For anything other than short trips with light loads, you'll sweat and ache less if your luggage goes on your bike rather than your back. Any bike can carry some luggage, but you'll have more options and a bigger load capacity if there are threaded eyelets on the frame.
These eyelets – either side of the rear dropouts and high up on the seatstays – are where a frame-fitting pannier rack bolts in place. You'll find these eyelets on touring bikes, most hybrids, many cyclo-cross bikes, and some road bikes and mountain bikes. Most racks fit at four points. Some fit at three points, using a central brake bolt rather than seatstay eyelets; this is okay for lighter loads.
The important eyelets are the lower set by the dropouts, as they bear most of the load. You can substitute P-clips for the upper set. These wrap around each seatstay and provide eyes for nut-and-bolt fixing. Or you can use a seatclamp with rack mounts.
Pannier racks are meant to fit with the upper rails horizontal. You can adjust the arms at the top of the rack to achieve this on different sizes of bike. Some racks have adjustable-length legs too, although most fixed-height racks will accommodate either 26-inch or 700C wheels.
A rear disc brake calliper can get in the way of a rack or the pannier hanging on it. Some bikes have the disc calliper mounted to the chainstay instead of the seatstay, which gets it out of the way. For bikes that don't, you'll want a specific 'disc brake rack', which will have a dog-legged or spaced-out strut to clear the calliper.
Racks are normally welded together from aluminium or steel rod or tubing ranging from 8-14mm in diameter. Thicker struts make a sturdier rack, as does a more triangulated design. A bracket on the back of rack for fixing a rear light is useful. A parcel spring is only useful for non-bike-specific luggage.
There's a range of solutions for fixing luggage racks to bikes without frame eyelets, such as the majority of road bikes. Some fairly conventional looking racks attache via the wheel quick-release at the rear axle. Others, such as beam racks and large saddlebags, fix to the seatpost and/or the saddle rails.
Here's a small selection of the racks available.
|Vavert Voyager Disc Brake Rack|
As its name says, this aluminium rack is designed to fit bikes with a seatstay-mounted disc brake. One of the adjustable-length legs simply bows outwards to clear the calliper. This is a better solution than using a long spacer washer between the rack and the bike frame. The rack has mounts for a rear light and for bungee hooks, plus a parcel spring. Its capacity is 25kg.
|Lezyne Power Rack|
The Power Rack is made from 12mm aluminium tubing rather than solid aluminium rod, to keep weight down without sacrificing strength. It also accounts for the neat look of the adjustable-length legs, which slide up or down internally. Fit should be good to a wide range of bikes, and the rack includes a rear light mount. Capacity: 25kg.
|Tortec Epic Stainless Steel Rear Rack|
Intended for expedition cyclists, this tubular steel rack is well suited to anyone who will carry big rear panniers and heavy loads – even if it's just the weekly groceries on the way home from work. Its capacity is 40kg. It fits bikes with 26-inch or 700C wheels, and there's a mounting plate for a rear light.
|Biologic Portage Postrack|
This beam rack is for carrying a rack-top bag, although the luggage elastics included allow other loads to be strapped on. It fits to round seatposts from 27.2-33.9mm in diameter – metal ones only, as carbon fibre might be crushed. As the mounting bracket is quick-release, you can easily remove it from the bike when you don't need it. There's a rear light mount too (light not included). Capacity: 10kg.
|Axiom Streamliner Road Deluxe|
Meant for road bikes without frame eyelets, the Streamliner fixes to the bike via the rear wheel's quick-release skewer and the sidepull calliper's brake bolt. The rack legs are cantilevered backwards 4cm from the fixing point to give more heel room for panniers; road bikes have short chainstays. While its capacity is quoted at 50kg, it's better suited to lighter loads.
|Bagman2 Support - Expedition|
The Bagman2 is a support for Carradice's big (13-24 litre) saddlebags; other bags could be strapped on, given care. The top of the rack attaches to the saddle rails, while the bottom fixes either to the bike's seatstays (via frame eyelets or P-clips) or to a Bagman2 Seatpost Collar (£9). A smaller Sport model is also available, as are quick-release versions. Capacity: 10kg.
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