Toolbox Saddlebags for Under $20




Introduction: Toolbox Saddlebags for Under $20


Time and time again I find myself having to pack my rain gear with the loads of other misc. items into my backpack and hope they all fit.
I've always knew that I wanted to use saddlebags to solve this problem but I could never convince myself to dish out $80+.
So I discovered that the most economical and effective alternative was to use toolboxes.
They can be locked and waterproofed but best of all: they're cheap.

Note: These particular toolboxes are NOT waterproof. Use your discretion as to how you'd like to use them and make improvements/adjustments according to your needs.

Step 1: Gather Your Tools and Materials

Of course, a great toolbox saddlebag starts with the toolbox. I picked up two 16" Workforce toolboxes from Home Depot for $7.47 each (amazing yeah?). That's about $15 already. (The 22" Husky toolbox will be for another instructable ;) )

Next, pick up the misc. nuts, bolts and flat/lock washers. I've estimated it to run about $5 but I just found them around the garage (FREE!).

Lastly, you'll need to do some minor custom metal work in order to form a rack for the toolboxes to be bolted onto. I had a couple of old refrigerator racks that I had cut to sizesuper heated with a blow torch and bent into shape. Have fun but be safe! (Fiiiireee gooooood.)

It helps to have a screwdriver with drill bits and pliers of some type to bore holes into the toolbox and tighten the screws/nuts.


Step 2: Form a Rack

So you'll need to use your imagination for this part.

Use whatever you can find around the garage that would make a suitable rack.
As I have mentioned, I found an old refrigerator rack and macgyver-ed something together.
The general shape would suit this particular toolbox best because it will allow you to open the box while fully extending the top cover.
I used a blow torch to super heat the metal and bend them into these shapes.


Step 3: Bolt the Toolbox to the Rack

Once you've made your rack, place the toolbox onto the rack and drill your holes.

Once you've got the holes where you need them, bolt the toolbox to the rack.


Step 4: Attach the Rack to the Bike

My Honda Nighthawk has a bar that runs a short length under both sides of the fairing and is permanently welded in place. You'll want to find a similar place to attach the rack where it will not interfere with the tire, shocks, brakes, turn signals, etc and is permanently attached to the frame of the bike.
I used 4 pipe clamps to attach them to the bar but of course, unless you have the same bike, you might have to find an alternate method.

The clothespins (another macgyver invention I've come up with) acted as mini shock absorber and dampens the vibrations from a bumpy road. To my surprise, it actually worked haha! 

That's pretty much it!
Maybe grab a couple of locks and keys, paint it a different color and you're set.

I've managed to fit my rain gear comfortably and there's still room for more.

Comment and rate please and let me know if you've got some ideas to improve the design or created your own! :)


Step 5: Other Useful Information

So while I have been using these toolbox saddlebags for quite some time now, it's a great idea to periodically check that your pipe clamps are in working order. I've had to replace them a few times because they could not bare the load of what I had inside the toolboxes.

To remedy this, I simply wrapped a bungee cord around the box or better yet, a strong length of string and secured it to the bike's frame. This way, much of the stress is shared between the hose clamps and the bungee/string and the toolbox does not have to bare the full weight of the cargo being loaded. This method has reduced (maybe even eliminated) the need to periodically replace worn out hose clamps with new ones.

I was thankful enough to discover a hidden benefit to having these toolbox saddlebags on my bike and I'd like to share it with my viewers. I've had the unfortunate experience of seeing my bike toppled over onto its side due to high winds while it was parked on it's side stand. My bike is not equipped with a center stand (which may have helped, but I don't know). Nonetheless, the structural damage done to my bike was significantly reduced thanks to the saddlebags. The toolboxes absorbed the impact (bare in mind it did damage the toolbox but not beyond repair) and prevented further damage to the motorcycle itself. I was able to unhook the hose clamps, bend the refrigerator racks back into shape and re-attach it to the bike again. I rode back home without any problems and was able to heat the toolboxes and shape them back to it's original design and it still works haha! I was too cheap to just buy a brand new $7 box but oh well, I guess I ended up with a savings of $7.




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    30 Discussions

    Great idea!

    I plan on a similar idea with 2 old Samsonite train cases. We all know how durable those are!! Plus they lock, and have a tray inside for small stuff. They look like hard bags anyway... not sure if they are water proof though. One fits great on my luggage rack too. I just bungee it on.

    Picked them up from local thrift store for under 5 bucks. Guess larger suitcases would work too, but my bike is pretty small (vt500). Stuck some reflectors on the back to make them look "official". Would pipe hanging straps work to mount them?? Could wrap the bottom with old bicycle inner tubes, or heater hose to absorb some of the shock...hmmm...

    You could get some velcro to attach a piece of leather or vinyl to the top of your tool boxes and fashion a sort of "do rag" for the top. Wrap it down and around over the latch and velcro or snap into place. Or attach it through your racks with hammer on snaps. (sort of like a hinge) Snaps are available in heavy duty for tarps etc...

    Love making something out of nothing - and thankfully there are an abundance of thrift stores in Denver to supply my creative larks.

    Oh! I just realized hard plastic coolers would work great too, and they would be waterproof. Just put a toolbox hasp on to lock them up. You could paint to match your bike. A friend of mine "dumpster dives" and has a garage full of cool junk to build stuff with. Check your local apartment complex at the end of the month when people are moving out...

    Oh, I'm gonna love this website. :D Thanks guys

    3 replies

    I was looking for a unique way to have saddlebags on my bike; I was thinking the same thing about the train cases... thanks for the encouragement!

    I was thinking about getting frames built (like what some hard bags sit on) so they would look 'installed' rather than hung on.

    Hey thanks for a great comment!

    For the waterproofing problem on my toolboxes I just hot glued the holes from the inside-out and it's working pretty well so far. Not to mention it's a cheap alternative to doing all this fancy stuff with fabrics and such which I'd never be very good at haha

    Awesome tutorial for frugalites. Before I found my bags I thought about using some battery boxes as bags. I had looked at an aluminum suitcase from H.F. and even a small small pair of hard shell Luggage bags. Even some fold out bicycle wire baskets.

    Maybe a couple of U bolts for the frame would help the pipe clamps situation.

    I was going to build an A frame out of wood to slip under my bike to keep it upright out of a few 2x4's. Something flat I could just stand-flip-up and tie to the bike. To keep it from toppling over. That could be a solution to the tipping over problem,

    Great McGuyver for the bike!

    That's unfortunate about your bike being toppled like that, I think the center stand would make it more likely to topple though. My bike has both, and I only use the center stand if I'm doing maintenance or some such and need the bike to be level. The center stand(on my bike) has a narrower stance and raises center of gravity. I'm always afraid if I leave it that way my dog will manage to knock it over. Just my 2 cents.

    One of my toolboxes is the same as the one used by Kamiana8. Not a good choice. They leak through the handle attachments.

    1 reply

    It does have a tendency to leak through the handle and I think the fabric my uncle bought just might remedy the issue. I'll be adding it to the end of this instructable as soon as we figure out how to sew and secure it over the toolbox.

    Nice idea!

    I did a similar thing 25-30 years ago, and put a motorcycle topbox on a very badly homemade bike rack. It didn't last long, as I was permanently overloading it. Eventually the rack collapsed, taking me down and cracking the topbox beyond repair (at that time - I might have been able to resurrect it nowadays) on the road. Still...

    One question - I have some similar-looking toolboxes to yours, but the rain gets in through the point where the handles join the lids - do you have a way to solve that?

    3 replies

    daaang, a motorcycle accident? I guess we have something in common now.

    As far as waterproofing it, my best idea right now is to grab some kind of water-repellent-type fabric that would fit over the toolbox (think "umbrella") and sew on a drawstring; this should allow you to seal it shut and in theory, keep the water out.

    I'm trying to work on this solution myself since I totally understand your problem as I had water collect in my toolbox before. At that time it was dark and I was too tired to get upset or fix it so I just drilled a 1/16" hole through the bottom of the toolbox and drained the water haha I'm much more adamant on finding a solution now and I look forward to posting my results.

    Oops! - Slight misunderstanding there (my bad!) - it was actually a pushbike, not a motorbike.

    And the mopre I think about waterproofing the toolboxes, the harder it is to see a solution that won't end up costing more than the boxes, themselves (though it should still work out cheaper than buying something new).

    For now, a hole in each corner is probably best.

    excellent brilliant excellent and relativly cheap.....5/5.... 4 for giving me the idea to do something same on my Rebel....(not toolbox but little bigger) 1 for the project.....!!!!!!

    1 reply

    haha I wouldn't mind giving you a score as well. how about I give you 1 for your project, 1 posting to instructables, 1 for sending me the link, 1 for referencing my instructable and 1 for finding a conventional approach to building the mounting brackets so that I can tell "jhamilton-1" about it and try it on my bike as well? sweet deals

    I wonder if this would be a bit cleaner if you used a more conventional approach to building the mounting brackets. I love the idea of using toolboxes.

    2 replies

    haha yeah, I have no idea. The pipe clamps were the best I could come up with since I wanted to be able to un-mount the whole assembly when I had the need to do so. looking forward to your suggestions

    Then consider webbed strapping with the quick release closures. You could even have one end of the closure permanently on the bike and the other permanently on the rack. The only problem I haven't figure out yet is how to make that theft proof. I'll keep thinking.

    google translate gave me

    "You can not be more groncho and pig."

    when i plugged it in .. i guess it losses something in the translation lol.