Introduction to adventure cycling

[+] Choosing a bike

[-] Carrying your kit




Camping gear

Spares, repairs & tools

Where to go


Bikes on planes

Enjoying your tour

Safety and security





There are two options for carrying your kit on a bike: racks and panniers, or a trailer. Either way, this is an area where good kit is really important and it is well worth stretching your budget to get the best gear. Trying to skimp on racks and panniers will only end in tears on the road.

(NB. For proof positive that we in the West are complete amateurs at carry stuff by bike, have a look at the Lords of Logistics site.)

General points

Racks just need to be really strong. If you ever watch a fully loaded bike bouncing down a rough track you'll appreciate the dynamic loads that racks have to cope with and why they have to be so robust. There are many brands of racks out there, but only a few are sufficiently robust for expedition touring.


Although aluminium is lighter, in my opinion, steel is the better material for racks simply because if it breaks it is easily welded up in the back of beyond. I think it may have better fatigue performance too.

Fitting problems

Bikes with no braze-ons (threaded bosses), front and rear suspension, and disc brakes, make fitting racks problematic. However, there are solutions for most of these problems. Most rack manufacturers can supply "P-Clips" to fit the seat stay and forks, to make up for the lack of braze-ons. Alternatively, there are racks that use a special skewer and the brake bosses. Most of the rack manufacturers are now offering front and rear racks compatible with suspension.

Rear racks

The design of rear racks are all pretty similar. Some models, such as the Tubus Logo, allow the pannier to sit a bit further back, giving more heel clearance - good for mountain bikes.

Front racks

On the front there is a choice between low-riders, which sit either side of the wheel, and platform-racks, which go over the top of the wheel like rear racks. Low-riders are better for the stability and handling because the weight of the panniers is lower. However, if you are going through rough terrain the panniers can catch on deeply rutted tracks and may be half-immersed on river crossings. Good expedition bikes have low-rider bosses either side of each fork tube to allow for three point fixing of each rack. If you haven't got any bosses on you front fork, both Tubus and Old Man Mountain make racks that uses the brake bosses.

Adventure Cycling Guide Cycle Touring Information Tubus racks
Tubus Logo Rear Rack


Made in Germany, Tubus are the rack by which all others are judged. They have been proven on many expeditions and are the racks of choice for most European adventure cyclists.

Adventure Cycling Guide Cycle Touring Thorn Rack


These are the racks fitted to Thorn bikes. While not as well known as Tubus they are probably equally strong. Apparently, the guys in the shop demonstrate their strength by jumping up and down on them. www.thorncycles.co.uk

Adventure Cycling Guide Cycle Touring Information Old Man Mountain Rack

Old Man Mountain

Based in California, OMM is a company that has been particularly sucessful at solving the problem of how to fit racks to front forks with suspension and/or without rack mount eyelets. The Cold Springs rack pictured uses the brake bosses and a special quick release skewer to produce a very solid mounting. OMM racks are made of aluminium, so they would be difficult to get repaired if they ever broke in the middle of nowhere. However, they are very strong and very well made,and the company has an excellent reputation for getting replacement racks shipped in a hurry on the rare occassions when one fails.

Copyright © Tim Barnes 2007