TB Designs Panniers

Instructions for Making Your Own Panniers

by Scott Shurlow (TurkeyBacon), June 12, 2005.


Anatomy of the design:

This design originated from a touring trip that never materialized. I had a rack but no panniers, so I was going to strap stuff sacks directly to the racks. From that idea, this design came about. The directions given here are after a few reworkings of the original. The original used a saddlebag design, but this design used nylon straps to secure the panniers to the bike rack. The basic principal of the design is that a stuff sack sits within a "pannier body" that firmly holds the stuff sack to the rack. Instead of a full back-plate, these panniers use two aluminum stays and strong attachment points to keep the panniers from loosing shape. The three main advantages of this design are that (1) it is incredibly convenient at camp to remove the stuff sacks and leave the pannier bodies attached to the bike (2) the design could be made waterproof with commercial dry bags or a healthy dose of seam sealer and (3) the design is incredibly lightweight. The main disadvantage is the attachment system. I have tested the design and it holds very tight to the bike with no wobbles what so ever. Its just not that easy to take on and off. This is a minor complaint as the pannier body stays attached and the stuff sacks come off easily. Adding commercially available hooks can be easily done. Arkel and Ortleib hooks are both available without bags. I chose to use the nylon webbing to keep weight down, to keep the design completely original and I ran out of spending money. The name TB Designs is kind of an inside joke and I am not associated with any company or organization. Im just proud of my hobby.

My sewing techniques:

I have developed many personal techniques to building gear and my directions will probably reflect this. Feel free to modify the patterns or designs in any way possible to suit your needs. These directions are merely suggestions and you should change them to suit your needs.

Contacting me:

If you have questions about building your own pair of pannier based on my design then feel free to contact me via email at sashurlow@hotmail.com.

The pictures versus the directions:

The panniers used in the pictures use different materials then the directions in a few instances. The pictures use inch webbing and 1 inch gross grain ribbon. The top stay is 1 inch but the bottom is inch. When I bought the materials, I was not planning on adding after market hooks to my panniers, but have since come to the conclusion that most people would prefer this option. One inch aluminum will work better for adding hooks. When deciding on widths, match the width of your webbing to the width of the bottom aluminum stay.


After making the latest version of the panniers, I was quite impressed with the weight. Using packcloth and something similar to 1.9 oz coated nylon the total weight came out to 24 oz/1 lb. 8 oz (700 gr.) for both panniers. The stuff sacks were 3.75 oz (110 g) each and the pannier bodies were 8.25 oz (350 g) each. The design has proven to be very durable, so I do not feel that it is too light weight. If a gram counter wanted to, the design could be made lighter weight yet.


The two basic fabrics used are packcloth for the pannier body and a lightweight material (1.9 oz coated nylon or silnylon for light weight or oxford nylon for a heavier weight). There are many online sources available to buy these fabrics. I use gross grain ribbon to attach buckles. Gross grain is easier for home machines to sew through. If I were making commercial products, however, I would use webbing to attach buckles. I do not know the costs of this project, as my fabrics are either remnants from other projects or recycled from an old tent. An excellent list of fabric sources and general sewing knowledge can be found at the following website: http://www.specialtyoutdoors.com/tips/sources.asp

Materials list:

Packcloth: 1 yard

Lightweight fabric (as noted above): 1.5 yards

(Both fabric amounts are assuming a fabric width of 60 inches.)

1 inch flat weave nylon webbing: 10 yards

Gross grain ribbon or additional webbing: 78 inches or 2.5 yards

Paracord or draw cord: 5 yards

3/16 inch Shock cord: 3 feet

1 inch hook and loop fastener (Velcro): 4 inches

1/8 x 1 inch x 3 foot aluminum strip (available at Lowes, Home Depot or your local hardware store)

Plastics: All 1 inch width

Side release buckles: 18

Loop-locs: 2

Tri glides: 4

Cordlocks: 2


All the pattern dimensions include a inch seam and are given in inches.

Light weight fabric:

Pattern A (stuff sack body) 32 x 27 needs 2 pieces

Pattern B (stuff sack lid) 18 x 10 needs 2 pieces


Pattern C (back) 10 x 15 needs 2 pieces

Pattern D (front) 13 x 8.5 needs 2 pieces, see figure below for exact dimensions

Pattern E (bottom) 15 x 8 needs 2 pieces

Pattern F (aluminum holder: bottom) 3 x 13 needs 2 pieces

Pattern G (aluminum holder: top) 3.5 x 13 needs 2 pieces


Length a (stuff sack strap) 15 inches, needs 8

Length b (lower side strap) 16 inches, needs 4

Length c (upper side strap) 11 inches, needs 4

Length d (top strap) 20 inches, needs 2

Length e (attachment strap) 7 inches, needs 4

Length f (attachment strap) 3 inches, needs 4

Length g (suspension) 2.25 inches, needs 16

Length h (gross grain for attaching buckles) 3 inches, needs 18

Length i (gross grain for attaching cord) 7 inches, needs 4

Draw cord: 48 inches by 2 pieces; 36 inches by 2 pieces; 3 inches by 4 pieces

Shock cord: 18 inches by 2 pieces

Hook and loop fastener: 2 inches of both sides by 2 pieces

Aluminum: 9 inches by 4 pieces


Stuff Sack:

1. Hem top edge of pattern A (the 36 inch side). With insides facing out, sew along bottom and side edge up to 2 inches from the top.

  1. Fold over remaining side hems and sew along edge. See the picture below. Fold over the top edge and sew along hemmed edge until a 1 inch sleeve for the cord results. Reinforce the ends.
  2. The next step is not hard to sew, but confusing to describe. Fold a bottom corner until the side seam and bottom seam are overlapping. When the resulting perpendicular line becomes 6 inches long, draw a line at this point perpendicular to the seams. Pins may come in useful. Cut the corner off inch from the line towards the corner. Insert 2 pieces of webbing "a" on either side with the long sides facing outside the stuff sack. Stitch along the line drawn securing the webbing into the seam. Reinforce the webbing. See the picture below.


4. Do step 3 to the opposite corner and turn right side out.

5. Insert 36 inch cord through top sleeve and secure with a cordlock and a knot.

  1. Hem all sides of pattern B. Secure 4 side release buckles with gross grain "h" in all corners. Thread webbing "a" through the buckles.
  2. Finishing touches include folding over ends of webbing "a" and stitching to prevent the straps from coming out of buckles. If water resistance is desired, coat the side and bottom seams with seam sealer.
  3. Perform steps 1-7 to create the other stuff sack.

Pictures of finished product.


Pannier Body:

  1. Hem short sides of pattern E. Line up pattern E and pattern C such that he center of the long side of E and the center of the short side of C meet. Sew together patterns C and E. Pattern E will wrap around to the sides of pattern C. Finnish the side hems up both sides of pattern C.
  2. Suspension:
  3. Pin a piece of webbing across the back of pattern C 5 inches from the center of the webbing to the bottom edge of pattern C. This piece is simply a guide and will be removed later. Evenly space 8 pieces of webbing "g" across the temporary webbing. Pins will make this easier. Sew the strips of "g" such that a piece of webbing can freely move through (1/4 on either side of the webbing). Remove the temporary piece of webbing and reinforce the stitching. See the picture below. You may notice in the picture that there are 10 pieces of webbing instead of 8. This is because I am using inch webbing instead of 1 inch webbing.

  4. Hem all edges of pattern D except the 6 inch sections along the bottom of the sides and the bottom edge. Line up pattern E and pattern D such that he center of the long side of E and the center of the short side of D meet. Sew together patterns D and E and finish hemming the sides of pattern D. Pattern E will wrap around to the sides of pattern D.
  5. Hem the long edges of pattern F. Evenly fold both ends of pattern F over an aluminum stay. It will be useful to sew along the edges to enclose the aluminum into pattern F. Line pattern F up with the opposite side of the suspension straps of pattern C (this in the inside of the pannier). Sew along the same stitch lines used in securing the suspension straps. A zipper foot may be needed on your sewing machine to allow you to sew close to the sides of the aluminum stay. See the picture below.

  7. Hem one long side of pattern G. Evenly fold the ends of pattern G over the other aluminum stay. Sew the hemmed edges so that the stay is partially enclosed in pattern G. With the outsides of pattern G and pattern C facing each other, sew them together. Fold over pattern G so that insides are facing each other and sew another stitch line inch from the top. Sew the aluminum stay securely onto pattern C. A zipper foot will be useful in securing the stay tightly. See the picture below.
  8. Attach a piece of webbing "d" to the center of the top edge of pattern C. Attach a piece of webbing "c" to either side of pattern C 3 inches from the top edge.
  9. Attach 3 side release buckles with gross grain "h" to the upper point on pattern D and at the upper edge of the strait section on the sides. See the picture below and to the left.
  10. On the upper side points of pattern D secure the buckles with one piece of gross grain "h" and layer a piece of gross grain "i" over the buckle. Fold this free loop of gross grain "i" over the top of pattern D so that it facing the center of pattern D and stitch it in place. See the picture below and to the left. Secure a piece of loop of 3 inch cord 2 inches from the front side of the top of pattern E. See the picture below and to the right. These loops of cord and gross grain will be threaded with the 48 inch piece of cord and supply an outside attachment system to hold things like clothing or jackets. More importantly, they will secure the sides of pattern E so that the back of your shoe can not catch them during pedal rotations. See pictures of the finished product.
  11. Attach a loop-lock to the end of a piece of webbing "b". On another piece of webbing "b" attach the hook and loop strips to that the end of webbing "b" can connect with itself. See the picture below.
  12. Attachment of webbing "e" and "f". Please read this entire step before attaching anything. The process of attaching these pieces of webbing is as follows. Secure one end of webbing "e" to the inch of fabric above the aluminum stay. Secure a tri glide with webbing "f" below aluminum stay in line with the piece of webbing "e" attached above. Where to place webbing "e" and "f". The webbing is used to attach the panniers to the bike rack. Mine are being designed to fit on an Old Man Mountain Ultimate Low Rider front rack. Therefore, the webbing will be 6.5 inches apart (as given by OMM to fit their racks). For increased heal clearance on a rear pannier, attach the straps towards one end of the pannier. The placement of these straps can be made to custom fit your personal bike rack. If you desire, a commercially available hook system can be use as well. Arkel makes an excellent system that would work very well with these panniers. To do so, do not attach webbing "e" or "f" and drill the appropriate holes into the aluminum stay to secure the hooks.
  13. Thread webbing "c" and "d" through the buckles. Webbing "b" will be threaded after fitting it to the rack. Sew tips back to secure webbing to buckles on webbing "c" and "d" but not "b" or "e".
  14. Follow steps 1-11 to make the other pannier body.

Attaching the panniers to your rack:

Top attachment points.

Loop webbing "e" around the bike rack and back towards the tri glide. Thread the webbing through the tri glide and then loop it back upwards and loop it under the upper bar on the tri glide. This is called double backing in the climbing world and used in attaching harnesses. See the following pictures. In the picture below and to the left, the bottom loop is double backed but not pulled tight. The top loop is threaded through the tri glide but not double backed. In the picture below and to the right both sides are double backed.

Bottom attachment points.

Find the appropriate spot for your pannier to sit on your rack such that your heals will not catch the panniers during pedaling. Secure the sides of webbing "b" with the loop lock and hook and loop. Make the hook and loop face the pannier instead of the rows of webbing "g". Thread webbing "b" over the bike rack legs and through the various webbing "g" to make a secure fit. Make a loop with the shock cord and thread it through one piece of webbing "g" and secure it to the bottom of the bike rack. To take off the panniers, unhook the shock cord and remove webbing "b" with the hook and loop, leaving it threaded through the rows of webbing "g". See pictures. In the picture below everything is attached and tight.

Pack the panniers, ride and repeat. Happy trails.

Scott Shurlow (TurkeyBacon, NoBo Appalachian Trail 2002)

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