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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I'd like to head out his summer for a few shortish tours/bike camping trips. I've got no experience actually loading up a bike for a tour, though I think I have a good idea of what to bring/leave at home depending on the situations I'll put myself into.

My real question is about racks- I'd like to do this on the cheap, but reliability is also a concern (obviously). I've been looking at some cheapo racks and panniers on ebay and would like some opinions. Currently I think rear only should do the trick, but will entertain all possibilities if anyone has a suggestion otherwise.

Cheapo $8 rack The ad says its made of "Super heavy duty steel" which I interpret to be kinda light duty aluminum. With a claimed capacity of 55lb it should be plenty strong, no? I certainly won't be carrying that much baggage.

I've also looked at the Axiom, which seems to be higher quality and still inexpensive at ~$30. Recommendation from someone experienced?

Panniers for $35 These seem reasonably sized although light on the ruggedness/waterproofness. I can always ghetto waterproof by packing things in trashbags, opinions?

My plan is to pack reasonably light as I'll be in the mountains of Colorado where I reside. The tentative plan is to exit my garage, spend a threeish nights out on a couple hundred mile loop. Later in the summer hopefully something longer, perhaps 350mi to visit a friend in New Mexico then ride back...

By the way, the bike is all steel and hand built by me at UBI. Its got standard rear rack bosses- one above each dropout and above the canti bosses on the seat stays. I'm not terribly concerned about selecting what to pack- I'd hate to get out and realize that I'm having equipment failure. I've spent plenty of time as a bike mechanic to have no worries in that dept, I just want to select quality gear without breaking the bank.

Thanks in advance for any thoughtful replies!

Hoffman
 

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I wouldn't spend eight dollars on a rack, I would go for the Axiom. For 22 dollars more you can have a little more piece of mind and you won't be breaking the bank. You don't want to be two hundred miles away and the rack breaks. As for the panniers, they are inexpensive and I say go for them. As you said wrap everything in plastic bags and you should be fine to go. Pack a few bungee cords in case zippers blow out etc. There is always better stuff out there but you will have to decide if the need outweighs the cost.

My only suggestion because I try playing safe most of the time, is to try a one nighter not to far from home to make sure everything works out, that you are not carrying too much or too little. If that goes well shoot for something longer. That might not be your style but it is worth considering.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thats the tentative plan- I want to head out a short way...say 30 milesish (wherever there is an interesting place to camp I haven't done so before) and give everything a whirl. As you say, it would suck to have equipment failure far from home/any bike shop.

Nice call on the bungee cords, thats going on the list :)

Incidentally I found another set of panniers for $40 that look dramatically better (and claim to be waterproof) so I think I'll get the Axiom rack and the nicer panniers and rock out.

Hoffman
 

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abominable slowman
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I have those Nashbar panniers. I bought them probably 10 years ago to use for commuting when I lived and commuted in the DC region. I HATE them. I have not had good luck with the metal hook mounts to hang the panniers on the rack. They bounce off a lot. And my 10 year old version is poorly designed with the straps and the lid. They may have improved them since but I'd stay away from those.

If you're an REI member, they have a 20% off one item deal right now, so you could get these panniers for about $85. They look pretty good.

Performance has some of their panniers on sale but I can't tell what kind of mounting system them have.

I use Ortliebs which are expensive but very nice.

As for the rack, I agree with blakcloud, get an axiom.

EDIT: I should note that I haven't done any touring (yet). I use my racks/panniers for commuting and running errands a lot though.
 

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Hm hm I'm also looking into buying one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
These look pretty nice These panniers are a bit more burly and look better. The attachment system seems reasonably secure and could be improved easily w/ some webbing or bungee cord.

The ortlieb bags look really nice, but I can't justify spending 4x more at this point.

Hoffman
 

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For the rack, I'd suggest something like the Axiom odyssée. Anything that has that extra rear brace. I've been out with a friend and his rack did not have that rear "sweep-back" stay and his pannier bags swayed into the rear wheel. It was a very long and trying day for him as he anticipated having his wheel jam with every bump in the road.
 

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I agree about the racks- for about $30 you can get a good solid rack by Axiom, Blackburn or Topeak that you won`t have to worry about. The $8 one you linked to may or may not be comparable, might even be turned out in the same assembly line as the $30 ones, but whoever is selling it won`t even say the manufacturer. Also, except for the very nices of racks, I`ve never seen one that wasn`t aluminum. I`m betting that one is aluminum too and the mystery guy selling them doesn`t even have that right. I could be wrong, but it looks like a shady deal to me and I wouldn`t risk it to save $22.

Same with the panniers. You can buy those panniers direct from Nashbar and have excellent customer service (they`ve got a good rep to uphold) and they still aren`t expensive.
http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/SubCategory_10053_10052_200350_-1_200277_200282
Better panniers definitely have better mounting systems, but the ones you linked above can be helped out by zip tying them to the rack. Not convenient, but cheap and secure.

And if you can swing it, those Novaras look like a good set at the sale price- I came pretty close to buying the same model recently at the regular price ($110) but decided in the end to just stick with the little tiny panniers I already had.

Or you can go WAY out on the economy scale and make your own:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Buckets
Google around a little bit and you`ll see other examples of homemade panniers.
 

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Hoffman said:

I have those on my front rack.. They work just fine. Actually I like them very much because they come off quick and easy with three hooks and one velcro strap. They are definitely waterproof.

You can always solve the problem previously mentioned by running zip ties over your hooks in a "X" pattern. Heck my rear panniers have zip ties on the corners into the rack, by drilling holes into the pannier's hard plastic backing and then running zip ties through the two holes I created and around the rack. Racks and bags are all about modifications.
 

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What? Me worry?
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I know a guy who toured all summer with nothing but plastic garbage bags bungee-corded to his old suspension-less mountain bike. Granted, he was hard-core, but the point is that there's no need to get too obsessive about equipment. What is important is to find out what will work for you and test it well before you embark on any truly serious adventures.

BTW, if you really want to minimize, you could easily do a three day tour with just the things you can fit into a good backpack.
 

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llama31 said:
I use Ortliebs which are expensive but very nice.
Speaking of REI, that 20% off one item deal starts on Friday. According to the flier I got, Ortleib Back Rollers will be on sale for less than that (i.e. bigger discount).
 

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I would not purchase a "cheap" rack--I'd go with Axiom. They're the best bang for the buck--my Streamliner Sport Tour is the most solid rack I've ever seen. It's also surprisingly light. When buying panniers for it, though, be aware that many of the Axiom racks use way-oversized tubing/rod. The pannier hooks will have to deal with this.

I use PF36 panniers from MEC (mec.ca). Inexpensive and very well-built. Not entirely water-proof, but you can load your stuff in plastic bags, and then you'll be all set. 36L the set gives you 2200 cubic inches total, which may or may not be enough, but they make others as well. I had to buy the over-size mount kit for them to work with my Axiom, but panniers that use bent-metal hooks and things of that sort will not generally run into the same trouble.

One thing to be aware of with panniers is the possibility of heel strike; I tend to prefer panniers with the front bottom corner cut away, to reduce that possibility (then again, I have size 13 feet).

And yes, pictures of your bike, please!
 

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get the Ortliebs

It seems like you've done your homework and are making some pretty good plans.

My opinion on the panniers is, you can get by skimping on a rack, but not panniers, particularly if you already have a couple trips planned. This is coming from a 10 year student: spend the money if at all possible. There are fancier, lighter versions now, but I've had the original backroller classics for 6 years and they're still in excellent shape despite commuting an average of 3 days/week and a few short tours in the summber. They're waterproof, easy to install/remove, tough as nails, and have plenty of room (even for a case of beer - try THAT with most panniers!). The only thing they don't have is pockets for organizing - gotta figure out a system of stuff sacks or just be okay with stuffing everything in one big space and/or use a different pannier system up front with pockets to keep you sane. But, the Ortliebs have always been key on my bike.

Not sure how this compares to sale REI prices, but here is what I'd strongly consider: http://www.lickbike.com/productpage.asp?PART_NUM_SUB='3643-02'

My thought is you're already $50 into it, might as well make it $150. If it turns out you don't like touring, someone will buy them minus the cost you would have invested in the $50 Nashbars. Sounds like you're planning on serious mileage and good gear can make or break a trip. I've been the guy with jury-rigged racks and garbage bags. It can still be fun, but there have also been some headaches involved.

If you really can't stomach the Ortliebs, the cheap panniers will work okay if you don't overload them. I have not seen the nashbars in person. They may or may not cause heel rub, unlikely if you built a touring frame with long chainstays. Zippers and fabric are likely to wear out with any kind of long-term weight. The mounting system is probably also not super secure or easily adjustable. If you're going to be on any gravel roads and the like, be careful on bumps. Their advertised storage volume isn't bad, but sometimes I wonder how some manufacturers measure it. Many panniers are too small for unsupported touring. The Ortliebs are a true 2400+ cu in. Not trying to put down the Nashbars, because they certainly look like a decent pannier for the money, just be aware of the potential differences. If you see yourself doing any amount of touring in the future, go big the first time and don't waste $50.

As already mentioned, bungee chords and zip ties are indeed your best friends. So are a couple bottle/rack/fender screws and rubber P clamp, or maybe some nylon chord or shoelaces, twine, etc to lash/strap things as needed. For more capacity, or just better organization, my backpack lid also works really well draped and bungee chorded over the sleeping bag and mattress pad.

Some other things that aren't always evident until afterward:
A shakedown ride like you mentioned is also a really good idea, as is a reality check at how much slower an extremely non-aerodynamic, 70-80 pound bike really is. Even in the best of shape and having all day to ride, repeated 100 mile stages aren't all that 'fun' unless it's flat asphalt with a freak tailwind or something. Coming from racing background, I still have to remind myself that it's about the trip, not getting from point A to point B as fast as possible (unless you bit off too much while doing the route planning). Depending on where you're going, double your typical training ride time over a route of that length to comfortably pedal heavy bike, stop to read trail signs, take pictures, and just generally screw around.

I've had a 100 pound bike before, but that was with camera, mid-trip fresh food stock-up, and water for the entire day in a remote area, as well as a large, rain soaked tent that I was borrowing. Can definitely do better than that. But, unless you have space age materials and a really small tent and stove, pushing 70 pounds on a solo, unsupported tour is not unexpected. I'd say most people with loaded 40 pound bikes are not truly being self sufficient and aren't prepared for breakdowns or foul weather, or they're planning on eating via grocery stores on the way (which would be a relatively inexpensive way to keep bike weight down).

Even on flats, it takes a lot of torque to keep the thing moving anywhere near road bike speed, both because of the panniers in wind and noticeable weight even on the slightest incline. And when you hit hills, it's like throwing out the anchor - that's where the difference between 90 pounds and 70 pounds (or 40-50 if you can get there) is most noticeable. It's always good to cut weight whenever possible, especially in Colorado, but remember to bring what you need (especially in Colorado!) and accept that the bike is simply going to be heavier and slower no matter how much gets left at home.

For gearing, I use a compact 34/50 crank with an 8 speed 13-30 cassette and long cage derailleur because that's what I could cobble together. Seems to work for me, can stay in the big ring with decent chainline most of the time, as well as spin comfortably up long highway grades, even with a 90 pound bike. Very rarely could make use of a 12 for any amount of time, but that's easy to add with 9 or 10 speed. The low end lets me scramble up short, steep stuff even fully loaded, but for more extensive steepness up logging routes, or riding in Europe, etc. a triple would be the only way to go. It's hard to tell a stranger what they should use, especially without even knowing the route or bike weight. Main point is even conservative road gearing (39 x 27) is still not low enough for the macho types on all but the flatest routes. A lot of people say that even a standard road triple is not low enough for them. See what you think on that practice trip. Have fun!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
BenR- wow thanks for the info that was a really helpful post.

I think I've left my chainstays too short... I have a knobby commuter tire on now (Michelin Transworld Sprint I think?) and I only have about a centimeter between the front der clamp and the tire. I think with some creative pannier connection I can get it to work, but there aren't places around here that actually carry the setups I want to look at, so I'm going to have to guess.

As for gearing I'm using a 10speed 105/ultegra mixup that I already had around, but I think I'd prefer a compact double- I really don't like the shifting issues that a triple incurs. I'm currently looking for a cable pulley for the front derailleur- I failed to recognize that I'd need one because my cables are routed on top of the top tube.

So I still need: cable pulley, rack, panniers :)

Anyone know of a rack/pannier setup designed to have more heel clearance than standard? I think I'll need it.

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
It took a while, but as requested above here are some pics of the bike.

Built up with mostly a mish-mash of things I had around. Highlights:
Custom frame built by me. 58cm x 58cm and 72deg HT and ST
Surly rear facing horizontal drops w/ der hanger (and beer bottle opener!)
10sp Shimano R700 Shifters (not sure how I like these so far)
105 triple crank and FD
Ultegra RD
Handbuilt wheels (by me):
105/OP front wheel laced 1x
Ultegra/DT R1.1 rear wheel laced 2x NDS/3x DS
Michelin Transworld Sprint rubber
Brooks B17 Special saddle
etc

Been out on two rides so far. I still need a front derailleur cable pulley to accommodate the top tube cable routing, so the FD isn't hooked up yet and I can only use the small ring. I tried to ride around in the middle ring w/ no FD but kept dropping the chain, so I installed the FD and ride around in the little ring for now.

I haven't even wrapped the bars yet because I'm considering swapping stem and brifters. I picked the R700 shifters because I had them around already and though I might like the shorter reach for my intended cyclocrossing.

Today's ride may have hooked me on cyclocross. Given that my chainstays came out shorter than desired for touring, this might be an excuse to build another bike dedicated to touring and keep this as the cross rig :)

Got a couple issues to work out, but overall I LOVE the bike so far. Nothing like riding something I built myself. The fit is good so far, needs a little dialing in (stem length is all).

Hoffman
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Yep fillet brazed with my own hand built fork to match. Its hard to see, but the HT joints aren't painted, it looked too cool to cover it all up.

Going to swap out: crankset (for compact double), stem for fit issues, front wheel (its a 1x, I want something more burly), and it will need bartape as well :)
 

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I'm diggin that rear brake cable stop. kinda looks like the setup Surly has for Canti's. The canti's are great for fender clearance as well!
 
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