Panniers – front, rear or both – are the classic storage solution for riders who need to transport a lot of gear.
To mount panniers to your bike you will need to first attach a special rack – called a pannier rack, naturally enough. The are available for both front and rear with most manufacturers offering an attachment system that enables the bags to be easily clipped on and off.
Read on to find out more about the different types of pannier racks available and what to look for when choosing one for your bike.
Which pannier rack is right for you?
There are a number of different types of pannier rack on the market and the one you choose will depend on factors including:
– How much weight you wish to carry: Do you just need a rack for getting your bits and bobs to work, or are you cycling cross-country to Mongolia?
– Your bike type: Certain ‘traditional’ pannier types won’t work with MTB full-suspension frame designs so you will be somewhat limited in our options if you have a bike like this.
– Your frame: Many touring and road-bike frames feature special eyelets to allow for panniers to be bolted on. If your bike doesn’t have these – and lots of modern road and MTB bikes don’t – you’ll need a pannier that works with a different attachment system.
Common types of pannier rack
Pannier racks generally fall under two main categories: the traditional, wire-framed type mounted by means of frame eyelets, and the non-traditional type with an alternative mounting method.
– Traditional wire-framed pannier racks: are bolted on to special eyelets welded to the bike’s frame (usually located close to the axle dropouts on the fork legs, and also at the junction of the seat- and chainstays to the rear of the bike) and also attached to the brake mounts. While most frames designed for touring and commuting will still feature these eyelets, many modern road and MTB frames don’t. To further complicate matters, the advent of disc brakes as well as front and rear suspension has made traditional racks incompatible with many modern off-road bikes.
– Non-traditional pannier racks: have been designed to overcome these obstacles with mounting methods which do not require frame eyelets. They are usually mounted either by a single large clamp on the seat tube or by means of special braces that can attach to the seatstays – and which do not interfere with disc brake rotors or suspension compression.
NOTE: Because the traditional frame-mounted pannier racks are more stable and secure they can carry a heavier load than the ‘beam’-type seatpost mounted racks, something to bear in mind when planning a longer tour. The latter type of non-traditional racks usually come with a maximum load limit so be sure to check before you load up and set out.
Best Pannier Racks Buying Guide: in-depth
When purchasing a pannier rack:
• Check for the presence of rack eyelets on your frame. If they are not there you will need a rack with an alternative mounting method;
• Check that the rack is compatible with disc brakes, if you have them;
• Check that the maximum load limit recommended for any rack corresponds with how you intend to use it;
• Check that the rack is compatible with your panniers, if you have them already.
NOTE: Loading a long-distance tourer is an art in itself, with riders needing to ensure that loads are balanced in a way that will not affect bike handling. Heavier loads are best kept as low on the bike as possible to maintain a low centre of gravity, with handlebar bags only suitable for light items.
Ideally pannier loads should be evenly distributed on either side of the bike or it will ‘pull’ in one direction (although commuters carrying light to medium weights – lunch, a laptop and a change of clothes – will get away with using one pannier). However many experienced tourers recommend that in terms of the front-rear load ratio, the front panniers should carry more than the back. This will prevent the front wheel lifting on climbs, without hampering handling (once the weight is kept low down) and help prevent damage to the rear wheel, which is already carrying the bulk of the rider’s weight when he or she is in an upright riding position.