Advice on Racks & Panniers for Cross Country Tour
Hi everyone. I've read some threads on this site before, but this is my first post. I've never bike toured before, but I'm thinking very seriously about quitting my job next spring and riding across the US. It's something I've been dreaming about for a few years and I figure, if not now, when? Anyway, I'm thinking about going from East to West, perhaps on the TransAmerica route or the Northern Tier route. I have yet to decide. At the moment, my plan is to ride solo and self-supported.
I'm in the process of slowly acquiring gear for the trip, and I'm at the point where I'd like to start doing some longer practice rides on the weekends. So I need to buy a rack and some panniers. But I'm not quite sure what to get.
I'm thinking about getting the Tubus Cargo and a set of Altura Orkney 56 Rear Panniers (haven't figured out the front setup yet). Anyone have experience with either of these products? Any thoughts? Recommendations? Advice? I'm also considering the Jandd Expedition rear rack and Ortlieb Backroller Classic panniers.
I'm a fairly small person (5'3) and I have small feet, so clearance isn't really an issue. I'm mostly wondering about build quality, reliability, size, weight, and price. But like I said, I'm new to all of this, so any advice you have would be great. If it matters, my bike is a Jamis Coda.
Last edited by regularmegs; 08-24-14 at 02:27 PM.
I have the Tubus Cargo and it's rock solid but pricey. If budget is an issue there are other racks that will do the job for less... You can't go wrong with Ortilebs unless you desire lots of pockets which add weight. Note that the (rear) Classic panniers are 8 ounces heavier that the Plus (cordura) model. If you are going to have 4 panniers the classics (front and back) will weigh about a pound more than the Plus/cordura. One downside of the cordura fabric is that it fades faster. Yet another choice is the new hi-vis model that glows in the dark and is also very visible in the day. I heard that they worked hard on color retention with these but they haven't been out long.
I was in your position a couple of years ago (acquiring gear) and since most of the bikes I saw had 4 panniers i started going in this direction but on your first trip you will realize how much weight affects the experience and you'll probably be thinking about sending stuff home or ways to reduce weight. You really don't need much out there and two panniers and a rack top dry bag is enough for many. Skipping the front rack and panniers saves almost 5 lbs not to mention the tendency to want to fill extra space when you have it (and the converse when you don't). Just food for thought.... If you have an interest in packing light we can give you some links. Good luck!
Are we twins separated at birth?! I could've written that paragraph 'cept I'm going west to east. I've opted for the Surly LHTD and a YAK trailer and MAYBE I can resist the temptation to load it to the max. My biggest challenge right now is getting enough time to ride. Hopefully there'll be a layoff at work in the fall of the year and then my training can kick into high gear. Right now I amaze my friends and family by telling them I ride 35 miles at a time. They think that's really something but I KNOW I'll have to do better than that and do it several times a week. However, there's no rule against finishing up one's conditioning whilst on the road and that's probably what I'll end up doing. Anyway, I'm not here to steal your thunder, hang tough RegMeds and perhaps we'll cross paths next year.
Originally Posted by regularmegs
I use the Tubus Logo EVO rear rack. That puts the rear panniers a bit lower. As a small person, the lower pannier mounting might be an advantage for better balance.
The Logo EVO does not do a good job for holding a rack top bag because it is very narrow, if that is a priority then maybe that is not the right rack. But I do not use a rack top bag for touring, instead I either used the Ortlieb 31 litter duffel or the Caradice Nelson Longflap, either of which sat on top of the panniers. The duffel I strap down on top of the panniers without any problem, the Carradice is attached to the rear of the bike saddle and sits on the panniers.b A lot of people just use a drybag or stuff sack to strap on the rear, about 20 liter capacity, that works fine too.
I use the Ortlieb backrollers, very happy with them.
Think about a handlebar bag to carry all valuables, you want one that can be taken off in seconds to carry in the grocery store or restaurants. Unfortunately all handlebar bags are heavy if they have any strength at all, but I find that is something I have to put up with if I want to carry one.
Don't quit your job, ask for a leave of absence. They can say no, in which case that would be the same as quitting, but if they say yes you have a fall back contingency plan.
The Axiom Streamliner is a tubus look-alike at a third of the price... and I've put on 5,000 miles without issue.
Thanks for your advice everyone.
@mm718 - I am definitely interested in packing as light as possible. However, I plan on bringing my DSLR and a couple of lenses as well as some other miscellaneous camera gear, so I think I am going to need a front rack. If anyone has any advice on how to pack camera gear, I'd much appreciate it.
@Louis Le Tour - Glad to hear there are others here like me. If you're already doing 35 mile rides, that's more than me, so good for you! Keep up the good work and maybe I'll see ya out there.
@Tourist in MSN - Thanks for your advice. I hadn't thought about lower-mounted bags effecting balance. I'll have to put some thought into that. Any other petite riders out there have advice on this issue? And as for quitting my job, I was planning on doing it anyway, so I'm using this ride as an excuse. I appreciate your suggestion though.
@mdilthey - That link doesn't seem to be working, but I found the Streamliner on Google. Why is it so much cheaper than the Tubus? I am on a budget, so I would like to save money where possible, but I want to be sure that the stuff I buy is dependable.
Have you ever heard of Chris King bicycle components? Headsets, hubs, bottom brackets... They're what's known as "Boutique" bicycle parts. They have the absolute highest quality materials, workmanship, and precision in the industry, but you pay for it- hundreds of dollars.
Originally Posted by regularmegs
Step down a notch or two from "Boutique" parts, and you have serious components for serious riders, but at reasonable prices. A Shimano Ultegra or XT hub will last thousands of miles... might never outride a Chris King hub, but it's excellent kit for your dollar.
Tubus racks are boutique racks. They have the absolute highest quality precision, aesthetics, weld quality, materials. They'll last and last, and weigh a bit less. Stepping down to the nitty-gritty with the Axiom rack is not going to produce a noticeable decrease in usability. At the end of the day, it's aluminum tubing with thick double welds, a good mount system, and good quality control, but it's not as pretty or as perfect as the Tubus. That doesn't mean it's worse. If you don't overload it, it should last just as long.
Less money does not always equate less durability. Mayyybe on a scale of tens of thousands of miles, but even then, likely not. It's a good rack and it costs 2-3x more than the "budget" racks, which this is not.
@mdilthey - Thanks! This is exactly the kind of information I'm looking for. Since I'm new to all of this, it's hard for me to decipher when spending a little more money is justified and when it isn't. But it sounds like Axiom is a good bet. The Streamliner looks pretty narrow though, so I might look at some of their other options. Looks like it might be difficult to strap anything to the top (like a tent or sleeping bag). Thanks for taking the time to reply to my question.
There should be a wider version than the super-skinny one... try this link:
Originally Posted by regularmegs
In my experience, this is wide enough for just about any tent you'd be carrying.
If you have other questions, I'm happy to answer them. Ask me here or buzz over to my site (in my signature) and ask me anything in a comment or a message on the contact sheet (under "Max Writes for You!")
I also wrote a primer on building and upgrading a touring bike here.
Thanks. I have standard brakes though, not disc brakes. I'm looking at the Axiom Journey now...
Actually, doesn't matter! The frame works just fine for a non-disc bike. I used it on a bike without disc brakes for all 5,000 of those miles. All that means is that the mounting hardware sets the rack back about 2 inches to avoid hitting the disc rotor.
I have a disc bike now, but I never noticed any problems at all due to having the rack set back a bit. That being said, anything in the Axiom line around that price range should suit you fine.
While I now use the Tubus cargo and Tara racks, and Ortlieb Classic roller panniers, both front and rear; I've done a lot of touring using The Blackburn Expedition rear rack and less costly panniers. The Blackburn rack gave me good service, including a trip across the U.S. The reason I upgraded was a longer, more rigorous, and more expensive tour was being planned, and I wanted the best equipment that I could afford.
For those once in a lifetime trips, or as an investment in reliability, the higher cost is often worth it. However, if you are uncertain about your future in bike touring, there is adequate equipment at more modest prices.
Ironically, the only rack I ever broke was a Tubus rack. It was promptly replaced without any questions.
I would also recommend Ortlieb Panniers. I've had my Ortlieb rear panniers for 6 years and 12,000 miles of touring. Bike riding and touring are what my wife and I do. We consider good equipment an investment that we will amortize over several years of use. We have gone through several sets of panniers before settling on Ortlieb panniers. I like the Classic Rollers, and my wife uses the Packer Plus series bags.
PS. Besides being guilty of using "Boutique" racks, I'm also guilty of putting a Chris King headset on my wife's bike when I built it up for her. With over 10,000 miles on that bike I still consider it a good investment
Last edited by Doug64; 08-25-14 at 02:06 PM.
I'm a smaller rider. I don't think the center of gravity issue matters much for a rear rack, i ususaly have quite a bit of weight on top of the rear rack (tent, sleeping bag) and it doesn't matter. It does matter, for me, to have weight on the front - the bike handles much better with heavy items in the front (low) bags than with no weight up front.
Tubus racks are great, but you just need to have a rack that doesn't move laterally. I've used a couple different blackburn racks that were fine, and a factory rack from my trek 520 that was not ok, because of the lateral movement. because your bike is small, the attachment at the top of the rack might matter more, since there will be a longer distance between the front/top of the rack and the attachment point on the bike, because of the angle of the seat stays with a small frame. so you probably don't want something with a crappy little aluminum tape type attachment.
have a great trip!
I agree with Max that the Axiom racks are a good value. I find my Streamliner rock solid. There are a number of different models in the streamliner line.
I have also been happy with the Blackburn EX-1 that I used on my first coast to coast tour. The EX-1 has a wider platform than the Streamliners if you prefer that. I think I like the Streamliners a bit better but if you lake a wider platform the EX-1 might suit you. Either are a good value.
My advice is as follows and is best done in the order listed.
- Decide on and assemble your camping gear, clothing and so on. I recommend packing lighter than you might initially be inclined to. If over 40 pounds of bags, clothing, and gear definitely go over your list with a fine tooth comb and trim where you can. If you are not into going ultra light shoot for 30 pounds or so. It is quite possible to comfortably tour with half that so it shouldn't be too hard.
- Then decide on what baggage and racks will be best suited to carrying that much gear.
- Last choose the bike suited to the other gear and the route.
If interested in tips for keeping weight down check out my article at http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Ultralight Even if not going ultralight you will find some useful info for packing in the article.
What staehpj1 is touching on is ultralight bike touring, and I second that it is DEFINITELY worth your time to explore. I traveled for a month with 8lbs of stuff, and had more fun than I can say.
Originally Posted by staehpj1
If you do get panniers, Ortliebs really do last forever. They are a bit on the heavier side, but no heavier than most panniers. I do recommend.
You left out the best part...When one of Mr. King's components fails after one year and only a few thousand miles due to no fault of your own you get the pleasure of being told that Mr. King will send a replacement for the failed part as long as you send Mr. King $50 for the part and another $15 for shipping, at least that's what Mr. King's customer service department told the owner of my LBS last week during a conversation about a hub of mine.
Originally Posted by mdilthey
Re: your original Q:
Racks: Tubus is the best, worth it, meh...I use them because they have a wide range of shapes and sizes, but definitely not needed. Most of the cheaper options like Axiom or OMM racks work perfectly fine.
Panniers: I personally don't like Ortliebs for touring, commuting they are fine, but prefer pockets and something a bit lighter for week+ rides. My preference is Lone Peak, I think it's a good blend of performance (weight), practicality and cost....they are quite affordable for what you get....and made in the US.
I have seen people touring on cheap crappy gear having a blast....and the most expensive top end gear and having a blast. I personally shoot for the middle ground.
Give thetouringstore.com a look, lots of good info and Wayne is a straight shooter.
The Tubus Cargo is one of the best rear racks for touring that you can buy. Whether it's worth the cost over less expensive brands is your call. I've got a Tubus Cargo (old version) as well as a Planet Bike KOKO. Here is why is like the Cargo compared to the KOKO and most other rear racks. First and foremost, it has a large platform, which makes it great for carrying racktop bags as well as panniers. A lot (perhaps most) rear racks are not well designed for carrying racktop bags and are too narrow or taper toward the front, causing racktop bags to flop. Not an issue if you never use a racktop bag, but many people use them for commuting as well as touring and it's an important feature in my book.
The Cargo and other Tubus racks are also relatively light weight because they're made from hollow steel (or titanium) tubing. It's also very strong and well constructed, can carry a lot of weight, designed to fit Ortlieb panniers seamlessly.
Many lower priced racks will function just fine if you don't ever intend to carry heavy loads. However, the platform size may be an issue regardless of the price.
another person who has used reasonably priced racks for years with no issues, and as others have mentioned, there are a lot of good strong racks out there in the $25- roughly $60 range nowadays. I've nearly always toured on paved roads, in developed countries, and middle of the road racks combined with keeping your load down is not a problem in my opinion.
re: load weight, with camping gear and all that, I've consistently been in the 30-40lb range over the years, some do less, a lot do more, but this works for me.
a great rough calculation that I read of on this forum is to have your load weight + bike weight to be no more than half your body weight. When I saw this idea, then figured it out, it happened to mirror pretty much my experience of touring and what was too much weight, and what was ok--and certainly more enjoyable.
my bikes I've toured on tend to be close to 30lbs, my load lets say 35-40, put it at 70lbs, which is almost exactly half my weight at 135-140. When I did my first fully loaded tour and had more like 50lbs , and not low enough gearing, it was too much work. Yes, it was doable, but getting the load down to 40 or so made it more enjoyable, and like I said, coincided with this general rule of thumb calculation, so I figure it has some merit.
Perhaps for some people who are much stockier, going over it is ok, but I would very much keep this in mind when you begin getting stuff together. I know I learned from over doing it that first time, and was much more attentive to even factors like how much my panniers weighed etc. I mention this because there are some really well made panniers that are a lot lot heavier than others, and you could end up with 5lbs easily more on your bike just by chosing hefty panniers and handlebar bags.
so keep in mind as a reference:
load weight + bike weight to be no more than half your body weight
enjoy prepping for doing some touring and hope you like it.
Used Bruce Gordon's racks & Beckman bags for a long time. they were working together at the time.. that far back ..
Bags sewn & zippered they needed rain covers .. I got some sewn to my design.
08 I got a bike already with Tubus Racks , I have Ortlieb bags on it , they are used more often for utility loads at present..
Saying .. They are useful year around .. for years in a Row.
Last edited by fietsbob; 08-31-14 at 12:41 PM.
It would be interesting to see you packing list.
Originally Posted by mdilthey
Well I'm not too technically knowledgable on bikes and equipment. But I recently got a new bike and while in the shop I asked them to put a rack on the back, and I chose what I believe is called the, Ortlieb back roller classic. I have no adventurous plans like yours (good for you) but I can say that the ortlieb bags are solid and reliable. They clip on and off magnificently easily and seem to provode a very large amount of storage space and come with shoulder straps to carry them with you if you need to. They're also totally waterproof.
I went shopping the other day and was amazed at how much I could put in the bags. And I must say it didn't make any noticeable difference to the feel of riding the bike. I would have forgotton they were on the bike if I hadn't kept looking around to see them, I just love the red colour with the white of my bike. I got ortlieb because I had read good reviews. And I'm always of the opinion that it's better to spent a small amount more on a higher quality item rather than try to save twenty or thirty pounds with cheaper options. You'll be happier with them, they'll last longer and ultimately in the long run it's probably better value.
Last edited by Alsan; 08-30-14 at 11:38 PM.
I guess you were asking Max, but here is one of mine:
Originally Posted by Doug64
It was about 11 pounds. I have since cut the weight a bit further, but sometimes might take 1-2 pounds of extra stuff like a fly rod and/or one of my ultralight (6-12 oz) dulcimers. https://www.facebook.com/FeatherDulcimer
When it comes to bags, I think Jandd hits the sweet spot. They're not crazy expensive and they are rock solid. I guess I'm a bit of a jandd fan boy but I've travelled extensively with their gear. Jandd gear works, works, and works. Plus they're a very responsible company to deal with. I like the Jandd expedition racks as well.
Good luck on your trip. I quit my job some years back to do a cross country. I had a great time. Reading your post made me think about doing another cross country.