Once you’ve bought panniers, you’ll need racks to hang them on and – like panniers – you get what you pay for when it comes to racks.
If you plan on doing any amount of touring, it’s worth spending a bit of extra money for a decent set that will withstand months of bumping and jostling on the road.
As long as you don’t scrimp on quality, you shouldn’t need to do much to your racks during a tour. Just check occasionally to see if any screws or bolts are coming loose. With a cheap set of racks, pack some hose clamps and zip ties in your repair kit. Less expensive racks are more likely to break under the strain of a heavy load.
What To Look For?
Our favourite racks are made of steel; not because there aren’t good aluminium racks on the market but because steel racks can be easily welded back together, if necessary.
We also look for racks with a high load capacity. The most robust back racks are rated for about 40kg (90lbs) of weight. You won’t likely carry that much but it’s nice to know the racks are more than strong enough for the job.
As a bit of extra insurance, get a rack with a guarantee.
If we had to pick out just one brand of luggage racks to highlight, it would have to be Tubus Racks. They have a well proven track record in terms of strength and durability. Even better, they come with a 30-year guarantee, including shipping of free replacements anywhere in the world for 3 years.
A good value alternative is the Topeak Super Tourist DX rack. After buying two of these racks in 2009, we can definitely recommend them for light touring. They’re fairly light (700g), fit almost all bikes and have held up admirably on 10-14 day tours of Denmark and Spain, as well as numerous shorter trips and countless trips to the grocery store.
A Final Word On Racks.
No matter which one you choose, chances are the paint will wear thin with time, especially where the panniers rub up against the racks.
Keep some touch-up paint handy (nail polish will do the trick in a pinch). This helps keep the racks free of rust.
You can also wrap duct tape around your racks at the points where the bags make contact with the metal, to prevent scuffing.