I designed this to work with my HT racks, but it could probably be adapted to work with other types. As always, I post these projects in case someone else can use them as inspiration for their own stuff, in much the same way I did when I first got an ADV bike and got ideas for my own projects by seeing what others had done.
I wanted to have a set of soft panniers available for a ride on the MABDR this year. I had an old set of Nelson-Rigg touring bags that I’d bought back in 2013 or so that I used for a little while. I never liked all the straps and tiedowns on soft bags, and wanted something that would attach and detach to my Happy Trails pannier racks as simply as the hard panniers I use. A while back I designed and built a quick release system for my Happy Trail racks for use with my Duratool cases based around a rotary latch, so ideally I wanted a setup for the soft panniers that would be able to use the existing attachment system with no further adjustments when I wanted to change bags. The packboards used by troops in WWII and Korea to haul things like mortar shells became my inspiration for the project. The packboards I made would be able to accommodate other soft panniers beside the Nelson-Riggs. If I made some additional tie down straps, the packboards could even be used to carry the standard type dry bags that a lot of us strap across the rear seat. They would also provide a simple, secure attachment point for things like military surplus backpacks used as panniers.
The packboards were cut from sheets of 3/8” ABS plastic, and are 16 1/2” wide x 14 3/4” high. The plastic came from TAP Plastics, an online plastic supplier. If I recall, they were around 12 bucks each. All of the aluminum fittings you see in the photos were made from a one foot piece of 2”x2”x1/8” aluminum angle and an 18” piece of 1 34”x1 3/4” x3/16” aluminum bar stock. I had to buy the aluminum angle on line (from Amazon), since my hardware store didn’t stock angle that wide.
The webbing and hardware for this project came from Strapworks, an online store that sells that sort of stuff. I always use polypropylene webbing for outdoor gear; it doesn’t stretch when it gets wet, and it’s more resistant to mildew than nylon. I used heavyweight 1” polypropylene webbing for this project. Some of the sewing involved multiple layers of webbing being sewn onto the pannier, and to do this I used a hand sewing awl, which looked like this:
They work really well for that sort of task. Other lighter duty sewing was just done with a needle and thread. None of the tools used in this project were particularly sophisticated; a hacksaw, a power drill, coping saw, backsaw, hand files, etc.
I’ll keep the photos posted here to a minimum, so the post isn’t huge. If you want to see additional photos of the system being built, you can see them in my photo album here: https://www.stromtrooper.com/members...ail-racks.html
Here’s the packboard under construction. The pannier racks were taken off the bike to make the fitting process easier.
Here’s the packboard, with all the holes and slots drilled. The slots were made by drilling a hole at each end of the slot, then cutting out the material between the holes with a coping saw.
This notches in the top of the packboard are to keep the pannier’s top attachment straps in position. The straps that go through these notches are the main load bearing straps for the panniers, so I rounded off the edges in the notch to cut down on wear on the straps.
Here’s the completed packboard.
The original over the seat straps on these panniers were wide pieces of velcro with nylon backing. Each pannier had two of these nylon straps, and they were designed to hook together so the bags could be slung over the bike. I removed these velcro straps and replaced them with 1” polypro webbing. I also removed all the original tiedown hardware that was riveted to the rear of the pannier, so there would be a smooth surface against the packboard.
This shows how those straps work. The go over the top of the packboard, through the notches, and are threaded through the strap adjusters on the other side of the packboard. The pannier basically hangs from these two straps.
This shows how the side and bottom attachment straps work. The strap feeds through the slot, and that silver strap adjuster at the end of the strap spreads out over the slot so the strap can’t be pulled through.
Once the strap feeds through the slot, it goes through the strap adjusters I sewed to the pannier. Once you snug these straps down (there are two on each side of the pannier and two on the bottom), they pull the pannier tightly against the packboard.
Here are the panniers attached to their packboards.
Here are the Duratool cases attached to the bike…
...and here are the soft panniers. It takes about five seconds to change from one bag to another. I much prefer this to all the straps and tiedowns with standard soft bags, especially since I often take the bags inside a hotel when I stay at one. It also makes it easier if I have to dig something out of one of the bags while I’m on the move, since I can take it off the bike and lay it down flat on the ground while I look.
You might notice that there are also D-rings sewn to the sides of each pannier. I put them there as tiedown points if I ever need to use the bags on a bike that doesn’t have pannier racks. I just need to make a harness that has over the seat straps, that connects to the polypro web straps that are sewn to the rear of each pannier.