Certified Bike Brat
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Montreal, Quebec
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No such thing as a front suspension that requires little or no maintenaince
I'm also guessing you're referring to the Carretera Austral highway in Chile? Mostly unpaved, but I'd recommend a rigid front fork and the largest tires your frame will take over a front suspension.
Not only is it difficult to mount a front rack and panniers on a front suspension - the weight of any panniers becomes unsprung weight which, if you're carrying 20lbs up front, will make a suspension system so slow to react as to be useless.
And you WANT some weight up front. Because if all the weight is in the back - your chances of a broken rear axle will also jump. I'm assuming there's no rear suspension. So personally I'd go rigid with 2.3 to 2.5" tires myself.