Since I’m on a rack rant, I figured it was time to vent about top racks. Let’s define “top rack” as a front rack that provides some sort of platform above the front wheel. There are lots and lots and lots of top racks out there, from little ones like Nitto’s Mini Front, to great big ones like Surly’s
Nice Rack. (It looks like Surly got all PCified and dropped the “nice” from their rack.) There are other big front racks from Nitto and Jandd and Old Man Mountain that allow a bicyclist to support a handlebar bag or attach a basket on the top, while providing a decent place, either high or low, to hang some panniers. The big ones tend to be relatively heavy and expensive. Only the Jandd Extreme comes in under a hundred bucks. They can get significantly more expensive, with the Nitto Campee topping the list at about $275. I have no problem with any of these racks. It’s the little ones that rub me the wrong way.
Smaller top racks, like the Nitto Mini above, have a platform over the front wheel that’s good for supporting a handlebar bag, a basket (please don’t use zip ties), a six-pack, etc. They generally don’t accommodate the use of front panniers. These racks are popular with randonneurs, commuters, day trippers, ride leaders, grocery shoppers, bike campers, parts tinkerers and mountain bikers. But not roadies (who tend to cram everything they own into shirt pockets). Many come with threaded bosses for attaching fenders, lights, baskets, etc. Let’s have a look.
Disclaimer – the following photos are not mine. They are included here, along with links to the source, just in case those links change sometime later. Prices are as advertised by the retailer at the time of this writing. I have ordered products from all of these sources and recommend them to other bicyclists on a regular basis. I am not being reimbursed in any way by any of them.
Let’s start with Rivendell Bicycle Works. These guys sell some really neat stuff. If you’re into bike camping, but not necessarily loaded touring, you should give them a nod from time to time.
First up is the Nitto Two-strut Rack. Note that the rack has, ta-da!, two struts on each side – one attached to the drop-out eyelets and another at some point above where you’d normally find a mid-fork boss. Rivendell sells a few racks that use a higher-than-normal mid-fork mount. Not surprisingly, they sell bikes with these attachment points already on the forks. If your bike doesn’t have them, and most don’t, you can use ugly p-clamps. This is a very pretty rack which is probably capable of supporting more than you’d ever need to carry over your front wheel. About $130.
Mark’s Rack, also from Rivendell and made by Nitto, is a similar rack designed to mount to just about any bike in the known universe. It, too, attaches to Rivendell’s higher-than-everyone-else’s mid-fork mount points, or uses ugly p-clamps. Or, OR, you can spend a little more money and buy some longer struts so that it can be attached to regular mid-fork mounts. About $97.
Let’s move on to Velo-Orange. (I should admit here that I’ve ordered more stuff from VO than the rest of this bunch combined. I like VO a lot. I think their products are pretty, pretty nice, and pretty affordable. They have provided my bikes with racks, saddles, brake parts, cabling, bells and other do-dads.)
Let’s start with the VO Randonneur Front Rack. This one is quite similar to the Nitto racks we’ve already looked at. It can carry a small basket or support a handlebar bag. It’s made out of polished stainless steel (quite pretty, IMHO) and mounts to the fork and, uh, here we go again, to the higher-than-normal mid-fork attachment points on VO’s Rando frame. Or, of course, you can stick it on just about any bike with the included (ugly) p-clamps. I’m starting to notice a trend. About $80.
Next up is the VO Pass Hunter rack. This one is similar to all the others with one glaring exception. It doesn’t use some funky mounting point that’s only available on a handful of bikes. It mounts to the fork crown and to cantilever posts. Whoa! Think about that for a second or two. This rack is designed to work with damn near every mountain, touring, comfort and cyclocross bike in current production. About $75.
Staying with the canti-post mounted theme, let’s have a look at Nashbar. Nashbar sells the Nashbar Front Rack. It’s black, cheap and perpetually out of stock. This is due to the fact that it attaches to the fork crown and the cantilever posts on a gazillion bicycles, and because it costs $15. (What?) Or less. They’re often on sale. If you want one, keep an eye on Nashbar’s site. When they’re in stock get 2, because they’ll sell out in short order. I have one. It’s black and crude and it works. I’ve supported handlebar bags, baskets, my lunch, beer and toolboxes with it. If you get it and you don’t like it, you’re out the cost of a burger, fries, Coke and a tip for the pretty waitress.
See that up there? That’s 15 worthless Americanos. That’s a heckuva price gap. From $15 to $75 and on up. We’ll come back to the price gap.
There’s something else all of these racks fail to do, with the possible exception of the Nitto racks – attach to the mid-fork mount points found on a whole lotta bikes. As far as I can tell, the only production top rack out there that does is this one from Gilles Berthoud. Available in the US from Wallingford Bicycle for about $150.
Big deal, right? So what? Who cares? Well, I do. And, apparently, whoever makes forks for the following bikes.
- All 3 Roadster models
- Alley Way
- Detour Deluxe
- Circa i8
- Long Haul Trucker
- 7.1 FX
- 7.2 FX
- 7.3 FX
- Belleville (actually comes with a rack that uses the mid-fork bosses)
- Transport and Transport+
- Soho S
- Soho DLX
- 700 (this is one of the least expensive bike shop bikes currently available)
- Adventure 1 and 2
- Bad Boy
- Law Enforcement 1, 2 and 3
That almost covers the local bike shops. I’m sure there are others, and I’m sure I missed a few. But each of the bikes I listed above has mid-fork attachment points. I found them by going to each manufacturer’s site and looking at the pictures of their bikes. You can do the same if you’d like.
My point is that there are a cubic butt ton of current production bicycles that could benefit directly from an affordable top rack that utilizes those mount points. The GB and possibly a couple from Nitto would do the job, but they’re pricey. The Nashbar Front Rack might be a bit too low brow for some, and it only mounts to cantilever posts. I think there’s a big, gaping hole in the rack offerings and the pricing schemes. Someone, anyone (Jandd, are you listening?) please come up with a top rack that utilizes the mid-fork mounts and price it between $15 and $75. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
SUPER-DUPER UPDATE!!! It seems that RackTime has a rack that meets my requirements precisely. You can see it here. About $55, top rack, mid-fork attachment. Also, I made a mistake about the Blackburn racks. They are, once again, listing their MTF-1 and FL-1 racks. These had not been available on the US market for quite some time. It’s good to see them again. The MTF-1 looks to be about $40. If I can determine that it will mount level on the Trucker, I’ll be getting one in short order.