Bucket brigade

The looks I got… I mean, is it really that odd for me to ask a bunch of co-workers first if they have a cat at home, and second, what kind of kitty litter they buy? Granted, folks know I love me some dogs and am rather meh on cats. And when folks would inevitably ask me why I wanted to know, I had to sheepishly admit I was in search of square plastic buckets, to turn into found-material panniers to hang on my bike’s new cargo rack. (It’s all thanks to plans by Brian Huntley, aka Crazy Guy on a Bike. Which, I mean, I hate to break it to him, but there’s more than one.)

Never did find the right kitty litter. But my buddy Jeff ponied up a few empty rectangular buckets he got with some pool chemicals. I think he was happy to find a home for them. They’d been laying around his house somewhere, to the chagrin of his wife, Dawn. To hear Jeff tell it, they had this conversation a couple of times:

Dawn: Why are you keeping all those empty buckets?

Jeff: <shrugs>

Dawn: Why don’t you throw them out?

Jeff: <shrugs>

Anyway, Jeff’s indecision and/or laziness was my gain. After a few rinses, I was satisfied they’d do the job, if I could mimic that Crazy Guy’s hack.

The good news is, this pannier system works great with the style of rack I built a couple weeks ago. The bad news is, I spaced the wood slats in my rack too close to the metal edge to accept the hooks I’d be attaching to the buckets. So I needed to fix the rack before I could affix the buckets. That meant taking it all apart, which I did warily. There were 24 washers all up in there as spacers. It wasn’t cakework to put it all together the first time, and I didn’t relish the thought of having to do it again. But I didn’t really have a choice, as:

  • I needed to add two more braces to the rack to keep it from pivoting under weight. This I discovered about halfway to work the first day I tried to commute with the rack. I ended up walking the bike home, changing clothes and driving to work. So, a sad day.
  • I needed more space between the wood slats to be able to properly fit bungees on the rack, too.
  • I wanted to stain the wood to give it a more elegant look. Because elegance is important on a commuter bike, ya know?

It was a few hours of work, ripping those little boards, easing the edges with sandpaper, cutting the new bracing, re-positioning the old bracing, re-threading all those washers, plus a few more to add more space. But the end result looked great. (That’s it in the photo above.) Then it was onto the bucket panniers. This was the easiest part of the job. A little careful carving with an X-Acto knife, a little drilling for the hooks (technically rope cleats), and I was done. Jeff gave me three buckets, in case I needed one to practice on. But I nailed it on the first try. So now I have to come up with a creative use for that third bucket. Meanwhile, I’m starting to decorate the buckets with bumper stickers and ready to tote home all the butternut squash the bike can carry.

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