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60% front and 40% back recommended weight distribution, what is your opinion?

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60% front and 40% back recommended weight distribution, what is your opinion?

Old 10-18-15, 04:51 PM
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Jackontheroad
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60% front and 40% back recommended weight distribution, what is your opinion?

Hi guys, I found at Adventure Cycling Association How to Department page bicycle travel basics on What to take and how to pack, they recommend the heavier panniers in the front carrying roughly 60% of the load, the rest in the rear. I have probably not paid attention before but, I always thought it to be the opposite. With your experience, what do you think? And, have a nice week!
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Old 10-18-15, 05:06 PM
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The idea is that there is already a lot of weight on the back half of the bike, so placing a good bit up front will help balance the overall weight load.

Too much weight in the back(ie all of it) makes for an unsteady ride when going downhill.

With all that said, I've done multi-day trips with about 40# all on the rear rack and never had an issue or even thought about the weight. I was on flat to gently rolling terrain though.
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Old 10-18-15, 05:21 PM
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In my experience, in light weight touring, it is ok to have more weight on the back, but I think the more weight you carry in total, the more you need to put on the front. I toured with two rear panniers and a front handlebar bag, but if I went to more weight I'd have to get front racks. As already stated you definitely want to be careful on long downhill runs if you aren't well balanced.
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Old 10-18-15, 05:21 PM
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I'd think for fully loaded touring (70-100 pounds of gear?) that might seriously increase rear tire life.

Thanks for posting this--a whole new idea to consider and research.
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Old 10-18-15, 06:04 PM
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That seems like something to play around with. However, I tend to carry my heaviest gear (mostly camping supplies) in a 55 L dry bag. It seems most people do something similar. That would be pretty hard to put up front. I went for a test ride with a full load on my rear rack and nothing up front and experienced some scary tail wag. When I went on a three day tour last month I put the dry bag in back, my largest and heaviest panniers up front, and my small/light ones in back. It looked funny, but the handling was greatly improved.
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Old 10-18-15, 06:39 PM
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Yup that is the recommendation. The rear wheel is already heavily loaded with just the rider on the bike, then you go a put a bunch more weight on there, leading to an unbalanced bike and added stress on the rear wheel. Another advantage to getting the bulk of the weight up front is that it can be kept low which helps the center of gravity. Which in turn helps handling. A lot will depend on just how much weight you load up with.

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Old 10-18-15, 07:03 PM
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This concept really makes little sense. Front panniers & racks are smaller so obviously the manufacturers don't assume that's what you'll do.

I load my panniers based on the function of their contents and their inherent volume. I pay little attention to what they weigh individually. The total weight of my panniers and their contents weigh 30-35 pounds. When running front & back panniers the bike handles well no matter what I put in each.

BTW: It's rarely done out on the road from what I've observed, and as can be surmised here.

Last edited by BigAura; 10-20-15 at 05:00 AM.
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Old 10-18-15, 07:05 PM
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Your Weight on the bike, butt on the saddle hands on the bars, tends to be 60/40 the other way. so it probably becomes More =ish.

heavy dense stuff in the front.. big fluffy stuff like your S-bag & so forth in Back
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Old 10-18-15, 07:24 PM
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I am sure there are a lot of things that are affected by weight distribution - such as wear/stress on hubs/wheels, frame, etc. However, I would think the most important aspect would be to get the handling of the bike as stable as it can be. When I started doing my long day tours I put most of my gear in a backpack and strapped it to the rear rack. It worked for a while, but it was annoying and made the bike top heavy. When I dropped the gear off the sides with kayak bags as panniers the handing was vastly improved. The front end is pretty light going up hills but I haven't had any other stability issues. For a multi-day tour I'll expand with gear on the front. I am not particularly concerned with "weight distribution", however. My tires get rotated every once in a while to balance out tread wear.
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Old 10-18-15, 07:47 PM
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Thanks guys, as always all your answers are helpful. And if I can use this same thread to ask one more question: For long touring, carrying a laptop, actually a Macbook air, where would you carry it, front, rear, side/panniers or top deck of rack? Thanks in advance.
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Old 10-18-15, 08:06 PM
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When I took a laptop on tour; I put it in a rear side pannier, flat against the inside [against the rack], and padded out the rest of the bag with soft stuff to protect it. No problems with this; except that it was not easy to access the laptop, except at the end of the day. This however probably saved the laptop from being flung off a mountainside. Laptops don't seem heavy but after a few miles of up-hill, into the wind, you will think you can tour without one.

Oh and the 60/40 weight thing. I always carried my lightest stuff at the front and have recently cut down to only have need for rear panniers, but I do see the thinking behind putting more weight on the front and might give it a try.

Last edited by Lou Skannon; 10-18-15 at 08:10 PM. Reason: extra thoughts
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Old 10-18-15, 08:08 PM
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Wait a second, I think you have that backwards, is suppose to be 60 to 70 rear and 30 to 40 front if you're using four panniers. The ratios I gave are the zones you need to play with to see how your bike will handle. Commonly the 60 front and 40 rear is used mostly. Too much weight on the front end will negatively affect how your bike handles and will cause it to oversteer, this is why touring people will usually use a lowrider rack in the front which will reduce the center of gravity and stabilize the steering, and then they'll use a high rack on the rear because of the larger bags.

If you'll be doing off road touring then due to ground clearance and perhaps shocks, perhaps disk brakes, you'll need a higher mounted rack for the front, but in these instances you're travelling slower than a road bike plus have fatter tires and thus the steering isn't as affected.

On that subject, some people like only rear panniers because they found that front panniers cause a lot of drag aerodynamically even at lower speeds and gets worse if there is a head wind, and their notion is that the increase drags slows them down more than weight does. However the con to not having front panniers is that since the weight emphasis is on the rear climbing steep hills will give you the sensation that the front wheel wants to lift off the ground which can be quite an unsettling feeling, so having a little weight up front balances the bike better.

If you shop carefully for your touring gear you can get some really light weight stuff these days, and it's possible that a person even on a long cross country tour may not even need front panniers if the weight of your gear doesn't exceed 45 pounds.

You also have to make sure of two other things concerning weight. One is that your heaviest items need to be at the bottom of the bags; and the two is you need to make sure that your weight is balanced from side to side as well, you don't want 25 pounds on one side and 15 on the other side for example.

Also with handlebar bags you don't want to exceed 11 pounds on the bars depending on the bike, and the weight must be as close as possible to the headset and bar. Again you have to play with the weight in a handlebar bag to see how you bike manages it, some may only like 5 pounds, but none will like anything over 11 pounds.
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Old 10-18-15, 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
This concept really makes little sense. Front panniers & racks are smaller so obviously the manufacturers don't assume that's what you'll do.

I load my panniers based on the function of their contents and their inherent volume. I pay little attention to what they weigh individually. The total weight of my panniers and their contents weigh 30-35 pounds. When running front & back panniers the bike handles well no matter what I put in each.

BTW: It's rarely done out on the road from I've observed and as can be surmised here.
You are confusing cubic capacity with mass. Heavy items need to go low and in the front. Light bulky items need to go high and on the rear. I pay some attention to weight distribution, but don't get anal about it. On several shorter tours I have only used my front panniers with a rack bag in the rear. Quite often I will go out with a full set of bags, but only loaded half way. Everyone has their own way of doing things.

I did a transcontinental in 1977 using rear bags and a handle bar bag. I am sure if someone saw that rig today they would tell me I was doing it all wrong. It wasn't balanced particularly well, but it got me across the country.

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Old 10-18-15, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
You are confusing cubic capacity with mass. Heavy items need to go low and in the front. Light bulky items need to go high and on the rear.
No I'm not. I agree that heavy items should be low but front or back makes little difference, from my experience.
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Old 10-18-15, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by rekmeyata View Post
Wait a second, I think you have that backwards, is suppose to be 60 to 70 rear and 30 to 40 front if you're using four panniers. The ratios I gave are the zones you need to play with to see how your bike will handle. Commonly the 60 front and 40 rear is used mostly. Too much weight on the front end will negatively affect how your bike handles and will cause it to oversteer, this is why touring people will usually use a lowrider rack in the front which will reduce the center of gravity and stabilize the steering, and then they'll use a high rack on the rear because of the larger bags.

If you'll be doing off road touring then due to ground clearance and perhaps shocks, perhaps disk brakes, you'll need a higher mounted rack for the front, but in these instances you're travelling slower than a road bike plus have fatter tires and thus the steering isn't as affected.

On that subject, some people like only rear panniers because they found that front panniers cause a lot of drag aerodynamically even at lower speeds and gets worse if there is a head wind, and their notion is that the increase drags slows them down more than weight does. However the con to not having front panniers is that since the weight emphasis is on the rear climbing steep hills will give you the sensation that the front wheel wants to lift off the ground which can be quite an unsettling feeling, so having a little weight up front balances the bike better.

If you shop carefully for your touring gear you can get some really light weight stuff these days, and it's possible that a person even on a long cross country tour may not even need front panniers if the weight of your gear doesn't exceed 45 pounds.

You also have to make sure of two other things concerning weight. One is that your heaviest items need to be at the bottom of the bags; and the two is you need to make sure that your weight is balanced from side to side as well, you don't want 25 pounds on one side and 15 on the other side for example.

Also with handlebar bags you don't want to exceed 11 pounds on the bars depending on the bike, and the weight must be as close as possible to the headset and bar. Again you have to play with the weight in a handlebar bag to see how you bike manages it, some may only like 5 pounds, but none will like anything over 11 pounds.
There's a fair amount of misinformation there. Front bags have been found to be more aerodynamic than rear bags. This should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it for a moment. When a fluid drops, it always forms up wider in the front with a long, narrow tail. That's what a bike with front bags looks like. No raindrop falls the other way, like a bike with rear bags. That shape is driven by the air as the fluid drop falls through it and is the shape of minimal drag. One caveat: If your bike has a lot of trail, then a cross wind or cross-headwind can create the illusion of higher drag by impacting the steering as the wind pushes on the side of the bags.

As far as stability, loads that center on the axles are stable to the wheels. It's not possible to do that with the rear load unless you build a very long chain stay bike. It wasn't until Blackburn did some testing (late '70s?) that this became known. Again, if your bike has a lot of trail, which tends to make the steering more like being on rails, then it will be even more rail-like with the added mass on the front. However, that's a lot better than the high, destabilizing load on the rear. The reason touring bikes tend to have long chain stays is to allow that rear load to at least be brought inside the rear axle, even if it can't be even with it.

Unfortunately, back when touring got re-ignited it the US, we didn't know any better and most of us set about with rear bags and a handlebar bag. Somehow, that became the standard even when it was shown to be the worst possible way to carry gear on a bike.
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Old 10-18-15, 10:56 PM
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Thanks, I will carry the Mac on a rear pannier unless I find a better opinion that it should be on the top deck of the rack. And because the front rack I will use carries max. 25 Kg. my rear rack don't need to carry more than that because I will load the heavier toys in the front. Thanks for the help.
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Old 10-18-15, 11:09 PM
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I do end up with front panniers heavier than rear for two reasons:
- my own weight already puts enough stress on the rear wheel, so I like to balance some forward
- front panniers are closer to center of the wheels, and I get good handling that way

It isn't always exact and I'll have a little more cubic volume in rear (panniers are the same size, but my tent and sleeping bag can go across top on the back if necessary) so sometimes that ends up with a little more weight to the rear.
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Old 10-18-15, 11:11 PM
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Another heavy items in front (in Lowriders), bulky stuff in back guy here. There's another reason to get the heavy stuff low in front. It allows you to get out of the saddle uphill without feeling you are fighting the whole load with your wrists. Put the heavy stuff in back and if you rock the bike naturally as you climb out-of-the-saddle you will find you are fighting all that weight in back. But even large amounts of weight on the Lowriders rocks nearly as easily as an unloaded bike, making climbing-out-of-the-saddle a welcome change.

But put your laptop in back. Lowriders transmit a lot more road shock to the pannier contents. When I go to the market, strawberries and the like go in back. (Raspberries stay at the market. )

Ben
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Old 10-18-15, 11:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Jackontheroad View Post
Hi guys, I found at Adventure Cycling Association How to Department page bicycle travel basics on What to take and how to pack, they recommend the heavier panniers in the front carrying roughly 60% of the load, the rest in the rear. I have probably not paid attention before but, I always thought it to be the opposite. With your experience, what do you think? And, have a nice week!
Can also depend on the bike. Some bikes can handle a rear load better than others.
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Old 10-19-15, 02:26 AM
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Yep, that's what I do. I put more weight on front. It's not traditional, but it's way better than traditional.

First, I use a bikepacking setup in the mid triangle to hold the heaviest stuff (like tools, electronics, spare parts, food) so a lot of my weight is between the wheels. I also use full-size panniers up front on low-riders and a bikepacking seatpost bag that's the equivalent of a single small pannier out back.

1) I can climb a lot easier. The front wheel stays planted, and I don't have any squirrel-ey behavior off the back.

2) When I'm standing cranking on the pedals, the bike moves perfectly. There's no momentum wagging off the back that I have to compensate for.

3) The steering is dampened a bit but otherwise solid. No problem with hitting 80km/hr on a descent. No problem turning somewhat-tight circles.

For a big winter tour where I'll just have too much volume of clothing for this setup, I'll throw a pair of small panniers on the back on a rack.
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Old 10-19-15, 03:03 AM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
When a fluid drops, it always forms up wider in the front with a long, narrow tail. ... No raindrop falls the other way, like a bike with rear bags. That shape is driven by the air as the fluid drop falls through it and is the shape of minimal drag.
That's a myth about raindrops. See from 1:00 minute into the video:
True Shape of Raindrop Revealed in New Video
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Old 10-19-15, 04:45 AM
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Jackontheroad, How a bike is loaded is going to depend on the bike and the weight of the cargo. The recommendation for 60% in front is a conservative figure that blankets most applications because generally when unloaded the weight distribution is approximately 60% on the rear. Front wheels are also not dished, except for disk brakes, making them stronger than a dished rear wheel, which helps when dealing with dead weight.

While my bike does not display any negative handling traits with 35 lb. on it's solidly attached rear rack, I would use front panniers for a heavier load to distribute the weight better. FWIW, 35 lb. is the most I've packed and that was just once and kept as low as possible.

Brad
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Old 10-19-15, 05:19 AM
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It's a myth about raindrops, I have now learned (and thanks) but it is Not a myth about aerodynamics. The teardrop shape minimizes drag.
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Old 10-19-15, 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
I'd think for fully loaded touring (70-100 pounds of gear?) that might seriously increase rear tire life.
First I'll say that 70-100 pounds of gear is a very heavy load. Without resorting to a lot of really high dollar UL backpacking stuff, I went coast to coast camping and cooking with 14 pounds of gear and was pretty comfortable, so I really don't see how anyone needs 70-100 pounds of gear for touring in developed countries. While I don't recommend taking that much stuff, if you do then I'd definitely try to put the heavy compact items in the front and low as possible and big light stuff in the back. I wouldn't get hung up on the percentages though.

For reasonable loads (25-40#) it is way less of a big deal and for light loads (<25#) probably pretty much a non issue. For ultralight camping it is definitely a non issue.

Over the course of my touring evolving from heavy to ultralight I have used 4 panniers, two rear panniers, two front panniers with the tent on the back rack, no panniers with stuffsack(s) on back rack and bar roll.
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Old 10-19-15, 06:29 AM
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i've been living in china enough to say "screw traditional!"
tradition is usually just an excuse for not thinking for yourself.

lookit. this is bicycle touring, not rockette science. there ain't
no rules. pack your bike however you like.

try weight up front, weight behind, evenly distributed, 60/40...
whatever. discover for yourself what's stable and comfortable
for you on your bike with your gear on your tour.....
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