DIY Saddle Bags

Written by kate kotler
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DIY Saddle Bags
Make a saddle bag to store a book, a bottle of soda or your keys when you're out and about. (sunset bike image by mark smith from

Whether you're a casual bicyclist or a serious bike enthusiast, you will eventually find the need for a bike saddlebag. A saddlebag (also called a pannier) is a bag or set of bags which can be mounted to your seat or over the top of the back wheel on a back rack. While commercially made saddlebags can cost upwards of £32, with some sewing know-how and a little creativity, you can make your own set for half the cost.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Mountable bike rack
  • Tape measure
  • Sewing machine
  • Box of T-pins
  • Scissors
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • T leather straps/buckles from luggage tags
  • 3 yards of vinyl material
  • Craft knife
  • 2 buckles
  • Strapping
  • Butcher paper
  • Pencil

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  1. 1

    Mount the rear bike rack to your bike following the directions on the specific packaging.

  2. 2

    Measure from the bottom of the bike rack (or where you want the first saddle bag to sit) over the top of the rack, to the other side (where the second saddle bag will sit). This will give you the total length of the bag set. Measure from the butt of the bike seat (or where your heel hits when you peddle) to the end of your bike rack. This will give you the width of your bags.

  3. 3

    Measure from where you'd like the first saddlebag to hang, over your bike rack to where the second saddle bag will hang--this will give you the total length that your saddle bags should be when completely assembled. You will need to adjust the centre of your saddlebags to fit the custom measurements of your own bike.

  4. 4

    Make a pattern comprising the following: two 12-by-10-inch back pieces; two 8-by-10-inch front pieces; two 3-by-10 inch bottom pieces; four 3-by-8 inch side pieces; and two 4-by-10 flaps rectangles. The centre piece will be a custom measurement, based on your rack.

    Add 1/2 an inch in a dotted line around all the pieces (except the centre piece and bag flaps) for the seam mark. It is also helpful to mark the pattern pieces with what they are (front, back, side, etc.) so that you do not get confused when assembling the bags later.

  5. 5

    Pin your pieces to the vinyl. You should have 11 pieces total. Cut the pieces out with scissors.

  6. 6

    Pin the bag backs to the centre piece that connects the saddle over the bike rack. The pattern side of the vinyl should be facing up and it will look like one big rectangle. Sew together using a double seam (for sturdiness) on your machine.

  7. 7

    Pin the bottom pieces and side pieces of the bags to outside edges of each back piece. The pattern side of the vinyl should be facing out/down so that it can be seen once the bag is put completely together. Sew the pieces on using a double seam on your machine.

  8. 8

    Attach the buckles to the front pieces following the manufacturer's directions. Cut 3 or 4 inches of strapping for each closure. Hammer a screw driver through the strapping at one inch intervals to make the buckle notches. Sew the strapping to the inside of each top flap so it is secure.

  9. 9

    Pin each top flap piece onto the bag just above the seam line where the centre connector meets the back of the bag. Sew the pieces onto the unit using a double seam. Pin the front pieces onto the sides/bottom pieces on each bag. Sew those seams closed so that the seam shows on the front of each bag.

  10. 10

    Put the bags over your bike rack to see where you need to connect them. Cut four small, parallel slits into the centre piece 1 inch apart. Thread the luggage tag straps through one side, around the back bar of the bike rack and up through another slit and buckle the bags into place.

Tips and warnings

  • Use reflective thread or vinyl for better visibility at night.
  • Vinyl is a difficult material to sew and you may need a industrial needle to sew it on a regular machine. Consult your machine's instruction guide before starting this project. If you are sewing by hand you can use a darning needle and a thimble to successfully sew vinyl.

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