Author Topic: Higher quality racks  (Read 345 times)

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Offline keithmisegades

Higher quality racks
« on: November 16, 2021, 05:13:28 pm »
With the loss of Bruce Gordon and Robert Beckman no longer making racks I feel that there are limited options for a high quality rack.

Of course, there are a number of other custom bike builders that will make a rack. I have found little else out there that has the craftsmanship of the two mentioned builders.

Of course a few rack manufacturers make some good racks that serve the purpose which I have used with success.  Unfortunately, none of them match the quality of my Robert Beckman racks.

I find it interesting that no one has come out with some higher quality racks to match the quality of some higher end touring bikes. 

I’m not trying to be a snob, I just think there is a place for a higher quality rack where the customer doesn’t have to go to a custom builder.

A higher quality rack would support the entire pannier, provide a bomb proof attachment system, have attachment points for lights, allow internal wiring for lights, and other features.  Of course, this increases the price of entry, but why put a feature limited rack on your dream bike?

Am I the only one that has pondered this?  Is everyone else happy enough for what is now available?

What features would you want in a high quality rack that isn’t available today?

Your thoughts?

Thanks,
Keith

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2021, 08:31:13 am »
I’m not trying to be a snob, I just think there is a place for a higher quality rack where the customer doesn’t have to go to a custom builder.

A higher quality rack would support the entire pannier, provide a bomb proof attachment system, have attachment points for lights, allow internal wiring for lights, and other features.  Of course, this increases the price of entry, but why put a feature limited rack on your dream bike?

Am I the only one that has pondered this?  Is everyone else happy enough for what is now available?

What features would you want in a high quality rack that isn’t available today?

Just MHO, but Tubus racks are plenty good for me.  They're "just" production racks, but they're designed to hold the top of the panniers, prevent pannier "flop," and have rear mounting for rack lights.  The pannier interface has been standard for a while; it's up to the pannier manufacturers to attach to that standard rack.  There's also room, and attachment points, for loading the center rack between panniers.  And they're rugged as all get-out.  There are also other production racks, but mine's Tubus, so I mention it by name. 

I'll admit that I don't share your complete wish list, but it seems that if you have custom requirements, it's time to go custom.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2021, 08:39:27 am »
I am using Surly racks on my Disc Trucker and am very pleased (aside from the weight maybe). Have not seen the need for internal wire runs. If you are thinking of launching a new product to compete I would watch the weight. Aside from that I cannot see another reason to switch.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2021, 08:44:25 am »
You think you have problems with low quality racks? This is my second attempt. The first attempt lasted 4 short rides. I hope this does better.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2021, 01:59:03 pm »
Happy with my Nitto Big front and rear racks.  (Both have light attachment brackets with holes.) I cannot imagine there is a large enough market for super expensive racks with bells and whistles. And this is coming from someone whose first set of racks was, in fact, made by Robert Beckman in '99.  Sadly, in 2010 they were stolen from my house along with the Surly LHT they were attached to.  That's when I picked up the Nitto racks.  Closest thing I could find to Beckman's without paying Beckman prices.  My Beckman racks were designed around one bike. In 2008 it costs me nearly $200 just for a new pivot mount and stays so I could retrofit them to my LHT.  When the Surly was stolen I contacted him for an estimate on a replacement set that would accept the custom panniers that had come with the original racks. He would not even give me a ballpark cost estimate.  Instead, I was told to put down a deposit and wait.  Obviously was not going to do that.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2021, 02:48:38 pm »
Yep, Beckman racks were the best but boy you sure needed to be sitting down when paying for them.  I actually have one of his bikes too but don't ride it anymore since it is a tad small.  Anyway, I have numerous sets of Beckman panniers (probably 6+ pairs) and those mated to either a Gordon or Beckman rack are, to me, by far the most secure (stable) yet easy to deal with mounting system out there.  I swear you could literally (not figuratively) pick up the bike by the pack handles and throw the bike as far and hard as you can and the packs would not come off.  Yet, with the flick of two velcro strips, they come right off. 

Over my 45 years of touring, I have collected a too-large stable of parts, bits, etc. thus have a large collection of packs and racks.  I still switch out the racks and packs depending on what type of tour.  I use Ortlieb/Tubus combos a lot since my tours seem to be in rainier areas than I did when I was younger but use Beckman/Gordon combos otherwise.  Beckman's were never super waterproof and I just don't prefer pannier covers or to use waterproof liner bags. I still like the simplicity and design of my old Kirtland Tourpaks but maybe just because they were my first set of packs and thus hold a certain place in my heart.

Tubus are not bad for the money.  I have not used Nitto but they do look nice.  Surly are just a little too heavy for my taste.  My Thorn racks are nice but are probably my least favorite for some reason.

If you use Beckman packs, then Gordon or Beckman are by far the only way to go.  Otherwise, Tubus is fine with me.

Tailwinds, John

Offline keithmisegades

Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2021, 10:46:29 am »
Thanks to all that have replied.

The general consensus appears to be that most are happy with the available rack offerings.

I posed this question on the forum based on my own experience. 

The blue bike pictured below is a Bruce Gordon Rock N Road with Tubus racks and a pair of Beckman panniers.

The red bike is my new Co-Motion Siskiyou with Beckman racks and Beckman panniers.
On a side note: If you're tired of maintaining chains and derailleurs while touring, I highly recommend a Pinion-based touring bicycle.  Yes, they're a bit heavier and a bit more expensive, but the lack of maintenance and worry is worth it to me.

The pictured pannier is the back of one of my Beckman Panniers.  I have modified it from the original by installing an Arkel quick release mechanism that is all metal.  I also added to substantial J hooks that go over the bottom rail of my Beckman racks.  The combination of the locking Arkel mechanism and the shock corded hook ensure that the pannier will never come off the rack.  The two bottom J hooks ensure that the bottom portion of the pannier will not flex or flap away from the rack.  The Arkel system and J hooks are attached to a 1/8 thick aluminum plate that is inside the pannier.  This is a bombproof setup.

I have found that the limited rack support area on the bottom of the Tubus racks allows those panniers to flex and move around more than the all Beckman setup.  Hence, the Tubus-based setup imparts more movement into the frame of the Bruce Gordon which can affect the handling.  Yes, the tubes on the Gordon are thinner than the Co-Motion, but when I had the all Beckman setup on the Gordon, it was more stable.

Hence the Tubus setup is not as stable as the better all Beckman setup.  Yes, the Beckman racks are heavier, but testing done by Alee over on www.cyclingabout.com has proven that the overall weight of the bicycle really doesn't affect your average touring speed.  So, I agree with Alee, that the overall weight is not something to be overly concerned with.  Anyway, we are not racing on these touring bikes.

John Nettles is dead right about the security of the Beckman bags and racks.  With multiple support hooks on the top and bottom tubes of the Beckman racks, the bags are very stable and secure.  All other bags, from my experience, just have two hooks on the top and then a small lever or nylon strap with a spring that attempts to keep the bottom from flapping around.  I have seen other bicycle tourists bags flapping and moving around which does nothing to help the stability of the rack and pannier system.


Another short coming of most racks is that the bottom portion is quite narrow and does not allow a good support mechanism to tightly hold that portion of the pannier.  The bottom portion of better racks are wide to better allow this type of support.

Of course, the bags and panniers have to be compatible and the industry standard is the two hook and lower stability lever.  I personally feel that that is not the best way to do it, but I can't change the industry.  I too have used that system and it worked just fine for me, but wanting to be a closet engineer, I am always searching for something better and found it in the Beckman system.

Since I am now retired, I may teach myself how to braze 4130 chromoly tubing and build or modify a set of existing racks to my desire.

I have worked with a custom frame builder that modified my Beckman racks further so that I could use a Decaleur bag rather than hanging it off the handlebars.  That custom work, though not cheap, worked out perfectly.

Thanks again for all the replies and your generous input.

Keith
« Last Edit: November 18, 2021, 05:14:31 pm by keithmisegades »

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2021, 09:57:08 am »
Yep, Beckman racks were the best but boy you sure needed to be sitting down when paying for them.  I actually have one of his bikes too but don't ride it anymore since it is a tad small.  Anyway, I have numerous sets of Beckman panniers (probably 6+ pairs) and those mated to either a Gordon or Beckman rack are, to me, by far the most secure (stable) yet easy to deal with mounting system out there.  I swear you could literally (not figuratively) pick up the bike by the pack handles and throw the bike as far and hard as you can and the packs would not come off.  Yet, with the flick of two velcro strips, they come right off.
You don't have the Beckman (after he split with Gordon) locking system that uses metal brackets and allen bolts to secure the panniers?  I found that most helpful.  Not only can they never come off accidentally absent maybe a catastrophic crash , you need an allen wrench if you want to to steal them.

Living in Philly, I have access to several frame builders who can perform all sorts of metal work and welding, including Bilenky and Engin.  Every winter I keep telling myself that this will be the year I take my Beckman panniers to one or more of them of to explore the possibility of having the bags and my Nitto racks modified so they will work with each other.  I think it might be possible.  I just need to get off my butt.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2021, 10:11:14 am »
My Beckmans are all made for Gordon racks.  They can not come off unless you unfasten the velcro except as you say during a catastrophic crash where the rack itself breaks apart completely.  Very simple design but lightweight and very secure.

Offline keithmisegades

Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2021, 10:46:30 am »
To John:

Yes, I still do have the original small j-hooks and locking metal brackets.  They worked really well, but not very user friendly when you wanted to frequently remove the panniers from the racks.  Since, the stealing of panniers is quite rare, I elected convenience over security.  The rotating cam on the Arkel mounts are quite good and I've had no problems with my mod and can now remove my Beckman panniers much quicker, plus I don't have to worry about losing the 5mm lock screw.

I sent you a email to your travel@ address.  When you have time, can you check it out?

Thanks,
Keith

Offline John Nettles

Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2021, 10:53:24 am »
In all my miles, including thousands on gravel roads, the Beckman/Gordon combo has never unintentionally come undone.  Yep, I got your email and will look into this weekend.  Tailwinds, John
« Last Edit: November 19, 2021, 10:57:13 am by John Nettles »

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2021, 02:19:15 pm »
Yes, the Beckman racks are heavier, but testing done by Alee over on www.cyclingabout.com has proven that the overall weight of the bicycle really doesn't affect your HIS average touring speed.  So, I agree with Alee, that the overall weight is not something to be overly concerned with.  Anyway, we are not racing on these touring bikes.

I love the fact that people always refer to Alee's test data to justify ignoring common sense when it comes to weight. Alee is a full time cycle tourist and not some over the hill couch potato who has decided to ride across the US. Yes, a guy who is used to touring 60 to 80 miles a day may not notice the extra 10 pounds, but I can tell you in my late 60's doing week to 10-day tours a few times a year, I feel almost every pound. I also know that you only need to add a few ounces here and there to wind up with extra pounds. Plus, look at Alee, not sure he is packing the 10 to 15 extra pounds the average American is. Remember it takes muscle strength an energy to haul a loaded bike up a hill - the more combined weight the more muscle and energy needed. I have not heard a single cyclist say "Gee, I wish I carried more weight". Most trip logs talk about shipping stuff home, I cannot remember a single one that said "got the wife to ship me some heavier stuff."
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline keithmisegades

Re: Higher quality racks
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2021, 04:12:31 pm »
To HikeBikeCook:

I agree with you, as we get older the additional weight is noticeable.  I too notice it...

I quoted Alee since he found that it was primarily wind resistance rather than weight is perhaps our largest nemesis out on the road.

Being 58, and not getting any younger, I'd rather climb hills with weight than fight the strong headwinds of the Wind River Range where even drafting another loaded tourist, we could only average about 7 mph for the day's ride.  I remember that day well, but still enjoyed it.

You are right about shipping weight home.  I too sent about 8 lbs home after 3 days on my first big bike tour and never missed those items.  As a side note, I did have my wife ship me some cold weather clothing on one trip, so I did add a bit of weight.

I now have three touring bikes where I can load them up for self-sufficient loaded touring.

A Kent Eriksen (pictured below) minimalist touring rig tops out around 48 lbs.  Can't do cold weather touring on this due to the limited amount that is carried.
A Bruce Gordon with a more normal weight tops out around 65-70 lbs
A Co-Motion Siskiyou where nothing is left behind tops out around 80-90 lbs or more

Yes, I am faster on the Kent Eriksen, but my average speed is pretty much the same on the two heavier rigs.  I too thought I would be slower with the additional 15 lbs, but was amazed when I compared similar trips.

You make very valid points.  Thanks for replying.

Keith