Racking Your Brain!

For the past month, I have been working on a rear rack prototype for the Bella Ciao "Superba" (which will look nothing like the Roadster rack above), so racks have been on my mind lately. I've been checking out the racks on practically every bike I see, and also paying attention to how I typically use mine.

Although on occasion I will carry a substantial amount of weight on the rear rack of my bike, more often than not all I carry is a single pannier or bag. Sometimes there are groceries and packages involved, and even those often fit into a single large pannier. Once in a while, I will strap an item or two to the top of the rack, but it is not an everyday occurrence. When I look around at other cyclists, at least in the Boston area, I see mostly the same: One or two panniers attached to the side of the rack, or a bag strapped to the top. If I see more than that being transported (on a regular bike, not an Extracycle or a "utility bike"), it's an anomaly.

What about you? Be honest - how much do you really carry on your bicycle's rear rack on a typical day, assuming that it is a standard city bike?

Looking at other cyclists in the Boston area, I've also noticed a gender difference in how much stuff cyclists carry - with women typically having fewer things strapped to the rear rack than men. But there could be many factors accounting for this, and I am not sure how typical this trend is overall.

In addition to how much stuff I carry on the rear racks of my bicycles, I have also been trying to note in what ways I find them convenient versus not. For example, I often lament the lack of bungee cord attachment points on my Gazelle's rear rack. Also, not all racks are compatible with all pannier attachment system - the spacing of the slats on some racks can interfere with the spacing of the hooks. What major complaints, if any, do you have about the rear rack on your main transportation bicycle? You can select multiple items on this one:

Having discovered how to embed these polls and surveys, I admit it's fun to set them up and then look at all the results - but hopefully also useful. I will soon be receiving a sample of the "Superba" rack prototype, and from there it should be just a matter of time until we're done. These racks will fit a standard 700C wheel bike, and regardless of whether you are interested in a "Superba" bicycle, the racks may be available for sale on their own. They won't be sold by me, but I will keep you posted - and your input will certainly be valuable.


  1. I have a clip-on pannier made by Basil (from The Netherlands). If I put the bag far enough back on the rack that I don't hit it with my heel, then it has a tendency to rotate into the spokes, which has nearly caused me to have a serious accident. The same thing happened with my daughter's double pannier (also made in The Netherlands). Bags from there are really attractive, as well as very roomy, but they don't fit well on our wimpy racks! It's not a weight issue so much as it is a balance issue!

  2. Oh! Attachment points for the fender!

  3. somervillain, what? You mean add holes on the rack itself? I suppose I can see using an existing extra hole (like on VO's rack) to attach the fender stays, but to design the rack like that in the first place...

  4. When I was assembling Velouria's Royal H mixte I remember thinking that it was awesome that VO's rack had the extra hole. The fender stay went really nicely in there. But if the rack didn't have that hole, I'd probably just share the eyelet and use a longer bolt. I just didn't want the hole to remain. Also, this rack is going to be body-coloured, I think, so it will conflict with the fender stay... I think I am rambling. :)

    Her Sam on the other hand has two eyelets for a slightly more touring-style look (and cantis, you know, the whole thing). So if we ever add the rack there, I'll probably use the second eyelets. It will need to be a more touring-friendly rack, too.

  5. My current main bicycle is one I got used that has a Pletscher rack. I had to hack something with string so that I could attach panniers to it, because it is not designed for panniers. I would never buy a new rack that I couldn't put panniers on!

    I have two matching panniers that I find annoying to take on and off, so I just leave them on all the time and drop my purse/tote bag/groceries/etc. into them. I often fill up both panniers if I am doing errands, and sometimes strap a backpack on top with additional items. I like to be able to carry a lot without needing an xtracycle or trailer or wearing a backpack, so that I can do several errands in one go.

  6. MDI & somervillain - Just to be clear, I am talking about upright transportation bicycles here, not touring bikes.

    Dutch Girl - I have the same problem with my enormous Dutch style Fastrider pannier on non-Dutch bike/rack combinations. We are trying to make this rack long enough, with the slats spaced just right, so that these panniers will sit as far back as possible. How many hooks does your Basil pannier have?

  7. Dutch Girl brings up an excellent point. These things can twist back if the rack has a single vertical support that goes straight up, I think those are not pannier-friendly. The original $20 Pletscher 10-speed racks hand their single support go toward the back of the rack at a slight angle, but I am not convinced those things could handle a bag without collapsing.

  8. It was hard to answer the first question because it changes from day to day.

    Most days: nothing on it except my U-lock.

    Grocery days: if I'm stopping for one or two things, I drop a basket (a really cool basket from the Netherlands) onto one side of my rack. I take the basket with me into the store and then put it back on the rear rack to ride home.

    If I'm doing a bigger grocery trip, I put two rather large panniers on the back, the same panniers I use to go touring. And often, if I've bought a half-gallon of soymilk and a bunch of frozen goods and vegetables, the panniers weigh more then they do when I'm loaded for a week's touring! (So of course any grocery store I could think of is downhill from our apartment.)

    I also sometimes put things *on* the rack. If I'm out of the house and I realize I need to run to the store, after I'm done shopping I put the paper bag on my rack. Mine has one of those spring-loaded flap things (I have no idea what it's called), so that holds the bag on. I also use that to hold toilet paper when I buy that, because we get the big things of it from Trader Joe's. I don't like using it that often, because it pushes things closer to the seat post and sometimes that means my legs touch my cargo when I pedal.

    The rack I've been using is a touring-grade Topeak rack, so I never worry about overloading it.

  9. my rack is well made strong large enough and was custom painted to match my bike (at same time my custom bike was painted) so i didn't vote on the second poll. my answer would have been none of the above i love my rack :)

  10. I'm currently building a "gentleman's" city bike out of an older mountain bike that a friend gave me. It will be in the style of a Velorbis Churchill Balloon. Nice and upright.

    Anyway, I am planning on putting a rack on it that will hold paniers and also be strong enough for a person to ride on if need be.

    The two older racks I have seem too short to me so I'll either modify one of them or I may just build a nice long one from scratch.

    Copy and paste this link into your browser for a nice cycling video and a beautiful song.


    Velouria, why no hyperlinks in the comments area ? It would make things easier.

  11. I once fell in love with a rack with a wooden top, but I ended up removing the wood part because it couldn't accommodate my panniers and anything I strapped on it would slide around. Now it's just another ugly (but functional) rack.

    And then there's the story of how I tried out 4 different racks before I finally found (an ugly) one that fit both my bike and my panniers. It ended up being tiny differences in the placement of the vertical stays that made the difference between it working and not.

    I have a love hate relationship with racks. I love them because they're so eminently practical, but I hate them because they're unattractive and a pain to install.

    Good luck with the rack design! I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

  12. totally forgot that you are also working on a rack. we could not be more curious. and: curves, curves... we want curves! - poetry beats functionality anytime!

  13. I've considered a rack before, but the only thing I ever need to carry that won't fit in my bag would never fit on a bicycle. I use my car for that.

    I have a large Seal Line "Urban Shoulder Bag" that I love. It's not huge, but I can fit a lot into it and it's extremely comfortable. If I had to choose between adding a rack and getting the Seal Line large Backpack, I would probably upgrade my bag. I think there's a 15 liter difference between my bag and that one.

    What I've found concerning racks in my experience has been that they're usually too small. I did see one that I thought would work if I ever needed it and I'll definitely throw the name to you next time I stop in the shop.

    I've been reading for a while, by the way, but haven't dropped a comment until now. I'm in Portland, ME. It was cool to see that you stopped into Portland Velocipede last summer. The next time you're planning to come up, I'd be happy to give you some awesome ride routes all over this area. Long, short, in between, anything you'd be interested in.

  14. I like the stainless racks that are available over the painted ones. Maybe I've got stainless on the brain! Ha Ha Ha!!
    In general, I want a rack that is functional but not very noticeable although on a transportation bike this is much less of a concern. This is the one bike I want a rack that is sturdy, functional and will carry a heavy load if needed. I say that knowing that I would use it this way only rarely. But, if needed, I would want it to be up to the task.

  15. JimP, I absolutely agree, stainless is ideal for racks. Every odd load makes for another paint chip, with a rust mark to follow. Why should the hardest wearing part of a bike be of the flimsiest substance!

  16. My use of the rack changed when I sold my car; since then a grocery store trip by bike fills two large and heavy panniers (milk cartons, etc), the large Pashley front basket (e.g. for anything light that doesn't make it wobble, or to avoid squashing soft fruit), and then a bungee net attaching cereal boxes or loopaper to the rack; same idea with the farmer's market, where a bungee net is great for cabbages and cauliflowers!

    It helps that in a small midwestern city/town one can leave panniers attached while the bike is locked up outside the grocery store. If I lived in a less suburbanly-sprawling environment it would be different (smaller, more frequent shopping trips, less confidence about leaving the panniers on permanently, etc.)

  17. Jim P - I like stainless racks instead of body painted sometimes as well, but getting one handmade in that material would probably double the production price of the rack and I would not be able to fit it into my budget. For those interested, it may be possible to order one in that material instead, but it would tack $150 or so onto the price.

    jens - If I can't carry the things I need on my bike, or if my lights are not bright enough, the lack of functionality kills the poetry for me. So ideally, it would be both in equal measure, and not one over the other!

  18. YES!- the place where function meets aesthetics is the place where poetry lives - and good design. - tough job, marvelous job. - and i read you are up for it.

  19. i live in London my panniers are zip tied to the rack - never had a problem with theft
    My rack has a built in rear light which i find useful

  20. I'd like a rack that had a better fixings for bungee cords/nets to hold things on the top. The rack on one of by bikes (a 80s raleigh) has a built in parallel bungee cord along the top, which isn't really that useful on it's own at holding things securely. I also attach another bungee cord or to cross over it or bungee net. I have the same Fast Rider pannier as Velouria, which I mostly use, but it's sometimes a pain if I'm then walking around carrying it when i reach my destination, so it would be nice to be able to attach a regular bag and maybe with the addition of a couple of other packages to the top of the rack more easily than I can now. I end up getting in a horrible muddle with all the hooks and trying to make sure it's secure all round.

  21. Question for those who voted "I attach panniers/baskets to the sides of the rack and I strap items to the top of the rack simultaneously": So what sorts of things do you carry on a daily basis that require the use of both panniers/baskets and the top of the rack?

  22. MDI & somervillain - Just to be clear, I am talking about upright transportation bicycles here, not touring bikes.

    Understood. But the French city bikes had these as well, so it's not just for touring. It's just a level of integration with the bike that would surpass anything else out there, that's what I'm getting at. Remember how you pointed out the loose rear fender on the Trek Belleville? If it had an attachment point at its apex, underneath the top part of the rack, it would have eliminated that defect. But most manufacturers simply don't achieve that level of thoughtful design.

  23. Re: "So what sorts of things do you carry on a daily basis that require the use of both panniers/baskets and the top of the rack?"

    I don't think it's really a daily basis matter. It's about a proper balance between what is ideally suited for your daily needs and still being able to handle your greatest loads in a pinch. Although I was not one of those that checked that box. I use my rear rack to hold my folding baskets exclusively. The only thing I use the rat trap on the rack for is to hold the handles of the bags I put in the baskets, and the U-lock.

  24. I'll start by noting that I'm a bit of an anomaly in my wilingness to attempt to carry anything and everything by bike.

    My daily load is a single bag (leather satchel bag with pannier clips) and my U-lock. Generally twice a week I take a bag of food waste to the composting dropoff- in a compostable "plastic" bag inside a TJ's reusable bag. Once a week or more, I end up with groceries on the top of the rack too- usually something bulky like a 6 pack of soda (or beer) or a gallon of milk. When I do a big shopping or a day full of errands, I use two mis-matched panniers- a giant old Ortlieb and either a lousy old Nashbar "grocery" pannier (which has to be bungied to the rack- the hooks don't have latches) or my daily leather bag.
    The top of the rack, thanks to my fabulous straps is great for odd shaped items like plants, canning jars, toy wheelbarrows, etc etc....

    I have three Steco racks, and I LOVE them. They have slightly larger diameter tubing than racks for the US market, which may mean that not all hooks fit them. I an Ortlieb fan, so I just stick with anything with their QL2 system. The rack I have on Gilbert is a little shorter than I'd like, but the nice thing about making your own panniers is that you can adjust the hook spacing as you like.

  25. Oh,
    I do like a light attachment at the rear of the rack. Two of my three Stecos have them, and I've made something work for the third.
    Obviously a painted finish needs to be super durable, which is tough.
    A chromed finish is more durable, but don't know about the cost.

  26. I'm continually flustered by the lack of bungee attachment points on several of my racks. It becomes a fight for space between the bungee hook and the chain/cogs, etc.

    Also, I've noted a few cyclists with racks that seem designed to accommodate a u-lock, usually slotted downward through the rack itself. My Plescher racks do not offer a reliable grip for the u-lock.

  27. I use my rack a ton! First choice is to fill up the chrome plated basket that is mounted on the top of the rack, then I move on to panniers. I'm often transporting food like for a potluck that I need to be able to put flat on the top. I also use my bike for grocery and other shopping so capacity is very important.

    We don't have any traditional transportation/Dutch bikes here- I've never seen one in person. Most common thing I see is people use zip ties to attach a plastic milk crate to the rear rack. Not the best look, but I guess it carries a fair amount cheaply.

  28. I couldn't put my rear rack option into the vote. I have a rear rack removable basket that sits on top of the rack. It has claw like things that allow me to attach it to the top of the rack. I like it because I can (on heavier load days) fix panniers underneath it and have the added capacity. I also have a built in bungie into my rack. My rear LED light came integrated on the rack. I can take photo's for you if you're interested.

    I really want the ability to have a front basket but wont for two reasons. First, my generator light is integrated into the head stem. It is so bright and I love it, but the basket I need would have to be mounted lower down and I wouldn't be able to pile it high or place my puppy in it. And the lower mount hasn't worked out well yet because I'd have to fix the bottom support bracket into the wheel axle and I have not found one long enough to keep the basket level. I have to have a level basket!


  29. Velouria said...
    Question for those who voted "I attach panniers/baskets to the sides of the rack and I strap items to the top of the rack simultaneously": So what sorts of things do you carry on a daily basis that require the use of both panniers/baskets and the top of the rack?

    I voted for this option but I think I made a mistake. My answer is that usually I either just have my U-lock locked onto my rear wald rack, or sometimes panniers on both sides. However, I'd like the option of a large, removable top basket for shopping trips...although I haven't figured that out yet. My current panniers can't really handle a substantial amount of stuff.

  30. I think the concept of joining the shopping basket with the pannier is the most interesting notion. It seems a giant pain to have to load up groceries into a petite basket that probably won't hold everything anyhow. When I shop by bike I usually just use an ordinary canvas bag with canvas straps which I hang from the handlebars. The trick is to wind the straps around the handlebars until they cinch up. Although I often look like a chinese peasant, this method of hanging the bags from the handlebars is amazingly effective, even with gallons of milk which weigh a ton. Yes, there are drawbacks and one must cycle carefully.

    But I could see that combining the basket with the rack on the rear would be far more practical, if it worked with hooks that easily snapped into place.

    I think the same concept of joining the detachable basket or satchel with the bike rack would make for an interesting design that I'd find the most compelling to buy. So often it seems difficult to attach anything to a bike rack.

  31. In order to have panniers AND a child seat on my Retrovelo, I would have to buy an extender for the back rack. I'm really never carrying enough to really want do this, so I didn't, also because ugly. I just carry stuff in a leather backpack I had made with cycling in mind (it's more horizontal than most backpacks and lighter in weight than most leather) and front basket when I have my son with me.

    I normally prefer a rack that's not the same color as the body of the bicycle, but I love the way the rack looks on this bike and imagine that it will be great on the Superba, if done well, which I trust it will be. :)

  32. I think the challenge of the question is the "daily" part of it - because my needs to vary daily. I guess 75% of the time I just attach a single bag to my rack, but if that's all my rack could do I would replace it as quickly as I could. I have carried so many, and such varied things on my racks, I don't have the room for an extracycle so good racks were the #1 essential component of my bike.

    Anonymous 10:34 I added velcro to a basket which attaches to my front rack (and handlebars). It was an easy DIY and was essential last summer for getting my farm share home without bruising and crushing. Not as tricky to do as one might fear, if you have a front rack.

  33. I had (until it was wrecked by getting trapped in the spokes of the rear wheel) a Basil Mirte bag. It had two hooks, about 6 or 7 inches apart, which snapped over the rack, and could be hidden in a zippered pocket when off the bike.

    I also responded that I use both the top of the rack and the sides of the rack. I commute up to ten miles one way to work. I put my work clothes in the pannier bag along with a small kit with a travel hairdryer and towel. I bungee my lunch to the top of the rack. If I have library books to return (I'm a librarian), they go in the other pannier. Because I regularly work at various locations, I don't have the ability to keep personal items at my work location. To do that, I'd need three or four of everything!

  34. Regarding carrying stuff in the panniers, and strapping things to the top of the rack - I used to do this on my Electra more often because the wheelbase was longer and therefore so was the rack, and the panniers I had on it left a flat top surface on the rack. I would often carry, for instance, cat food in the panniers, and a box of litter on top of the rack. Or groceries in the panniers, and a case of beer on top. My Raleigh has smaller wheelbase, shorter rack, and the panniers I have on it are the type that are all connected and just flop over the rack (which obviates the need to find ones that fit the right tubing diameter), and have a leather handle on top, so it's harder to put stuff on the top surface of the rack.

    I have the panniers on my Raleigh "permanently" attached with metal zip ties though, so they are always on there, and
    I do use both of them on an average day (I stick my bag I take to work in one, and my lunch in the other, and often stop for groceries on the way home).

    I need to go find that post about the rear rack you got for your DL-1, as we're hoping to get one for my wife's as well.

  35. I put a bag of groceries in each basket and bungee cord my bag to the top of the rack. I also use a carabiner or two to make sure it doesn't go anywhere if it shifts a little due to a hard stop or something.

  36. Velouria,
    Whatever design you arrive at much focus should be on versatility so that your design will fit bikes from 26" to 29". The other key point is to construct the rack of solid stainless steel round bar stock.

    Now stainless steel round bar stock is more expensive ,and a bit heavier, than aluminum bar stock but you will have a rack design that the owner can use on many bikes for many years which will take the bite out of the slightly higher price of a stainless steel rack.

  37. Walt - at the moment, the prototype is cromoly steel, and it will be painted body colour. Price-wise, stainless is probably not an option, though I am still looking into it. Either way, custom stainless versions can be made for those who would like to pay extra.

  38. The rack on my ANT Club Racer was built by Mike Flanigan and was specifically built for the frame. At the time, my main luggage for my bike was a pair of MEC Aqua Not panniers, which I still use for grocery shopping, commuting w/ the laptop and touring. For lighter weight applications, I have a Carradice Super C that sits on top of the rack.

    Things that I love about it.

    There is a half loop at the join between the stays and the rack platform, that makes for a convenient carry handle when lifting the bike in and out of steps.

    Eyelets in the base of the rack are perfectly placed for the J-hooks on my panniers, holding such that I don't get heel strike and are more secure than a stay notch.

    There is a welded rear mount for a reflector or light, which is more secure and stable than screwing on a light holder to the rear of the rack (as I do with the Raleigh)

    The rack surface is not solid, which allows for flexibility in running bungee cords through the rack in the event that I want to lash, say, a Dutch oven to it.

    by comparison, I have an off-the-shelf Planet Bike Eco Rack on the Raleigh. Its main shortcoming for my purposes is that the weld on the front rack strut is long enough that it interferes with my pannier clip. It's 'fine' in that the pannier still sits well on the rack when it's loaded down, but it's possible for the pannier to jump out of the rack if I'm hitting a severe bump or if the frame tips over.

  39. Yeah, a topic very timely for my current bicycle improvement projects!

    You mention that there is no place for a bungie hook-up on your gazelle's rack-- I think those giant dutch-style elastics are made to attach to the axle-- you might want to give dutch bike seattle/chicago a call because they have these, and I had a discussion with them about this since my Flying Pigeon rack is lacking bungee attachment points as well, and I was thinking of getting one in addition to some Clarjis panniers.

    When I am looking for a vintage appropriate rack for my mixtes, I want one that has bungee attachments, attachment for a light, and will attach to the brake bridge rather than stay braze ons (which I don't have). I found that the wald rear rack does all these things, but I would like something like that a little higher quality. The VO constructeur rack does most of these things as well, but will not accommodate a light-- I would put the light on the fender, but I am not sure that Bleumels will be able to handle that.

    Lastly, I have tried to strap things to the top of my rack while simultaneously using a pannier or two-- and if I invariably find that the load on the top always tends to want to slide off the side of the bike, and fall off rather dramatically in the middle of the street... anyone have any tips for handling a top load better than I know how?

  40. The other key point is to construct the rack of solid stainless steel round bar stock.

    Solid stainless (or even Chromoly) bar stock is waaaaay overkill. This would make the rack unnecessarily heavy. Hollow tubular is the way to go; that's what all the better rack manufacturers do!

  41. Velouria said...
    "Walt - at the moment, the prototype is cromoly steel,"

    Cromoly is good also. It can be made to look as good as stainless with a good polish and clear coat or paint it.

  42. I use my rack to carry my garment bag pannier, as I commute in bike clothes and change before and after work. There are some changes I would make to the rack: 1) I don't need a mount for a reflector or light there, and in any case the bag would obscure it, so I'd remove it; 2) The rack is a good place to hide things like a pump and a tire repair kit. I mount a pump underneath the rack using zip ties but a more thought out mount would be nice. I used to have a small case on my Topeak MTX BeamRack EX that would hold a spare tube, tire repair kit, etc. That was convenient and I didn't worry much about people randomly ripping things off my bike since it's not very obvious. 3) I also like the bike rack + U-lock storage of the Topeak Tubular Bike Rack with U-Lock (which might not be available any more).
    Generally I'd like to keep things off the frame and a rack is a good place to hide things. I think the bike itself should be elegant and not carrying too much junk, so putting stuff out of the way on the rack makes sense.

  43. somervillain, well you say that, but Pashley cheaped out and used cement-filled tubes for the main triangle instead of proper solid cast iron, and I can totally tell the difference in durability!

  44. I'm curious about your emphasis on *daily* carrying-duties for the rack, Velouria. It's certainly true that I don't strap a cabbage to my rack every day. (That image came out way more disturbing than I meant...) But regular duties (even if it's just a question of what you need the bike/rack to do once every couple of weeks) seem just as important for rack design as daily duties.

  45. To no nick and others who have asked why I specify the daily/typical: Well the rack will not be a super heavy duty huge rack, by design, because that kind of rack would not work well with this particular bicycle. Let's say the rack will be for "light commuting." If you are a utility cyclist whose bike is regularly loaded with huge amounts of stuff, it's no the right bike for you in the first place, so it makes no sense to make a rack rated for that kind of stuff. So the question was meant to determine what sorts of things people carry during a typical light commute, and how they carry them. These questions are never perfect no matter how you phrase them, but that was what I was hoping to get at.

    Walt - I would love to do clear coat, but the welds would show and the colour variation is distracting. I know, because we've already done one prototype of the rack and did not bother painting it.

  46. Like you, I mostly have a single pannier on my rack. But I do carry a "cargo net" bungie cord for those rare occasions I have a large flat object to strap over the top of the rack. I have a pannier that is level with the top of the rack so that makes a nice platform to help support the weight when I do this. I also carry a few reusable shopping bags or plastic bags wadded up in my pannier for the occasional overflow. I'll put the light stuff in the bags and tie them to the handlebars. What I would like is a rack with hooks on it like you see in Denmark that you can hang bags from.I may modify mine with hooks to allow me to do this.

    I have a question - some of the nicest panniers I've seen stick above the rack. I dislike this for two reasons. 1) a higher load is less stable; and 2)the top of the pannier being above the rack makes it harder to bungie stuff to the rack. This is the more serious problem.

    Thoughts? Is this not important enough to worry about?

  47. @ Velouria 3:05:
    "if you are a utility cyclist whose bike is regularly loaded with huge amounts of stuff, it's not the right kind of bike for you"
    On one hand, of course, there are people for whom an extracycle, bakfiets or a touring bike are necessary, and I understand that they are a different market.

    But if the point is to make an everyday urban commuting bike, there are a lot of people who need to carry a lot of stuff on a regular basis- As the comments show, I'm not the only person who needs to carry home big bags of pet food, 12 packs of TP or gallons of milk, on an everyday commute. It seems like a good urban commuter bike should be able to handle those tasks, otherwise it's more a pretty face than a useful object. I'm not saying that you aren't heading that way, just don't make the rack too lightweight!

  48. There is no option in the survey for my current setup, so here it is: a black (tasteful-looking) basket attached to the rear rack (with zap straps, meaning I don't remove it). Anything I need to carry (but usually just my purse) gets dropped into the basket. I found a front basket made the steering too wobbly.

  49. cycler - Oh I don't deny that there are many people who need to carry a lot of stuff on a regular basis. But what I am saying is that they shouldn't buy a Bella Ciao; it's not the right bike for them. They will be happier with a Dutch bike, or a Retrovelo type bike. The Bella Ciao is a super light bicycle - barely 30lb. That is the whole selling point of it: light, skinny, roadish, yet upright and a step-through. Loading it with 30lb of stuff on a daily basis would make all that sorta pointless. It's a bike for the woman who carries her laptop bag to work and adds a bag of groceries on her way home after work. There is a bike out there for everyone.

  50. You're too late, Vel, the perfect rack has already been made.

    The Tubus Locc!

    - An Abus KlickFix lock slides into a clip between the rack and your rear wheel, super convenient!

    - Panniers sit LOW (better loaded handling) and away from the heels

    - Pannier mount tubes are INDEPENDENT of the top rack - so strapping stuff to it is easy, even with full bags

    - Standard rear lights mount right up with either bolt spacing

    - 40kg capacity

    - Lifetime warranty!


    With a pair of Ostrich bags, it suits my Pashley to a T.

    Highly recommended!

    If this is overkill for you, though, why not a classic Pletscher?

  51. Hey, where did I say about anything being "perfect"? : )

    Dear people, this is not meant to be "the best" rack, or the strongest rack. It is not even meant to compete with other racks. I make very modest claims. It will simply be the right rack for this particular bike -optimised specifically for the Bella Ciao 'Superba', not only in terms of functionality, but also in terms of form. Not an easy task, I assure you. That bike hisses at most racks that come near it!

    As far as Tubus racks go, if the custom rack does not work out, the Tubus Fly (in stainless) is probably the closest thing to the design I have in mind. A Pletscher rack will technically fit the bike, but IMO it looks wrong on it.

  52. I would love to have the option of Bella Ciao for days I have to go over the (steep! long!) bridge and have not much to carry. I think it could easily be my only bike if I didn't ride regularly with my son because I am a daily farmer's market shopper not weekly and thus don't carry huge loads on most days. I prefer more stability for that. I love my bike but I definitely want something lighter.

    I feel like Bella Ciao would be popular in NYC. There are quite a few Abici around but I find Bella Ciao elegant looking and prefer their geometry, which seems less sporty than Abici. Look forward to their arrival at some point.

  53. The thing that bugs me about my rack on an almost daily basis is the way it's fractionally too small for my u-lock to be securely bungeed on to it without extreme care. With a pannier bag, I can't get much else onto the rack but the u-lock and half the time I have to stop and re-seat my lock because I didn't get it right the first time. I don't know if u-locks come in standard sizes but if they do, making the rack just a little longer would certainly cull one small but persistent annoyance out of this blogger's life.

  54. For those with U-lock woes, getting a rear frame lock with a chain attachments has been one of the best things I've done for my bike, convenience-wise. No more forgetting the keys, worrying if you have your lock with you, or worrying how or where to carry it. It's just always there, all the time.

  55. "That bike hisses at most racks that come near it!"

    our italian beauty feels in good hands with you. she feels fully understood.

  56. Where was the option for "I carry panniers on both sides of my rack, stuff strapped to the top, and sometimes my spouse rides on it, too." ?



  57. portlandize, just to clarify are you talking about a rear wheel lock with cable attachment? I don't think I've ever heard of a frame lock. If we're talking about the same thing, do you think such a system is adequate for a high crime area?

  58. Unlike any of the above options, I have a basket permanently attached to the rear rack of my Pashley.


    It may be a waste of space but when I installed it, it seemed to be the best option to carry a heavy and bulky backpack to college. I was also afraid of using the foldable basket on the side since the heavy assimetric load may have contributed to crack my previous frame at the point where the rack was attached.
    The biggest complaint I have about the Pashley's rear rack is the lack of attachment points for bungee cords. That also contributed to my decision of permanently installing a basket.

  59. The racks that I use are typically used as carrying shelves - I don't use panniers (though probably would if I actually bought a pair). I've strapped anything from a wicker basket to a 40 lb bag of dog food onto the top.

    I also had a rigid set of Wald baskets I used when I commuted by bike. I'd stick my clothes in the baskets, then strap my bag onto the top with bungee cords. It worked well, and if I thought ahead and brought my milk crate, would work as a stop off at the grocery as well.

  60. Actually, I don't get how you can make a BAD bike rack these days.

    A basic Chinese bike rack like you would find on a Flying Pigeon, Forever, Phoenix, etc. Is dirt cheap. Has a rat trap for hold goods, can support side bags and is heavy duty enough so a passenger can, and often does sit side saddleon the back!

    This goes ditto for racks found on Indian roadsters: Hero, Avon, Hercules.

    So what is the trade off??: Weight.

    Most people might define a good rack by it's strength, but a good bike by it's lightness.



  61. @Adam: yeah - I just call it a frame lock because it attaches to the frame :) But yes, I mean the kind that locks through the rear wheel. I have the AXA variety on my Raleigh, with the chain attachment.

  62. Velouria - Thanks for posting a link to the Tubus Fly. I totally dig that rack! If you don't find anything better, I think it would be a great match for the Superba:

    - very elegant
    - simple
    - light
    - stainless steel
    - good capacity

  63. no nickname said...

    "I'm curious about your emphasis on *daily* carrying-duties for the rack, Velouria. It's certainly true that I don't strap a cabbage to my rack every day. (That image came out way more disturbing than I meant...)"

    You almost made me spray coffee out my nose!

    I have to say, as someone who tows a baby trailer on a daily basis 9 months out of the year.... I don't think a lighter bike is pointless when you are hauling stuff. It means it would less weight to carry when I need to "portage" my cabbage into the house. So to speak.

    Trying to carry two bags of groceries, a toddler, a baby trailer and a monster bike in from outside is .... challenging. At least if the bike were light and well balanced, that would help. Although I do know what you mean that the Superba isn't going to be a "load you entire house on it" dutch style delivery bike.

  64. Dan and Flying Pigeon: you two got the best thing: the ability to carry a passenger sitting side saddle, something common in China and wonderful about the fei ge. One rack we have that can handle it is the burly rack that our Africabike (Kona) has. Our Joebike Boxbike rack can handle a passenger, too. Both racks are superb-a-ly tough. The Africabike rack is welded on, the Boxbike one is bolted on. Check them out!

  65. i'm surprised no one uses basket or milkcrate permanently attached to top of rack (i suppose it is similar to pannier attached permanently, but i find in chicago basket/crate is more popular).

    i got a rear rack after using a front quick release handlebar basket (i found weight in the front made steering twitchy). i use my rear basket solely for groceries, although i am finding my basket to be too small for my haul. if i were to buy another rack, i would want one with a versatile light attachment and the bungee cord hole. my seat is set very low with almost no seat post showing and it's not an option to put a light there (and besides if i were to have stuff in my basket it would obscure the seatpost). also the bungee attachment near the axle in your example picture would require a very long bungee or several bungees. i would also think it would take quite some strength to stretch it all the way down there. an attachment that is not too far below the top of the rack would suffice.

  66. By main ride is my favorite ride (800km/month average). My only complaint is it is a bit tricky to load on the car rack for those occasional trips beyond the local area. The rack? carries everything from groceries to an extra bike. I love my Big Dummy

  67. Just a few notes about my responses to the polls, in case it helps: To the first question, I selected the response that is most accurate now: I have a few bikes with racks, but I seldom use them. during my car-free years, I always had at least one bike with at least the rear rack, with 2 panniers attached at all times, often with a lot of BS stuffed into them for at least one leg of any round trip or multiple-destination ride I was taking. In those days, beer was very frequently part of the payload, as well as tools, bike parts for others, lit books for school, a journal, lunch, etc. Many of those things are now located in my very cluttered car.

    As for the second question, I didn't select a response b/c my tubus cargo is basically flawless. It's a little overbuilt, but it's not heavy at all. It is a little bit large, but it fits my bike's frame well, and smaller versions (eg, the tubus logo) exist if that were a problem. It has mounting points for fenders, a dynamo tail-light, etc. There is enough adjustment in the mounting procedure to keep it 100% level, and it is very stable/secure once everyhting gets tightened down. The other rack I own, which i pulled off of my most recent bicycle purchase, suffered from pretty much all the complaints in your poll.


  68. Erin - The thing is, that it's not just about the weight of the bike, but about the handling. Optimising a frame for hauling lots of weight is, in many ways, at odds with optimising a frame for being responsive, and the framebuilder needs to choose. Because this particular bike was not optimised for heavy loads, it makes no sense to turn it into a "hauler"; nor will merely adding a beefy rack transform it into one: Adding too much weight to a bike not designed to carry it will most likely affect the handling.

  69. Ridonkulus: When I was in college, my "beater" bike had a milk crate attached to the rack, as you describe. Many other students rode with that setup.

    These days, it seems, it's more difficult to procure a milk crate. Now that everything's barcoded, it's harder to acquire things in ways that might be legally (not to mention morally) questionable!

  70. Justine Valinotti said...
    "These days, it seems, it's more difficult to procure a milk crate..."

    I never considered that, but I think you're right! : ) I like the look of wooden crates, but have never found one that would look right on one of my bikes. Plus, my one concern about crates is that it will make my bike even more difficult to get in and out of doors.

  71. Doesn't anyone zip tie a Wald basket onto the rear rack? It is very functional and you can still attach panniers. Probably not the right look for a Bella Ciao, though.

  72. Keep forgetting to respond to this: If you tie a basket to the top of the rack, that would be in the "on top of the rack" category. But you're right that I didn't specifically consider it while making the poll!

    I think a basket could actually look all right on top of a Bella Ciao rack. But it would have to be zip-tied, as the rack won't accommodate the proprietary click-on mechanisms that the Pletscher and Basil baskets have.

  73. My Cameo has an ugly, generic rack that I use in combination with a Basil wire mesh rear basket. The system works wonderfully but is ugly as sin. I think the Cameos were originally produced with rear racks to match the frame, but mine sadly did not have one.

    The DL-1 Tourist on the other hand has been more challenging to find a rack. I'm assuming Jon over at Red Barn has a bit of a wait list as I haven't heard back after contacting him regarding his bike racks. I was initially quite excited as it is hard to find racks to fit the 28" wheels properly. So, currently, the Tourist is sans rack which will hopefully be remedied by Spring! The next question is whether the Red Barn rack would accomodate the Basil basket?

  74. MFarrington - I know he was away in Haiti for some time, so it's possible his mailbox was full. I'd give it another try. The Roadster rack s just one of many designs Jon can make, so if you want a rack to specifically accommodate a Basil he may be able to do it. I collaborated in designing the Roadster rack, but the other designs are his own.

  75. V and others, it's Xtracycle pls. Thx.

    Speaking of which, anyone considering a omafiets or similar and has room to store a long bike should consider an Xtra. Mine is lighter, faster, can haul more varied things and more comfortable than the heavy-duty dutchies I've ridden.

    Yep, that's with a dog as well.

    Sorry V, carry on.

  76. I typically bungee my backpack onto the top of my rear rack (in the seasons when I'm not using it for extra "back-warmth"). I do have a pair of *very* used panniers that I'll clip on when I have a specific need for them, but a pair of bungees is usually enough for my daily commutes and errands.


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