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Thread: Pannier Set Up

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    Pannier Set Up

    I'm setting my bike (Raleigh Sojourn) up for some serious touring, and I've got a question about the best set-up, given my situation. I consider myself a minimalist (a result of living for 2 years in a mud hut in Africa, I suppose), so I don't anticipate hauling a ton of gear. However, I've never done a tour of more than a few days, so I suppose I should say that there are probably things I've not anticipated.

    My question is this: Can I do long tours (1 month+) with only two lowrider front panniers mounted on a Tubus Tara? (And if so, any suggestions on high volume, lightweight, waterproof front panniers?)

    Is it common for tourers to use a large dry bag for the back rack and stuff it with the tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad? And after you do that, is there room leftover to put extras in there? If I can fit some additional items in a dry bag on the back rack, then I'm hoping that would be a reasonable set up.

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    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I'm going to give you an opinion from a guy who has not used just front panniers, so take it with a grain of salt. I have used front panniers in conjunction with rear panniers with good results. I believe that it would be better to distribute the load so that the majority is over the back wheel and keep the front panniers relitively light. At least that has been my experience. I just read somewher on here that an ideal distribution is about 30% front and 70% back. I know until I got the loading of the front panniers figured out there where some tense moments coming down hills. I would recommend just rear panniers over just front panniers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    I'm going to give you an opinion from a guy who has not used just front panniers, so take it with a grain of salt. I have used front panniers in conjunction with rear panniers with good results. I believe that it would be better to distribute the load so that the majority is over the back wheel and keep the front panniers relitively light. At least that has been my experience. I just read somewher on here that an ideal distribution is about 30% front and 70% back. I know until I got the loading of the front panniers figured out there where some tense moments coming down hills. I would recommend just rear panniers over just front panniers.
    Hmm, okay. I'd heard 60/40 in favor of the front wheel, actually. Anyone else want to chime in?

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    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I try to load the front heavier than the rear, shooting for a 50/50 weight distribution when my weight over the center of the bike is factored. I find that to be a very stable configuration.

    Any number of dry bags can be bungied to the rear rack. Just depends on how high you're willing to stack them. Outdoor Research makes good ones.

    Orblieb roll top panniers seem to be the most popular bags for touring. There are a number of others less expensive that have gotten good ratings.
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    Senior Member yeamac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BNcycle View Post

    My question is this: Can I do long tours (1 month+) with only two lowrider front panniers mounted on a Tubus Tara? (And if so, any suggestions on high volume, lightweight, waterproof front panniers?)

    Is it common for tourers to use a large dry bag for the back rack and stuff it with the tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad? And after you do that, is there room leftover to put extras in there? If I can fit some additional items in a dry bag on the back rack, then I'm hoping that would be a reasonable set up.
    Load it up and try it out. It all gets down to how much stuff you need. I don't think you'll need a large drybag on the rear rack. Personally I'd go for two medium sized front panniers like the Ortlieb packers and a pair of smaller rear panniers like the Jandd saddlebag panniers instead of one set of big front panniers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BNcycle View Post
    Hmm, okay. I'd heard 60/40 in favor of the front wheel, actually. Anyone else want to chime in?
    I have little personal experience but have to say that this forum is the only place I have seen people recomend more weight on the front wheel. If you look at other forums or at pictures on crazy guy or elsewhere the standard configuration is more weight on the rear wheel. I don't know whether the more load on the front view on this forum reflects general practice in the US or is just a quirk of this forum.

    If you are thinking of using two front panniers and a large bag on the rear rack why not just go for the standard large rear panniers plus small front ones? It is the configuration used by most tourers so you can rely on it working and you don't have to fill them all if you are travelling light.

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    Hi,

    I haven't got any experience on the 'front only': we've always been using small in front and large in the back, or only the large in the back for short trips. To my experience, having a lot of weight on the front (e.g. when everything is packed in another way for riding to the airport) makes the steering quite different. Maybe you get used to it, but I've never had it that way long enough.

    And on the 'large drybag with tent, sleeping bag, ...': I would recommend putting the tent in it's separate (not necessarily dry-)bag: if you store the damp tent in the same waterproof bag as you sleeping bag, you'll definitely end up with a damp sleeping bag.

    Tom

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    Deluxe Member mattm3's Avatar
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    I've tried both. I agree that more weight over the rear wheel is standard but a few people do it the other way. I've tried both.

    They say the front wheel is stronger than the back and by loading the front wheel, you balance out the overall weight distribution of the bike with your own weight on the rear wheel and heavy panniers on the front. I found weight on the front to be much more noticeable than the rear, especially if it's not exactly balanced left to right. Add to this a handlebar bag and it can really throw off your handling.

    I think the best thing to do is experiment with it. I liked having panniers up front and sleeping bag/tent on the rear rack because it made it easier to get in the panniers without taking stuff off the rear rack. The handling took some getting used to but this was mostly because I had a heavy bar bag.
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    Senior Member lighthorse's Avatar
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    As you may be able to see, I use only rear panniers. Works just fine for me.
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    I'd agree that uaing four panniers would be more stable than front panniers and a dry sack on the rear rack. That's because the weight in the back will be lower, bringing your center of gravity a bit closer to the ground.

    I try to keep weight on the front panniers roughly equal to the weight in the rear ones. If I'm going to have only two panniers, I'll make it the front ones if at all possible.
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    I always just put the smaller heavier items in the front and the bulkier lighter items in the back. I think I usually wind up with something like 60% (front) 40% (rear).

    Heavy stuff on top of the rear rack is do-able but the handling is noticeably worse.

    Even with smallish panniers I managed to get everything in the (4) panniers on my last tour and still have room to spare. The exception being the tent, which is too long to fit in the panniers. I think it is best to leave the tent out and carry it on top of the rack any way. I avoid putting it in any kind of water proof bag for two reasons:
    1. It doesn't need to be kept dry since if rolled with the bottom on the outside it stays dry even in an all day rain.
    2. If a wet tent is put in a dry bag with other gear, the other gear is likely to get wet.


    On the Trans America I also strapped my sleeping pad on top, but I now have a pad that packs smaller and I also carry less stuff.

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    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Check out this site showing a couple of hundred different touring rigs. They come in all sizes and shapes, but there is definately a trend. However, you have to have front and back panniers to qualify as "fully loaded" here.

    http://www.pbase.com/canyonlands/fullyloaded

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    Thanks for the opinions, everyone. I think I'm just going to follow the advice of most of you and just load it up and see what works. I'll definitely update the thread with my conclusion in a couple weeks. thanks again!

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    I don't see the point of the rear dry bag. Just use rear panniers. And I agree that there is no need to put the tent inside a dry bag.

    I always try to go 60/40 with the heavier load in the front. But it's easier said than done. The best I achieve is 60/40 with the heavier load in the rear, even if I put all the heavy stuff up front (because my rear panniers are larger and my tent is on the rear).

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    The front panniers only with a rear dry bag stuffer for bulky lighter items [clothes,pad,down quilt, tarptent] describes how I have been touring on and off pavement for the last 25 some years. It works quite well for me and there is room for some extras when needed.

    This setup worked well on the Divide Ride where changing surface material and high elevation makes things more difficult. Carrying less always seems to improve my tours once I had settled on what covers all the basics of staying warm, dry, fed and hydrated. Gravity is not your friend while climbing!

    Touring off pavement above 5000 meters in the Andes made me really appreciate this setup. In my experience this setup helped prevent rear wheel problems particularly for me the clydesdale. Less weight on the rear wheel allowed it to lift over obstacles instead of slamming into them. My wheels last a long time without truing or rebuilds until the braking surface thins too much.

    I reached this point by trying different setups until I found what what worked for how I tour not how someone else does. There is no one correct way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arctos View Post
    The front panniers only with a rear dry bag stuffer for bulky lighter items [clothes,pad,down quilt, tarptent] describes how I have been touring on and off pavement for the last 25 some years. It works quite well for me and there is room for some extras when needed.

    This setup worked well on the Divide Ride where changing surface material and high elevation makes things more difficult. Carrying less always seems to improve my tours once I had settled on what covers all the basics of staying warm, dry, fed and hydrated. Gravity is not your friend while climbing!

    Touring off pavement above 5000 meters in the Andes made me really appreciate this setup. In my experience this setup helped prevent rear wheel problems particularly for me the clydesdale. Less weight on the rear wheel allowed it to lift over obstacles instead of slamming into them. My wheels last a long time without truing or rebuilds until the braking surface thins too much.

    I reached this point by trying different setups until I found what what worked for how I tour not how someone else does. There is no one correct way.
    Thanks for that reply! Any way I can talk you into posting some pictures of it loaded up?

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    Lots of good opinions. I've gone shopping with only front panniers many times, loaded them up, and haven't noticed any problems. I like to put weight as low as possible, so loading up the top of the rear rack too much wouldn't be the way I'd go; I'd rather carry rear panniers.

    I usually put my sleeping bag and tent on the top of the rear rack, and my Big Agnes air mattress on the front rack's platform. I put small, heavy items (stove, cookware, tools) in the front panniers and lighter, bulkier items (clothes) in the back.

    As far as being a minimalist, that's great; the less weight you can carry, the better. But there are certain things I require in order to enjoy the trip. An example is the ability to brew a cup of coffee whenever I want. I've known people who didn't carry a stove, but that makes it impossible to brew coffee, and leads to lots of daily inconvenience finding food each day, in my opinion. I wouldn't want to tour without a stove, coffee funnel, coffee cup, coffee, and filters.

    My suggestion to anyone contemplating a big tour is to take some smaller ones. While you're on the road, take notes about the experience, paying particular attention to your packing list. What are you glad you brought, what do you wish you'd brought, and what did you bring that you could easily get along without? My list is always being refined. I've gone back and forth on some items, so I don't always have clear choices, but the list is much better than it was 5 tours ago.

  19. #19
    40 yrs bike touring
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    Quote Originally Posted by BNcycle View Post
    Thanks for that reply! Any way I can talk you into posting some pictures of it loaded up?
    1989 Bruce Gordon Ti RNR 59cm with BG Racks and Robert Beckman Panniers. My Divide Ride setup.



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    Hey arctos, what did you do with the Cook Bros cranks from the other pic???

    I STILL want a pair of those after 15 years or so....

    sweet setup. Similar to what I use, but I have a carradice camper longflap for the rear.

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    40 yrs bike touring
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    Quote Originally Posted by positron View Post
    Hey arctos, what did you do with the Cook Bros cranks from the other pic???

    I STILL want a pair of those after 15 years or so....
    After 15 years of hard use and excellent performance they bottomed out on the spindle. I had to replace them while on tour with the XT set which have worked well since. I gave the old Cooks to a friend for his bike art collection display.

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    Arctos, that is a perfect rig.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    Check out this site showing a couple of hundred different touring rigs. They come in all sizes and shapes, but there is definately a trend. However, you have to have front and back panniers to qualify as "fully loaded" here.

    http://www.pbase.com/canyonlands/fullyloaded
    Nice website! Great for research. Thanks.

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    Deluxe Member mattm3's Avatar
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