Say the words ‘bike rack’ and you could mean either the thing used to carry a bike on a car; the thing you chain your bike to at school or work; or the tubular frame that sits over a rear wheel and which is used to carry pannier bags. For the sake of clarity, it’s this last option that we’re looking at here because after we featured our guide to pannier bags , one reader asked if we could help people choose the right rack to attach their bags to. Of course — we’re here to help!
On the face of things, bicycle luggage racks should be simplicity itself. However, there’s more to picking the right rack for your bike than you may think. So let’s get cracking with bike racking.
The standard rear rack
Although they may come is a range of materials — typically aluminium, steel or scandium — there are some general qualities that standard rear racks all share. They are fitted using M5 Allen key bolts at four mounting points or braze-ons found at: the left-hand seatstay; the right-hand seatstay; above the rear wheel dropout on the left; and above the rear wheel dropout on the right.
The general shape of a standard rear rack is also relatively fixed. It has a flat section at the top often with a lip at the end nearest the saddle, onto which can be placed a trunk bag or other long, thin items. Meanwhile, the top side bars are the points from which the pannier bags are hung. Crucially, a standard rear rack will also have decent side frames, too, as these prevent pannier bags from touching the rear wheel. To see our full range of rear racks, click here
The disc-brake option
Rear rack design may have remained pretty constant for decades but one development that is becoming increasingly important involves bikes with disc brakes. Because a disc brake sticks out from the side of the rear wheel, standard rear racks will not be compatible. However, compensated rear racks for disc brake bikes are widely available and we have a selection here.
Also, because off-road touring is becoming increasingly popular and 29er mountain bikes are a practical option for mixed terrain commutes, there is a growing trend to fit rear racks to 29ers. Again, they will need a specific compatible rack and we have a selection of suitable models.
No rack mounts? Don’t worry
But what if your bike doesn’t have typical rear rack mounting points or braze-ons? The most popular and effective option is to go with a seatpost-mounted rack such as the Topeak Beam series. These simply clip around your seatpost and are impressively sturdy. Do note, however, they may require that a specific, compatible trunk or pannier bag is used with them and they don’t offer the total load capacity of a traditional frame-mounted rear rack.
Another option for bikes without dedicated rack mounts comes from Blackburn. The company’s Central rear rack can be attached at the bottom by using a special extended rear wheel quick release. Meanwhile, at the top they can be fitted using an included seatstay clamp or even bolted to the cantilever brake bosses. It’s a slightly more complicated set-up but it does offer a secure alternative option.
While not as popular as rear racks, the front of your bike might also have luggage-carrying possibilities. The most common option is to fit front racks or low riders, which are essentially metal frames that attach to each side of the front fork.
Although front racks often require mounting points on the bike fork, this option from Basil, which mounts onto the front axle and hooks over the handlebars.
In all cases of front luggage racks, though, be aware that placing too much weight forwards can have an effect on the bike’s steering. If what you plan to carry is particularly heavy, we’d always recommend going with a rear rack first.
Specialist options for small-wheeled folders
It’s also possible to fit rear racks and sometimes even front racks to folding bikes. In this case, the best options are often to use racks made by the manufacturer of the bike itself. We stock some superb front and rear racks for Tern folders here and of course, companies such as Brompton produce their own luggage-carrying systems.
Finally, although racks aren’t necessarily complicated or super-expensive pieces of kit, if you are in any doubt about exactly what you need or what is compatible with your particular bike, just pop along to any Evans store where our staff will be delighted to advise you. Then if you want your rack fitted by experts, we can do that, too.