Load options - 26th May 2011

We get a lot of people asking for advice and recommendations on luggage systems, as well as the best way to load your bike for various trips.
Of course there are no hard and fast rules here, and depending on your bike (and thickness of your wallet)  there are many options out there in terms of racks, panniers, frame-bags, backpacks, seatpost racks and bags, handlebar bags... the list goes on. The good thing is that there are options - ours is just one of many - we like to think its quite a good option of course!

Over the last few years we have seen a growth in interest in a light weight 'bike-packing' approach, compared with the more traditional 'touring' angle using racks and panniers. This has coincided with an ever expanding selection of gear designed for traveling fast and light.

As Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, discusses in his book 'Let my people go surfing', these days anyone can walk into a low-end department store and kit themselves out with gear far lighter and more sophisticated than Sir Ed used to summit Mt. Everest... all for very little outlay.

Lighter weight means ease of movement, especially over difficult terrain. This in turn means you can travel further, faster and more comfortably, and thats a good thing.

People have been exploring the world by bike for as long as there have been bikes, so this isn't a new idea... one major difference now is that modern bikes are (arguably) more capable of getting you into remote places than they ever have been. Unfortunately they are also sometimes less capable of taking your gear... when was the last time you saw a full suspension bike with rack eyelets? You see where I'm going with this....

We'd like to use this journal as well as our 'freeloaders' page to show a variety of ways to carry your gear with our rack systems. We're working on improving the comments function on the website to encourage some discussion... at the moment, you are able to comment by opening each post individually (click on the title) and using the facebook comments feature.

I thought I'd kick things off with a brief run down of my 'standard' kit. The basic setup I fall back on when not testing out some new idea or piece of equipment. Its versatile enough to use for a quick overnighter from home, or a multi-day trip in the hills. I use this same rig on my mountain bike, cyclocross and road bike.
A lot of the time, you can get away with a single rack and a backpack depending on weight and how far you're going... I decided to show the bike set up this way for the following reasons:

a. I like the way the bike handles with a more balanced load
b. More often than not, I end up with more gear (volume or weight-wise) than I want to carry on one rack and a pack... plus its kind of liberating to ride with nothing at all on your back... even on trips when I could comfortably fit my gear in a pack and single rack- I'll opt for the second rack. 
c. On trips when I'm expecting some really technical riding and/or a decent amount of carrying, I like to replace one drybag with a pack- so when the going gets tough, I can wear the pack to make the bike easier to lift over tree-fall, up scree slopes, through rivers....

Now it may seem like I'm trying to sell more racks by saying two is better than one... not at all... don't get me wrong, this is just my conclusion after some recent trips. The truth is, I haven't found the 'ultimate' set up yet, and I'm not so sure there is one anymore... its kind of like trying to find the ONE bike that does everything well : ]

The nice thing about our system is the versatility. Try it on the back one day and on the front the next... switch it between bikes for different trips... chuck it on your townie and double your beer carrying capacity...
I'm constantly trying different things, and encourage others to do the same - each has its pros and cons.

One last thing- try not to waste too much time and energy analyzing your gear... the idea is to get out there a go somewhere new right?

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