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Four Panniers or Two and a Rack Pack

Old 06-09-21, 11:53 PM
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MAK
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Four Panniers or Two and a Rack Pack

I'll be doing an 13 day self contained tour in a few weeks and I'll be camping. I've done a number of shorter self contained tours before with two rear panniers, four panniers and a handlebar bag. I have been given an Ortlieb Rack Pack (essentially a duffle bag). It will fit my tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad with room to spare.

For this trip I can fit everything in the four bags or the two rear plus the Rack Pack. I kind of like the fact that with the Rack Pack I won't need to stuff things in. I think I know the answer, but which set-up would handle better and provide the better/easier ride?

The ride will be on pavement, +/- 30 rolling miles (no big hills) a day and I'll be riding a LHT.

Yes, I could load up and try both set-ups, but I thought that I'd ask here first.

Be safe and thank you.
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Old 06-10-21, 01:24 AM
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Both work fine. Check out the ”Pictures of your loaded rigs” sticky thread.

Some find handling better with four panniers, weight balanced 40/60% and the lower centre of gravity.

Personally I find it all good. I only attach my front panniers for colder weather touring when I need the extra volume.

I leave my front rack on even when I don’t use it. Weight-weenies will break out in sweat at that idea



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Old 06-10-21, 03:55 AM
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It really depends on the bike, how you pack it for weight distribution, how heavy it is, how stiff your rack is, how high or low your panniers attach to the rack, how far back or forward you have your panniers mounted, etc.

The best way to find out is to load it all up with two panniers and try it with a rear load. If you do that, you could add a 10 pound brick to simulate a couple days of food on top. That is exactly what I did about six years ago, I was going to do a single track trip, my bike frame could be fitted with a 100mm suspension fork so I wanted to see how it handled with suspension fork on front and no front panniers. Used a 10 pound brick on top of the rear rack (the brick was in the paper bag to avoid scratching the rack) to simulate food weight.



I also added a really cheap frame bag to my frame, but only had a couple liters of water in the frame bag.

The panniers in the above photo are Carradry, very large that I bought specifically for that trip. (I usually use Ortlieb rollers.) For a variety of reasons, the trip did not happen, so I do not have an after-trip report. But I was not using a LHT, so there is no comparison here.

You did not say what your rear panniers are. If they are Ortlieb Backrollers, there is a strap that goes over the top of each rear pannier, those two straps can instead be used to attach the Rack Pack to the bike. I can add a photo if you would like.

Regarding packing, I always try to pack my weight as low as I can. A tent is pretty dense, I pack that in a pannier, I put less dense stuff up high, my sleeping bag is not very dense so that always is in the top of a pannier.

The exception to my rule for weight distribution is that when I come out of a grocery store, the groceries always go in the bag on top of the rear rack instead of unloading my panniers in a grocery store parking lot. I will fix any weight distribution (like canned food) the next morning when I pack up the panniers and the canned chili goes in the bottom of a pannier.
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Old 06-10-21, 07:26 AM
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Originally Posted by MAK View Post
I'll be doing an 13 day self contained tour in a few weeks and I'll be camping. I've done a number of shorter self contained tours before with two rear panniers, four panniers and a handlebar bag. I have been given an Ortlieb Rack Pack (essentially a duffle bag). It will fit my tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad with room to spare.

For this trip I can fit everything in the four bags or the two rear plus the Rack Pack. I kind of like the fact that with the Rack Pack I won't need to stuff things in. I think I know the answer, but which set-up would handle better and provide the better/easier ride?

The ride will be on pavement, +/- 30 rolling miles (no big hills) a day and I'll be riding a LHT.

Yes, I could load up and try both set-ups, but I thought that I'd ask here first.

Be safe and thank you.
Personally, I try to bias as much as possible towards the front bags. If I’m riding with a fairly small load, I put it in the front panniers and go without the rear ones. I’ve done this on several bikes and all of them have handled better with a front load.

As for the rack pack, I don’t use closed bags for both my tent and sleeping bag. If the tent in wet (due to rain or morning dew), the sleeping bag is going to end up wet as well. There is nothing worse than sleeping in a wet sleeping bag. Additionally, putting a wet tent into a closed bag is also a good way to mildew a tent. My sleeping bag is loaded into a roll top dry bag and strapped to the rear rack with the tent next to it.
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Old 06-10-21, 07:28 AM
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I enjoyed the ride more after I got rid of the weight up front. But I really got rid of the weight, didn't just move it to the back. My wife and I gave away all our front racks and panniers and even handlebar bags.
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Old 06-10-21, 08:54 AM
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I have four smallish panniers and a rack top bag on my bike I use for utility/groceries, but I find for touring that the rack top bag gets in the way of easily and securely attaching large items (tent or sleeping pad etc) to the top of the rack.
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Old 06-10-21, 09:16 AM
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I also prefer 2 front rollers and tent + food bag on the rear rack (i.e. no rear panniers).

If you pack your sleeping back in the rack pack along your tent, consider stuffing your sleeping bag and pad inside a dry bag.
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Old 06-10-21, 11:04 AM
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My wife uses 2 panniers and a Rack Pack on the rear, and has no handling problems.



I like my gear weight distributed between the front and rear of the bike.
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Old 06-11-21, 06:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
My wife uses 2 panniers and a Rack Pack on the rear, and has no handling problems.

I like my gear weight distributed between the front and rear of the bike.
I've done both and both workwork, but I also prefer how the bike handles with front and rear bags.

added bonus, and an important one, is that you have ample room to stick groceries in four panniers at the end of day, and or extra water during the day.
Just the "room to stick supper stuff, plus yogurt, fruit, granola etc for next morning breakfast" is totally worth four not full panniers.
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Old 06-12-21, 12:19 AM
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I tried rear-only once and cursed every time I had to move the bike over obstacles.
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Old 06-12-21, 05:24 AM
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After abandoning the full complement of bags, I went to just front panniers with a tent on the rear rack. I liked that setup pretty well. From there I have gone to all kinds of weird setups and even once or twice a pretty conventional two rear panniers only. The biggest thing I found was to keep the load light. If the load is light it doesn't matter too much.
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Old 06-12-21, 01:04 PM
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Here’s my setup for longer tours. Weight distributed evenly. Great stability climbing out of the saddle and downhill at 50 mph.


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Old 06-12-21, 08:20 PM
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1986 Ecuadoran Andes

2001 Santa Barbara backcountry

2003 Set Up for the Divide Ride

2012 Tour from Lake Tahoe to Bishop,CA. along Highway 395


As you can see from the sequence of photos I early on settled on two front panniers supplemented by a rear rack stuff since the early 1970's. (Unfortunately I could not find my 1970's set up with two Kirtland front Panniers and a rear rack top Touring Cyclist stuffer.)
Over the decades depicted I found the setup beneficial in several ways. Lighter rear weight protected the rear wheel when I unweighted the saddle for potholes and obstacles on and off pavement. No broken spokes or wheel re-truing on the Divide Ride even though I am a Clydesdale rider.
When pushing the bike was needed off-road at high elevation the lack of rear panniers bulging made pushing much simpler and easier.
Just my personal preference from long experimenting.
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Old 06-13-21, 12:45 PM
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Either 4 or 2 on the front and tent on the back.
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Old 06-13-21, 03:18 PM
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A disadvantage of a rackbag is that it limits access to the two panniers, therefore whatever you may need during the day should be in the rackpack.

Personally, I prefer the balance of 4 panniers, and again, smartly packed, give me easy access to what I may need during the day.
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Old 06-13-21, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by LynxTheWizard View Post
Either 4 or 2 on the front and tent on the back.
Four on the floor. Tent on the rear.


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Old 06-14-21, 12:30 AM
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It may seem counter-intuitive to put the weight on the front and leave off rear panniers, but the simple fact is that doing so distributes the overall weight much more evenly. Remember YOUR weight is sitting on the back axle and rim. The chances of punctures and broken spokes will be greatly reduced and the bike will handle better too. When I do use rear panniers, they're for the light and bulky stuff, such as sleeping bag, ground pad, etc. And just a side note; I always leave room for a sandwich and two beers.Ha! Cheers!
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Old 06-14-21, 05:10 AM
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Based on advice from others, I was always careful to balance my load, was obsessive about trying to pack both front panniers with an equal amount of weight. Then, I overslept one morning on my first ACA group tour, was rushed to get packed that morning. I decided to save time and just shove stuff anywhere I could cram it, did not worry about weight distribution. Had four panniers, handlebar bag, a bunch of community group stuff in a rack top bag. Expected the bike to handle poorly, but my bike handled just fine. I was the first one to the destination that day, had some spare time so I took my luggage scale and weighed each bag and pannier. I was really surprised how one front pannier weighed over five pounds more than the other, yet that weight imbalance did not cause the bike to pull to one side. Ever since that tour, I make minimal effort to balance my load on that bike, as I know that bike will take an imbalanced load just fine.

Different bike, my Pacific Coast tour, I had a bad shimmy from Astoria all the way to San Francisco. Did not matter how I packed it, tried lots of things. That was the Surly frame that Surly refused to warranty. When I got home, the frame went into the recycle bin. A frame builder explained to me how the welder had their heat settings all wrong to get the bottom bracket shell that warped, that weakened the whole frame.

And my heavy duty touring bike, I consider it to be my expedition bike, I can load that any way I want and it is rock solid, but that one was built for heavy duty usage and when unladen is also quite heavy. That is the bike in the photo in post number 3, above. On one trip I carried several weeks of food on that bike and it took the weight without protest.

My rando bike was not designed to carry a load, it has the smaller diameter steel tubing that was common decades ago. I almost never put much weight on that bike but I occasionally buy groceries with it. One time there was a really good sale price on some weighty on-perishable items, so I stocked up. That bike had a nasty shake on the ride home with two very heavily loaded rear grocery panniers. It is a great bike, but was not designed for that load.

I have petty much come to the conclusion that a well designed and manufactured bike will handle imbalanced loads just fine, a lighter duty bike might benefit from careful balancing. Older bikes that have the smaller diameter tubing are more likely to have a soft ride and likely will benefit from careful balancing. And then there is the one I stripped the parts off and put in the recycle bin, that was a wet noodle that nothing could help.

Packing, I try to put the most dense stuff, like tools, spare tire if I carry one, canned goods in the bottom of a pannier. Least dense stuff up high in a pannier. Touring, I use a Tubus Logo EVO in back, or a Racktime Addit rack in back, those racks put the panniers several inches lower than a conventional rack to give a lower center of gravity.

Front panniers, I usually put reasonably dense stuff in those panniers but the same stuff goes in each front pannier every day, as it is easier to find stuff that way. The front right pannier is the only pannier that I can remove without the bike getting unstable on the kickstand, so that pannier has my tent, as that pannier comes off the bike first within a couple minutes of my arrival at a campground. Even on a sunny day without a cloud in the sky, I want shelter set up first. An old habit based on past experience.

Photo below, the only bag on top of the rear rack is a tent pole bag. Earlier in the trip I had a dry bag on top of the rear rack with food, but we ate the food. I think my rain pants are strapped on top of the left front pannier, but I am wearing my rain jacket and helmet rain cover. I use the Racktime rear rack instead of the Tubus rack on that bike, I consider that bike to be my light touring bike.

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Old 06-14-21, 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by arctos View Post

1986 Ecuadoran Andes

2001 Santa Barbara backcountry

2003 Set Up for the Divide Ride

2012 Tour from Lake Tahoe to Bishop,CA. along Highway 395


As you can see from the sequence of photos I early on settled on two front panniers supplemented by a rear rack stuff since the early 1970's. (Unfortunately I could not find my 1970's set up with two Kirtland front Panniers and a rear rack top Touring Cyclist stuffer.)
Over the decades depicted I found the setup beneficial in several ways. Lighter rear weight protected the rear wheel when I unweighted the saddle for potholes and obstacles on and off pavement. No broken spokes or wheel re-truing on the Divide Ride even though I am a Clydesdale rider.
When pushing the bike was needed off-road at high elevation the lack of rear panniers bulging made pushing much simpler and easier.
Just my personal preference from long experimenting.
morning arctos,
Just wanted to say that I love the first photo from Ecuador 86, for various reasons-- the mountains, the moody sky, and the fact that I would love to do Ecuador and Colombia one day.
cheers
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Old 06-14-21, 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by muse kidd View Post
It may seem counter-intuitive to put the weight on the front and leave off rear panniers, but the simple fact is that doing so distributes the overall weight much more evenly. Remember YOUR weight is sitting on the back axle and rim. The chances of punctures and broken spokes will be greatly reduced and the bike will handle better too. When I do use rear panniers, they're for the light and bulky stuff, such as sleeping bag, ground pad, etc. And just a side note; I always leave room for a sandwich and two beers.Ha! Cheers!
That's how I am set up above. Things like my entire (pretty extensive kitchen), pump, eReader, rolled up mattress are up front. Mostly on and off bike clothes and sleeping bag in the back along with the tent on the rear rack. When I took the photo I had already eaten the sandwich, but I was going sort of off the grid for a couple of days so I did have a lot more food that normal. Bar/restaurant with a small grocery department 3 miles from camp was the adult beverage source.
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