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Equipping the Bike - what's the best gear? Anything to do with the bikes equipment, saddlebags, etc. Questions on repairs and maintenance of the bike itself belong in the Brand Specific Tech Forums.
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Old 13 Jun 2001
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Making aluminium panniers

Anyone got any experience of making their own aluminium panniers that they would care to pass on. A sheet of aluminium looks very cheap compared with ready made panniers and anyway I like a challenge !


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Old 14 Jun 2001
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I just purchased my first set of hard panniers - a set aluminum boxes from www.Happy-Trail.com. I was surprised at how simple the construction appears - basically an aluminum box with a rubber-sealed lid that has clasps that allow padlocking.

My understanding is that these are your concerns:
1) Durability - sorry to point out the obvious, but I would check to see what grade of aluminum is used in the high quality boxes and how the welds are done. You really wouldn't want the welds to crack open out in the middle of the desert, dumping your gear out everywhere.
2) Being water tight and Dust-proof - make sure of this - it's no fun having all your gear soggy and dirty after a long day. My boxes require holes to be drilled in them, but I'm using rubber washers where bolts go through them so that they remain dust & water proof.
3) you should mount them so that they're easily and quickly removable - and you should consider how you're going to pack all of your gear so that you can make a good decision about how you want your lids to open.

I think if you can ensure the above, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to make yourself a decent set of panniers. Just be sure to test them on a few weekend rides before you set out on something substantial.

Best of luck,

Wright Bagwell

Wright Bagwell
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Old 15 Jun 2001
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I made some Ally panniers for anXT600 tenere.
I ve used them across Aus and around NZ, crash tested and still going!
Hardest thing was making the racks, but its all possible......
I still have them and all the dimensions/plans etc
I had sliding lids,and they were made to carry a 10 litre plastic jerry can each and accomodate a pillions feet for NZ
If you want more info email

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[This message has been edited by Grant Johnson (edited 10 February 2002).]
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Old 18 May 2006
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I recently saw someone who had used army ammunition boxes, to make his panniers. They needed a bit of customizing, but they had proved strong, and cheap... Pretty strong stuff.
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Old 18 May 2006
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saw someone using large metal jerry cans with the top cut of, a strip welded in around the cut to form a lip, and some clasps bolted on for padlocks - very strong, very cheap and a nice look too
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Old 18 May 2006
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For more on making panniers, see:

Grant Johnson
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Inspiring, Informing and Connecting travellers since 1997!
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Old 18 May 2006
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i got a how-to for making your own panniers. haven't made any yet, but the how-to looks good.

unfortunately in GERMAN only.

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Old 26 May 2006
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Wink wooden panniers

I met a guy from New Zealand with an Africa twin while travilling in southern Chile, he had made wooden panniers, two on the back and two on the front, he swore by them, he said that they were water proof and quite strong i have to admit they were well made, but with a red bike and white panniers he looked like an advert for the red cross, a nice guy. Skip
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Old 1 Jun 2006
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I had what i thought was a rather good idea regarding making panniers. I looked at propper job ones, but they seem kind of expensive for a piece of alliminium with a few folds and rivets in. i had a bit of look round to see what else was pannier shaped and found some steel ex army ammo cases and only a tenner each. downside was they were nearly 15kg each!!!!
so then i thought, why not just buy the army cases and cut a square out of each face, leaving half an inch or so round the edge. then just cut some sheets of alluminium to fit so they overlap around the edge and rivet them in place. that way you have a heavy weight alluminium pannier with a steel framework so it should be pretty bombproof. get it powder coated and it should be pretty water tight aswell as it says the lids are. i haven't researched this any further than looking at pictures of ammo cases and dreaming whilst i should have been working, but feel free to add constructive critisism.
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Old 1 Jun 2006
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That sounds like a bloody good idea! I've been toying with the idea of making my own ali panniers, you may have just saved me a lot of head scratching! Nice 1. Reckon they should come out fairly light providing some thin ish ali is used. I can't see the need for thick stuff as all the strength will be in the steel frame. Don't you love it when a good idea comes into your head!
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Old 13 Jun 2006
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SKIP mentioned wooden panniers, using a stitch and glue method any shape is possible with plywood. The joins are made inside using glass fibre strip and resin, the outer joins are rounded off and glassed as the inside making a very strong join. The lid could be made lockable with padlocks, and be virtually water tight. Finish off the boxes with the colour paint of your choice, even silver to look like alloy, cheap enough.
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Old 14 Jun 2006
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This wooden pannier thing is genius!
I made a stitch and glue canoe when I was a lad and it was extraordinarily light and perfectly strong. The plywood I made it with was special 'Marine Ply' which differs from normal ply in ways I'm not sure of but as it is designed for boat construction I'd imagine the glues are waterproof etc. Might be good stuff for pannier construction.
As to finish I think I'd have to use clear marine varnish! How different would you look cruising around with a set of beautiful, natural wood boxes on your bike!


*Disclaimer* - I am not saying my bike is better than your bike. I am not saying my way is better than your way. I am not mocking your religion/politics/other belief system. When reading my post imagine me sitting behind a frothing pint of ale, smiling and offering you a bag of peanuts. This is the sentiment in which my post is made. Please accept it as such!
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Old 13 Oct 2007
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link for alluminium panniers

There is a useful link here, it is in Italian but it contains pictures:

Borse in alluminio per moto autocostruite (Sahara.it)

use your keyboard's arrow keys to scroll the page if u are using Mozilla Firefox, the site is an Italian "mini" HU.

I am building my own panniers on the same style plus rack for my XTZ660 3YF, will post some pics soon along with instructions, I am using 2mm thick allu sheets and 3x3cm "Ls", no welding, the major problem at the moment is how to make them 100% waterproof.
Will keep posting.

Regards to all.

... and Nelly The Elephant packed the trunk and said goodbye to the circus...

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Old 13 Oct 2007
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Originally Posted by alexpezzi View Post
I am using 2mm thick allu sheets and 3x3cm "Ls", no welding, the major problem at the moment is how to make them 100% waterproof.
Will keep posting.

Regards to all.

Use 'Sikaflex', it's what they use in the auto industry, this stuff sticks better than nuts and bolts, and is 200% waterproof
Try here TSW-Comsat

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Old 13 Oct 2007
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I was going to suggest a thin layer of rubber/neoprene/whatever between both sheets, along the length of the joint, prior to riviting them.
But I since read Trophymick's post and like the idea of an applied adhesive/sealant as well - if it has some flexibility.

The problem with both methods is what happens if there are extreme forces applied - like falling, an accident or using the box as a support for other activities such as wheel removal.

Please report your progress. I am most interested at I am close to buying a set of Metal Mules which look, feel and are reported as superb, but they do cost a lot compared with the raw materials. Maybe there is no shortcut to knowhow, but it seems sence to explore alternatives..
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