Bike Bucket DIY

Several folks have asked about how to make bike buckets, and as luck would have it I've had occasion to make another pair, so here are the step-by-step photos I didn't get last time.
This project has got to be the easiest DIY project ever ~seriously, my dog could do it if he had thumbs. Basically, you slap a couple hooks on a reclaimed plastic bucket and go. It is quite nearly impossible to mess up, and I bet they would work even if you did, but you asked for specific instructions, and you shall have them.

In addition to being easy, Bike Buckets are also the ultimate commuting tool: perfect for carrying clothes, groceries ~almost anything. Here, at last, is a way to pick up berries, bananas, and yogurt on your bike, and not have an accidental smoothie when you arrive home!

The hardware for my pair of buckets cost me about $10 (this included packages of nuts and bolts that have left me with an ample surplus for other projects). The buckets themselves may cost you a couple bucks as well, depending on where you get them, however, given that a "pre-fab" pair from a bike shop will set you back about $50, it is well worth the $10 to make your own.

For each pair you will need:
2 buckets (check your local food co-op or restaurant for cast-offs)
4 coat hooks or utility hooks
2 “S” hooks
bungee cords, or other other elastic devices
nuts, bolts, and washers

A drill makes fast work of the project, but you can easily work around it's absence if you don't have one. Likewise, a utility knife and measuring device of some sort come in handy. The buckets are available from almost any co-op, restaurant or other food-service outfit (they are used for bulk peanut butter, tahinni, honey, etc.); you can also use kitty litter buckets, as I did.

Hold the bucket against the rack on your bike (you will need to have some kind of rack on your bike to carry buckets) There is really no right or wrong placement, just a matter of personal preference. Mark your chosen location for the hooks on the bucket with a sharpie pen.

In my case, I wanted the bucket lids to rest just above the edge of my rack, getting things to line up the way I wanted them to required cutting a couple of notches in one of the ridges circling the bucket: this is where the utility knife comes in! This photo shows the notches cut and hooks installed.

Making the second bucket goes quick: line up the two buckets and use the holes you have drilled in the first bucket as a template for drilling the holes on the second.

Don't forget to attach the washers and nuts inside --that's important! Here you see the bolts nutted and the knots knotted. If you plan to load down the buckets with text books, tools, buckets of paint, etc. you may want to reinforce the bucket by putting in a metal plate (the hardware store will have pre-drilled plates)

Now you need to attach the elastic strap and hook that will keep your buckets from bouncing off. It's so simple: pop a couple of small holes or slits in the bucket, thread a bungee cord or inner tube through, add an "S" hook, and your good to go. I got fancy and put the holes under the "lip" of the bucket, but don't stress out, you can put 'em just about anywhere. I also went all-out by installing a horizontal strap, just like they put on the official bike shop bike buckets, that the "S" hook strap passes under before attaching to the rack. It reduces "wiggling", especially with heavier loads, and generally keep things more secure, but is not essential.

The "S" hook strap, on the other hand, is essential: it hooks to the bottom of your bike's rack and keeps the buckets from bouncing off. Having threaded the inner tubes (or whatever you are using) through the holes in the bucket, tie them off (If you feel uncertain about how long to make your stretchy straps, leave yourself some slack behind the knots, so you can make adjustments later if need be), hook the "S" hooks onto the strap and use a wrench to tighten it on a bit. easy-peasy. Looks something like this when your done.


steve said...

Wow, nice walkthrough! Have you had any problems with the plastic cracking in the cold in winter?

Tuco said...

I saw a guy recently who'd taken a double kitchen sink(s), made out of steel probably, and somehow attached it/them to his back rack.

I also recently saw a bike parked where the rider (for some reason) had stuff his front and back spokes full of bread from a french loaf!

westwind said...

Not only have I not had trouble with cracking due to cold, I have seen them survive being thrown, along with one of my bikes, of a car mounted bike wrack during a collision. That pair was made from buckets obtained from a co-op, and that variety might be more rugged than the cat litter kind, I don't know.
When mounted over your front wheel, they must be removed before you load your bike onto a bus mounted rack, and loosing lids can be a real pain (some folks tether the lids to their buckets) other than that they are trouble free and very handy to have : )

A sink? I don't think I have the legs for that load!

Jerome said...

Hey thanks for the idea. I've got one of my bikes that's been needing something like this. Mucho Gracious!

westwind said...

Happy to help, especially if it gets folks out on their bike more

Caroline said...

I have one bucket made, and I'm just waiting for the next empty cat litter bucket to finish the pair. I set the hooks on mine (rope clamps, I think they were called at the hardware store) so that the bucket lids make a flat surface when in use, with the top of my rear rack in the center. (I don't have a front rack.) Thanks for the play-by-play! Your method is only slightly different than mine, and has some great ideas!

Anonymous said...

awesome! Thanks for taking the time to write a step-by-step!
I've been looking for this all over the web.

Anonymous said...

If anybody lives near Syosset, New York, I've got quite a few kitty litter buckets sitting in my garage. You can have them if you are willing to pick them up! E-mail me at

Unknown said...

Good design. I've built them using a bungee cord that is hooked into the plastic extrusion near the top of the bucket at one end and to the bike at the other. I found that design also on the net, but I like your design better.

The bottom strap is to keep the bucket from swinging or bouncing outward on bumps. In the bucket I described above, after finding my bucket bouncing outward, I bolted the u-bolt portion of a cable clamp over the bungee as close as possible to the bottom knot (discarding the clamp part of the the cable clamp). Cost an additional 79 cents or so per clamp, I think. I would have purchased simple u-bolts, but could not find one small enough in the local hardware.

For visibility, I got neon orange spray paint and sprayed it in a square on the front, back and outside of each bucket. Then sprayed a glow-spray on top of that. Unfortunately it scrapes off easily. Maybe somebody has a better idea.

A friend wrote on the back of his left bucket in large letters: "3 FEET" with an arrow pointing to the left to keep cars outside the legal minimum distance.

Unknown said...

One other thing, instead of cutting into the plastic ridges, I cut some small hardwood blocks the thickness of the ridges, to raise the hooks over them. I painted some varnish onto the blocks to protect against the weather.

Commercially made buckets in Seattle use cast-off composite material of some sort from the nearby Boeing Corp. for this purpose, but my low-tech 1/4-inch thick hardwood blocks work fine. ... Whatever you have around your workshop.

Steven Vance said...

How do you fare with loaded buckets on your front wheel versus your rear wheel?

Is it easier or harder to handle and maneuver?