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  1. #1
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    anyone tour with just rear panniers?

    I'm getting ready to ride from souther Louisiana to Kentucky this May and I'm trying to get the last bits of equipment I need. I'm realizing that, if I want a front rack and panniers, too, it's going to set me back another couple hundred bucks (that I don't really have!). It's probably a 600 mile trip by my calculations, I'm guessing about a week and a half. Anyone see any serious problems with just riding with rear panniers and a handlebar bag? Thanks, folks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member pasopia's Avatar
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    I did it this summer in Japan, but I was not camping. If you plan to camp you probably will want the front rack. Otherwise you may end up with too much weight in the back, making your bike difficult to handle. Even packing light, those panniers fill up fast. Remember you will need space for food during the tour. Load up all the gear you plan on bringing in the rear and see how the bike rides, and go from there.

  3. #3
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    I road 3000 km from here to Spain, camping all the way, with full gear. I had no front rack, no front panniers. Just my handle bar bag and two big back panniers (Ortliebs) on one rear rack (Tubus).

    Don't think twice about it. It is no problem at all.

  4. #4
    Senior Member permanentjaun's Avatar
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    I'm riding with only rear panniers and a handlebar bag on my upcoming tour. I'm going across the US. Not sure if you've seen the thread or not. Pictures of the bike fully loaded are here:

    Can my MTB make it from the Pacific to the Atlantic?

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Yes .... only I put my rear panniers on the front, and had only my Carradice "trunk bag" on the back.

    I thought I would need 4 panniers for a 90 day trip ... but I didn't.

  6. #6
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    People crossed the US in the '70s and '80s on a very regular basis with what you describe, rear panniers and a handlebar bag. In '72 and '73 I did multi-week tours with camping gear crammed into rear panniers and a handlebar bag. In fact, I don't think I even knew you could put panniers on the front of the bike until halfway through the '73 tour when two people passed me going the opposite direction with "proper" front and rear panniers. Towards the end of the '72 tour I met a guy who bought a cheap Peugeot 10 speed in Athens, bungeed his cheap external frame pack to the rear carrier, and cycled to Amsterdam. It's not the perfect setup, but it's worked for plenty of people in the past. If nothing else, you'll learn how important it is to pack light.

  7. #7
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    I would suggest you try it at home first. Some bikes handle decently well and others horribly when you have all that load on the rear wheel. Basically, handling tends to be squirrelly and forget about climbing out of the saddle.

    Another possibility: if your panniers aren't too low and if they don't have any dangling parts, why not install them on a front lowrider rack? On the rear rack, put your tent, sleeping bag and maybe your tool bag; that way, you'll have a fairly decent front/rear load distribution without breaking the bank.
    Michel Gagnon
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  8. #8
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    I have learned over many years of touring to use strict criteria in choosing what I take and what I don't. These days I ride very lean with everything fitting into rear panniers. I take a couple of old T shirts with me and dump them at the end of each day. New ones are cheap and easy to find. This way I keep the weight down and my panniers odour free. I enjoy being accompanied by people new to touring. They have so much stuff I can borrow!

  9. #9
    vintage tourer
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    you bet!

    hey, i'm right there with markf. spring of '73, rhode island to nova scotia. summer & fall of '73, not quite down to mexico city and back. rear panniers & and handlebar bag. still riding the same bike and the same set up. never and any problems.

    i think it also really depends on your comfort level though; what you don't mind doing without. for example, i rarely bring a stove and cook set. most meals are eaten right outside of a grocery store or a little down the road at some scenic spot. if you absolutely need to brew up some coffee before you can get on your bike, gotta have this & gotta have that, you may want both front and rear.

    hey mark, i wonder if we've crossed paths a few times over the years. early '80s, i covered large parts of california. based in arcata on the north coast, covered most of the coast down to monterey then over to & up the valley to around redding.


    pekka - doesn't sound like a very environmentally sound way to go. you can wash a t-shirt in about 2 minutes in any restaurant bathroom sink and, bungeed on the back, they are dry before you take your next break.
    Last edited by philso; 04-22-07 at 04:45 AM.

  10. #10
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    I only use rear panniers, a handle bar bag and a smallish bag strapped on top of my front rack. I put the heavy stuff on top of the front rack and the light bulky stuff in the rear panniers. Works great - no stability issues.

    Everyone and every bike setup is a bit different so when you decide on what you want to do try it out for a 4-5hrs ride. Don't be shocked if the first 10-30mins seems a bit hard to handle that will most likely go away and you'll be rock steady by the end of a few hours. If you are not finding the handling to your liking by that point reorganize and try again.

    Asking questions about this sort of thing on a BBS is fine, but it can only point you in some possible directions you need to validate your ideas yourself - well before your tour.
    safe riding - Vik
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  11. #11
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    Thanks for all the responses, folks. My bike handles just dandy when the rear panniers are full of tons of heavy groceries, so I'm thinking the stability thing shouldn't be a problem. The ideas for the front rack seem pretty sound, but I'd have to buy the rack! Fortunately, I sleep in a hammock and I'll be in the south in the summer, so I surely won't need a sleeping bag either. I think I just may be able to do it...

  12. #12
    Senior Member George's Avatar
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  13. #13
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I only used rear panniers back in the days when I was too poor to buy much. I sewed my own panniers out of packcloth. I tied my sleeping bag between the drops of my handlebars with nylon cord. I toured on an old Raleigh Gran Prix 10-speed with steel rims, cottered cranks, and a big stem bolt sticking up to gouge your knees when you went over the handlebars. (I know because I did it once.)

    It worked. That doesn't mean it was an ideal setup. Now I have a dedicated touring bike and use front and rear panniers (plus a handlebar bag.) It's WAY better. I wouldn't go back. My bike handles lots better. I can carry more (although I don't have to), and I'm less likely to break rear spokes because a lot of my weight is up front.

    You can tour with just rear panniers. But if you had the choice, why would you? Simplicity I guess. Cost savings. Weight savings (a front rack and front panniers do weigh something.) Not because it's "better".

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    In the early 80s I biked 1000 miles through Europe over 2 months with a front bag and the type of rear panniers that had an attached large pouch over the rear rack. We never heard of front panniers back then.

    I did get sort of tired of the extreme organization and neatness that's necessary to cram everything in such a small space. More panniers might mean a looser fit, preserving things like fragile food from being crushed.

    If I were taking the train in Europe, as I did many times, I wouldn't want to have front panniers. I constantly found myself sprinting from one train to the connecting train and going up and down stairs with the bike on one shoulder and the panniers on the other. Ooof! Imagine doing that with FOUR panniers and a front bag---that's 6 objects including the bike.

    I recently got an excellent pair of used panniers off craigslist for just $30, a fraction of what was paid for them. How about looking for used?

    There were some very good pannier deals recently at Nashbar or Performance, I can't remember which.

  15. #15
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    In 1977 I went coast to coast with only rear panniers and a medium to large handlebar bag. Didn't know any better. Next bike I did set up with the front racks to help balance the load. But it can be done and if packed lightly enough shouldn't hurt the handling much at all. FWIW the bike I rode for the '77 trip was a lightly modified Motobecane Nomade

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  16. #16
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe
    You can tour with just rear panniers. But if you had the choice, why would you? Simplicity I guess. Cost savings. Weight savings (a front rack and front panniers do weigh something.) Not because it's "better".
    ummmm...if you add the fact your bike handles great with only rear panniers to your list above I'd have to say that pretty much does equal better....lol... Simplicity, cost savings, weight savings and great handling are a pretty reasonable reason to go with rear panniers only vs. 4 panniers.

    I also can't argue with Charlene's idea of just two front panniers - really the same benefits just a different configuration.

    The crux for me is handling. How your bike responds to different luggage configurations should be the key factor in your decision making process. Everyone is going to find their specific situation is different and needs a different solution. I'm not against 4 panniers if that works for you, but I have found that some luggage configurations that conventional wisdom would eschew actually work awesome - for me. The lesson being don't just do it because someone tells you it will be better - try it out for yourself.

    As I bombed down mtn road after mtn road last tour with rear panniers and heavy items on top of my front rack & in my handle bar bag I had quite a few chuckles since I knew this setup should not handle great based on all the things you read about bike touring, BUT it did handle great and I also liked that particular setup. Sweet.

    Last edited by vik; 04-22-07 at 11:41 AM.
    safe riding - Vik
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  17. #17
    Senior Member hockey's Avatar
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    I don't think you really have to spend a ton on a front rack. Try MEC in Canada. Front lowrider rack is 18.00 C and a set of front panniers might set you back another $40. (although they can be found cheaper.)
    Hockey

  18. #18
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    I did a trans America trip with just rear panniers, didnt even have a handlebar bag. It just forces you to pack lightly and strap more to the rack. That being said, I am buying front panniers for my text tour. This time I'll be bringing a bit more for comfort.

  19. #19
    Senior Member jnoble123's Avatar
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    Lots of people tour with only rear panniers

    Over the course of my tours around Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron and Michigan I've come across lots of touring cyclists including cross-continental ones riding across Canada or the US. Some of these were on either the cross Canada or the Northern Tier routes and a sizable percentage used only a single set of panniers. After all less space to use generally translates to a much lighter load as unnecessary gear is weeded out.

    As others have stated the biggest problem with a single set of panniers located at the rear of the bike is that it puts a lot of weight on the rear tire. Since the most common types of gear failure that seem to happen during a bike tour are a flat tire, a tire blowout and a broken spoke I recommend that you make sure you have all three covered especially if the weight on your rear tire is significant.

    The other things to watch for during your pre-tour fully loaded test ride is for the front end to rise up during a steep climb or for your bike to wobble during relatively high speed descents. Either one is a indicator to check the load on your bike carefully.

    Other then all that go out and have some fun!

    ~Jamie N
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  20. #20
    Macro Geek
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    I do credit-card touring with no tent or camping equipment. I use:

    * Two mid-sized rear panniers;
    * A daypack strapped to the top of the rear rack;
    * A small wedge pack under the seat (for tools); and
    * A fanny pack (for my wallet, important papers, and a camera).

    I also have a small map case that velcros to my aerobars.

    I used a handlebar bag once, but did not like the way they affected handling.

    With my setup of rear panniers, daypack, fanny pack, wedge pack, and map case, I have had zero problems carrying everything or with handling.

  21. #21
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    I have toured with just rear panniers. I prefer having front and rear panniers, because the bike is more stable, but it's certainly not a big problem to tour with just rear.

  22. #22
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    I've toured with rear panniers. The handling is more twitchy but I wouldn't say it's a problem. Below is a link with a list where I had almost the same stuff I carry with four panniers. It was packed pretty tight with little room for food but I could've put the tent and sleeping pad on the rack and gain lots of room.

    Link with list.

    What the bike looked like fully packed.
    Another angle.
    Different trip, smaller panniers, no stove.
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

  23. #23
    Senior Member CyKKlist's Avatar
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    It took me a while to get used to 30 pounds on the rear wheel (two rear panniers plug dry bag holdling tent and gear, and sleeping bag on top). The adjustment that I found harder than the handling was getting off/on the bike! I couldn't just swing my leg over the back of the back any more. And in the cold with my riding pants on, I couldn't step over the top tube very well either.

    So I developed a "dance" that I'm guessing others on this list have tried as well. To mount the bike, I learned to lay it on its side on the ground, straddle it, then squatted down to grab the bike under the seat, and pulled the whole thing up as I stood. It felt ridiculous the first time and I almost slashed my right calf with the front rings, but I did get the maneuver down pretty smoothly. I smile every time I think about it now.

    And like others, I enjoyed the challenge of limited my packing space.

    However, I do own a cheap front rack and panniers (Performance house brand), so I'm going to test those out with very lightweight gear on a couple of quick local overnight trips.

    Ken
    Latest bike tour journal now posted -- PALM ride across Michigan!
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    Also -- NC Courthouse Tour, using Amtrak to Charlotte
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/nccourthousetour

    Trek 520 for commuting, touring, family rides and smiling at life.

  24. #24
    eternalvoyage
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    I've toured this way, but prefer having both front and rear panniers, unless the load is a small one.

    The front wheel can be a little light, though, especially going up hills. There's not as much traction, and fast cornering is not as secure and doable -- the front tire just doesn't have the weight and the grip, and it can wash out more easily.

    It can also lift off going up hills -- you have even less weight and traction in these situations.

    It is even possible to do a 'reverse endo' going up a steep hill. I did this once while on the bike and once while walking the bike.

  25. #25
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    I crossed the country this summer with just rear panniers, but i was with a group so we were able to divide up tents, food and other weighty things

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