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  1. #1
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    Front vs. Rear Panniers on Tandem for Touring

    We have a set of Axiom Champlain rear panniers for our tandem (for credit card touring). On our first trip each weighed about 13-14 lbs. We wanted to avoid carrying stuff on the front of the bike and decided that if it can't fit in the rear panniers or the rack bag then it wouldn't go with us. Today we were reading that 50% of your load should be in front panniers for better bike stability. I'm sure the article was about single bikes but would this also be true for a tandem or can we get away with reasonably loading the rear and not putting panniers on the front. We are a 300-lb team, if that matters.

  2. #2
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Been tandeming since 1975.
    Our recommendation is to put the load on rear of tandem. Front panniers affect steering, especially on downhills.
    We creditcard-toured and usually carried a total of 22 lbs of stuff for a long weekend.
    Surprising what you don't really need!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem View Post
    Been tandeming since 1975.
    Our recommendation is to put the load on rear of tandem. Front panniers affect steering, especially on downhills.
    We creditcard-toured and usually carried a total of 22 lbs of stuff for a long weekend.
    Surprising what you don't really need!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
    Thanks Rudy and Kay! We are of the same mind, though will carry a bit more than 22 lbs. We appreciate your input!

  4. #4
    40 yrs bike touring
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    There are several factors to consider about using front panniers on a tandem. Is the rack a low rider or high position pannier location? How strong are the attachements to the frame-clamps or braze-ons? How stiff is the rack? Are there compression straps on the panniers to keep contents from moving while steering?

    On long self contained camping road tours on a steel Santana Sovereign with a Bruce Gordon low rider front rack, steering is negatively influenced above a certain weight level but the captain adjusts quickly to these differences. I use a higher mount Bruce Gordon Mountain rack up front on the Fat Chance MTB tandem for off pavement fire roads and single track rides and tours like the Divide Ride. The higher position prevents the pannier bottom hitting rocks and branches on or near ground level to damage the pannier or cause a crash. The Cro Mo BG racks are marvelously stiff and become an extension of the bike frame.

    I prefer front panniers as a means of reducing rear wheel weight. This seems to increase rear spoke and rim longevity in my experience. Try experimenting with different configurations to find the one you like best.

  5. #5
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    If you have front and rear racks on your tandem it's well worth trying both options out. Theory is great, but I have found there is no substitute for experimentation with the specific bike, rack, panniers and load in question.
    safe riding - Vik
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  6. #6
    Used to be Conspiratemus
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    Big challenge, packing for two with only two panniers even without camping gear but it's worth trying to do. Less weight = more enjoyment.

    In our self-supported hotel touring days we used Vetta low-rider front racks and smallish bags with the same goal, to get some of the weight off the rear wheel for durability reasons. Since we were doing a lot of such touring then, we had mounting posts brazed to the back side of the fork legs -- the Santana didn't have them and the Vetta-supplied U-bolts to wrap around the fork legs didn't inspire confidence. The arrangement worked really well -- a loaded bike always handles differently but with the load low on the fork I didn't find it squirrelly even on long fast descents, pavement we're talking about here. Never used a handlebar bag since I like being able to see everything that's happening in the front wheel.

    If we ever take that up again, though, I think we'll try using just a rear rack to keep things simple and to force harder choices about what to leave at home. Rear wheels and tires are better and more robust now. Since stoker is lighter than captain, cargo could all go in the back and the weight balance should still come out OK.

    A helpful hint is to obtain a number of small bags that fit into various nooks and crannies of the main frame tubes, under captain's saddle, or even, (horrors!) slung under the captain's handlebars to carry heavy items like tools and spares. This will make more space in the main panniers for stoker's clothing and beauty aids. No slur intended here -- there are some things that really are worth taking along because they will make you both happier even if, as a guy, you never thought about it that way before.
    Last edited by conspiratemus1; 05-27-11 at 07:52 PM. Reason: clarify "self-supported"
    "I did not know that!" -- J. Carson

  7. #7
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    We took two rear panniers, a stoker bag, and a small frame bag for camp touring. One has to be careful of both volume and weight to get it down to that. Our CoMo Speedster with that load is very unbalanced when moving it by hand, but perfectly comfortable and predictable when we are both aboard. It handled very well at all speeds. Having the volume in the stern didn't make much extra wind resistance, either. We were quite surprised by how well it worked. We ran a Deep-V rim on a CK hub with a 28c tire at 120 lbs. No problems with anything. We are a 305 lb. team. Our equipment list is attached.
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  8. #8
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    We did a 1266 mile credit card trip on a Co-Mo Mocha with rear panniers on an Old Man Mountain rack and a small handle bar bag for tools. Like others we put the tools up front to take weight off the rear wheel. Our total pannier and tool bag weight was 25 pounds. When I stood and leaned forward I could a little shimmy but when I stood back over the saddle it did not shimmy. When seated the tandem rode fine. I could feel the frame flex when the moving the bike by hand.

  9. #9
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Keeping the load light has it benefits, especially when doing a bit of climbing.
    Obvious things to help keep things light are: skip the hair dryer, skip the electric razor . . . no need for fancy dress clothes or shoes.
    Yes, extra folding tire and 2 spare tubes + patchkit . . . depending where you will be touring will dictate what to take.
    On a 2 day trip by the Grand Canyon's North Rim we were a couple hundred miles from nearest bike shop and developed some chain issues. Managed with the minimal tools we had to fix up the chain and be on the road after about a half hour of tinkering.
    On another 200 mile tandem toot with friends from Maryland, they opted to use a Bob one-wheel trailer setup which worked OK for them.
    Living out in the Southwest there are some isolated places without services but great for some spectacular riding/scenery.
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  10. #10
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    When we roll with just one set of panniers, they are always on the front. We've never had any handling issues; in fact, the weight seems to make the bike more stable. However, we have a very stiff steel bike which allows us to have the 125 pound female captain and the 200 pound male stoker. It's probably different for those of you who do it backwards.

  11. #11
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Our experience is that low riders on front improve steering. Try to minimize weight in bar bag, as it makes steering worse. My avatar shows approximately what we're riding with now, although we've added a stoker bag and a trunk. This is for self-contained.

  12. #12
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    We went about 760 miles with 2 Ortlieb rear panniers and a drybag/compression sack on the top of the rack (held our double sleeping bag). The only thing we needed at each stop was food, but even then we had 2 days worth of freeze-dried just in case. You can in fact fit everything needed for camping in those bags. Total weight was about 40 lbs. Compression sacks are by far the best way to reduce volume; and necessary if you want to dodge having the panniers up front. REI is your friend...or your creditcard companies friend. One or the other.

  13. #13
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    OK, what's a stoker bag?

    Edit: Never mind, I Googled it.
    Last edited by lazlo; 06-02-11 at 04:44 PM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member bike00's Avatar
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    Even though I still use front panniers, I really don't like the way they affect handling on either my single or our tandem. I'm surprised no one has mentioned a trailer as an alternative. A bit of added weight, but no issues with handling.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member dwmckee's Avatar
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    You are going to find every opinion imaginable to your question on here. Some tandems do not handle well with front weight while others do. We ride with a 200 pound captain and a 70 pound stoker so our choice is obvious; we put most of the weight on the rear but put light bulky stuff we cannot fit in back onto the front rack. You should experiment a little to see what seems most comfortable for a variety of conditions. If your frame is stiff I bet you will find it rides well with a portion on front and most on back. Good luck!

  16. #16
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    Yes, it depends a lot on the bike. We always use front panniers when touring for more than a day or two on the tandem, even if we could get by with just rear ones. I find it balances the load much better, and gives nice "flex space" for groceries, raincoats, or other things you might pick up and need to temporarily stash. On our Santana tandems this has never negatively impacted steering to my experience. You just need to balance the weight properly.

    I also do this when touring on my single, but I have an actual touring frame that is designed to ride well when loaded. Indeed, it seems to ride better when loaded, which is the mark of a good touring design.

  17. #17
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lazlo View Post
    OK, what's a stoker bag?

    Edit: Never mind, I Googled it.
    I assume you found the one described on another thread. I believe we got the second pre-production model, as we were leaving for our odessey before they were ready to go into production [In fact I haven't yet heard that they have gone into production.]

    Makes my stoker very happy.

  18. #18
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    I have loaded up the rear rack on my Cannondale RT1000 -- full large panniers + some firewood for an overnight campout -- and I found that I got a pretty bad vibration (shimmy?) through the frame on standing climbs.
    I don't even use the offensive term "Fred." -- Sheldon "All Cyclists Are My Friends" Brown (1944-2008)

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