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Front rack or rear rack?

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Front rack or rear rack?

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Old 12-03-18, 11:42 AM
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realperson
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Front rack or rear rack?

I recently bought a Surly LHT. I'm so damn happy with the bike that I'll probably end up like Forrest Gump, but instead of running, one day go on a bike ride and just keep on going. In the mean time, I'm setting up the Surly as my commuter bike. I travel to work with full panniers. I have a rear Blackburn rack that I used on my previous bike that I really like. I tried to put it on the Surly but it doesn't fit. I went to my LBS (for another issue) and asked about racks and they suggested to put a front rack on the bike for weight distribution purposes instead of a rear rack. I have a few sharp turns on my commute and it makes me nervous thinking about doing those with the weight in front of me. Luckily, no snow or ice where I am, so I just have to worry about the rain. Are my fears unfounded? Do any of you commute with front rack loaded instead of the rear? Please let me know what you think. I've only ever put a load on the back rack and I'm not sure if I'll like a load on the front.
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Old 12-03-18, 11:52 AM
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A bike like the LHT can handle a load in front, in back, or both. When putting something up front, you want it as close to the steering axis as possible. A load up front is more noticeable than the same load in the back, but you get used to it in a few minutes.
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Old 12-03-18, 11:54 AM
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Is your issue the disc brake? There are disc brake specific racks (for the old style brakes). They simply have spacers to go around the brakes. Even if you ultimately choose to carry some stuff up front, it may be reasonable to also find a rear rack compatible with your bike.

While I don't like cross-posting, this may be one subject that you would get different insight in the commuting and touring forums. Just be upfront about your intentions.

Many cyclists do well with front baskets either tied to the frame or tied to the fork. Sorry, no specific experience here since I carried my NightSun battery in a front bag years ago.
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Old 12-03-18, 11:58 AM
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I haven't done the front-bag only thing, but I hear you on being nervous about having bags only on the front. But that seems to be a thing lately, as I've seen a few people on the road like that and people here have advocated it. Yet it was always the feeling that if you were going to have only one set of bags, they should go in the back. Maybe endo's aren't a worry anymore?

So, I don't know. It's not like I ever hit the front brake first, so that worry about going over the bars is probably not justified. The funny part is that I use my front panniers on the rear, because the rear ones are so much larger than what I need for a daily commute.
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Old 12-03-18, 12:06 PM
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When my wife and I commuted on our tandem we usually only carried front panniers. One advantage in that case was that it made the bike much more manageable when ridden solo (solo with weight on the rear rack didn't feel good at all).
I would think the LHT would handle fine on your commute with only front bags.
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Old 12-03-18, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Chinghis View Post
The funny part is that I use my front panniers on the rear, because the rear ones are so much larger than what I need for a daily commute.
That brought up another thought. It is trivial to ride a bike with one rear pannier. I wonder if the same is true with one front pannier????

But, there are two types of front racks. Lowrider racks for panniers, and Portier style racks for single center loads.
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Old 12-03-18, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Is your issue the disc brake?
Nope. Not an issue with the disk brakes. I have rim brakes on it. That's good to know about the spacers for the rack, though. In my case the rack is too narrow for the LHT frame.
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Old 12-03-18, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
That brought up another thought. It is trivial to ride a bike with one rear pannier. I wonder if the same is true with one front pannier????

But, there are two types of front racks. Lowrider racks for panniers, and Portier style racks for single center loads.
That's a good point. The panniers I currently use are the Timbuk2 tandem panniers, so they'd straddle the rack.
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Old 12-03-18, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by realperson View Post
Nope. Not an issue with the disk brakes. I have rim brakes on it. That's good to know about the spacers for the rack, though. In my case the rack is too narrow for the LHT frame.
Surely there are Surly racks.

Actually, the racks sold by Surly are about half the price of a new frame.

Other racks may fit. My Blackburn rack may well have been built when 126mm dropouts ruled, although I think it was a 26" rack.

The issue with disc brakes is the older style put the brake calipers on the seatstays which got in the way of rack mounts. The new style puts them on the chainstay, a much better place, with less accessory interference, but also requiring a significant frame redesign in some cases.

Not all bike shops are the same. Locally we have a place called "Arriving by Bike" which sells about 20 different styles of racks.
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Old 12-03-18, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
That brought up another thought. It is trivial to ride a bike with one rear pannier. I wonder if the same is true with one front pannier????
As I mentioned, my wife and I used front panniers for our tandem commute. Frequently we'd use a single one without any issues. Unfortunately one morning I thought that I must have done something wrong when mounting the single front pannier since the bike seemed to pull a bit to the side. Was going to stop at the top of a small hill to check things but the steerer tube snapped before we got there.
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Old 12-03-18, 01:10 PM
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As a Mechanic, in a LBS, we have no trouble dealing with Racks and mudguards
on Bikes with disc brakes..
(@ the shop, here, buying the rack can include installation..)

I have a few small wheel bikes, their front rack is an over the wheel ..

and quite low.. ..

my 2 panniers have D rings on them , so I can hook on a stretch net ,
across both, to bring home Pizzas..

Being in Front, bag is handy to access.. my rain cape is in one,
to pull out and put on in a moment..



But when I go for groceries I use the trekking bike with both racks. rear bags are bigger.. rarely buy more that will fit in the 2..







...

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Old 12-03-18, 04:08 PM
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Typically people put a rack on the back, then if they need more carrying capacity put an additional rack on the front. It would be unusual to have a front rack and no rear rack.

As other posters have said a front rack affects handling a lot more, I'd be more concerned about that than I would theoretical front/back weight distribution concerns. I would imagine either would work but the rear rack would be better.
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Old 12-04-18, 11:38 AM
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A front rack hampers handing a lot less than you would think. I was a skeptic, but now I love it. I have a front rack on my commuter bike and no rear rack. When I pedal hard and pull up on the handlebars, it works better because I'm pulling the weight directly rather than twisting the whole bike frame.
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Old 12-04-18, 12:30 PM
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I always put LowRider racks on first, then only add rear racks if I need more capacity or the ability to carry odd objects. Routine compact weight always goes in front. Reasons? Handling. Weight, ever 30+ pounds in LowRider panniers have surprising little effect on handling and even less on the handling of the bike when climbing out of the saddle. The effect on steering actually turns out to be a plus if you have to ride in slippery conditions. (I used to carry more books than I needed when I commuted into campus on bad Ann Arbor winter days just for that benefit. I could ride up the short un-plowed hill from my apartment with heavy panniers up front, throw my weight back over the rear tire for traction and have enough steerage to pull it off. If I was traveling light, I had to walk. I wouldn't be able to pull off both steering and traction, (Riding a fix gear. Sitting wasn't an option.)

The drawback to loaded LowRider panniers is that your front wheel will take much harder hits on potholes, etc. I simply ride bigger tires and stick to strong rims. In Portland, I ride 28c Paselas (Edit: or larger; 32 or 35 on my "truck") on either Mavic Open Sports or Velocity Aeros. (The Aeros are a lot stronger.)

When I go to the farmers market on my "truck" (racks front and rear, all four panniers small front Ortliebs) I load the right front with apples and pears, root and other heavy vegetables in the left front, leafy greens in the right rear and clothes in the left rear. I haven't toured for years but I used to put cook stuff, cans and metal items in the front panniers and sometimes even my tent. Clothes, sleeping bag and bulk items in the rear panniers and strapped to the rack.

There is one handling issue using LowRiders. Pannier clearance. I've dragged my Ortliebs a few times. (They are very durable. They survive road abrasion better than either me or often the bike. I've done one repair on my 19 year old first pair - stabbed it with a very sharp kitchen knife. A standard raft repair and it is as good as new. Still holds water. Call any rafting company. They will tell you where to get the materials and walk you through the repair.) For slightly better road clearance, consider the Jannd racks. They sit higher and are much stiffer and longer lasting. Also considerably more pain to get the front wheel with quick release through. I use Blackburns on a couple of bikes and the Jannd on the "truck". For the truck, I replaced the hollow QR axle with a bolted one to get the width down. (Phil Wood - uses an Allen wrench.) I call all those racks LowRider in appreciation to Blackburn who created the first just like I call those ubiquitous adjustable wrenches crescent wrenches in appreciation of the contribution by Crescent Tools to a better world. (And yes, crescent wrenches should not always be used. Specific tools are better. But the specific tool that is at home or doesn't fit is useless.)

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Old 12-04-18, 12:40 PM
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I used Blackburn LowRider racks for commuting in the past and found them suitable for use with medium sized panniers.
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Old 12-04-18, 02:46 PM
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you like your rear panniers. work the singular problem & rig a rear rack
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Old 12-04-18, 04:21 PM
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Rear or Front Rack

Originally Posted by realperson View Post
That's a good point. The panniers I currently use are the Timbuk2 tandem panniers, so they'd straddle the rack.

If you want to continue using your panniers, you'd either need to pursue another rear rack, or one that offers a front platform to hold them off the wheel, as lowrider front racks like Tubus dont have anything for the panneirs to straddle. I've used a velo orange porteur rack for touring, without having a rear rack for a couple of seasons. Steering is slightly impacted if you have much weight up on the platform versus hanging on the panniers bars. If I just attach panniers to it, and have virtually nothing on the platform itself (other than tethering a rain jacket, etc., the steering feels virtually no different than unloaded. Sharp descents with more load on the top of platform will tend to pull the bike to the outer diameter of the turn, so a little more care needed.
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Old 12-04-18, 05:10 PM
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I had one bike + front rack combo that wasn’t nice at all.
Or rather, it did OK once at speed, but getting off to a clean start was near enough impossible. It always took a fairly bad wobble before it started to track straight.
Not a good thing for an urban/suburban commuter.
Possibly tolerable for an open-road tourer.
I’ve also tried other bikes that didn’t seem particularly troubled, at least not at moderate loads.
Exactly what it was that made the nasty combo nasty, I don’t know.
Maybe rack flex, maybe fork flex. Maybe something in the geometry.
Either way, I wouldn’t hesitate to try front rack only again.
But I’d be ready to reconsider If experience showed it to be a bad idea for that bike.
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Old 12-04-18, 07:24 PM
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Front rack w/Wald basket all the way.
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Old 12-05-18, 08:28 AM
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I think it is a matter of personal preference. I have tried just rear, just front and both front and rear, but if I am only adding one rack it will be on the rear. It just seems to work for me better but others prefer the weight on the front. Do you know anybody with a front only setup that might let you try it out?

My wife commutes on an old Fuji touring bike and she carries a ton of weight on the front and it doesn't bother her so it can work.

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Old 12-07-18, 09:24 AM
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I would go for rear rack. COz it does not affect the handling in the front tire. Especially on a city traffic ride.
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Old 12-31-18, 02:39 AM
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I prefer just the rear rack using a truck to hold lunch/tools. I also use a small backpack to hold a water bladder and a spare set of clothes for work.
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Old 01-02-19, 11:58 AM
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On my upright bike I also switched from rear to front rack. I had the rear rack for over 20 years but with my increased weight and the heavy panniers I decided to move them to a front rack. I actually installed the Surly front rack and continued to use my old Ortlieb back roller panniers on the front rack. I preferred the better weight distribution.
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Old 01-02-19, 07:32 PM
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I realize I'm very late to the discussion, but I feel like that gives me license to generalize it a bit more.

I have two main "rack equipped" bikes that I commute on. The all weather beast has a rear rack with a trunk bag that has fold out panniers I can use if I need to carry more (usually a laptop).



The other one has a front rack with a medium sized bag but offers no extra space so I have to supplement with a backpack if I need to carry a laptop.



I prefer the ride of the bike with the front rack. Something about having the load on the back makes the bike feel less nimble through turns. The front rack and bag (with relatively light load) has almost no effect on the handling.
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Old 01-02-19, 09:36 PM
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First, kudos for going with rim brakes. I have them too. Second, i have several bikes i commute with. One has only a high front rack. Its an old style jim blackburn platform rack. I often ride it with a single pannier. It takes a little getting used to but not much. Youll be fine in no time.
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