Self made panniers

Posted on Posted in Gear

I was travelling with Crosso bicycle bags for few years, which performed very well. Some time ago I decided to buy more practical bags dedicated to motorcycles. I hesitated between Wolfman Expedition Dry Saddle Bags and Magadan Penniers. However, the price was terrific and the only way to get bags like this was sewing my own panniers.


My requirements:

  1. Volume 30l per bag
  2. Panniers consist of external and internal bags
  3. Internal bag can be taken out without demounting external one from the racks
  4. Both bags have to be waterproof
  5. External pockets: one for 2l fuel can and the other for 2l water bottle.
  6. External bag scratch resistant..

My main inspiration were Magadan Pannies, therefore designed bags look pretty simillar to them. The design was transformed into three dimensional model and demanded quantity of textile was calculated.

The choice of textile for external bags was obvious: Cordura, to be more precise Cordura 1000D. It fulfills all requirements. I bought Cordura from the USA to avoid Chinese fakes.  It is coated version of Cordura, which makes it water repellent.

Fabric has to be sewed with strong thread. I’ve chosen polyester one called TYTAN (titan).  Due to some websites, the needle size should be 100.

When I received Cordura, I started to copy my project on fabric. I rememberd about spare area for seams and cutting it in right places.

First step was sewing extra piece of Cordura to the bottom to make it more scratch resistant and another one, which is a flap covering bag closure and protects it from rain.

I used old household sewing machine Łucznik Predom 450. The needle in size 100 appeared to be to thin and sewing machine hadn’t managed to sew Cordura. After changing needle size to 120 it became possible to sew even 6-8 layers of fabric.

Next step was adding 50mm wide strips, which would be thrown over the seat and would carry whole weight of panniers. Then I stitched another strips, which would compress bags and mount it to the racks and next ones to secure external pockets.

It was time to make pockets. I designed them to be big enough, so 2l bottle and fuel could fit in. Back pocket has a flap, which covers its inlet. Front pocket is without any cover, which makes it more accesible during ride. Both pockets were pimped with reflective strips to increase visibility. Side walls of each pocket have holes for stripes, which mount bags to the racks. This allows to mount bags without squeezing things in pockets. Two loops were stitched to the front wall of each pocket. The stripes would be leaded through them, so they would stay in place and hold things inside securely.

I stitched the pockets on the main textile with two seams, which attached them strongly and they wouldn’t fall off.

On the back wall of each bag I placed a handle and 3 steel loops, which could be used as emergency mount for bag itself or some gear to bag.

I stitched 5 loops with steel wire inside around each bag. The loops would hold Lifeventure Sliding Cable Lock on place and secure bags. The steel wire protects agains cutting the loop and makes it impossible to quickly open or remove bags from racks. It is still possible to cut out fabric around the loops and steel things, but I hope my solution will slow a thief down.

After stitching all elements on main fabric it was time to join walls together. I decied to use felled seam, which is one of the strongest. Then I attached a strap and buckles around the inlet and made a roll-top closure.

The inner bags were made of light, waterproof and bright fabric. They are 1 cm smaller in each direction than outside bags to make it easy to put them inside. The walls are connected with felled seam and roll-top closure was made.

The final stage of making bags was sealing all seams of external and internal bags to make them 100% waterproof. I used special tape, which was ironed on all the seams.

I copied Wolfman Universal Saddlebag Straps and used it as side mouting system. The mouts were made of 3mm aluminum, 20mm straps and plastic adjusters. Single mount is very strong. I cannot rip it off with my hands. Therefore 4 mouts per bag should keep bags tightly even of rough roads.

The result:

After 4000km the bags appeared to be very spacious, practical and completely waterproof. I rode 500km in rain and the inner bags were absolutely dry, so the external bags make the job perfectly. The side mounts coped with bags weight and don’t need to be readjusted even after 2000km.


  • Cordura 3yards. 190 PLN (including shipping from the USA)
  • Oxford fabric 2meters 40 PLN
  • Thread TYTAN 2000m 30 PLN (I used 1/3 of it)
  • Buckles 126PLN
  • Straps and others 66,83 PLN
  • Aluminium 3mm 17 PLN
  • Adjusters and needles 23 PLN
  • Reflective tape 8,2PLN
  • Sealing tape 185PLN
  • Velcro, adjusters, loops 25 PLN

In total: 711,03 zł. (around $188)

I still have remanings of some stuff and I am planning to use them to make a tool roll and a cover for my stove. To sum up the prices of Magadan Panniers, Wolfam mounts, Kriega tool roll it appears I managed to save up a lot of money :)


16 thoughts on “Self made panniers

  1. Looks great! I’ve been thinking about something along those lines. If Cordura is good enough for our riding gear then why not luggage? Relatively light too. Have you got a rack on your bike or are they connected to the subframe?

    1. Thank you! I use a custom made rack. I made it of 8mm smooth rebars. It is light and strong enough to survive small drops and was extremely cheap ($5) :)

  2. Hi!
    Thanks for this, I have been looking for something similar for some time now. I have a problem accessing the design though, do someone else have the same problem?

  3. Hi maciek. I cant seem to have the same problem accessing the diagrams for the bag designs. Can you please email me as well. I’d love to try make them as well for my ktm

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