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Make 4 gallon square bucket bike panniers for less than $20

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Picture of Make 4 gallon square bucket bike panniers for less than $20
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This is my first instructable. In 2002, my older son came back from Aprovecho Research Centre in Oregon to BC with square bucket panniers that a fellow named Miguel had invented.  I experimented with the concept, and modified the design so that my heels didn't kick the panniers while pedaling. The original inner tube hook for the pannier was located in the middle of the box. This means you will be building a left pannier and a right pannier. As well, I found that larger washers prevent the plastic breaking over time.  These panniers are quick to install on the bike and remove, and are great buckets for taking into grocery stores.  The panniers sit at the same height as the bike rack, so you can load a wide object on the back of the bike. They are even good for dumpster diving! My younger son used them for a 3,000 km (1900 mile) bike ride in 2005. I liked these panniers enough to promote them in Prince George, BC since 2005.
 
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Step 1: Hardware needed

Picture of Hardware needed
  • 4 gallon square bucket - 1 (Use bucket that has stored food such as feta cheese or mayonnaise, not detergent.)
  • Utility knife to cut bucket flange to mount shelf brackets
  • Marking pen
  • 18 inch piece used bike inner tube - 1 (Prevents bucket lid from rattling off)
  • 12 inch piece used bike inner tube - 1, folded to accommodate S-hook (Holds the bottom of bucket to bike rack mount)
  • 3/16 inch drill
  • heavy pliers or vice to close one end of S-hook onto folded inner tube
  • leather punch or awl to punch holes in inner tube
  • 2 inch Shelf bracket - (when bent, hooks onto bike rack near the back)
  • 5/16 inch (1 1/4 inch dia.) fender washers - 10
  • 1/2 inch x 10-32 machine screws - 7
  • 10-32 lock nuts - 7
  • 2 inch S-hook - 1 (to hook on rear bike rack near the axle)
  • Adhesive -backed reflective tape
 

Step 2: Install the shelf brackets (bike rack hooks)

Picture of Install the shelf brackets (bike rack hooks)
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  • Place shelf brackets to one side of the bucket, just inside the corners, and mark flange to cut
  • Cut out plastic bucket flange to fit shelf brackets flush with the bucket, using a utility knife.
  • Bolt the shelf brackets to one side of the bucket, just inside the corner using 4 machine screws, and fender washers and lock nuts inside the bucket.
  • Bend down the brackets forming hooks, at the first screw hole.

Step 3: Install the lower pannier inner tube/S-hook bike rack attachment

Picture of Install the lower pannier inner tube/S-hook bike rack attachment
  • Decide whether this is a left or right pannier. Mark the bucket as such on the shelf bracket side. This will tell you which side is front and which side is back.
  • Drill hole 5 inches below front shelf bracket close to front corner.
  • Fold 12 inch lower hook strap inner tube, puch holes in inner tube.
  • Bolt in hole: first a washer, then the folded inner tube ends with holes through the bucket, backed with another washer and lock nut.
  • Crimp hook onto fold of inner tube.

Step 4: Install the inner tube lid strap

Picture of Install the inner tube lid strap
Using an inner tube lid strap allows you to place the lid on the bucket without fully clamping it shut. With the pressure of the strap, the bucket stays waterproof, and the lid is easy to remove.
  • Drill two holes 5 1/2 inches below the top, 3 inches inside the corner away from the shelf bracket on the front and the back sides of the bucket.  Bolt the 18 inch lid strap inner tube, with washer, inner tube, bucket, fender washer and lock nut in order.
  • Repeat on other side of the bucket.

Step 5: Put on reflective tape

Picture of Put on reflective tape
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  • Put the reflective tape on the back of the bucket, 4 inches up from the bottom, wrapping around the corner.
  • Now mount the pannier on the bike, by hooking the S-hook onto the back of the rack just above the axle mount, and hook the bent shelf bracket hooks onto the back of the bike rack.
  • ENJOY!

Step 6: Extra strong backing for repair of bucket after years of use

Picture of Extra strong backing for repair of bucket after years of use
For extra strong backing, use 2 6 inch mending plates behind the shelf brackets inside the bucket - one for the top hole of the brackets, and one for the bottom hole of the brackets.  2 2/16 holes will have to be drilled in the mending plates
n8pzg5 years ago
My friend and I bought two 5 gallon buckets from the local donut shop for 50 cents each (that was a while ago maybe inflation may cost more now) He looped them together with a length of rope long enough so one hung on each side of the motorcycle. We went from Ohio to Maryland and back. I also used one as a carry on case when we went camping. Clothes container and night table by my sleeping bag.
feltonite n8pzg4 years ago
Do you have photos of this? How did you secure them to the motorcycle to keep them from flopping around?
n8pzg feltonite4 years ago
Sorry it took awhile to answer back. It was a motorcycle and it was just a short piece of rope long enough to loop through the handles and lay across the seat. No problem with them flopping around. No pictures of it though. Dont know if its any help.
beekins (author)  feltonite4 years ago
Hi - Scroll down to my Nov 19, 2009 response on this. Click on the photo, and it should be clear how I attached the bottom strap onto the rack mount. This design is for a bicycle, not a motorcycle, so that may be the problem here.

Beekins
Thank you for the quick reply.

n8pzg referred to a motorcycle in his post. I wonder if that was just a misprint on his part?
bugmenot!4 years ago
any suggestions as to how to get those brackets bent?
beekins (author)  bugmenot!4 years ago
Yes - I use vice-grips and a hammer. I bold the bracket on so I can access the bolt, and then bend the bracket. If you bend the bracket at the bolt hole, it bends easier. I have made 20 pairs of these panniers this way.

Beekins
curlykale5 years ago
hey still looking for some of those containers, only finding round ones...
your design is ace, what sort of pannier rack have you got? i need to buy one and have no idea what to look for. tks
beekins (author)  curlykale5 years ago
Hi, Curlykale - The square buckets (food grade) are used commercially for feta cheese, mayonnaise, salad dressing and dog food that I know of.  They also are used for detergent. DO NOT USE THESE, AS THE DETERGENT IS PERSISTENT, AND THE FLAVOR GETS INTO YOUR FOOD IF YOU HAVE FOOD IN THE BUCKETS.

Large restaurants, especially Greek or Italian or any other Middle Eastern restaurants are good bets to try.  Large grocery stores also will give away these buckets or sell them cheaply. 

I don't know where you buy new empty square 5 gal buckets, but I don't have a problem getting them in a town of 75,000.  Good luck.

beekins
beekins (author)  beekins5 years ago
I missed your question about pannier rack.  Because the tube bungie on the back of the pannier has a hook, any kind of rack that has a bar that you can hook onto on top works for the bent angle bracket hooks, and a rack mount that has a place close to the axle to place a hook will work.

beekins
Phil B5 years ago
I understand how the upper part of the panniers hook over the carrier tubes.  Does the bottom part connect to the seat stays, or just rest against them?  If you mentioned it, I did not see it.
beekins (author)  Phil B5 years ago
Check it now.  I added a couple of comments and a couple more photos showing where the S-hook connects to the bike rack.
S-hook connection-2.jpgBike-Frame Hook.jpg
Phil B beekins5 years ago
 Thank you.  That helps.