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  1. #1
    Pozer
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    Loading your bike + Bike Flex - Best practices/comments?

    Hey folks,

    I've only been on a couple short (3 day) camping excursions, but I had a few questions now that I've got some experience under my belt.

    I ride a Surly Crosscheck for touring, and have 2x ortleib backroller rear panniers and a handlebar bag.

    Generally when I have packed I put all my gear into the two rear panniers, and my sleeping bag + tent tethered to the top of the rack. Keep my valuables in the handlebar bag. Total weight - ~30-40lbs.

    Now I have noticed that once i'm all loaded up I feel what (at the start) was a startling amount of frame flex. The bike almost felt like a rubber band! It was disconcerting at the start, but i adjusted and stopped noticing so much after a bit of riding.

    • Q1: Is it normal to be able to so obviously feel the flex? It was enough that I didn't feel at all comfortable standing or riding with no hands (which is probably a bad idea anyway? )
    • Q2: Would getting front panniers minimize or increase this flex? In another thread I read best practice is to load 60% weight in the front, 40% in the back. Is the flex issue (is it even an issue?) because I had too much weight on the back?
    • Q3: Is it a bad idea / am I asking for trouble riding with almost everything loaded on the back? I have a couple 3-5 day trips planned before the end of summer and I'm not sure I want to spend another whackload of money on some front panniers before next season.


    Thanks for all your help.

    R
    Last edited by ryth; 08-05-09 at 03:24 PM. Reason: more descriptive title
    08 Surly Crosscheck (Misty Mountain Grey)
    83 Peugeot PBN10 Fixed (Pearl Orange)
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    ryth the only thing i can say about that is ,i have the same set up on my thorn as in two ortlieb bikepacker plus panniers on the back /handlebar bag ,and to be honest loaded or unloaded it rides fantastic no difference .not sure if that's any help.

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    Are you sure it's flex? If a lot of weight is behind the rear axle, it will pull up on the front of the bike making it feel very squirrelly. Look at the loaded rear wheel from the side and see where the pannier is relative to the rear hub. Try moving the panniers as far forward as you can without causing heel strike.

  4. #4
    Pozer
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
    Are you sure it's flex? If a lot of weight is behind the rear axle, it will pull up on the front of the bike making it feel very squirrelly. Look at the loaded rear wheel from the side and see where the pannier is relative to the rear hub. Try moving the panniers as far forward as you can without causing heel strike.
    Thats a good question. I did have to set the panniers back a bit because of heel strike and squirly would certainly be a word I would use to describe how the handling felt.

    Here is a pick of the loaded rig, what do you think?



    Would adding front panniers help compensate for this potentially?
    08 Surly Crosscheck (Misty Mountain Grey)
    83 Peugeot PBN10 Fixed (Pearl Orange)
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I'm one of those 60/40 guys tho I never totally achieve it. Love the way mine handles with weight distributed. Seems like the logical arrangement for stability.

    I'd vote for squirrelly over flex, tho squirrelly is the word I use for the way mine feels after I unload it.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

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    I think you have far too much weight behind the rear axle. I would definitely add some front panniers, and/or get a real touring bike with longer chainstays, or get a trailer instead of panniers. It won't help to get the front panniers if all you do is carry more stuff. So don't carry any more--just move all the heavy stuff up front.

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    I agree it's very likely that there is too much weight on the back. You need to put some weight on a front rack.

    BTW, the chainstay / wheelbase isn't that far off of a touring bike, it's only about 1" shorter. The geometry differences between a CC and a touring bike are pretty minor.

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    The other thing you could look at if you really don't want to get a front setup is the lateral stiffness of the rear rack. If you can rotate the rack at all, the load can wiggle side to side and mess with your handling. beefier struts from the rack to the bike at the top might help.

    That said, I agree it will handle better with some weight up front or just plain less weight.
    ...

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    Sounds normal to me. You've got a lot of weight hanging out off the rear axle. What kind of rear rack is it?

    My @.02 would be to try a combinations of things that would lead you to a solution.

    1. See if some kind of strap/bungie can hold the panniers snug to the rack so the contents can't wiggle around. I've strapped from the bottom of the rack to the top of the rack over each pannier and it helped a bit.

    2. Cram the stuff on the top of the rack as far forward as it will go until the back of your thighs just touch it, remove the bag under the seat.

    3. Start removing weight out of the panniers until you feel the riding manner is better. This is to see how much weight really starts to make a difference, and get you to cut out stuff.

    4. Now it's time to get creative, see if you can cram your sleeping bag into your handlebar bag or remove your handlebar bag and see if you can compress some item in a compressor bag and strap it on the bars. Heck, maybe strap it on vertically so it's squished against the head tube, brake cable (I know not a good idea) and sticking up. Basically the effort is to reduce the weight on the rear and move it forward and below the handlebars, but get it off the rear.

    5. Get a frame bag

    6. Get a front rack, reduce your gear by 30%, leave the panniers and handlebar bag at home and split it between the gear between the top of the front rank and top of the rear rack.

    7.or, take off the rear rack and panniers and see how you'd strap the barest minimum on the bike for survival camping and see what that is like to ride around with.

    8. or, get a Tara front low rider and move your panniers forward, strap them on, and remove your handlebar bag. Which would probably be the best solution. 30-40lbs seems like a lot of weight for three days of camping.

    9.imagine this:http://velo-orange.com/cofrra.html attached to your front fork and your sleeping bag or tent is strapped over it sausage like with a circle of bungies tieing it on. That's what I put on my Cross-check. It's really not decent for panniers but it's an idea. I used ss. c clamps connecting it straight to the cantilever bosses and cut off the tang that goes under the crown. It's SOLID. Anything to get the weight off the rear and moved forward.

    10. you'll love this solution. Get these http://www.jandd.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=FSBP and reduce your load to fit in them. Then consider a front rack. I toured for a month with something about this size on my bike with what could fit on the top of the rack. Of course my tent was an Army surplus poncho but I camped when it didn't rain.

    11. the problem here is that someone is making bikes, someone is making racks and someone is making panniers. Which really has nothing to do with loading a bike so it's balanced.

    Basically the great grey mass behind the rear axle needs to move forward.
    Last edited by LeeG; 08-06-09 at 12:12 AM.

  10. #10
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    I had the exact same setup on my Cannondale Sport Road Bike a couple of weeks ago when I did a 4 day tour and it was tough because the center of the rear rack is behind the axel. As long as you have the majority of the weight there you will have a problem. Take a look at the Touring 2 and see how the center of the rack is in front of the axel. Plus look at the distance between the rear tire and the frame. I know that this isn`t solving the problem but it`s shows why an actual touring bike work so well.


    http://www.cannondale.com/bikes/09/cusa/model-8TR2.html
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  11. #11
    Pozer
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
    I think you have far too much weight behind the rear axle. I would definitely add some front panniers, and/or get a real touring bike with longer chainstays, or get a trailer instead of panniers. It won't help to get the front panniers if all you do is carry more stuff. So don't carry any more--just move all the heavy stuff up front.
    FWIW the Crosscheck is essentially the same as any other touring bike as far as the chainstays go. The chainstays on the crossbeck are 16.75" where a "real" touring bike like the Jamis Aurora is 17.3" , so barely 1.5 cm different.

    In the future you may want to say "dedicated" touring bike rather than "Real" touring bike

    Anyway, thanks for the advice.
    08 Surly Crosscheck (Misty Mountain Grey)
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  12. #12
    Pozer
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
    Sounds normal to me. You've got a lot of weight hanging out off the rear axle. What kind of rear rack is it?

    My @.02 would be to try a combinations of things that would lead you to a solution.

    1. See if some kind of strap/bungie can hold the panniers snug to the rack so the contents can't wiggle around. I've strapped from the bottom of the rack to the top of the rack over each pannier and it helped a bit.

    2. Cram the stuff on the top of the rack as far forward as it will go until the back of your thighs just touch it, remove the bag under the seat.

    3. Start removing weight out of the panniers until you feel the riding manner is better. This is to see how much weight really starts to make a difference, and get you to cut out stuff.

    4. Now it's time to get creative, see if you can cram your sleeping bag into your handlebar bag or remove your handlebar bag and see if you can compress some item in a compressor bag and strap it on the bars. Heck, maybe strap it on vertically so it's squished against the head tube, brake cable (I know not a good idea) and sticking up. Basically the effort is to reduce the weight on the rear and move it forward and below the handlebars, but get it off the rear.

    5. Get a frame bag

    6. Get a front rack, reduce your gear by 30%, leave the panniers and handlebar bag at home and split it between the gear between the top of the front rank and top of the rear rack.

    7.or, take off the rear rack and panniers and see how you'd strap the barest minimum on the bike for survival camping and see what that is like to ride around with.

    8. or, get a Tara front low rider and move your panniers forward, strap them on, and remove your handlebar bag. Which would probably be the best solution. 30-40lbs seems like a lot of weight for three days of camping.

    9.imagine this:http://velo-orange.com/cofrra.html attached to your front fork and your sleeping bag or tent is strapped over it sausage like with a circle of bungies tieing it on. That's what I put on my Cross-check. It's really not decent for panniers but it's an idea. I used ss. c clamps connecting it straight to the cantilever bosses and cut off the tang that goes under the crown. It's SOLID. Anything to get the weight off the rear and moved forward.

    10. you'll love this solution. Get these http://www.jandd.com/detail.asp?PRODUCT_ID=FSBP and reduce your load to fit in them. Then consider a front rack. I toured for a month with something about this size on my bike with what could fit on the top of the rack. Of course my tent was an Army surplus poncho but I camped when it didn't rain.

    11. the problem here is that someone is making bikes, someone is making racks and someone is making panniers. Which really has nothing to do with loading a bike so it's balanced.

    Basically the great grey mass behind the rear axle needs to move forward.
    Excellent advice, all of it. Thank you very much.

    Someone above also mentioned that it could be the rack, and thinking of it now I'd have to think that a lot of the "flex" feeling that I'm getting could be from simple rack sway. It's a $40 voyager rack, which is pretty great for the price, but certainly some of the other racks I've seen are much sturdier (and $$$$, looking at you Surly Nice )
    08 Surly Crosscheck (Misty Mountain Grey)
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  13. #13
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    In my opinion my bike feels much better with the weight distributed front and rear, rather than just on the back. You really should try it.

  14. #14
    Pozer
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    In my opinion my bike feels much better with the weight distributed front and rear, rather than just on the back. You really should try it.
    That is certainly my ultimate goal, just looking for suggestions in the meantime as buying a pair of front panniers this season would mean one less road trip, so I figured i'd buy them in the winter months
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    random question -- are you using the stock surly wheels? just curious if they could handle that kind of back load without spoke breakage. about to get a crosscheck myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steveklebanoff View Post
    random question -- are you using the stock surly wheels? just curious if they could handle that kind of back load without spoke breakage. about to get a crosscheck myself.
    I did use the stock wheels for the first 2 trips, but have since built myself up a pair of Open Pros with 36 spoke XT hubs.

    The stock wheels are okay, but i wouldn't dare riding on them without doing a full tension/true first. They way they came from the manufacturer was totally weaksauce, but once I tensioned and trued them up for my trips they held up great.

    For reference I'm about 200# and was carrying ~30lbs of gear, as well.

    I'm a firm believer that it's more about the build than the hardware in a lot of cases with wheels, also the stock Deore hubs aren't bad.

    Side note: The LHT has a much better wheelset, I would have got the LHT over the CC just b/c of the wheelset but I was offered a deal I couldn't resist on the CC.
    Last edited by ryth; 08-06-09 at 10:23 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryth View Post
    I did use the stock wheels for the first 2 trips, but have since built myself up a pair of Open Pros with 36 spoke XT hubs.

    The stock wheels are okay, but i wouldn't dare riding on them without doing a full tension/true first. They way they came from the manufacturer was totally weaksauce, but once I tensioned and trued them up for my trips they held up great.

    For reference I'm about 200# and was carrying ~30lbs of gear, as well.

    I'm a firm believer that it's more about the build than the hardware in a lot of cases with wheels, also the stock Deore hubs aren't bad.
    awesome, thanks for the info. i think i'm going to distribute the weight with front and rear panniers to be safe, i was just curious as many people swear only by 36 spoke touring wheels at least for the rear and i was trying to gauge if it was really necessary for a 4 or 5 day tour.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by steveklebanoff View Post
    awesome, thanks for the info. i think i'm going to distribute the weight with front and rear panniers to be safe, i was just curious as many people swear only by 36 spoke touring wheels at least for the rear and i was trying to gauge if it was really necessary for a 4 or 5 day tour.
    To be fair, I didn't feel entirely comfortable with the 32 spoke deores on the DA16s however they did the job for 2 x 3 day tours (approx 250km each). I also did both rides full back loaded rather than distributed and at 6'4 and 200lbs I'm not a small rider; which was probably dumb.. but alas, here I am to tell the tale.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryth View Post
    To be fair, I didn't feel entirely comfortable with the 32 spoke deores on the DA16s however they did the job for 2 x 3 day tours (approx 250km each). I also did both rides full back loaded rather than distributed and at 6'4 and 200lbs I'm not a small rider; which was probably dumb.. but alas, here I am to tell the tale.
    definitely a bit ballsy but i'm glad to hear you didn't run into any broken spokes. i'm a 160 lb rider distributing the loaded weight for a 4 day trip (around 200 miles) on the stock surly build up with the addition of a third chain ring, hoping for the best

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    I heart bicycles xixiviii's Avatar
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    I ran a cross check with loaded front and rear panniers and racks with a handlebar bag on a three day tour (almost 80 pounds of bike and gear) and I also had frame flex.

    I think something to consider (this is what I decided anyway) is that the frame is steel. I think the reason I was so comfortable on my ride was because the frame was flexing a bit and gobbling up the road vibrations like an old Cadillac.

    I can go out to the garage right now with mine unloaded and push against the bottom bracket with my foot from the side and cause some minor flex.

    I think without it you would be in for a harsher ride.

    That is my two pennies worth of input.

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    Always try to put your heaviest things low in the panniers,whether using front/back or both sets.Light stuff on top of the rack. This alone will greatly improve the handling and sway of the racks.Get weight next to the rack mountings.

    Move your rear panniers as far forward as you can.And has been said,anything on top of the rack goes up against the seat post.

    Some handbar bags have d-rings on the sides.Maybe you could use them and get a heavy item lashed under your front bag?

    You want the weight as low as you can and as close to the center of the bike as you can.In a perfect world,all of your panniers would be under the bottom backet.

    That should make a fine touring bike.When you get the chance,spring for some fronts and a rack.Put all of your heavy stuff up front and low,you'll be good to go.
    Last edited by Booger1; 08-07-09 at 11:31 AM.
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    If you don't want to get front panniers, try to drop as much weight as you can. Then take the bike out for a test ride and keep experimenting with weight distribution. Try to put the heavier things lower and keep the panniers as close to yourself as possible with your heel striking them. Also, I've heard that a handlebar bag alone can cause frame flex, so maybe see what happens without the handlebar bag.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ryth View Post
    Excellent advice, all of it. Thank you very much.

    Someone above also mentioned that it could be the rack, and thinking of it now I'd have to think that a lot of the "flex" feeling that I'm getting could be from simple rack sway. It's a $40 voyager rack, which is pretty great for the price, but certainly some of the other racks I've seen are much sturdier (and $$$$, looking at you Surly Nice )
    That was me, and I was speaking from personal experience. Rather than spending all that $ on the Nice Rack (or Tubus Cargo, which is cheaper (?) and lighter and really great) - you can manufacture some brackets yourself from stuff found in the hardware store to replace the usually-wimpy stays that attach the top/front of the rack to the seat stay braze-ons (or p-clamps, or brake boss, or whatever you're attaching to).

    My friend did this for me on my first touring rig - got some steel rod and bent it into a "U" shape, attached the bottom of the "U" to the rack with hose clamps, the tops of the "U" had holes drilled and were attached to the rack-mount points on the bike. That essentially replaced the two little bits of plumber's tape with steel rod, and made the rack much stiffer laterally - I went from not being able to stand up b/c of rack sway to standing easily.
    ...

  24. #24
    Senior Member huie's Avatar
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    Yesterday I just finished a four day tour with an almost identical setup. The handling felt very wobbly when going at speed which made descents a bit on the uncomfortable side. When standing, the bike shifted side to side significantly more than when unloaded but you can easily learn to compensate this.

    Like you I also heard about the 60/40 rule of weight distribution and expected the handling to be wobbly and wasn't let down. I just got my front rack in the mail yesterday (good timing, I know) so today I'm going to load the bike up and head for some hills and see what the difference is.

  25. #25
    on the hard road....... SteveJ's Avatar
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    Oops, wrong thread sorry
    Last edited by SteveJ; 08-10-09 at 03:49 PM.

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