 3/4" Chain Quick Snap - 2      $7.00 ea
One bungee cord (24" length) - $1 
One key ring (about 1") - $0.20 
1/4" Plywood - 13.5" x 17" (may be smaller for some bags) - $5

Saw (handsaw, jigsaw or bandsaw)
Hand drill and bits
Hex wrench
Grommet tool   

Total cost: $29
Obviously this would be cheaper if you already have some unused bolts or plywood in your garage. You could also save some $ by using a carabiner.

this is fantastic! no wonder your landlord thinks you are cool: you are! you give such easy-to-read instructions on a fun yet complicated process (at least complicated for a novice like me). this is a really creative and easy-to-follow way to repurpose an old purse or bag for the daily bike commute. i look forward to your next shared genius. oh, and thanks for the reminder on the no-fire with the cotton bungee cord bit.
ChrisC8 made it!2 months ago

Just did this yesterday as a little Saturday project. I was wanting to carry my bag on my bike for a while now since my commute sometime turns into a 15 mile ride if I decide not to use the city bus. Also, I'm in central Oregon and the weather now is such that waterproofing my personals was a must. Long story short, I was able to get a refund on an old dry bag from north face and got a new "base camp messenger bag" (small size if anyone cares). This bag keeps water out but I didn't want to puncture a new bag in case I messed up and I also didn't want to compromise the waterproofing by putting holes in the fabric. I found upon receiving the bag that it had an exterior slip on the back side for use with rolling luggage for people that want to make transformers out of their suitcases. So I modified your instructions to fit only this slip, which was 9" by 6". Since my fixture would be completely on the exterior of the bag, I didn't want to use plywood, and my local hardware store offered a fiber glass alternative that was 1/4". At the store they cut the size for me, .let me trace holes on the piece, and then drilled into it so I really had my work cut out for me. I will say my price tag was around $40 because of the grommets. I had to by a set of 12 for each size with their own tool, so those each were about $12, but I wasn't too discouraged. In the last picture from the top side you can see the inside of the 'slit' where I put the fiberglass piece. This did make a tight area which was not very unforgiving when tightening or adjusting the diameter of the drilled holes so that my rope clips would fit. I also modified my quick snaps by taking out the spring loaded 'clip' which left something more similar to a hook, but the taut tension from the bungee ensures that there is no movement at all when the bag is secured on the rear rack. This modification also makes for a really fast attach and release, which is nice. Thanks for paving the way! and much luck with future projects!

pannier back.jpgpannier front.jpgpannier on bike.jpgpannier top.jpg
Emilyorelse7 months ago

What size grommetts would you folks recommend?

flamesami1 year ago
how much weight do you think this bag could take? I have done different mods to a back pack, but on the second mod, when I'd stuffed it full of laptop+bag+lightweight stuff I usually take, I noticed a tear, so I re-modded it and have been very cautious about weight
rustytoy1 year ago
Well done. I will try this just for fun. Thank you.
studash1 year ago
Really lovely idea, and very neat. I have a nice tweed bag I'm going to try this on.
Wilmette2 years ago
I was thinking of something like this myself when I saw some other pannier design. Then I checked what was there already and saw your work Yours is much more elegant because you are using grommets and hardware.
I have obtained thin plywood from discarded furniture. For instance the back of a desk or bookcase.
When I do grommets I sometimes like to treat the area with some type of glue to make it stringer I have also used a soldering gun to melt a hole and fuse it.But those are trifles. excellent design and crafting..
charlyc2 years ago
Great overall design. Just keep in mind where you cut your top holes to put in the rope clips to hang the Quick Snaps. You'll need to give your heel clearance in your pedal stroke. Essentially you'll want to move the "front" clip (depending if you want a lefty or righty) toward the center a bit, but be sure the rear clip can now still attach. I'd then probably put another grommet and anchor in the top/front corner for support to compensate for the other one you moved back. Good job though!