The bike I currently use for my commute was born with a disability. Like most of its generation, it lacks the little frame features that make a bicycle useful for carrying cargo. As fuel costs inspire more people to use bikes to run errands, many are discovering that their road bikes, hybrids and mountain bikes suffer from this affliction. But don’t despair! You can make it into a mule just the same.
For years, I used a backpack. But the older I get, the less my back and neck tolerate it. Plus, a backpack is miserably hot in the summer. I had to keep my cloths in a plastic bag, or they would get wet from me sweating through the pack. And forget adding a U-lock to the load.
My first cargo carrier was a simple seatpost-mounted tray with a trunk strapped to it. That required me to replace my carbon seat post with an aluminum one. Carbon doesn’t have the hoop strength to support a rack. The truck worked fine for commuting, but not so well for shopping errands.
Next, I tried a seat-post mounted rack with a frame for panniers. That was better, but had a few problems:
- The frame was not long enough to secure the pannier properly. I had one bounce off on one of Winter Park’s lovely brick streets. I rigged it to make it work, but it wasn’t ideal.
- The seat-post mount left me no room to hang my saddle bag, so I used the truck to carry my tools and tire stuff even when I didn’t need it for other cargo.
- If the rack got bumped, it would get off-center. I finally got it tightened enough that it didn’t move so easily.
- That kind of single-point mount causes the rack to bounce when there is a lot of weight on it.
Several weeks ago, Dano at Retro City Cycles told me about another kind of rack that could be mounted on a cargo-challenged bike. This weekend I picked one up. The Axiom Streamliner rack is designed to mount to the rear quick-release and the bolt that holds the brake calipers. (see the gallery for more photos)
It was simple to install. However, I had to take my rear wheel off because my frame is so small that I couldn’t get a tool at that bolt with the tire there. That might not be an issue for a taller person with a larger frame. I like the rack, it is very light. It has a narrower profile than the rack it replaced. It supports the panniers much better and they sit far enough back that I can’t hit them with my heal.
I’m able to keep my toolbag under my saddle, so I can ditch the trunk for recreational rides. I may ditch the trunk entirely and just use a pannier.
One nifty feature I haven’t seen on many racks is a rear plate for mounting tail lights. It has 2 holes in it, so I’m going to mount 2 lights (I like the way motorists behave when they see me from a long distance and have plenty of time to adjust speed and make lane changes).
The one downside is that the rack eliminates the quick-release function. The mount plate has a hole rather than a slot, so you have to remove the skewer to get the wheel off. I’ll let you know how much of a pain in the ass that is next time I get a flat. It’s a good reason to use super-tough tires (as if getting a flat on your way somewhere isn’t reason enough). Even so, I’ve had 3 flats on my commute this year and all of them have been the rear tire. I suppose I should keep a stash of those little springs in my bag for when one goes sailing into the grass.
All-in-all I like this set-up better than the seat-post mount. Though, I am in the market for a fully-appointed touring bike which I’ll probably end up using for commuting.