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Old 05-21-07, 02:17 PM   #1
velo2000
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Front load and handling while climbing?

I took a test overnight trip into the mountains west of Denver this weekend. I have a front lowrider rack with about 11 lbs in each pannier. I also have a handlebar bag with about 6 lbs of stuff. My rear panniers are about 10 lbs each. I'm riding a 12 year old Trek 970 mtn bike with a rigid fork.

This setup handles great on flat ground or downhills (got up to 42mph with no problems). However, when I'm climbing uphill at slow speeds I find it problematic to keep the front wheel in a straight line. It keeps pulling to one side or the other and I was constantly working to keep from weaving all over the road. I wouldn't say it was dangerous or terribly worrisome, but I'm wondering if there is anything I can do to improve my slow speed handling while going uphill.

It seems like moving the front panniers rearward a bit might help, but the panniers are almost as far back as they go. I'm gonna try adjusting them to move them as far back as I can. Any other suggestions?
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Old 05-21-07, 03:32 PM   #2
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I haven't had that problem, but I also don't have a handlebar bag. When I did strap some kit to the top of the front rack, I had some wobble.

Maybe lose the handlebar bag, or lighten it?
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Old 05-21-07, 04:44 PM   #3
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For some reason my intuition is telling me to try moving the panniers forward, keep the heavy stuff at the bottom, lighten the h/b bag, and moving a little more of the total load from the front to the rear panniers. I really have no data to back this up, though.

Also, it could just be head-tube angle, i had a super twitchy mountain bike with a steep head tube.

You might get used to it, if you do, that's great! Give it a few hours of trying. But, from my own experience, if you have a handling problem that doesn't start to feel OK in a few hours of riding, it is worth it to sort it out (including bike purchase if needed) b/c crashes really suck.

If you ever want a local short-local-tour partner, or if you tour through here, give me a buzz, I'm in Boulder.

Anna
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Old 05-21-07, 06:54 PM   #4
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The times that I've carried a significant front load, it has helped to use wide handlebars, lighten the handlebar bag, and mount the handlebar bag as close to the bars as possible. I think bags that mount way out from the handlebars so you can wrap your fingers around the flat section of bar exert too much leverage on the bar and compromise steering control. Strapping some gear to the top of the front rack gave me some wobble, too, but just changing the position of the gear on the front rack helped. So did taking my hands off the bars, but that's not always an option.
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Old 05-23-07, 07:37 AM   #5
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Ive only started this, but tried front, back, handle barbags, all seperately, and noticed what causes what movements. I dont know about moving the panniers back or forward, ill leave that to the pros, but handlebar wobble came from heavy handle bar bags for me... And hand position also affects this somewhat.

I decided just to turn with it, and it tends to go back and forth with no real bad effect.s...
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Old 05-23-07, 07:45 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the suggestions. The problem is finding time to load up the bike and get into the hills to try different load distributions. It's not a serious problem, so I can wait until I'm on tour to try to fine tune it. I'll just keep an eye on my rear view mirror and make sure I'm not swerving into overtaking traffic.

Edit: I just checked some notes I had on my bike's frame geometry. It has the same head angle as an LHT or 520: 71 degrees. And my Surly 1x1 fork has 45 mm of rake, same as the LHT and slightly less than the 520 (52mm?). So the numbers look ok there, right?

Last edited by velo2000; 05-23-07 at 07:52 AM.
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Old 05-24-07, 04:38 AM   #7
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[QUOTE=valygrl]For some reason my intuition is telling me to try moving the panniers forward, keep the heavy stuff at the bottom, lighten the h/b bag, and moving a little more of the total load from the front to the rear panniers. I really have no data to back this up, though.
Anna[/QUOTE




Your intuition is correct. Move the rear panniers as far forward as you can without causing them to clip your heels. Pack all the heavy stuff at the bottom of the panniers and make sure the heavy stuff is at the rear. Even moving the rear panniers an inch forward can make the difference of wobble or no wobble.
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Old 05-24-07, 09:41 AM   #8
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Your intuition is correct. Move the rear panniers as far forward as you can without causing them to clip your heels. Pack all the heavy stuff at the bottom of the panniers and make sure the heavy stuff is at the rear. Even moving the rear panniers an inch forward can make the difference of wobble or no wobble.
The problem isn't with the rear of the bike, it's with the front. And it's not really a wobble. It's that the front wheel wants to pull to one side or the other when I'm going uphill at very slow speeds (below 6mph or so). Moving the weight on the front fork rearward a bit should help because the weight won't be in front of the turning axis of the fork. I tried this change on my commute yesterday and it felt a little better. I'll have to wait a couple weeks until I have time to load up and hit the hills again to see if it helps when fully loaded.

On a side note, yesterday was the first time I've ridden with only front panniers. And I like it. I'm gonna try it for commuting from now on. I could see where it would help in the winter to stabilize the front wheel a bit and keep it from being so squirrelly when you hit a patch of snow.
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