Racks are one of the more important parts on a touring bike because, well… rack failure sucks and can make touring pretty hard. I recommend investing once, getting it right, and you’ll never have to do it again – the best racks last a lifetime.
Alright, let’s look into the things to consider when buying a rear pannier rack for your touring bike.
Rack Construction Material
I almost always recommend racks that are built using steel. This is because many aluminium racks have the tendency to wear away at the rack tubing from the pannier hooks, leading to rack failure over time.
A high-end steel rack is often more expensive than aluminium equivalents, but it’s almost guaranteed that it will last a lifetime of touring. Surprisingly, nice steel racks are often around the same weight as aluminium offerings. The main downside to a steel rack is that it will show surface rust.
Rear racks are also available in titanium and stainless steel. The advantage of these materials are that they build a lighter product, and they’re free of surface rust. When comparing the Tubus Logo in different variants, the titanium version drops about 200g (7oz) compared to the steel. The only real downside is that it’s literally twice the price!
Rack Load Capacity
Different racks have different load capacities. The best touring racks generally offer a capacity between 35-50kg (80-110lbs). Many other cheaper racks on the market are limited to lighter loads between 10-20kg (22-44lbs). Although you may not exceed these capacities, higher capacity racks will likely be more reliable in the long-term.
Rack Heel Clearance
If the chainstays on your bicycle are on the shorter side (440mm or shorter), you may need a rack that helps with heel clearance. I’ve created a resource that lists 10 racks with designs that provide additional heel clearance HERE.
Rack Pannier Support Area
The pannier support area of a rear rack is very important. With more surface area for your pannier bag to rest on, your pannier will move less and reduce the overall stresses to your pannier hooks.
Lowering Your Pannier’s Centre of Gravity
As pannier bags are often heavily laden, they have a significant effect on the way a bike handles. To gain greater stability and maneuverability, find a rack which permits your bags to sit lower. Some manufacturers offer lower sidebars for pannier mounting, others offer their racks in multiple heights to suit different wheel diameters. A handful of racks are adjustable in height between 26″and 29″.
Racks come in styles to suit everything from very small and light loads, through to heavy-duty steel racks that can carry everything you need on your long haul ride.
The reason that Tubus racks are more expensive than most (other than exceptional quality and finish) – they have an exceptional strength to weight. Tubus racks use hollow steel tubes to keep the construction weight down. To illustrate this, consider that the difference in weight between a Surly Rear Rack and Tubus Logo is 600g (21oz). The Tubus is almost half the weight!
Different rack companies offer different warranties for their products. Tubus offers the best warranty with their racks: 30 years. And within the first three years they grant free worldwide delivery of spare parts if you need them.
Racks and Disc Brakes
If your bike uses disc brakes on the top of the seatstay, make sure your rack is capable of clearing the disc brake caliper. I have fitted Tubus Cargo and Racktime Add-it racks to bikes with disc brakes with no issues as the included kit uses mounting spacers. If that fails though, a Tubus quick release mounting kit will allow you to use Tubus racks with disc brakes.
There is one Tubus rack designed for disc brake bikes without eyelets, however its carrying capacity is rated to 20kg.
Racks On Fat Bikes
It’s possible to get a rack on a fat bike if it’s designed for the purpose. Check out the Old Man Mountain Sherpa, Axiom Fatliner, Blackburn Outpost Fat, Salsa Alternator 190 and Tubus FAT racks.
Modifying Your Rack Position
Sometimes racks just don’t fit and you have to get a bit creative. Tubus may have some aftermarket parts that may help…
Lower Rack Mounting Kit
Designed to move the rack up and back, this kit will give you more heel clearance and will aid in clearing seatstay-mounted brake calipers.
Long Upper Rack Mounting Stays
If you use a smaller frame, you may need to find longer stays from Tubus. They’re available in 190mm, 240mm and 350mm. Other brands like Surly have aftermarket upper stays that are 240mm length.
Your Frame Doesn’t Have Any Rack Eyelets?
If you are using a bicycle that has no provision for a traditional rack, Tubus make mounting kits to make their racks fit your frame.
Tubus Quick Release Rack Mounting Kit
If your frame doesn’t have lower eyelets, you can use this kit to mount directly from your rear axle.
Tubus Stay Mounting Clamps
These neat clamps will allow you to mount the upper stays to your frame.
Seatpost Clamps With Rack Eyelets
Some manufacturers make seatpost clamps with rack eyelets built in, avoiding all types of clamping.
Axiom Streamliner Racks
The Axiom Streamliner rack is a budget option for rack mounting on frames without eyelets. They’ll mount from the brake bridge and rear wheel axle, fitting almost all road bikes. They have a “sweep back feet” design to provide extra heel clearance too.
Thule Pack ‘N Pedal Tour Racks
If you are touring on a dual suspension bike or a carbon bike, check out the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tour Rack. These racks use quick release fittings that wrap around your fork and seat stays, and allow you to strap small loads on your bicycle.
Tubus Cargo vs. Tubus Logo
It can be confusing choosing between the two as they’re the same price with the same carrying capacity.
I recommend the Cargo if:
– You want to use an Ortlieb Rackpack bag over your rear panniers (larger surface area on the top)
– You want slightly more ground clearance for your bags (off-road touring)
– Your upper seatstay bolts are particularly wide set (the Cargo is a much better fit for frames with this characteristic)
I recommend the Logo if:
– You need additional heel clearance (for people with big feet or short chainstays)
– You want to strap goods onto the top of your rack (as panniers can be taken off while things are strapped to the top)
– You want a lower centre of gravity (the panniers sit low on the Logo, great for road touring)
I’ve used both the Tubus Cargo and Logo racks extensively, my reviews are HERE.
Bicycle Touring With Up To 40kg:
Tubus Logo, Tubus Cargo
For A Little Extra Heel Clearance / Lower Centre Of Gravity:
Tubus Logo, Tubus Cosmo
Light Touring and Audax:
Tubus Fly, Tubus Airy
No Rear Rack Mounts:
Dual Suspension or carbon frame: Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tour
Standard frame: Tubus rack with QR mounting kit
Standard frame: Axiom Streamliner Disc
Tubus Cosmo for heavy-weight touring
Tubus Logo Titan for mid-weight touring
Tubus Airy for light-weight touring