It started with a 32 degree sunny day topped by a whack of humidity. The prospect of cycling with my guitar case stuck to my back sent me searching online for other options. Turned out I was not the only one looking for a practical solution (no surprise there). But an unexpected pleasant surprise was finding an idea so obvious I couldn’t believe it didn’t occur to me before. Doh!
If you’ve used panniers (some call them saddlebags), you know they have built-in hooks to attach them to a rack on your bike. Because these hooks sometimes get wrecked, stores sell replacement hooks — perfect for attaching to any purse, satchel, guitar case, bin or whatever you want to hook securely onto your rack. One person simply used chain quick snaps from a hardware store while another used basic sturdy metal hooks or coated j-hooks. (Measure first to ensure they fit your rack.)
Now the only catch is that you need a hard guitar case to do this. Plus if you have a full size guitar, it can become a bit of a visual obstruction when you’re shoulder checking. Or there might be an issue with clearance if your heel hits the case when pedalling. (Some suggest using a bike trailer but I would be concerned about the bouncing around on our pothole-laden streets.)
Given that I have a small guitar and a softer case, as a quick solution I ended up laying the guitar lengthwise on the rear rack of my bike and securing it with bungee cords. It seems to work fine and I must say it’s wonderful not to have the guitar on my back.
I’m still considering getting a hard case and securing the hooks on an angle to avoid the visibility issue. But beyond that, I’m more excited to find a great bag to turn into a pannier — thrift shops here I come!
The thing about most panniers is that they’re designed for cycle-touring rather than commuting. Carrying them around by the loop handle is awkward and really hard on the fingers.
Now it’s possible to buy panniers that look more like purses or shopping bags with comfier handles and more attractive design but the options are still somewhat limited. Plus I love the idea of having a pannier that no one else has.
My favourite find was this link from bikinginheels — I particularly like her addition of a brass stabilizer bar inside the leather bag to provide shape and sturdiness. Find more DIY pannier examples on Instructables.com.