Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Montréal, QC (Canada)
Bikes: 2008 Surly LHT complete & 1988-ish fuglyfixed Specialized RockHopper
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I'm no expert on the subject, but here's a few thoughts:
If you want to build your own panniers (at a better price than ready-made ones), you'll probably need to figure out a proper mounting system designed with regular stuff you can buy at a hardware store. You won't have the ability to buy stuff in bulk, so you'll need to do some creative thinking and spend a few evenings walking down the aisles of hardware stores.
Also, I think if you want to go with fabric panniers, you'll have the following problems: Materials costs, and making the panniers fall well (stay against the rack, yet not go into the wheel, regardless of load, etc.). You also have to take in account the different forces that will be excerted (or is it exerced) on your bags, to make sure that the different stresses don't wear down the materials, and reinforce them properly and efficiently, without adding too much weight.
If I'd tackle that problem myself, I'd probably end up borrowing a few ideas from these
panniers, which are essentially, what you want to do, but they do it over and over, and sell them!
I'm quite sure you'll have lots of fun building that, I'm the DIY enthousiast myself so I can understand!
Good luck and keep us posted!