There are two options for carrying your kit on a bicycle, racks, and panniers. From the grocery store to the library, from overnight touring to short distance commuting, bicycle racks can become an incredibly valuable and highly useful accessory for any cyclist. Racks dramatically increase the range of what your bicycle can accomplish. Suddenly, your bicycle becomes capable of not only providing you joyful morning rides and relaxing evening cruises, but also regular luggage carrying.
A rack provides a stable framework to hold the gear on your bicycle. They just need to be really strong. If you ever watch a fully loaded bicycle bouncing down a rough track, you’ll appreciate the dynamic loads that racks have to cope with and why they have to be so robust.
Types of bicycle racks
- Front Bicycle Racks: A front bicycle rack rests over the front wheel of a bicycle, and is usually mounted somewhere on the fork. A front rack offers an additional mounting spot for gear. It is a secondary option after a rear rack as it adds weight to the bicycle’s front wheel and can affect steering and balance. Front racks are popular mostly with touring cyclists who carry large volumes of gear.
- Back / Rear Bicycle Racks: Rear bicycle racks rest directly above the rear wheel of a bicycle. Rear racks are designed to attach to the braze-on mounts that many bicycles have. If your bicycle does not have braze-on mounts, you can still mount a rack using metal C-clips included with the mounting hardware of most racks. These clips wrap around your bicycle’s frame tubes and accept the lower mounting bolt. They are much more common than front racks and are generally easy to install, easy to use, and very helpful for carrying a wide variety of loads.
- Types: There are two main types of bicycle racks namely front racks and back racks. It’s important to understand what styles of racks suitable for your bicycle and best meet your needs.
- Materials: Bicycle racks are constructed out of steel, aluminum, or Chromoly, which is a strong steel alloy. Steel racks are generally heavier, more durable, and they can be repaired if damaged. Aluminum racks are lighter, less durable, and can’t be fixed if they break. Chromoly racks are becoming increasingly popular, as they are lightweight, durable, and strong. For long-distance touring or heavy-duty commuting stick with Steel or Chromoly racks; aluminum ones should do the trick for short distance, lightweight hauls.
- Load Capacity:
- Front Bicycle Rack: Single anchor front racks are less durable and can handle smaller weight loads than double anchor racks. Before purchasing a rack, be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommended weight capacity.
- Back Bicycle Rack: Rear racks are usually rated to carry loads between 20 and 50 pounds, which is sufficient for most uses. A few heavy-duty touring models can carry up to 80 pounds.
- Price: The key factor in a bicycle racks price is the material and the weight capacity. The more heavy-duty the rack, the more expensive it will be.
- Accessories: You should also consider exactly how you want to transport things on the rack. Will you be using panniers, basket or box? You should ensure that your rack is compatible with whatever accessories you’ll be using to actually carry your loads.
Fitting a rack can be problematic due to not having threaded bosses, suspensions and disc brakes. However, there are solutions for most of these problems. Most rack manufacturers can supply “P-Clips” to fit the seat stay and forks, to make up for the lack of braze-on. Most of the rack manufacturers are now offering front and rear racks compatible with suspension.
Whether you’re a casual cyclist, pleasure-seeking pedaler, daily commuter, long-distance tourist, or anything in between, installing and using bicycle racks significantly expands the horizon of a bicycle’s capabilities. By making smart decisions regarding which types of racks to use, you will find yourself spending more enjoyable time in the saddle. When you can simply haul all your stuff with you, there’s nothing your bicycle isn’t capable of doing.