I was gonna do a short coast tour the other day, but I had too much weight in my backpack and decided against being in pain and impotent. I always carry a backpack, even though it's a hassle sometimes (I hike on tour a lot and like to keep the bare minimum with me to survive if my bike ever gets stolen again), and I've got a little room left in my panniers that I could some of the crap from my backpack in, but they're larger than my old panniers, and I have to keep them pretty far back on the rack to keep from hitting them when I pedal, so I don't want too much more weight in there throwing me off balance.
I've never used a front rack, only a handlebar bag with very little weight in it, so I'm also concerned with how my bike will handle with extra weight up front. I plan on storing 10-18 pounds up front hopefully. Will bike still handle reasonably close to the same as it does without a front rack? My bike used to balance really well with a backpack on and the old panniers, plus up to 2 1/2 gallons of water in the rear rack bag, even standing up while pedaling uphill. My new rear rack bag will only hold 1 gallon of water, so that will probably make it handle differently also I would assume.
For some reason my computer won't let me copy the ebay link, but here's the ebay item numbers of the ones I'm considering (I'm cheap and poor):
I've got an extra set of small panniers I could use up front, but it would also be nice to have one that you can mount stuff on top of the same as a rear rack. I run a front fender also, and I'm not sure if either of these will work with my bike. I've got 700c tires also.
Which one of these racks would work best for what I want, and allow me to keep my front fender?
I believe the first is Nashbar's front rack and the second is Performance's rack. That seller stocks lots of Nashbar parts and accessories. I've wondered if it was some disgruntled employee. Probably they just buy overstock.
I'm sure you can find reviews of both here searching for nashbar rack and performance rack.
Consider putting your big panniers, with the most weight, on a low-rider front rack. Yes, it will change the handling characteristics, but your bike will feel more stable. The trick is to keep the center of gravity as low as possible, and closely balanced side-to-side. That means minimal weight in a handle-bar bag and the lightest of items in a back-pack.