Daily Commuting Tip - Rack ‘em up
Posted: 16th October 2009 | Eddie Allen
If you're riding for utility, you'll end up wanting to carry stuff. You'll start with a rucksack, which is fine for small stuff. Then you'll get greedy, ambitious. You'll start wanting to carry more and more stuff on your bike, to perversely prove to the planet that the bike really is the way to go. When you get to this stage, one thing's for sure. You need a rack. Or two.
However, like men, not all racks are created equal. Shop around and you can buy some truly dire racks that'll fold like a bad poker player at the merest whiff of a heavy load. Here are the options and some pointers on what to look for.
The most popular kind of rack. Fits over the rear wheel and is attached at the seatstay and the rear dropout, usually onto dedicated attachment points of you're lucky. Rear racks are good because you can hang panniers from either side and strap stuff to the top.
Racks which attach at four points (as opposed to three) are the sturdiest. Some have flat platforms which can act as a mudguard on mudguardless bikes. Others have brackets for attaching lights. Some are specific designs for use on disc brake equipped bikes. Tubular steel racks are the best (such as Tubus, Thorn or Nitto) - they're more resilient and repairable, unlike aluminium varieties. Don't be put off, though, there are some excellent and durable alu racks out there from companies like Blackburn, SL and Tortec.
If you want to carry heavy stuff (like two panniers full of tinned produce) forget those seatpost mounted racks - they're OK for full suspension MTBs carrying light loads, but not-so-good for serious load lugging.
Lowrider Front Racks
These attach to the forks (to special eyelets if you're lucky, or clamps if you're not) and are specially designed for use with small front specific panniers. More suited to touring duties that shifting large or bulky items, they're nonetheless useful for carry smallish items.
Porteur Style Front Racks
Porteur? Eh? Think Postie or Delivery Bike and you're on target. We're talking a front mounted rack with a large platform, enabling you to carry really large items and keep a close eye on them. Some designs can affect the stability of your bike, but this largely depends on your bike's frame geometry. There are a number of models available from specialist makers and they look very cool, in a utilitarian sort of way.
Check out this great Flickr pool, dedicated to those who push the envelope of what can be carried by bike to the very limit.