Heavy Up Front

Can I tempt you into brief cogitation on a subject of bike loading?  In particular, how do you split weight between the front and the back (and the middle if you’ve got access to suitably sexy frame bags)?

An example of front loading
The Sutra loaded up awaiting the train north in Durham station. The fetching pale canvas bag is bungeed when moving...

Personally I prefer to have a decent fraction of weight over the front wheel, and quite often have the majority of luggage hanging off the Old Man Mountain rack.  My loading strategy with increasing weight/bulk is generally:

  1. Rack top bag at rear
  2. … + front pannier(s) + bungees and front rack top
  3. … + rear pannier(s)

If trains aren’t involved the trailer normally swings in at step two, but let’s ignore that for now.  Given that I can squeeze an awful lot of crap into step two, the rear panniers don’t often get a ride out.

Going by comments received from others, there’s a definite impression that having a large amount of weight on the front is dangerous, and the slightest mistake will have me spearing hilariously into pedestrians, trees or oncoming traffic.  As a result it’s pretty rare to see a bike set up with a beefy front rack, and pretty common to see loaded bikes with so much weight on the back that the rider struggles to keep the leading tyre on the deck when climbing (ambulance cycles from a few years back were particularly bad at this).  This is a real shame, as even with my haphazard front loading I’ve never had any problems with control, and the resultant extra damping to steering actually makes the bike less likely to be knocked off course by the road surface.  Further bonuses include a much more stable platform for climbing and descents and a bike that’s less likely to wash out at the front through corners.

So for today’s top tip, if you regularly carry stuff around on two wheels at least consider using a front rack to improve the experience.

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