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Old 06-26-10, 01:46 AM   #1
JeanM
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Front loading the LHT

You know how much we hear that the LHT (and most other modern touring bikes) are handling so much better when loaded heavier on the rear? Well, I started traveling with an LHT only last year so I am still learning and experimenting a lot. This time I wanted to experiment what all this meant.

I am about 200 lb. My ride is a 56x26 black LHT, custom as seen here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeanmon...7623961512567/
According to the trail calculator here:
http://yojimg.net/bike/web_tools/trailcalc.php
the trail on that bike is 62 mm and the mechanical trail 59.
(compare this to 66 mm and 63 mm for the 56x700c LHT with 35 mm tires)
I installed the Surly Nice front rack on it, no rear rack at all and started loading my panniers in low-rider position up to 50 lb, total 55 lb including the rack and panniers weight.

My conclusion: what's the deal? No, seriously, if we are to believe what we read everywhere, like in Bicycle Quarterly, I should hardly be able to control my bicycle. At the very least the ride should be awful, totally unpleasant. The reality is that past 7-8 km/h (4-5 mph) the bicycle goes exactly where it is pointed at, stable as if on rails. Period. No fuss whatsoever. Climbing a long 8-10% hill (Mount Royal in the heart of Montreal, Canada) using the lowest gear (17,2 gearinches) and speed, all was just fine. I turned corners at 20 kph with the same results.

So my question is what am I missing that every one else is reporting? Under which circumstances front loading the LHT becomes a problem? What kind of test should I run to learn the limits that I shouldn't exceed? Is it just because that I am heavier than average, hence loading the rear more than most, that I experience no handling problems?

Thanks for reading this and sharing your thoughts.


Last edited by JeanM; 06-26-10 at 05:16 AM.
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Old 06-26-10, 07:36 PM   #2
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sorry OP i don't know. but i really want to! i'd love to commute with one front pannier on an lht. i hope people chime in!!!
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Old 06-26-10, 07:56 PM   #3
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sorry OP i don't know. but i really want to! i'd love to commute with one front pannier on an lht. i hope people chime in!!!
As a 1- or 2-rear-pannier commuter myself, I'm curious why you want to commute with only a front? I have a low rider, I've just never used it solo. I'll try it next week, but I'm curious why you want to do that?

Thanks,
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Old 06-26-10, 08:17 PM   #4
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I always commute to work using only my front rack (Blackburn MTB rack) and panniers. I've never experienced any negative issues with my LHT.
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Old 06-26-10, 08:17 PM   #5
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I've been riding my 26" 56cm LHT with a OMM Sherpa front rack mounted on the eyelets w/o the axle mount. It handles a top mounted pannier load better than the 700c version. When I get the rear rack installed I'll see how that changes things.
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Old 06-26-10, 08:19 PM   #6
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I don't know of any reviews that say the LHT is unstable if you load the front down, unless they were referring to a bike basket or something where the center of gravity was a lot higher than normal front panniers. Mine is stable as a train when I only have weight on the front.
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Old 06-26-10, 08:27 PM   #7
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At 200 lbs, the rear already has a considerable pressure on it. Sticking up to 50 lbs on the front theoretically counters some of that rearward weight - especially if rear panniers are over/behind the rear axle and there are no panniers on the front. Personally, weighing more than you do, I find a 45/55 or 40/60 front to rear loading distribution works best for me (though on a Windsor Tourist, not an LHT)... others have obviously reported and experienced things differently.
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Old 06-26-10, 11:16 PM   #8
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As a 1- or 2-rear-pannier commuter myself, I'm curious why you want to commute with only a front? I have a low rider, I've just never used it solo. I'll try it next week, but I'm curious why you want to do that?

Thanks,

hmmm, i guess i don't like dragging stuff. front seems cleaner. i ride with carradice trax and a barley on my bikes currently, and feel like a change. maybe there is no reason except i like it psychologically, or the idea of it anyways. the guy who writes the lockringnotincluded blog runs a rack on the front only of his crosscheck and it seems elegant...more so than rear rack. that explains nothing i know...like i said, it's prolly psychlogical. but i love the look of a front rack on a lht. saw a guy in my town with one last week...no idea why it looks so good to me...
i'm repeating myself because i have no good argument!
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Old 06-27-10, 12:10 AM   #9
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Hi,
You have raised a good point, my wife tours on the exact same LHT and she loads the front panniers with as much as she can and as low as they can and then carries the lighter gear in the rear bags.
There is not much size to my wife and she prefers heavier at the front all day long and has no problems with stability.

Just do what suits you and entertain yourself buy annoying these so called experts ;-)
Sam

Last edited by Sam Tully; 06-27-10 at 01:37 AM. Reason: grammer
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Old 06-27-10, 03:16 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoGaBiker View Post
As a 1- or 2-rear-pannier commuter myself, I'm curious why you want to commute with only a front? I have a low rider, I've just never used it solo. I'll try it next week, but I'm curious why you want to do that?

Thanks,

after i wrote my first reply to your question i figured my rear rack aversion out. as a kid we all rode to school on 'racing' bikes with these awful rear racks that we attached our school bags to with ocky straps (bungee cords i think they're called in the northern hemisphere). the weird wobble of them, the way they threw out the bike, the awful bag hanging unevenly off the side, added up to bad vibes. i know that was a long time ago and that proper panniers and racks would be better, but i think that explains my odd preference for the front rack. rear racks feel like going to school!

Last edited by astroman; 06-27-10 at 03:20 AM. Reason: unclear final sentence
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Old 06-27-10, 01:01 PM   #11
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I have been a front-loader for years while commuting and touring (i like the slower handling/steering of a front load, and balancing the weight between front and rear wheels- mine on the rear, stuff on front), and I have both a low trail (french-style) bike and a "normal" trail touring bike.

Frankly, there is VERY little difference between the two at all. Take the expert opinions at Bicycle quarterly with a grain of salt. They have their likes and preferences, which is fine, but it does not mean they are correct. the idea that anything but a low-trail rando bike with shaved 650B hetre tires can carry a front load or large handlebar bag is ludicrous...

What DOES make a difference is how far forward the bags are in front of the steering axis... move them backwards as much as possible, and you get a very stable ride- this is slightly easier to do on a low-trail bike, but certainly possible on my normal trail bike with its tubus duo lowrders... I use an ostrich bag on both bikes, with a decaleur and small rack, and frankly I cant really tell the difference based on the trail... I can ride either bike no-hands with a front load no problem.
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Old 06-27-10, 03:34 PM   #12
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I tried a front mounted cargo basket on top of my LHT's front rack...when loaded the bike handled like crap and I wouldn't want to ride it like that....could I make the bike go where I wanted?....yes, but it was a lot of work and not a fun ride...needless to say the basket came off and I rear load my LHT and then front load....handles great that way...just like it was designed to.
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Old 06-27-10, 06:27 PM   #13
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Vik, is your LHT 700c or 26"?
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Old 06-27-10, 06:29 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astroman View Post
after i wrote my first reply to your question i figured my rear rack aversion out. as a kid we all rode to school on 'racing' bikes with these awful rear racks that we attached our school bags to with ocky straps (bungee cords i think they're called in the northern hemisphere). the weird wobble of them, the way they threw out the bike, the awful bag hanging unevenly off the side, added up to bad vibes. i know that was a long time ago and that proper panniers and racks would be better, but i think that explains my odd preference for the front rack. rear racks feel like going to school!
Ahhh, so your weird pathology aside there's no "scientific" reason I should be riding front only if I'm riding with one or two?

For me it's easier to get all my work clothes, shoes, and stuff in two rear Ortliebs than it is two front Ortliebs. And of course it looks cooler! (C'mon Astro, you know it does. )
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Old 06-27-10, 07:14 PM   #15
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I have a 2009 LHT, 700C with 37mm tires. My front rack is an OMM low rider. I have tried putting load on the back and then tried the front and settled on the front, when I am only using 1 or 2 bags. My LHT handles better going down hills at speed with the weight on the front. Of course, my own 260 lbs probably counter acts that front weight!
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Old 06-28-10, 03:42 AM   #16
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Thanks for the great response guys much needed. I gathered some excellent feedback on this Surly LHT & Crosscheck Google group, if you are curious.

So, after reading about your experiences, here and at the other place, I decided to push the
experimentation to its limits: one milk crate tied up on top of the rack,
loaded with 40 lb of rice and two panniers with 15 lb of bottles full
of water in them each.
Oh boy! The wheel flopping, with the bike at a stop, became sudden and
brutal. Starting from a dead stop required as fast an acceleration as
possible to go straight. Once, I had a car on my left at a red light
and the road was going slightly uphill: it made me a bit nervous. Yet the
right reflexes to compensate for the front wheel developing it's own
will were learned pretty fast.
At speed the front became extremely steady and the handling heavy but
pleasant. The surprise came from the rear. On braking it wanted to
pass in front quite often but the strangest feeling was when riding
relatively fast (20 kph+) on wavy surfaces: it was as if the tire came
off the rim. No loss of control but I would like to observe this
behavior from a better vantage point than on top of it.


I like doing brevets. For them having a front bag where to put food, maps
and stuff is ideal. We don't ride that fast but tend to not stop very often either. There doesn't seem to be any problems for having a good 10-15 lb in front with the LHT in 56x26 version. I wouldn't recommend to go much heavier with the load perched so high. In low- rider configuration there doesn't seem that much trouble is to be
expected up to 40 lb. Past that the rear begins to act on its own.

I would be curious to try a low trail bike. My feeling is that for
randonneurs who travel light it must be great. Nevertheless, for fully
loaded tourers I think that Surly made the right choice by favoring a
heavier load at the rear. I do not believe that I'll load as much in
the rear though as I did formerly with the 56x700c.

Thanks again for sharing guys.
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Old 06-28-10, 03:55 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoGaBiker View Post
As a 1- or 2-rear-pannier commuter myself, I'm curious why you want to commute with only a front? I have a low rider, I've just never used it solo. I'll try it next week, but I'm curious why you want to do that?

Thanks,
If I may...
The psychological preference isn't just for Astroman. I like to see my stuff in front and that everything there is as it should be.

It also has happened a couple of times that problems with the back at the rear, like a strap that I forgot to tie up hanging down dangerously toward the spokes, were noticed only too late. No grave consequences, fortunately, but it is disquieting nonetheless.

The handling is also different, stiffer but steadier. With the weight distributed as low as possible it is quite pleasant, for myself at least.

Finally, there is no denial that our own, let's say, bodily weight distribution has an influence on where to stock our bagage for the road.
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Old 06-28-10, 04:19 AM   #18
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I tried a front mounted cargo basket on top of my LHT's front rack...when loaded the bike handled like crap and I wouldn't want to ride it like that....could I make the bike go where I wanted?....yes, but it was a lot of work and not a fun ride...needless to say the basket came off and I rear load my LHT and then front load....handles great that way...just like it was designed to.
As you can read elsewhere I concur that loading heavy and high is asking for trouble. Low and fairly heavy is much less trouble already, even fun at around 30 lb and considering my own weight.

With great respect for the LHT designers and yourself as a valued contributor here, on your blog and elsewhere: not everything can be taken into account in a "one design fits all" sort of bicycle. The engineer can only take into account one typical user, likely American and forty-ish, while quite a few of us are somewhat atypical in that sense.

I also wonder how much the 4 mm difference in trail and lower wheel of the 26" version of the LHT makes a difference?
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Old 06-28-10, 05:37 AM   #19
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I have often read 60% of the load low on the front is better than a heavily weighted rear...works very well on my 52 LHT...
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Old 06-28-10, 08:25 AM   #20
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jeanm thanks for the fullsome experimentation on our behalves (behalfs?)! super. when in finally lht up i will try it that way, front-stylin'...on a 58 with the 26 inch wheels...can't wait!
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Old 06-30-10, 01:48 PM   #21
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I've used front panniers only on my 54 cm (26") LHT before and it ran fine. There was a thread just like this on here a while back. It seems most people said 60% in the front and 40% in the back was good. I put fully loaded panniers on the front low-rider rack and tent, etc. on the rear. You could certainly feel the weight in the front but it didn't really hurt the handling.
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Old 06-30-10, 03:31 PM   #22
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Quote:
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I also wonder how much the 4 mm difference in trail and lower wheel of the 26" version of the LHT makes a difference?
The 700c and 26" bikes handle differently. After riding the 700c for nearly two years and the 26" version for a month they both fit the design goal of heavy touring bike for carrying front/rear panniers but do it in noticeably different manner. The 26" is quicker handling and for the same weight of top mounted gear/panniers on the front rack the 26" isn't as floppy as the 700c version. But I was trying out 15lbs-30lbs, I couldn't imagine loading up 70lbs on either end. In a few days I'll be getting a Tubus Cargo with an extra set of lower rails brazed on and get a chance to see how it handles really loaded up. The 26" LHT handles like the 700cCrossCheck more than the 700c LHT with regards to steering and responding to a lean.
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