Make a Scrappy Bike Rack




Introduction: Make a Scrappy Bike Rack

In this instructable I'll go over how I made a pretty nice bicycle luggage rack for free. The whole thing is made with scavenged parts and is easy to make with little more than a drill, hammer, and hack saw. Not a weld in sight. If you don't want to shell out 20-50 bucks for such a rack and can scrounge for the parts it's a fun and useful project.

Step 1: Find Materials

This is the key to making a free bike rack. As any good Instructables citizen you should already be well-versed in the ways of dumpster diving, so get out there and look for metal rack material from shopping carts, BBQ grills, or if you're lucky like me, a big dumpster full of tossed out news stands. These are nice and rigid, already come with a nice plastic coating, and otherwise lend themselves to reuse. Behind home stores and industrial/business parks are likely places to find these.

The other main material you'll need is flat steel. I got mine from a metal shipping frame. You might be able to get these from construction sites or motorcycle/scooter shops. This material is sturdy enough to hold up under pressure, but not too hard to shape or cut with a hack saw. You might also be able to cut down some thicker sheet metal or fold thinner sheet metal into a usable thickness here as a substitute, just be careful of those sharp edges. My foot has a 4 inch scar from when I wasn't once. Wear shoes and gloves.

As for fasteners, you'll want to keep an eye out hose clamps, nuts, bolts, and zip ties. These don't have to be of matching sizes, though it's nice if they are. You can likely hit a dollar store for these if you need to, but that would be going against our $0 cost. Don't hang around in a dumpster with an angry owner around trying to free up a couple bolts though. Do whatever works best for you.

This simple design also lends itself to subsituting parts if you can't fine one or another. You could hammer some metal piping flat for your frame metal, use bamboo and bailing wire to make a rack deck if you can't find a metal grate, wrap the arms and U bracket together with hose clamps or tape and/or baling wire in lieu of being able to drill holes or find bolts to hold them together, and obviously you can replace zip ties and hose clamps with anything from baling wire to string to nearly whatever you have handy that'll hold it down steady. The beauty of doing things yourself is that you don't need to play off of someone else's materials list if you can substitute in something you have that'll work for your needs. I highly encourage it.

Step 2: Ready Your Materials

Next up is cleaning up and freeing your materials for their new lot in life. I used bolt cutters to cut a 24"x9" section of my news stand grid, then filed down the sharp edges. If you're working without the fancy tools a hack saw and sidewalk for sanding will work just as well but mean more work.

The flat stock will need to be cut loose from it's donor structure as well. I borrowed a portable band saw for this, trying to keep as much of the material uncut as possible. Using a grinder to grind welds loose would help to keep your full-length pieces of material. The stock I wound up with was 4 pieces of (presumably) mild steel, each was 1/4"x1"x15".

If your materials are overly rusty you can use a wire brush, sand paper, or electrolysis to clean them up.

Step 3: Shape Your Materials

As I was losing daylight quickly during this phase, I didn't take time to photograph the progression of this, but I've made some diagrams to help. I didn't measure any of the angles for the frame, but since most bikes would require a slightly different setup this should simply serve as a guide and example of how a frame can be constructed.

The frame is 4 pieces: the main arms, which support most of the weight and are attached to the back axle on either side, the U brace, which ties the arms together, and the spine brace, which ties all of that to the frame. The measurements of these will change based on what your bike's tire size is and what you're rack's width will be.

Note: I suggest drilling all holes in these parts before cutting them, as doing so after is more difficult.

You can bend the pieces out on any hard surface, though I find a vice to be best since it holds the piece steady and lets you get nice right angles and corners rather than more rounded ones. A picnic table/workbench and a C clamp is a good alternative as well. Make sure to bend the main arms at the same time so you don't wind up with one that's more heavily angled than the other. Compare them back and forth frequently if you can't do them both at once since having to bend one back too far will fatigue and weaken the metal.

Step 4: Paint Parts

This is optional, but paint makes the whole project look much more neatly done when you're done. You would do better to paint the parts before assembling. I didn't, so I took the top rack off and wrapped the rest of the bike in news paper before painting the rack. Painting beforehand also gives you paint coverage under overlapping surfaces.

Step 5: Assemble!

Now you should have all the pieces of your bike rack ready to assemble. Here's how I put mine together:

1: Loosely attach main arms to U brace and slip onto outside of axle thread.
2: Loosely attach spine brace to U brace and frame.
3: Take off one main arm, then the axle nut on that side. put the main arm back on the axle, with an oversized nut under it if needed to get around chain guard bolt on right side. Loosely screw on axle nut.
4: Do same for other side.
5: Tighten frame bolts, making sure the whole frame is square as you go.
6: Re-tighten axle nuts, making sure the chain has good tension.
7: Set rack on frame, use zip ties and hose clamps to hold it in place.
8: Test ride bike, making sure everything is to your liking. This is where I figured out I needed to cut a bit off the front of the rack to keep it from hitting my legs as I stood up.
9:Make any adjustments you need to.
10: Enjoy and post a comment with a picture of your rack. You can never get too many pictures of nice racks. :P

You can check out my other projects at if you like.



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    16 Discussions

    i was going to build this then i went to get metal for building it but when i was at the scrap yard i found a pergectly new reckand i bought it and it looks and preforms well

    vinyl dipped ubolts and washer plates can also be used as mounting clamps and are available at hardware stores or can be made with ordinary ubolts and  poly (icemaker supply) tubing.  I used them to mount road bike panniers to a mountain bike's fattie fork tubing.  I avoid drilling holes and try not to crush the tubing tightening the clamps down.

    heavy wire grid as seen here is most often seen on store displays, check around the dumpsters.

    Great idea. Now I wish I hadn't thrown out our old dishwasher racks I replaced this summer. Oh well, time to go dumpster-diving. :o)

    For attaching things to bike frames I like to use pipe clamps, as you can also undo them. Nice 'ible.

    1 reply

    Thanks. I prefer using bolts when possible since they give a sturdier hold, though when used right pipe clamps can hold like a weld. I used small pipe clamps on the rack itself. If your bike doesn't seem conducive to bolting through existing parts then pipe clamps can make this design work with a little modification.

    This is great. My kind of engineering. I'm a little surprised that you didn't include a fender in the design, but then again, I don't know how much/if you ride in the rain, nor do I know your availability of materials that you were working with. All in all though, very impressive.

    1 reply

    Mainly I was just going for cheap and made of available materials. I wanted to make it so someone it required as little machining as possible and made use of materials anyone who's resourceful could get or get substitutes for anywhere in the world. Actually you've just made me think that I should add a "possible substitutions" note in there. Thanks I'm not sure what would repurpose well for a good fender, but I don't ride in the rain much, so it's not a big concern for me. If anything I would probably just attach a solid deck to it if I needed to use it in the rain.

    This looks like a reasonable base to add a motor to a bike. nice and sturdy. good job.

    1 reply

    It is indeed sturdy. I hadn't thought of that even though I've toyed with the idea of motorizing a bike before. You could definitely use this basic frame as a place to mount a motor with a little alteration.