From backpack to rear rack.......an ongoing saga- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    From backpack to rear rack.......an ongoing saga

    Over the past weekend, I had to do quite a bit of running around on the bike that reqired me to be downgraded to a pack mule, we don't own a car. I needed to pick up charcoal and firewood for a party on Saturday and my commuter bike did not have a rear rack. I ended up taking my daughters Trek S220 and my "nasty *****" that I leave outside unlocked. Both bikes left me wanting to be on my Jamis and I always wanted to put a rack on it. So I took the plunge on Sunday.

    After watching the Japanese Gran Prix, I wandered around the house and tried to talk myself out of riding to the bike shop to get a rack. I ended up going and looked at multiple options. I bought a Topeak Explorer Disc rack and an MTX trunk bag. Seems like a pretty sturdy rack and I really dig the Quick Track system.

    Now, I have no complaints about being a backpack commuter. I love my Vaude Splash. I can stuff that thing full of beer and it stays comfortable. This will be an interesting next few weeks for me as I am of the camp that likes to keep the bike light and nimble.

    This morning would be an unfair asessment of the system, but here goes. I was on a business trip last week in Poland. On top of my normal gear (tools, clothes, phones) I had to carry my work laptop, power supply, mouse, 2 spring clamp guns, samples from the plant.......you get the idea. So the backpack stayed home today while the Topeak setup and Crumpler laptop bag did duties. In the Topeak bag I had the 2 spring clamp guns (heavy), the power supply for my laptop (heavy), clothes, tools, and the normal commuter stuff. The Crumpler bag held my laptop and all the other work crap. I have mixed feelings from this morning. On one hand, I apprecite all the heavy weight being "on bike" and not on my back. On the other hand, I knew it was there on the bike, I could feel it. Plus, out of the seat, I could feel the weight flex the rack and I didn't appreciate how much more power it took to throw the bike side to side, I really am not too happy with this. I commute like I road bike and often use my commutes as training rides.

    I hope the ride home goes better without all the extra weight and work stuff from the business trip. I will update from home.

    Anyone want to see pics of the setup?

  2. #2
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    I ride light bikes, well balanced, that handle well. I liked my commute bike until I put stuff on it; it throws the whole thing off.
    But there's nothing for it if you want to carry stuff; that's the price.
    I don't rattle.

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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    I ride light bikes, well balanced, that handle well. I liked my commute bike until I put stuff on it; it throws the whole thing off.
    But there's nothing for it if you want to carry stuff; that's the price.
    Same here. You understand my dilema. Let's consider my adventure with this as experimentation/testing. I keep reading on here that pannier bags are superior to a quality backpack. I'm not a subscriberr yet.

    Why?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    I ride light bikes, well balanced, that handle well. I liked my commute bike until I put stuff on it; it throws the whole thing off.
    But there's nothing for it if you want to carry stuff; that's the price.
    I agree. I don't like how my bike feels with a rack on it. I used a rack for about a month and went be to a backpack. But, I also don't need to carry much stuff. I only need a change of cloths and maybe my lunch.

    They do serve a purpose though and I'm glad that I have a rack on my bike when I need it.

  6. #6
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    I think it's all about compromise.

    When I'm running around to different places and picking up and dropping off lots of stuff, I'm all about the messenger bag.

    When I'm riding a little further and carrying more stuff, I switch to a pannier or two. I don't use trunk bags. In order to maintain good handling, I think having a load lower is more important than having it centered. The installation of the rack is important too. When I had mine installed with a single stay in the center, I felt more tail whip than I do now, with stays to each seatstay.

    I always use the rack to carry my U-lock. On many days, it's the single heaviest thing I take with me. I bungie it to the side, and I can tell a difference in handling between carrying it and not carrying it. But it's nice not to have it on my back.

    Ultimately, it's also a matter of priorities. My commute ride is just a commute. I enjoy it, but I switch to one of my nicer bikes and a pair of funny shoes if I want a training ride.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  7. #7
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    You'll get used to it, and after a while forget that the rack/bag is back there. As a bonus, if your ever take them off, the bike will feel super sporty and light.

  8. #8
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    I'm primarily a backpack guy, too.

    For most of my commuting, a backpack does what I need easily enough.

    With that said, I'm putting a rear rack on my new commuter-specific bike.

    Couple reasons why:
    1. to carry my lock(s)
    2. for those times when I need to carry something bigger than will fit in my backpack - like when I need to ship a package.
    3. so I can put grocery panniers on it and stop to buy stuff for dinner at the grocery store on the way home.

    Most of the time, the rack will not have anything on it other than my lock and my blinkie light. For that reason, I plan on putting an aluminum model on it. I like the looks of the Portland Design Works model with the bamboo deck...though I'll have to keep that bamboo treated most likely so it doesn't split. Should look nice with my Brooks saddle, though.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbigisbudgood View Post
    Anyone want to see pics of the setup?
    Now that`s a silly question!

    Do I misunderstand here, or have you been living carless without a rack or trailer? Sounds impossible, especialy with kids.
    I have the reverse situation- heavy bike saddled with extra stuff, and on the rare occasions that I strip it down, it feels wonderfully light. My bike is loaded down at all times with racks, lights, dynohub, fat bombproof tires, and fenders at all times. Even though I seldom need all of it at any given time, it isn`t worth the trouble to install and remove all that stuff on a regular basis. My dream solution (hopefully will be implemented next spring) is to have another bike, nearly a clone of my commuter, but without all the commuting and touring stuff. Need a rack this weekend? Throw one on, then take it off when I`m done. Want fenders for tomorrow`s ride? Mount, ride, remove. Leaving before dawn? Swap in the dyno wheel, pop a light on the front, then it comes off when I don`t need it anymore.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
    Do I misunderstand here, or have you been living carless without a rack or trailer? Sounds impossible, especialy with kids.
    I'm in Stockholm, Sweden, if we go somewhere together, we take public transit or cycle. If we go outside of our PT system, we take the SJ train or fly. IKEA delivers. It's a pain in the ass to own a car here, congestion tax and expensive fuel, bikes and the tunnelbana are quicker....etc...

    The rack didn't feel as bad on the way home. Surely getting rid of the industrial tools and laptop power supply helped. I could still feel some flexing/wiggling at high speed and while out of the saddle but it was definitely better than it was this morning. I felt naked with no backpack or messenger bag on my body, but it was a welcome naked, like being with a hot girl you knew that gained some ass weight. The weird thing was that the bike felt heavy, yet my speed/time home was about the same as with a backpack, makes sense I guess. It probably won't matter in a week as I will put my winter studs on already, then the real sluggish starts......

    I am going to keep with it for at least a couple weeks.

    I'll get some pictures on the way home tomorrow. It's already getting dark and my commute in the morning is with lights.

  11. #11
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    That's funny, I thought my Bianchi felt stiffer with the rack. I have a full Topeak system (OS commuter rack and drybag panniers, trunk and handlebar bag). I don't ever notice much difference, accept the time I got wet clothes from my brother's place. That was a lot of weight. But it seemed balanced and secure. However, I am the opposite. I hate backpacks. I figure it's better my rear Khamsin takes the abuse than my back.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jazclrint View Post
    That's funny, I thought my Bianchi felt stiffer with the rack. I have a full Topeak system (OS commuter rack and drybag panniers, trunk and handlebar bag). I don't ever notice much difference, accept the time I got wet clothes from my brother's place. That was a lot of weight. But it seemed balanced and secure. However, I am the opposite. I hate backpacks. I figure it's better my rear Khamsin takes the abuse than my back.
    I think I'm feeling weight shifting from the load flexing the rack side to side, not the frame flexing under load.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbigisbudgood View Post
    I think I'm feeling weight shifting from the load flexing the rack side to side, not the frame flexing under load.

    Ahhh. I don't see me noticing that with my rack. It's a solid rack and all the bags "click" into it. But, I don't seem to notice flex as much as others either.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbigisbudgood View Post
    I think I'm feeling weight shifting from the load flexing the rack side to side, not the frame flexing under load.
    Are you sure the rack is actually flexing and that it's not the load shifting within the panniers/trunk bag?

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    well at least reading this thread makes me feel a bit less...uhh...lonely?

    anyway...like Berkeley Mike (& others) i ride a light, well-balanced, quick-handling bike for commuting. i worked hard to get it the way i like it & up til now for the most part have been content to use a backpack rather than weigh it down with racks & such. hell, i don't even like the extra weight of a good lock. thank god it is not too bad here & i have been able to get by for years with a light cable lock &/or bringing it inside my stops whenever possible.

    now i am trying to drive as little as possible for all the usual reasons & have come to accept the fact that for groceries, errands, etc, i need more than my backpack.

    but i will be damned if i am going to permanently bolt-on all that heavy, ugly crap onto my baby. this weekend i ordered a quick release seatpost rack with racks for panniers & a trunk bag with zip-out panniers. my idea is to attach these things only when absolutely necessary, remove them whenever they're not needed & keep my bike lean & mean as much as possible.

    i sure hope this plan works...wish me luck

  16. #16
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    I'm making the seasonal transition from racks to a backpack. I much prefer panniers, but I make the switch primarily for security. During the summer, I roll my bike into the office where it is nice and secure. In winter, I don't want it to suffer the temperature fluctuations between inside and out so I keep it locked up outside. My office bike rack is right outside the front entrance to the Public Defenders office. Our clientele leaves me loathe to leave anything of value attached to it.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    Are you sure the rack is actually flexing and that it's not the load shifting within the panniers/trunk bag?
    I got a small trunk bag and everything gets packed tight. Perhaps it's just the weight trying to move off center that I was feeling. That said, I put my winter studs on last night and this morning, I felt none of that flexing sensation. This leads me to believe that it was in fact just the weight trying to throw off the bike balance and the extra rotational weight of the heavier tire (Schw Winter Marathon) does a better job of combating that than a 700X28.

    Quote Originally Posted by markaitch View Post
    well at least reading this thread makes me feel a bit less...uhh...lonely?

    anyway...like Berkeley Mike (& others) i ride a light, well-balanced, quick-handling bike for commuting. i worked hard to get it the way i like it & up til now for the most part have been content to use a backpack rather than weigh it down with racks & such. hell, i don't even like the extra weight of a good lock. thank god it is not too bad here & i have been able to get by for years with a light cable lock &/or bringing it inside my stops whenever possible.

    now i am trying to drive as little as possible for all the usual reasons & have come to accept the fact that for groceries, errands, etc, i need more than my backpack.

    but i will be damned if i am going to permanently bolt-on all that heavy, ugly crap onto my baby. this weekend i ordered a quick release seatpost rack with racks for panniers & a trunk bag with zip-out panniers. my idea is to attach these things only when absolutely necessary, remove them whenever they're not needed & keep my bike lean & mean as much as possible.

    i sure hope this plan works...wish me luck
    Lycka Till!!!

    Destroying the quick handling and quick pedaling of my bike has been my main issue with this experiment. My commuter (Jamis Coda Elite) WAS just a tad slower than my Roubaix, now it's starting to feel like an ass heavy mountain bike. The weight can be felt throught the pedals and when I brake, I know it's about the same amount, but it's the different location of the weight that makes it feel a bit odd. I like being able to bunnyhop onto a sidewalk if I need to. I like knowing that I have that "out" if things get hairy on the street. I don't feel like I have that option with the rack and trunk bag. Standing and hammering takes more control and care, almost not worth it.

    I do like the fact that it is WAY easier to unzip the jacket. My back isn't as sweaty either.

    But, now that the studs are installed, the bike is slowed down until April anyway.

    Must remember to take a couple crappy iPhone pictures on the way home today.

  18. #18
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    Panniers work better than trunk bags in my experience because they carry the weight lower. Carrying the weight lower makes a huge difference in how the bike handles. With a trunk bag the weight is like a pendulum over the rear wheel so even peddling the weight is swaying back and forth over the back wheel...very uncomfortable I found. I switched to a Arkel Bug pannier and found the bike behaved much better (still easier with a backpack, but less sweaty back, weight on shoulders...its always a compromise!)

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by motomuppet View Post
    Carrying the weight lower makes a huge difference in how the bike handles.
    ...and carrying bulk in your wake makes a surprising difference in drag.
    Given the choice, the better option probably depends the route as well as how heavy and how bulky your cargo is. Straight runs, few stops, handling isn`t as much of a concern. A lot of slow climbing, drag doesn`t make much difference.

  20. #20
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    I never really notice much drag with my pannier (some, sure but does not bother me much). Having a backpack on the seat post rack I use sometimes always bugs me more than using a pannier. Of course, the amount of weight matters significantly...and sure, different routes, bike set-ups, speeds traveled, head winds etc I guess will all come into play. Just saying, I find the bike handles much better with the weight low.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
    ...and carrying bulk in your wake makes a surprising difference in drag.
    Given the choice, the better option probably depends the route as well as how heavy and how bulky your cargo is. Straight runs, few stops, handling isn`t as much of a concern. A lot of slow climbing, drag doesn`t make much difference.
    Actually, I have a decent on the way to work that I get in an aero tuck for. My speed is higher with the backpack than with the trunk bag.

    Regardless.....

    I'm still using the trunk bag. I suppose I will through the winter.

    I still don't like the weight on my bike, but I'm used to the higher COG on the bike now. I use my backpack with the trunk bag when I need to carry extra clothes or whatever. It seems to be working will and I am "satisfied" with the purchase. I'm still not convinced that it is better.

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