Rear Bike Rack Review: Which Rack Is Right For You?
Over the last few weeks I have been in the process of converting a Bianchi Brava road bike into a decent commuter bike. If you need to carry anything into work, the first instinct of many riders is to throw it in a messenger bag or a backpack. I gave both of these options a try and came back hating the sweaty back, and balance issues associated with both. I decided it was time to get a rear rack, and a pannier. After a good month of riding with my rack, I am a total believer in the saying, “once you go rack, you never go back.” I did some research and hands on testing with a ton of racks, and here is a quick run down of the ones I recommend.
Just like everything else in the cycling world, you can get a bargain rack, or you can spend break the bank with a hand built German engineered rack. Before we dig into the racks, lets take a look at some of the compatibility and fit issues you may run into when choosing a bike rack. The first thing you need to do is check your bike over for braze-ons. These are the screw holes built into your bike that are added specifically to allow you to attach equipment like racks and fenders. Most modern bikes will have plenty of braze-ons, except for many single-speed/track specific frames. You also may run into issues with disc brakes and certain frame geometries (like compact, or wsd frames). I will talk about ways of getting around these issues at the end of this article. Lets start off by taking a look at some quality, time tested, bargain racks.
- Blackburn Mountain Rear Rack – This rack has been around for a long time, and it was recommended by many when I started looking for a quality bargain rack. Don’t be confused by the word mountain in the name. This rack will fit any road bike. Constructed from tough and durable 6061 T6 Aluminum alloy this lightweight rack can carry upwards of 40 lbs. The only issue you may run into is if you have single or dual pivot brake systems that often get in the way of your braze-ons, there aren’t any available accessories from Blackburn to remedy the situation. Fortunately the brackets that connect to your seat stay braze-ons are thin and can easily be bent around your brakes. This rack will cost you roughly $34.99 from amazon.com or nashbar.com.
- Topeak Racks – Topeak racks are interesting because they offer a huge variety of different options. One of my favorite options is the rack that integrates a U Lock into the rack. While I can’t vouch for the quality of the lock itself, the idea is a great one, and uses what would normally be wasted space. More interesting about Topeak racks are their bag locking system. If you buy their racks and their rack top bags, they have a quick clip system that makes it easy and convenient to quickly attach and remove the rack bag. Fortunately, the bags that they offer are very nice and high quality. These racks are made of aluminum, similar to the Blackburn rack. Topeak systems attach to seat stay braze-ons, and they also have options for disc brake mounted bikes. Topeak racks can be had for anywhere from $30-$50, depending on model.
- Old Man Mountain Red Rock Rack – This rear rack is extremely well built and rigid. This rack makes the previous two racks look like they are toys. They are built with multiple heavy pannier loads in mind. Straight from OOM’s website, this is why you should choose this quality rack, “Other rack manufacturers have soiled the perception of aluminum by worrying more about profits than reliability. The result is shoddy welding and the use of sub-par grades of material. The right alloy combined with proper construction makes Aluminum a truly amazing material. It’s used by airline manufacturers and land speed race cars to provide ultimate combination of rigidity and light weight. Our rack material is a bomber grade of Aircraft-grade, 6061-T6, tubular aluminum. More importantly than the material is the quality of the welds. Our welds are second to none and each joint is welded on both sides, resulting in joints that are far superior to other aluminum racks. The light weight of aluminum also allows us to use a much larger wall thickness than tubular steel racks.” This rack is also unique in that it is made to attach to cantilever style brake bosses (and also have options for disc brake systems). These racks can hold up to 60 lbs., but this quality and craftsmanship comes with a price. The Red Rock rack has a suggested retail value of $79.99, but can be found online for slightly less.
- Tubus Logo Rack – This is the rack that I eventually chose to put on my Bianchi. After installing, and testing a ton of racks, I was completely blown away by the build quality of this rack. These German engineered thin-walled high grade chromoly steel tubing racks can hold a whopping 88 lbs. They also offer a somewhat-unique lower pannier mounting rail. This is important for larger panniers as it lowers the center of gravity, as well as pulling the bag down and away from the rider to help avoid heal strike (which can be a problem for many big footed riders). Another benefit to the Tubus Logo rack is that Tubus offers an incredible array of features and accessories to help fit the rack to your bike. You can view the long list of accessories here (thetouringstore.com). The Logo rack also features a convenient taillight mount. I highly recommend giving Wayne a call at thetouringstore.com for the best deal on all Tubus racks. He is extremely easy to work with and will help you get the right rack and accessories. The Tubus Logo rack will set you back about $120, but is well worth the investment.
When it comes down to it, the most important thing is to size up your bike and figure out which rack will fit your bike the best. Many bikes will require some rack modification to get it to fit just right, but that is completely normal. One solution I found to get around an issue I had with my brakes completely blocking my seat stay braze-ons was to pick up Oval Concept’s Aero rear brake. This unique brake has a very low profile and cleared a nice path to my braze-ons. While this is an expensive option, it is also a nice brake system upgrade for many. Now, all you need to do is choose the right pannier. My next article will take a look at the many quality pannier options out there.