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Balancing the load

Old 05-31-17, 12:54 PM
  #1  
vlicon
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Balancing the load

My wife and I haven't done a lot of touring, so maybe we can get some advice here. I have noticed that on shorter tours we typically don't need much equipment. But by the time we bring a tent, stove and camping equipment for a couple of days there is a fair amount of weight. It all easily fits in our rear panniers, and tied to the back rack. This creates a bike that is heavy in the rear and not as easy to handle, especially in gravel or dirt. What are your thoughts about taking front and rear bags, and balancing the load through four less full panniers. If you can resist the urge to fill the extra space with unnecessary items is should lead to a bike that is more enjoyable to ride.
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Old 05-31-17, 01:03 PM
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Makes sense.

Or 2 panniers up front and a dry bag lashed to the top of the rear rack.
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Old 05-31-17, 01:09 PM
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A bike with rider starts out around 2/3 of the weight on the rear, getting more on the front, especially down low will greatly improve handling. High up front may hurt handling.
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Old 05-31-17, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by nfmisso View Post
A bike with rider starts out around 2/3 of the weight on the rear, getting more on the front, especially down low will greatly improve handling. High up front may hurt handling.
Bikes are balanced with more load on the rear, so loading up the front will lead to an imbalance. Having weight up high doesn't make much of a difference, given that your body weight is even higher and typically far outweighs the gear in bags.

Last edited by alan s; 05-31-17 at 07:33 PM.
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Old 05-31-17, 01:19 PM
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For most bikes I think you will find it handles better if some of the rear load is put in front panniers on a front rack.
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Old 05-31-17, 02:07 PM
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Blackburn outpost cages attached to fork, dry bags strapped to them. Save money and weight compared to a full front rack and carry ~16 liters of gear (8L dry bag on each side)...
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Old 05-31-17, 02:16 PM
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Ive always liked 4 pannier, pairs, for tours of length .. over the decades.

My around town bike, a low trail folding bike has front panniers..


Though the new Bike Packing trend seems to be popular for light weight trips.
no panniers sat all..


...
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Old 05-31-17, 02:27 PM
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If nothing else, it helps you keep your gear a bit more organized too.
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Old 05-31-17, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by vlicon View Post
. What are your thoughts about taking front and rear bags, and balancing the load through four less full panniers. If you can resist the urge to fill the extra space with unnecessary items is should lead to a bike that is more enjoyable to ride.
That is the way I balance my load. It has works well for me. I'm not an advocate for loading up just the front end.
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Old 05-31-17, 04:18 PM
  #10  
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I do no balancing per se. I pack by functional-access. I like to have my kitchen and most food in a front pannier so that's all I need to pop-off for a lunchtime picnic or evening meal before camping. I like all my dry sleep things in one pannier that's rarely opened until it's time to bed-down. Tent and other wet-stuff go on front. Other rear pannier is basically dry clothes with tools & repair in bag at bottom.

For me: hopping on any fully loaded rig.. first time...the first moment is squirrelly...but the next moment my body has adjusted. Your body adjusts too anything you're able to fit inside your panniers, no matter what.
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Old 05-31-17, 07:58 PM
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I personally have found that having front and rear panniers with a more balanced bike makes for a better handling bike overall.
The one factor in this is the bike itself. I have an old mtn bike with a very sturdy frame that doesn't get ruffled that much from either more weight on one side, or only two rear panniers. Other bikes may be more affected in how they handle with a rear only load, but in general, it is always going to help.

I personally find the extra weight of a front rack and panniers to be outweighed by how the bike feels better with a more balanced load, and then there also are the factors like it being easier to put extra food or whatever into the less than crammed to the gills panniers, and also may be a bit of a help when it comes to packing the regular things in also, a bit more wiggle room generally is easier to pack up .
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Old 06-01-17, 04:35 AM
  #12  
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vlicon, I too think that sharing some of the rear load, perhaps even the greater portion, with a front rack is a good idea. If not for any other reason than to put some weight onto the (usually) stronger front wheel.

Brad
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Old 06-01-17, 06:27 AM
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No arguing with the good sense posted so far, but consider an alternative. Pack lighter stuff in the rear.

Consider the cost and weight of front rack and a set of panniers, say roughly $300 and three pounds? (Just guessing.) Times two. Put that money into a Tarptent and nice down quilt that will more easily fit into the rear packs and cut a few pounds off the rear load.

If the rear load gets light enough, say below twenty pounds, it will not be noticeable.
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Old 06-01-17, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
Consider the cost and weight of front rack and a set of panniers, say roughly $300 and three pounds?
$55 and 2.6# at Nashbar for a basic setup:
Nashbar Front Touring Panniers
Nashbar Low Rider Front Rack
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Old 06-01-17, 09:50 AM
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NB their primitive bungee cord mount, will allow them to bounce off, on rough roads..


but a little innovation can cure that.





....
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Old 06-01-17, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
NB their primitive bungee cord mount, will allow them to bounce off, on rough roads
Agreed, just pointing out you can get a setup way under $300 with an example I immediately knew, and not really an issue if you are only on road.
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Old 06-01-17, 11:30 AM
  #17  
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I like 60/40 front to rear. My big but balances things out once seated. Thought about some frame bags or some handlebar bags like from Revelate?
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Old 06-01-17, 11:47 AM
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I didn't read all of these post but balancing the load is why we carry two rear panniers instead of one. All of our stuff would easily fit into one bag but we split it so each bag is 50% full. That's per person. In the past we've used two full bags for the two of us and we switched days carrying the load. He'd carry the load one day while I rode empty and the next day I'd carry the load while he rode empty. We now both have two panniers each for the sole purpose of being able to carry extra food and water when needed but they're never more than 50% full.

Neither of us have ever tried front panniers and we probably wont ever have to.
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Old 06-01-17, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by BikeliciousBabe View Post
Neither of us have ever tried front panniers and we probably wont ever have to.
You may want to try front panniers only. We did that on our last tour. One bag for the camping equipment and clothes, another for everything ​else. Tent on one rear rack, food on another.

The one negative is that the front rack must be removed for air travel, in our case.

In my experience/opinion, front only handles much better than rear only.
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Old 06-01-17, 12:11 PM
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For an overnighter on my 26" touring bike with it's 50cm chainstays and low rider rear rack( Ibera)I usually just go with the rear panniers. Walking or lifting the bike can sometimes be awkward but the overall handling is not greatly affected.
On my 700c road bike with it's significantly shorter wheelbase and higher profile/center of gravity I can certainly feel the difference when fast cornering.
If I was using the 700c bike more for touring I would definitely install a front rack and use my front panniers
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Old 06-01-17, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
You may want to try front panniers only. We did that on our last tour. One bag for the camping equipment and clothes, another for everything ​else. Tent on one rear rack, food on another.

The one negative is that the front rack must be removed for air travel, in our case.

In my experience/opinion, front only handles much better than rear only.
Both of our bicycles have carbon fibre forks and we were advised against putting a rack on the front. Our load is pretty minimal. 16-20lbs between the two of us combined. We share a sleeping bag, toiletries and other items. Most of our gear is UL. So now we each carry 8-10lbs of gear.

Per the 4 bags we usually put the tent in one, sleeping bag in another, my clothes in one, his clothes in another and the toiletries go wherever they fit. Other misc items go in his trunk bag.

And we don't fly with our bikes ever. We use BikeFlights pretty strictly.
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Old 06-03-17, 06:41 AM
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A pair of front panniers on a low-rider front rack will make the bike handle Much better.

Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Having weight up high doesn't make much of a difference, given that your body weight is even higher and typically far outweighs the gear in bags.
It may not make a difference in theory, but in practice, it definitely seems to make a noticeable difference. It's kinda like saying "well, between you, the bike, and gear, you're at 250lbs, so adding a mere 30lbs more isn't a big difference" but it definitely is when you start carrying it.
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Old 06-03-17, 06:59 AM
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Originally Posted by 3speed View Post
A pair of front panniers on a low-rider front rack will make the bike handle Much better.


It may not make a difference in theory, but in practice, it definitely seems to make a noticeable difference. It's kinda like saying "well, between you, the bike, and gear, you're at 250lbs, so adding a mere 30lbs more isn't a big difference" but it definitely is when you start carrying it.
You are comparing adding weight to the placement of weight. Two entirety different things. Adding weight makes a difference because you need to move the extra weight, but whether it is higher on the bike or lower is not significant for handling. Try riding with 15 lbs in a backpack and then strap the backpack to a rack, then in a frame bag or pannier on the rear. You won't notice much difference in handling, if any difference at all. This is not theory, but actual practice. The bulk of your weight is way above the bike, and it handles just fine. Based on your theory, a person riding in the drops would be able to handle their bike much better than a person riding upright. Simply isn't true. Placement fore and aft on a bike does make a big difference for handling. Up and down, not so much.
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Old 06-03-17, 07:09 AM
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alan, in my experience, I have noticed a real diff in having weight lower, along with balancing side to side etc, in helping with how the bike handles.
I really enjoy going around corners and how a bike handles, and I have clearly noticed an clear improvement when I moved my extra water from my rack pack on top of the rear panniers, to down into one of my rear panniers.
In general, over the years, I've very much felt the diff of weight distribution and having the heavier stuff lower down.
Thats my experience anyway, and I value having as much confidence in how the bike handles as I can, and experimenting while on trips of where stuff goes, and in this case, not having heavier stuff higher, has made a noticeable diff.

I figure that day to day playing around with weight placement is the best example of real life felt differences, and my last trip clearly showed an improvement with getting the weight lower, and it was clearly evident because my trip involved lots and lots and lots of downhill twisty stuff and fast downhill blasts that showed up immediately the differences in handling from diff luggage placement (plus it gave me something to do and think about as the weeks went along).

I soon figured out what worked best and just kept that arrangement.
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Old 06-03-17, 07:28 AM
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Front , side to side balanced weight matters more than rear, when loading.
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