Monday, February 2, 2015

How To Build A Luggage Rack for the Ninja 250

Several years ago, I designed a luggage rack for my 2006 Ninja 250.  It was made of 1/2"  4130 Chromoly aircraft steel tubing. It was light and strong and worked well.  I had that rack on my bike for over 30,000 miles.  It was mostly trouble free, but it had issues with fatigue cracks that I had to re-weld several times.  Not to mention that even though I put detailed printed plans out there, very few people actually built one due to the fact that it had to be welded.  Welding, especially chromoly steel, is not a skill that everyone has - not to mention the equipment needed.  

Old luggage rack was made out of welded steel tubing

So I decided that it was time for a whole new design that would be stronger and more resistant to fatigue cracking.  This time, I designed a much more solid rack out of 2024 aircraft aluminum.  2024 is stronger than mild steel and is significantly more resistant to fatigue cracking.  

New luggage rack is made of riveted solid aluminum bars.
While the term "aircraft aluminum" might scare a few folks off, its really not that expensive and quite easy to get.  I got all mine at Aircraft Spruce and the prices and shipping are very reasonable.  You can't use the aluminum in the hardware stores for this project because its too flimsy and not the correct alloy - not to mention that it costs a lot more.

With all the tools and materials on hand, this new luggage rack can be built for about $50 and in an afternoon.  The only gotcha with this build is the fact that to do it right, you need an air compressor and an air riveting hammer.  That's because this build requires the use of solid rivets.  Pop rivets are too weak and wont hold up.  If you don't believe me, I suggest tying strings to all the parts so that when they fall off going down the road, you wont have to run out in traffic to get them all back.  If you don't have one, an air riveting hammer and bits costs about $100, but it might be possible to rent one from a tool rental place.

Aside from the air riveting hammer, most DIY guys already have most of the tools in their shop.  A drill press is extremely helpful, but its possible to build this rack with just a hand drill.  I also used a lathe to cut a bevel on some parts, but this can also be accomplished with a bench grinder.

Originally, I had planned to build the entire rack out of aluminum.  However, there is one little bracket that needed to be bent and I quickly discovered just how hard 2024 aluminum is.  Every time I tried to bend it, it snapped.  So for two brackets, I had to use steel.  Steel bends a lot easier.

Here is a video I made showing exactly how it's made.

The plans for the new design can be downloaded here: NewLuggageRack.pdf
The plans for the old rack are also available here: NinjaLuggageRackPlansv1.pdf 

EDIT: Some people have pointed out that there are aerospace pop rivets that can be used successfully in this luggage rack.  The problem is that they are very expensive.  Here is one that costs about a dollar a piece.  Other rivets, called "Cherry Max" don't seem to come in long enough lengths.  You'll need rivets with a 1/2" grip for this project.