pack your panniers
Loading gear on a bike is similar to packing a backpack, what you take and
where you put it are important considerations that can radically affect handling
and balance. A balanced load in a backpack is an issue of comfort. On a bike it
can be a matter of life and death when the trail narrows to steep single track
or that 18 wheeler rolls up next to you at 65 mph. The first issue of
loading a bike is where to focus the load. There are many options.
It is best to experiment before any big trip and do what works best for
you. The following is an overview of the major options.
Rear only, or
front and rear? The school of balanced riding says front and rear is best
to distribute the load more evenly and keep your front-end down. With
front racks, there is an additional choice of high or low mounting racks.
The general rule is high for off road conditions and low for paved surfaces. Low
racks will give much better handling, but are dangerous for off road riding,
where clearance is the major issue. Front suspension aficionados, and
riders who value a full view of the road/trail, must opt for rear panniers
only. You will need larger bags if only one set is used, but, if you are
not comfortable with bags on the front fork, this is your only real option.
|Once you have decided on rear only or rear and front panniers, there are several
general rules that apply equally to both systems.
- Keep heavier items low, inboard and toward the rider. (Fig.1). Heavy
items should go in the bottom of the pannier, next to the frame sheet,
forward in rear bags, back in front bags.
- Pad hard/sharp objects. Put extra clothing in the bottom and sides
of bags to act as a cushion to any road hazards or crashes that may occur.
- Keep necessities and emergency items (tools and first aid) accessible in
seat wedges, pockets or handle bar bags.
- Sleeping bags and pads generally go on top of the rack between the rear
As with backpacking, experience is the best teacher. Experiment with
different loading methods. If something doesn't feel right, it isn't; so stop
and move things around.