Category Archives: Bike Crafts

Bike Crafts: Panniers from Reusable Grocery Bags

When you want answers, go to a librarian. They don’t know everything, but they know how to find out about everything. Even in the internet age, librarians have the Google-fu to get the information to get the job done, quickly and accurately. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that librarian Emily already had project plans for making bike panniers when she asked me to help at a Shop by Bike program at the Mountain View Library.

After Dick & I lead a discussion on how to get started shopping by bike (with our bikes as assistants), Emily launched into the craft portion of the workshop. By taking two standard reusable grocery bags and doing some snipping, stitching, gluing and tying, the crafty folks in the group went home with a pair of inexpensive but effective panniers. They turned out pretty impressive for about $5 in materials and 30 minutes of work.

A small tie or ponytail band can be used hold the outer handles in place for security.

Emily shared her instructions with me so that I could share them with you. The finished result will fit almost any bike with a standard rear rack with a platform top and a supporting frame on both sides of the wheel.

Materials & Equipment

  • 2 reusable fabric grocery bags
  • 2 pieces of flexible but sturdy plastic, cut to fit upright inside the bags
  • Scissors, straight pins, tape measure or ruler (optional)
  • Sewing machine
  • Hot glue gun
  • 1 or 2 small bungee cords

Step by Step Instructions (click on photos for close-ups)

There are lots of suggestions for modifying or improving this project on this bike forum.

Have you ever crafted your own bike panniers or bags? If so, how did you do it? What would you change in your next iteration of the design?


Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Bike Crafts


Bike Crafts: Decorations to Keep the Holidays Rolling

In late January years ago I visited my friend Molly at her flat in Brooklyn, New York. As we strolled through her neighborhood I noticed that rowhouse after rowhouse was decorated for Valentine’s Day: red electric lights, heart cut-outs in the windows and roses. “It starts at Halloween,” Molly explained, “and then it’s Thanksgiving and Christmas, then it keeps going to Valentine’s, St Patrick’s and Easter. It’s a Carroll Gardens tradition.”

While I have always decorated for Christmas, I chuckled at the over-the-top holiday exuberance. But that was before I bought my city bikes. Now it seems I’m weaving streamers and mounting lights on my bikes with every holiday, including pseudo-holidays like Superbowl Sunday. I guess my bikes bring out the kid in me.

SF 49ers

The decorations don’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but they have to stay on when the bike is moving without endangering the rider. So far I have 100% success in that department, unless you count ripping the crepe paper woven in my spokes when pumping my tires.

While decorating a bike is like a kid’s craft project where almost anything goes, here are my top tips:

  • For virtually free decorations, grab images off the internet and scale and print them on card stock.
  • If you shop at a party store, set a budget before you go in. It’s easy to overspend.
  • If you ride after dark, battery operated lights punch up whatever else you do.
  • Zip ties are the #1 way to attach things, but sticky backed Velcro, rubber bands and ordinary tape work too.

If you want the full how-to and great ideas, check out Sophie’s 12 Ways to Gussy Your Bike. Need a reason to decorate after Valentine’s, St Patrick’s and Easter? Cycle SF is having a costume contest on April 28 as part of their organized ride on vehicle-free streets around San Francisco.

What’s the best bike decoration theme you’ve seen? What’s the most innovative or unusual decoration you’ve added to your bike?

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Posted by on February 7, 2013 in Bike Crafts

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