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  1. #1
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    Why not full size panniers up front?

    Well, maybe some of you have thought of this, and done it.

    I wonder why, though, it's not a more common idea to have a heavy duty rack up front and full size panniers. The distance from pedal to axle is greater up front than in back. The weight of the bike is mostly on the rear wheel to begin with, so it's not as if the front wheel risks being overloaded.

    One wouldn't want a rack that had the weight protruding past the front wheel, of course, because that would make steering more awkward. But, as I mentioned, there's a lot of room between the pedals and the front axle. One could get large panniers in front that didn't extend past the front wheel.

    One might wonder about the strength of the forks, as compared to the rear triangle. But touring bikes, at least, have heavy duty forks, and one could always make them heavier duty still if that was thought necessary.

    For what it's worth, I sometimes put shopping bag panniers up front and full size panniers in back to do errands. That works out well, although owing to the limitations of my front rack I don't load up so much as in the rear.

    But why couldn't there be 50lb+ racks for the front of a bike, and panniers on it as large as full size rear panniers? Why doesn't anyone market such front racks for precisely such a set up?

    One fear rack makers might have is liability. Many bikes don't have the forks for heavy front loads. Perhaps manufacturers are worried about their exposure if a heavy duty rack is installed on an innappropriate bike, and the forks crack. Just thinking out loud...

  2. #2
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    SJSC market a heavy duty front rack
    http://www.sjscycles.com/
    And they sell worldwide by mail order.

    The rack is designed for Ortelieb panniers, either the normal small front ones or the larger rear ones.

    The main issue however is the larger the load on the front fork the harder it is to stear the bike

    This might not be such a problem on the roads of the 'new' world, but the critical on the roads of the 'old' world

  3. #3
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    Originally posted by Merriwether
    I wonder why, though, it's not a more common idea to have a heavy duty rack up front and full size panniers....
    Why not?

    There are a few theories on the best way to pack a bike.

    The traditional North American theory was that one should put 60-70% of the luggage weight on the rear wheel. The traditional French way was to put 66% (2/3) of the weight on the front wheel.
    Nowadays, mentalities have crossed the ocean, and there are quite a few North Americans who think that 60-70% of the weight should be in front.

    IMHO, putting a lot of weight in front is a good idea, but there are a few pitfalls:

    - The load had to be divided evenly between sides. One can get away without problem fro, unlalanced rear panniers, but a bike with front panniers will pull towards the side of the heaviest one. A problem especially with quick bikes.

    - For ease of handling, the load should be centred on the vertical steering axis -- hence the real purpose of lowriders.

    - When there are wind gusts, steering a bike with front panniers might be challenging. Small panniers help, because they are less influenced by crosswinds than larger ones.

    - Dangling objects, objects tied onto the panniers, etc. should be avoided at all costs on front panniers,.

    With all these considerations, it's probably better to use small or mid-side panniers in front, and load them with heavy stuff like tools, food cans, etc.

    BTW, my rear touring bags are Arkel's GT-54, and my front ones are the T-42, which are normally used as rear panniers by comuters or people on day rides.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  4. #4
    A Heart Needs a Home Rich Clark's Avatar
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    I think that's a good question. Here are some possible arguments against it, but they're all theoretical:

    - The additional weight could make it harder to avoid rim damage when hitting bumps and potholes.

    - The bigger the front panniers, the worse the wind resistance.

    - Low-speed handling would probably be adversely affected.

    Not only would using large panniers on the front make them taller and deeper, but they'd have to be mounted with more stand-off from the wheel to clear cantilever brakes.

    I like to hear from someone who's tried it, though.

    RichC

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    Originally posted by Brains
    SJSC market a heavy duty front rack
    http://www.sjscycles.com/
    And they sell worldwide by mail order.

    This might not be such a problem on the roads of the 'new' world, but the critical on the roads of the 'old' world
    Is this the Cordo front carrier system? The site doesn't describe the racks, and that one looks to be the only plausible candidate for a heavy duty set-up.

    Thanks.

  6. #6
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    Originally posted by mgagnonlv


    IMHO, putting a lot of weight in front is a good idea, but there are a few pitfalls:

    - When there are wind gusts, steering a bike with front panniers might be challenging. Small panniers help, because they are less influenced by crosswinds than larger ones.

    - Dangling objects, objects tied onto the panniers, etc. should be avoided at all costs on front panniers,.

    BTW, my rear touring bags are Arkel's GT-54, and my front ones are the T-42, which are normally used as rear panniers by comuters or people on day rides.
    Good points. I'm especially impressed by the crosswind worry. A large pannier would be a significantly larger sail than a typically sized front bag.

    Although I don't think the concern tells against large bags per se, I want to give a loud second to your dangling objects warning. WATCH OUT. I've seen some nasty, nasty spills result from cords, bags, cables, etc., finding themselves wedged against a front wheel. Catastrophic cessation of forward motion. I've seen frames bent or cracked simply from the violence of the deceleration, and not from any collision. Then there are the riders bloodied and broken from being pitched forward onto the road. When you note that loose items are most likely to get knocked into a wheel when you're traveling at higher speeds, you get a very clear idea of the conditions for disaster.

    The thing is, of all dangers in riding, I think this one is most unappreciated. People who would shrink from a carbon handlebar or who would just get off and walk with a cracked fork don't think twice about strapping any old jerry-rigged thing onto a front rack. That's being pretty casual about one's life, voluntary control of one's limbs, or a pleasant, non-disfigured face.

    All right, safety lecture complete.

    I've got Arkel GT-54's as well. Those panniers may be my favorite bicycle accessory. They're terrific. They cost more than a couple of others I was looking at, but they are entirely worth it. The zippers, the aluminum frames, the pockets-- everything is designed to very high standards. I recommend them wholeheartedly.

    In fact, I have thought about getting another set of 54's for the front. That might be overkill, though, especially considering the expense. Then there are the engineering concerns, some of which you've mentioned. I thought about the T-42's, too, and I still might plunk down for them. They're not a whole lot bigger than what I've got, though, so perhaps it's not worth doing.

    Speaking of Arkel and loads in front, though, Arkel at least allows you to mount bags without fear. I won't put anything up in front that lacks Arkel's mounting hardware. Even my non-Arkel bags have been converted to the Arkel hooks. Maybe Ortlieb or others mount solidly too-- I wouldn't know-- but Arkel is a huge improvement over the standard plastic hooks and bungy cords.

    Cheers.

  7. #7
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    One more note.

    Ken Kifer, a font of much cycling wisdom, made his own touring bags. The front bags are pretty big, comparable in area to the Arkel GT-54's, it looks like.

    If any of you know his site, he's nothing if not thorough. He doesn't mention anything about wind troubles with his large front bags.

    http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/touring/bags.htm

    Check out the picture of his bags circa 2000.

  8. #8
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    Bigger bags would only encourage you to carry more stuff.

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    i do it all the time, I have a front topeak rack mule rack and fit full size panniers to it all the time. I don't like to be crouded and with small panniers everything is too packed to be accessable. Also, wherever I go I tend to pick things up, so my load grows on the road, it's nice to be able to let out the sinch straps and load up. As far as the load goes, bigger loads build bigger, stronger legs, or as I always say, they build character.
    Achieve your goals: Attitude is everything:

  10. #10
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    I used to commute to the university daily with my Cannondale touring bike, and I often had 50+ lbs of textbooks in the front (low-rider) panniers. This really helped distribute the weight. Text books are rather dense, so small panniers worked well at keeping them from sliding around.
    Keep in mind, the more weight you put on your front rack, the more will be dynamically attached to your steering. This will make the bike slower to respond to input, and, if the load is not secure, it could send you in different directions due to the moment created by your stuff bouncing around. Also, most front hubs are not as strong as most rear hubs.
    Je vais à vélo, donc je suis!

  11. #11
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    Originally posted by Merriwether


    Is this the Cordo front carrier system? The site doesn't describe the racks, and that one looks to be the only plausible candidate for a heavy duty set-up.

    Thanks.
    Click on the site
    http://www.sjscycles.com/thornbrochure.asp
    Thorn Brochurers
    26" bikes
    and then 12 pages in you get the following text with pictures


    26" Wheel Solo Cycle Brochure


    Carriers

    When carrying loads, choosing the correct carrier for your requirements is as fundamental to your cycling experience as choosing the correct cycle ... A lightweight cycle purchased for fast touring day rides carrying light loads will be overweight with an “expedition suitable” carrier.

    An even worse, but quite common, scenario is the heavily laden cycle with a flimsy carrier. NO MATTER HOW WELL DESIGNED AND BUILT THE CYCLE MAY BE, WITHOUT A PROPER CARRIER A HEAVY LOAD WILL MAKE IT FEEL HORRIBLE.

    There are 5 materials commonly used in the manufacture of carriers :-

    1. High quality tubular aluminium. This is very light, not very rigid and fails easily (we returned a huge percentage to Cannondale). This material builds into a carrier that is neither of use nor ornament!
    2. Aerospace aluminium rod. This is fairly light, fairly stiff and lasts well with moderate loads and smooth roads. Blackburn carriers have a good reputation and an excellent guarantee. However when you are stuck in the back end of nowhere and nobody can weld aluminium without the specialist equipment and skills needed, then the guarantee is not going to help.
    Blackburn carriers can and do fail when heavily loaded and used for extended tours on rough roads ... Most people are not going to use them hard enough to experience problems.
    3. Aluminium rod. This is fairly light and is ok if very little weight is to be carried. It is much less stiff and even more prone to failure than aircraft-grade aluminium ... Not for serious applications.
    4. Steel rod. This is very heavy and not very stiff. Lots of bracing has to be used to get sufficient stiffness, resulting in even more weight. It would have no application in the manufacture of carriers, except that it is easy to repair. Any small (Third World) village will have a blacksmith who can repair such a carrier.
    5. Tubular steel. This is light, very stiff, comparatively easy to work with and can be repaired relatively easily. This is THE material for cycle carriers (as it is for cycles!). Tubular cro-mo is even better ... fine gauge Reynolds “531” is best of all! (ask Alex Moulton).

    Thorn carriers.
    When we decided to make carriers we knew it would be foolish to use anything but the best! - and we decided to make them in the best way possible! We use straight tubes and join them with our own high quality, malleable steel lugs using low temperature braze ... if the correct carrier is chosen we don’t think they’ll break ... but if they do, they can be repaired.
    If your touring bike suddenly can’t carry all your kit then, at best, your cycle touring holiday is over!

    We have some nice design features. Andy Blance has been “messing around” with carriers for several years. Up until now he has been unable to design anything that cost less to make than it could be sold for! He now has extensive knowledge about carriers due to this process.

    Our rear carriers have two exclusive (we think) design features (we don’t count the ability to reliably carry the stated load as a feature!) :-

    1. We braze a 6mm boss “halfway” up the back of each rear carrier stay. These are used to attach the mudguard stays, saving (50g) weight, increasing stiffness and reducing clutter at the same time.

    2. We braze two 5mm bosses at the rear of the carrier load platform. These have 90mm centres and alloy plates can be purchased to allow the fitting of one or two rear LED lights. We use a plate because every year or two a much better light comes onto the market (currently we like the new 300% brighter Vista Lite Nebula rear LED light the best) and it is more sensible to buy a new plate than buy a new carrier!

    We list several carriers in our “options”. This is our opinion of them :-

    Blackburn EX1 Expedition (692g)
    This is pretty stiff, it has to be said, but it does carry the load too high for 26” wheels (or 700Cs come to that!). We recommend a new one after each “expedition”. Blackburn suggest a load limit of 18kg.

    Blackburn MTN (621g)
    Again fairly stiff and carries the weight nice and low ... it also weighs a bit less than the EX1 Expedition. Blackburn quote a load limit of 9kg (we’ve used the MTN with a 15kg load and it feels secure).

    Blackburn Custom Lowrider
    Lowriders need to be very adjustable ... Blackburn has ignored the fact that a pivot around a fixed point describes an arc - not a straight line! The ‘P’ clips will slip if rough roads are attempted.

    Rear carriers.

    Thorn “531” adjustable standard rear carrier (684g).
    This uses 9.5mm, 0.9mm thick “531” material. This carrier weighs less than a Blackburn EX1 Expedition and is as least as stiff whilst being repairable. This carrier has been tested on rough gravel mountain roads and is fine with up to 15kg. Ideal capacity up to 15kg - max : 25kg.

    Thorn adjustable reinforced rear carrier (794g).
    This again uses 9.5mm, 0.9mm thick “531” material. The reinforcement makes the carrier exceptionally rigid and we would prefer to use it ourselves when the load was regularly expected to exceed 18kg. Ideal capacity up to 25kg - max : 35kg.

    Front lo loaders.

    We are delighted with our design as it is impossible for our carriers to slip round - a problem with Blackburn and copies. The “open” design at the rear not only allows the angle to be reset, should your forks not have been accurately built, but also allows quality forks to absorb road shock. Our design also allows modern panniers with large plastic mountings to be fitted. You should note that the MK IV only accepts modern panniers with anti sway side mounting and is designed for 4kg per side.
    Our MK III heavy duty model will carry any weight you could wish to place on your bicycles forks!

    MKIV Ultra lightweight lo loader - weight: 415g, capacity per side: 4kg

    MKIII Heavy-duty lo loader - weight: 645g

    New:- Available NOW!. Thorn ultra-light “531” adjustable rear carrier with “cut to fit” stainless steel stays (weight: 310 to 350g). This is designed to carry a rack pack or a small pair of panniers. Total load must not exceed 6kg... the ultra-light should appeal to Audax riders.


    Thorn "531" adjustable Standard rear carrier



    Thorn "531" adjustable reinforced rear carrier




    Thorn Single LED bracket



    Thorn "531" MKIII Heavy duty lo loader



    Thorn "531" MKIV Ultra lightweight lo loader




    <- Back Next ->


    Thorn Cycles Ltd, 91-93 St John Street, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 5HX, England
    Company no: 4121096, incorporated in England


    Questions - Email us on sales@sjscycles.com
    Telephone +44 (0) 1278 441500
    Fax +44 (0) 1278 431107

    This site is maintained by webmaster@sjscycles.com

  12. #12
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    hnmmmm....ya learn somethin' every day when you read these types of forums! I would have thought that the handling problems caused by weight in your fronet panniers would prompt you to put most of your weight on the back? Also, i usually put my food, cooking gear, and utensils in the front; while my clothes and camping equipment go in the back [this comes from camping in bear country where I don't want my stuff to smell too much like food].

    My general comment has always been that if you need to carry alot of stuff in your front bags, you are plainly and simpky carrying too much.

    roughstuff
    Electric car sales are on fire! :)

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