DIY Panniers

The price of pannier set-up’s amazed us!!

It was an easy choice for us to decide to build our own.. If you know any websites where others have done the same, please leave a comment.

Our rack designs are available here.

These are our two DIY pannier design’s..


What and which ones?

Pannier boxes for those who don’t know are boxes attached to the motorbike that can be used to store gear and equipment.

Generally these are on the side of the bike, near the back wheel or on the back of the bike above the back wheel (Top box).

In my early research into the different types that exist I noted a few things.
One, if you buy them they are really expensive and secondly there is a debate on the advantage of using either soft bags like saddle bags or hard boxes.

The argument behind the soft saddle bag type is that they are easily removed and carried, they don’t require an extensive rack system and are safer for the rider if he or she falls with the bike.

The solid boxes are said to be “leg breakersâ€� if you fall the wrong way. This said, anything stored in a secure box locked to a steel rack system on the bike is far more difficult for the opportunist to grab then grin. Its this advantage of the solid box pannier over the soft side pannier that won the debate to house my luggage through the America’s.


In theory, it should be simple. Find two boxes and stick them to the side of a motorcycle.

The box options; build two boxes or find two boxes.

The thought of building boxes seemed like more work and after a little more research I discovered that old ammunition boxes had been used previously.

EBay produced some results on ammo boxes; the only issue is that they were only available in the USA for US$20 each. The price of shipping quickly diminished this plan.

“A worthy replacement?�

A moment or many of thinking and I had the answer…

Jerry cans, fuel cans, with a quick modification would be perfect as a suitcase for such a journey. As fate would have it, another EBay search produced three slightly rusted “jerry cans� for sale in the Melbourne metro area for an eventual winning bid of 22 Australian dollars.


  1. Take two of the jerry cans and the angle grinder, create sparks and a lot of noise and remove the spout that the fuel is poured through. Then cut the handle section off in one piece as this can be used as a lid.
  2. Paint the jerry cans inside and out with some enamel paint that is designed for rusted objects. This cost about $10.
  3. To hinge the lids/handles back on I used standard door hinges and cut another 5mm slither off the lid to allow enough space for these to fit. For waterproofing I put a sheet of rubber as shown. Enough can’t be said about rivets. Drill a few holes, add a little silicone and with a rivet gun the job was complete quickly and easily. The only issue was that the drill bit broke and I pushed through my thumb,void this if possible.
  4. To cover the spout I cut some metal from the spare jerry can and stuck this down over the sheet of rubber.
  5. More silicon, and more paint, a rubber seal around the edges, add some latches and locks and my secure pannier boxes were built at the cost of $40’s and in this case some blood, sweat and two or three tears.


This design proved to be strong and durable, protecting the bike on occasions in a bust up… They were also used as a centre stand when required.

They weren’t completely waterproof but the use of plastic containers and bags kept things in order.. I found that the design appealed to locals but the added capacity that Nick was able to construct in his design was a distinct advantage, despite the added cost.

Their life ended after a month at sea in the Four Strokes of Luck project, rusted beyond repair and a gift from a fellow rider of some pelican cases was a worthy replacement.




There are a few professionally made pannier systems on the market; however, as far as I am aware, non in Australia or New Zealand. They are expensive and with international courier costs added, super expensive. All up, including locks, my panniers set me back approx $140. The main expense being the aluminium. Again, due to a very limited collection of tools, they took me a long time to build.

Design considerations:

Size, weight, shape, volume, strength, security, water proofing and mounting systems.


I constructed my panniers using 1.8mm thick aluminium sheeting and 2cm*2cm*1.8mm angle. Angle is used on all edges and pop-rivets have been used to hold it all together. I used 2 whole tubes of silicon sealant to waterproof them, running it along inside edges and between all angle and sheet joins. I also dipped each rivet head in silicon, sealing every rivet hole (god knows how many…… i went a little crazy).

I opted for 35l volumes per pannier. They stick out a long way eitherside of the bike, but no more than most of the professional models. As you can see above, I mounted them on an angle. This gives me more leg clearance and ground clearance also (when the suspension sags). The panniers sit forward more than many models, leaving no room for a pillion, but better placing weight for handling. As you can read above in my DIY rack section, four bolts hold each pannier to its frame. I riveted two U shaped peices of tubing to the back of each pannier, to help locate the pannier into the correct position on the frame for bolting.

The angles on the bottom outside edge are not for clearance during my incredible cornering, but more to prevent the panniers ‘digging in’ during a slide and ripping everything to peices.

The lids sit over the top edges nicely and secure down with hasps and padlocks (not shown in these pictures as this was done later). I also riveted downward facing hooks onto the outside edges of the panniers, to be used when strapping things on top. I used a cheap foam product to line the inside of the panniers, covering the rivet heads and giving a nice finish.


Easy to build, cheap and strong. They look great once finished with black paint (special aluminium undercoat was used).