Milk Crate Bicycle Saddlebags





Introduction: Milk Crate Bicycle Saddlebags

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

These handy saddlebags lift off or install in a jiffy.
A pair of these on front and rear racks and I can carry a huge load.
Veggies from Haymarket, drinking water from the reverse-osmosis filter at the food coop, etc.

Step 1: Milk Crates, Rope, Drill

Not much to it.
Just put a loop of rope through the top of the crates and set it over your mountain bike's cargo rack. I drilled holes through the edge of my crates to get it to ride a bit lower, but that's not really necessary.
If you have an extra pass of rope at one end, you can hook it over the lip at one end of your bike rack so it won't slide off.


By the way, why in this supposedly developed country is there so much perchlorate (thyroid problems) and other crap in the water? People are paying more for bottled water than gasoline. Are we going to invade Canada next?



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    any tips on how to make a cargo rack?

    So, for someone without practical sailing/mountain climbing experience, what knots would you suggest for binding up the rope?

    2 replies

    (this is incerdibly late) you can never go wrong with a slip knot/shoestring knot

    i would'nt worry too much about fancy knots. just loop and twist it around stuff so it's secure and then finish it off with a plain old square knot. that's what i do for just about everything.

    nice setup! my bike is almost the same, except that mine was on the rear and i had to put wire grates between crates and frame to keep them off my tire.

    This is a pretty good idea. Only problem is I can't find a good luggage rack anywhere... For my dumpster diving expeditions I use a HUGE duffel bag. It has two carry handles- one on either side- and I hook those on the handlebars, then wrap the shoulder strap around the middle to keep it from rubbing the tire. Since I started using it, I can take my duimpster diving to a whole new level! Even without the bag, the shoulder strap helps by itself. I found a TV in a dumpster and used the shoulder strap to clip it to the handlebars.

    My question for yamahama is... what are you the milk crate cop? or are you working for a suffering mom and pop grocery shop?..... or perhaps you were caught stealing crates and did hard time in prison for crate theft?

    1 reply

    The article states the theft of crates and pallets in the thousands, and also the grinding up for profit through recycling centers. To be fair, the crates do actually say "Misuse Liable to Prosecution" on them, in this instance, anything other than filling them with jugs o' milk is technically illegal. Are the police cracking down on people for one or two as shelves in a dorm? I doubt it. Still, it's not a good idea to be stealing them from businesses. I've been fortunate enough to find a lot of these over the years, usually in the trash for some reason, so I'm guilty myself, but even walking with one down the street, talking to police, didn't land me in the pen. Just use common sense, a lot of the time, that's all that's needed.

    Neat idea. If you used folding crates they would lay flat when not in use.

    2 replies

    Unfortunately, those folding crates are'nt as sturdy... i know, ive got a couple broken ones.

    We bought our milk crates retail (no question of theft) for, if I remember correctly, $3 USD each. They work for a lot of projects. I would used mine on the back unless I need a lot of capacity; then back and front both or I'd make a cheap trailer. Also, I used a couple of "half size" (full height, full size one way, half size in "depth")crates for rear panniers about ten years ago. They worked beautifully. I paid $5 for each one and they outlasted the bike. Problem is, I can't find that type of crate any more.

    Using these milk cartons is against the law and is theft. The milk industry is a highly competitive industry, with generally razor thin margins. It truly does hurt those businesses, many of which are family owned. Many are either having a hard time surviving against the conglomerates of Dean's foods and the like, or are going under. Most of their workers are blue collar. If you think that it is not a big deal see here:

    4 replies


    if you look closely on your crate i bet it says "using this crate for any purpose unintended is breaking a law"blah blah. (i would know, i have about 30 in my house)

    I am not going to pile on as you've been told commercial crates are available. However, theft is theft. Even if there are lots of them around behind markets & convenience stores it doesn't mean they are available to take. How about actually asking the dairy in question if you can have some? If they are as ubiquitous as all are saying, any dairy would be happy to let some go and everyone's conscience is clear. Plus the overworked police in Pittsburgh linked above will have a little less to do.

    I have a really hard time believing this. First, the idea that by taking milk cartons you're ripping some small business off - I used to work in a grocery store, these things are *everywhere*, and poeple don't know what to do with them. I think applying any concept of direct ownership to them is a dubious proposition at best. And anyway, the milk industry here in Quebec is tightly regulated, so the competition isn't nearly as cutthroat as you want me to beliueve it is where you're living. You aren't going to put anyone out of business by stealing their packaging.

    Funny, when my dad was working at a soft drink distrutor, they couln't get rid of the milk crates that the stores used to return "out of date"/damaged soda in. The dairies wern't interested in sending anyone to pick them up, or course that was 20 years ago... Anyway, you can actually legally purchase crates from Staples, etc. Concerning the actual application of crates for bike use, I'm not so sure I'd want someting so big hanging off the sides, at least not for a long distances.

    It would be smarter to put the crates over the back wheel instead of the front, it helps with steering

    I think this is the third makeshift pannier set up Ive seen where people think you will flip over or cant steer. They make bags called panniers for carrying things on your bike without the need for a trailer. Front panniers are actually used commonly without back ones in Europe. There are people who tour with lots of weight on the front and back without any problems.

    its all fun and games until you go over the handlebars...