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Help me configure my touring bike (Trek 520 Grando)

Old 08-13-22, 12:42 PM
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Help me configure my touring bike (Trek 520 Grando)

I'm an experienced cyclist and and have done numerous supported tours where our tent and stuff was carried. My wife and I are heading out for our first fully self-supported tour soon.
My retirement present to myself is this Trek 520 Grando. (None of my other bikes could take a front rack.)
I think have my panniers set up OK.
My questions:
  1. What do folks carry on the flat part of a front rack? This bike came with a gigantic front rack. I have a bag (see photo) I could use for my jacket and wallet and such. Good idea? Or should that space be used for something else?
  2. How about the flat top part of the rear rack? My tent maybe?
  3. Do folks typically carry their sleeping bags outside their panniers? Is rain a concern? Do you plastic bag it?
I've been riding pretty much all my life, bike commuting, double centuries, and supported tours. But this is a new beast. Thanks for your help.



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Old 08-13-22, 12:54 PM
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Having a handlebar bag or your front black bag that you have your valuables in, and to bring in stores etc with you, is very handy. If yours comes off easily, that will be useful.

Tent on top of rear rack in a plastic bag or whatever, is easy and handy.

Sleeping bag always in a pannier, never gets wet, I pack my camp mat, pillow, in there together, with other stuff too if I can.

Basically, start assembling your stuff and figure how it fits, and hopefully your sleeping bag etc are not too bulky.
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Old 08-13-22, 01:09 PM
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Best advice I (or anyone else) can give is: Do an over-night test run before going anywhere. You will have to figure everything out on your own.
I would put my sleeping bag on the top of the rear rack in a waterproof stuff sack, never been a problem. I can't imagine putting it in a pannier, that's just me. Make sure you have all the extremely annoying rattles and clunking noises dealt with before hitting the road. Make shure chit doesn't end up in your spokes. Be flexible, this is supposed to be a relaxing time.
Where are you going and why? Is this a pedaling focused tour? Are you looking for cityscapes? When touring, I prefer riding a lot in a natural and secluded setting, this dictates almost everything else.
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Old 08-13-22, 01:20 PM
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a couple days on the road and you will figger out where you like your stuff to be on your bike. everbody gots a different method.

consider a quick-release handlebar bag for stuff you don't want to leave on the bike for quick trips into the seventy-leaven, and for stuff you want quick access to while riding.....wallet, keys, cellphone, chapstick, sunscreen, passport, polaroid camera.

extra points if it has a clear sleeve or cover on top to hold your route sheets.
most bags leak. most rain covers do, too. tupperware!
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Old 08-13-22, 01:37 PM
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No doubt you'll get lots of advice in the coming days. If you haven't noticed the sticky thread up above..pictures can help a lot.

Pictures of your loaded rigs?
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Old 08-13-22, 01:42 PM
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Although the posters here have an incredible fund of knowledge, probably your best advisor will be your bike. As you tour, you will have innumerable strokes of genius as your bike helps you decide what to stow and where, how much water to drink, with or without supplements, what food and snacks to bring, etc. And, of course those decisions will change for different tours. What works on one tour may be less successful on another.
Your lifelong experience on bikes will help you hear, and interpret, your bike's advice.
Have fun.
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Old 08-13-22, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores
..... polaroid camera.
Yup, never want my sx70 to be far out of reach, along with a bar of flash cubes
flap flap flap
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Old 08-13-22, 02:32 PM
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I have Ortleib Back Rollers in the rear, Sport Rollers in front. My bag is a lightweight 45 deg. down bag, it plus my 1-1/2 person REI tent (with poles) fit in a rear pannier. My Nemo pad plus clothing in the 2nd rear pannier. Food and cooking crap in the front. I don't need to use the space on top on of the rear rack. I could add a small duffle, maybe for clothing needed during the day, sweaters, jackets etc.... My front rack is a Rosewheel that only has a round bar over the top, no platform, I have a small Garneau h-bar bar, has car keys, phone wallet, battery packs, cable lock, odds and ends, etc...The picture shows a larger Therma-Rest, since replaced.

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Old 08-13-22, 02:38 PM
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This is my 1983 Trek 720.

Top of the front rack has my tent and ground cover. Top part of the rear rack is my bedroll, which is my sleeping bag with a foam pad rolled around it, and all of it in a heavy-duty garbage bag. I also used small garbage bags inside all the panniers to keep everything dry. There's no right or wrong way, although weight distribution is something to pay attention to. Don't underweight the front wheel or the bike will feel unstable. You'll figure it out once you have everything laid out on the garage floor, and some trial-and-error is normal.

You're getting good advice to do a test run. You'll be surprised just how differently your bike rides and handles once it's loaded like this, especially when it comes to stopping distances. Climbing up a hill with this much weight is one thing (that's what the granny gear is for) but going down the other side and having to slow down or stop from >20mph can be an eye-opening and potentially scary experience the first time. I quickly learned to appreciate those big powerful cantilever brakes. Your 520 will handle it just fine, but do yourself a favor and practice a few panic stops with a full load beforehand.


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Old 08-13-22, 03:15 PM
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My 2 cents:

Generally speaking, when you put stuff on the top of the front rack you want the mass as close to the steering column as possible. So with that RockBros bag you have, I'd move it as far back as possible, and maybe compartmentalize it to keep heavier stuff close the steering column and lighter stuff forward.
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Old 08-13-22, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by venturi95
Where are you going and why? Is this a pedaling focused tour? Are you looking for cityscapes? When touring, I prefer riding a lot in a natural and secluded setting, this dictates almost everything else.
Thanks! We're doing the C&O and GAP, doing short days and looking at stuff. Later we're doing a group trip in Cape Cod. So, nothing truly epic, and not so far from civilization. We'll see how this goes and then start looking at next year.
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Old 08-13-22, 03:47 PM
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Thanks to all for the solid useable advice. This internet thing does have positive aspects after all!
Thanks again.
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Old 08-13-22, 04:22 PM
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Because having different weighted stuff in your front panniers can result in your bike pulling to one side, I recommend filling things that do not change weight in your front panniers and spend some time weighing them (loaded) until they are within a pound (450 grams) or closer to being the same. Stray away from putting food and clothing in your front panniers, as aforementioned weight differential as you eat/ fill up with food and wear different amount of clothes. Since 1985 (when I started), I have always gravitated to putting food in the left rear pannier. Currently, I am putting my tent & pneumatic pad + pillow in the front. I do not recommend packing tent poles vertically as they may punch a hole in your bag(s). Try what works for you. I have seen many posters on you tube and honestly have never seen two videos where people pack the same way.
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Old 08-13-22, 04:27 PM
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How much volume do you think you might want on the back top of rack? I have used teh Ortleb 31 liter rack pack (this is a handy youtube video on how to attach it), but I have also had nothing on top of the rear rack except a tent pole bag. And various sized drybags.

Your volume needs determine what you want for that.

I think DJB nailed it with his suggested for bag on top of front rack, something that you can put your valuables in to take in restaurants or stores.

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Old 08-13-22, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by headwind15
Because having different weighted stuff in your front panniers can result in your bike pulling to one side, I recommend filling things that do not change weight in your front panniers and spend some time weighing them (loaded) until they are within a pound (450 grams) or closer to being the same. Stray away from putting food and clothing in your front panniers, as aforementioned weight differential as you eat/ fill up with food and wear different amount of clothes. Since 1985 (when I started), I have always gravitated to putting food in the left rear pannier. Currently, I am putting my tent & pneumatic pad + pillow in the front. I do not recommend packing tent poles vertically as they may punch a hole in your bag(s). Try what works for you. I have seen many posters on you tube and honestly have never seen two videos where people pack the same way.
Good advice
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Old 08-13-22, 06:02 PM
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Tent on the rear rack, crocs on the front rack or use front rack to ziptie a Wald basketÖI am fond of baskets lately. Sleeping bag in a drybag/compression bag inside pannier. YMMW
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Old 08-14-22, 06:35 AM
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CCC, sleeping bags are usually compact ish, if you have a 1970s boyscout cotton job the size of a VW beetle, get a new one--so keeping it in a waterproof pannier is easy and you never work about it getting wet.
I have sleeping bag and camp mat in one pannier (I have an inflatable compact style sleep mat, neoair, others are of similar size and comfortable) plus room still for other stuff in there.

Tent on rear rack because tents are sometimes damp wet in morning, so you don't want it with dry stuff. I use a piece of chammy type foam to remove tons of condensation from fly in on damp mornings, I can wring out easily a cup or two of water carefully going over fly with the sponge, less wet and heavy packed tent.
Also handy on rack cuz easy to remove during lunch break let's say and drape over something in sun to dry out--nice at end of day set up for it to be dry.

Obviously use a good thick plastic bag or whatever to keep tent dry from rain. Easy and bungees useful to stick still damp laundry under to dry in sun while riding.

As said a few times, you'll figure this all out as you go.
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Old 08-14-22, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by cccorlew
...
My questions:
  1. What do folks carry on the flat part of a front rack? This bike came with a gigantic front rack. I have a bag (see photo) I could use for my jacket and wallet and such. Good idea? Or should that space be used for something else?
  2. How about the flat top part of the rear rack? My tent maybe?
  3. Do folks typically carry their sleeping bags outside their panniers? Is rain a concern? Do you plastic bag it?
...
When you do get this stuff figured out the way you want it, you may find that you like to do things different than others suggest. That is fine, do what works for you. Example, I just did a word search on this thread for the word tent, most say top of rear rack., one says in front, one in a rear pannier.

And I always put the tent in my right front pannier which is different from everyone else. I put other stuff in that front right pannier that can be stored wet because the tent often is wet. I put the tent there because when I get to a campsite, the first thing I do is set up a tent to be ready for weather. Weather might be great, but old habits never die. I want to get up the tent in case of a sudden surprise of bad weather. And, I use a kickstand on my bike, the first thing that can come off of the bike without upsetting the balance on a kickstand is the front right pannier or handlebar bag. So, there is logic why my tent goes in that pannier, it is easy to remove and keep the bike balanced on the kickstand.

Also, you want your weight packed low. Tents are quite dense and a wet tent from nighttime dew is even heavier. So, the way I think, a tent being dense makes sense to put it in a pannier, not on top. That said, others on this forum that suggest putting it up on top of the rack, because it works for them. I will not say they are doing it wrong, it works for them and that is what is important to them.

I just used my tent as an example here. You need to find a logical way to organize things so that it makes sense to you. Just figure out what you prefer, what works for you based on whatever eccentricities you may have and go with it. And you will find over time that whatever system you developed gets adjusted on every trip in some way.

Back to your original question of what goes on top of rear rack, it really depends on how much volume you have left over after you pack up your 65 liters worth of panniers. Some trips I need another 30 or 40 liters of capacity, some trips I have nothing at all on top of the rear rack because my panniers and handlebar bag held it all.

Tent poles, if they are long, a tent pole bag can come in handy to help lash them somewhere. I custom cut tent poles quite short for my tent so that they fit in my front pannier with the tent. But I used a tent pole bag before I cut different poles.

You will figure it out.

One side note, this only works with Ortlieb front panniers that have a strap over the top like yours - I put my rain gear under that strap. I want it where I can get to it fast. I do not need to open a pannier to get to it. And up front I can see it when I am on my bike so if it started to come loose, I would notice that. I have never seen anyone else do it this way, but they have their system figured out different than I do, which is ok too.


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Old 08-14-22, 01:55 PM
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I strap a waterproof rolltop backpack to the top of my front rack on my Grando. Inside the backpack I keep my food, money, an extra set of clothing, bike lock, and my battery packs for charging my devices.

I use the small backpack because itís easy to take off when going into stores.

You can read more about my Grando HERE
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Old 08-14-22, 08:25 PM
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everyone has their own method.

i like to keep trangia stove and kitchen tools in one small front pannier, food in the other front pannier. that way all the food-smelling stuff stays in the two smaller bags that can be snapped together and hoisted up to keep out of reach of critters and small children.
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Old 08-14-22, 11:54 PM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores
everyone has their own method.

i like to keep trangia stove and kitchen tools in one small front pannier, food in the other front pannier. that way all the food-smelling stuff stays in the two smaller bags that can be snapped together and hoisted up to keep out of reach of critters and small children.
what do you place on the top of your front rack? Thatís the original question here.
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Old 08-15-22, 06:13 AM
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Another use of front rack is to put a bag on it and not use handlebar bag.
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Old 08-15-22, 06:58 AM
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have you considered fenders? I've never toured without them.
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Old 08-15-22, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by cccorlew
Thanks! We're doing the C&O and GAP...
...and once you figure out how things will be packed, you'll really want to mount fenders on your bike(s). We hit an all-day rain on the GAP last year and got rained out of the C&O entirely (2" of rain as we were about to enter the C&O..we hopped the Amtrak in Cumberland to DC and had a great time there). Riding in the ran isn't bad, but you really want fenders.. Fortunately, we mounted fenders before the trip.
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Old 08-15-22, 07:37 AM
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My front rack doesn't have a platform, so I make do with an Ortlieb bar bag with map holder. The Ortlieb bag detaches easily, but you could make a grab and go bag pretty easily out of cloth or plastic zip-lock to hold your camera, wallet, and cell phone.

How are you planning to navigate? Paper maps work fine with my setup, or with a gallon zip-lock bag binder clipped to shifter or brake cables. You can load a good GPS with your route and leave it on your bar, but you'll have to figure out how you'll charge it.

I found it easy to strap my Thermarest sleeping pad and tent to the flat part of my rear rack. I haven't toured loaded with my new fancy blow-up pad, but it's small enough to fit in a pannier. I prefer the security of having my sleeping bag inside a pannier to keep it dry.
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