Racks and Bags

When you are shopping for your panniers and bags don't just shop price.  These are tour critical parts that should not be taken lightly.
Inferior or cheaply made racks can spell disaster.  A rack failure can end a tour should it take a wheel out and you along with it.

As with most things we buy we look for the "Made in  USA" label. Stay away from cheap inferior imports with no "quality control". Jandd makes some great racks and equipment for example.

Another thing that is important is when choosing a rack don't be a "weight weenie".  This is not the place to try and shave off a couple grams. You need serious strength here. Shaving off a couple grams will only increase you chance of failure.  Lightweight racks are OK if you are only carrying a trunk with the days necessities but not the choice for loaded touring. Weight is always a factor but again here is not the place to do any trimming. 

A fully loaded rack has to withstand the rigors of touring.  Many unseen loading issues are put on your rack as you ride.  It is not a static load it is an ever changing load with twisting and  bending.  Not every road you travel will be smooth.



                             You could be on a lumpy road for hours. Have a rugged rack!

Look at metal around the eyelets where the lower bolts go through.  There should be enough metal there to safely satisfy what you are carrying. I have seen some very flimsy racks that look like they can barely support their own weight let alone two panniers and a full trunk.

The lower you can get the weight on the frame the better. Lowrider front racks are the best choice. Keep you loading even bag to bag and front to back . Weigh each bag prior to leaving and keep the same stuff in the same bag while touring.


When you bolt your rack to your bicycle for a long tour spend a couple bucks on new bolts. Again these items see forces and stresses when in use.  New bolts make for cheap insurance.

Should any part of your rack use a nut be sure that nut is a nylon lock nut. These nuts have a much better chance of not becoming loose.  Mush better than just a nut and lock washer.  And should one manage to wiggle loose it most likely will not fall off and you will notice the movement in  your rack before failure.

I use Locktite on every rack bolt that goes into my frame.  Locktite does two things.  It helps hold the bolt from coming loose and prevents corrosion between the frame and bolt during your tour. Bolts put into you frame with Locktite will come out easily when needed but will be resistant to loosing by vibration.


When it comes to panniers again do not just shop price.  Cheap bags are just that "cheap".  Remember is not always a sunny dry day when you are touring.  Nothing is worse than a bag of wet soggy clothes.  Again Jandd makes beautiful bags as does Ortlieb.

Look at how these bags mount to your rack.  Are the secure? Will they take the strain a bumpy road will dish out? Also can you get them off the rack when needed. You will find the need to remove them from time to time on tour so it is nice if it can be done easily without the need for tools.

Unless you are using Ortlieb or Jandd Hurricane panniers you need to protect your bags from the elements.  Ortlieb bags are  for the most part waterproof.  We do the following to insure our clothes and laptops do not get wet in the rain.

First and I highly recommend this, line the inside of your pannier with a plastic trash bag.  Stuff your clothes and gear in the plastic bag and secure it with a loosely tied knot on the top of the bag then close up your pannier.  You would be surprised how well this protects your gear.

Next we recommend outer bag covers.  These water resistant covers have more than one purpose. Obviously they help keep the rain and road crud off your bags. But the bright yellow covers also offer high visibility to oncoming cars. This is a very important plus.

The covers are nice because like I said other than rain protection they keep road grime off the bag.  It is a whole lot easier to toss the covers into the washer  than clean mud and crud off the pannier.   On a cross country trip we may wash the cover a couple times keeping or panniers nice and clean. Remember all you have on tour is you and your bike.  Keep it clean and happy.