QUICK GUIDE TO RACKS AND PANNIERS
Stop faffing around with rucksacks and backpacks. You have no idea what you’re missing until you’ve tried using a rack and a set of panniers. You will achieve levels of comfort you never thought possible while carrying a heavy load on your bicycle.
CHECK YOUR BIKE HAS RACK MOUNTS
Before you get too excited, run out to the garage and check your bike has rack mounts. These look like two eyelet bolts located slightly above the rear axle. If you don’t have rack mounts, don’t bother getting a rack. You can get racks that clamp onto the rear seat post but these aren’t worth the hassle. They barely hold any weight and you are better off just saving up for a bike with rack mounts.
CHOOSING A RACK
There are 2 different types of racks. Those which have a completely covered top and those which have holes. I personally prefer the completely covered top. They are heavier, but you can put almost anything on them and easily attach it to the bike with a set of bungee cords, without anything falling through the gaps.
When looking at racks, check for an extra rear panel below the top for attaching a rear light. You also might want to consider getting a rack which has additional cross bars. All racks have 2 cross bars at the top for attaching panniers, but if you get a model with another set of cross bars set a couple of inches lower than the top ones, you will be able to load up the top of the rack with bulky items and they won’t collide with your panniers while you are cycling.
You will also want a rack with a “dog legged” bar covering the rear, back corners. This will stop your panniers swinging into your spokes while you are cycling; a horrible way to have an accident.
Now you have the rack you can choose your panniers. The first thing to decide is if you are going to be using them for touring and holiday cycling, or commuting to and from work/school daily.
If you are touring, you will want a tough bag, which you can dump all your camping gear in at the start of the day and forget about while you go on your way. Commuters are going to want something with a few more pockets for easy access to keys/phone/wallet in a hurry.
With panniers, it is no surprise, you get what you pay for. If you want something cheap, which does the job of transporting your gear from A to B, don’t be surprised if it has little to no waterproof capabilities.
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