Thursday, June 19, 2014

Vaya Front Rack load experiment

I've been thinking about getting a different front rack for my Vaya - something that sits lower than the Racktime Topit and is also wider.  Some bulky items, like pizza, take-out dinners and beer would be easier to carry on a wide front rack than on the rear rack or in panniers. I've been having trouble with my Ortleib panniers rubbing against the Salsa rear rack and wearing away the metal, so I thought I could carry my work gear on the front rack, too.

I'm looking at the different pizza/porter/porteur racks available. The choices I've found start with the Specialized Globe Porteur and Wald racks at around $50 then jump up to the $140+ range for racks from Soma, Velo-Orange, Cetma, Pass and Stow, and Hawthorne. Range in width from 6" to 14", just less than the inside width of the drops. These racks also have the added benefit of being easier to strap a tent and stuff sack to than the Topit for bike camping.

The Vaya's trail measurement is around 65 according to an online trail calculator, and theoretically won't handle a front load as well as a lower trail bike.  I don't foresee me hauling a very heavy load so it may not matter.  My Vaya's a keeper and I won't be getting a low-trail bike anytime soon.

To test a load on the front, I strapped a gallon of water and my big U-Lock to the rack - about 12 lbs. total - and rode around the hood for a bit. Always willing to entertain the neighbors - what's that bike nut doing now, Marge?
er, this weekend i will change the bartape
The bike handled well with this weight. I wondered how it would handle turns, if the bike would want to lean over too far, but I didn't have any big problem with it. Not a real heavy load, but I could definitely tell I had some extra weight up front. After this test, I wondered how the set-up would work at faster speeds, so I rode to work with the lock and jug this morning.

look ma, one hand!
Again, didn't have any problem and this time I didn't notice the weight up front as much.  Was able to take corners without tipping over.  I'd heard people say their bikes felt squirrely with a front rack, and they couldn't ride with no hands on the bars, but I wasn't going to try anything crazy like that. I felt pretty risky taking the above photo with one hand off the the bar, but managed to survive.

Then riding home on the Centennial Trail, I thought well maybe I should try no hands.  For science. I tried it for a second and the bike didn't swerve all over the place. Then I was able to ride for a little bit sitting up.  After that, my curiosity was satisfied and I didn't want to push my luck or get overconfident like I do sometimes.

Until I got near Northwest Blvd and wondered how the bike would ride on the short single-track trail between the end of Nettleton Street and NW Blvd.  Again, for science. Woo hoo, made it without toppling off the side of the hill.

I'm satisfied that this bike will work of me, at least with a moderate weight on the front. Now to do some shopping, or learn how to weld.


  1. Hi,

    thanks for the article. I ve got the same bike as you and i´m looking now for a front rack. Maybe i did not read properly but could you tell me wich rack did you got at the end. Thanks

  2. hi - i got the Velo Orange Porteur rack

  3. Hi, what is the black rack that's pictured in the photos above? It is not the Velo Orange Porteur. Thank you!

  4. Hi - that is the Racktime Topit