Forum home Road cycling forum Tours, routes, audaxes & organised rides Tour & expedition

Rear Panniers Only?

BobScarleBobScarle Posts: 282
edited October 2012 in Tour & expedition
I have planned for the spring of next year, a short (4 day) tour. I will be camping but trying to keep kit down to a minimum. I have an audax bike which will take a rear rack. Weight wise, I estimate that I am going to be carrying around 12Kg, which is well inside the manufactures guidelines.

The question I have is this, I think I can get all of my stuff either in the panniers or on the rack. But is this a wise move? Should I be looking at spreading the load and getting front panniers as well?

Posts

  • apreadingapreading Posts: 4,532
    Should be OK. I have done multi-day tours on my bike with everything on the rear - I figure these bikes can take 20+stone chaps so they can cope with my gear as I weigh somewhat less than that. Only thing you need to be aware of is if you are setting off from standstill on a sharp uphill stretch - you can end up doing a wheelie very easily (it made my son laugh when I discovered this...)!
  • lc1981lc1981 Posts: 820
    apreading wrote:
    Only thing you need to be aware of is if you are setting off from standstill on a sharp uphill stretch - you can end up doing a wheelie very easily (it made my son laugh when I discovered this...)!

    I had fun with this going over Gospel Pass earlier this year! Otherwise, having the load over the rear only was fine.
  • lc1981 wrote:
    I had fun with this going over Gospel Pass earlier this year! Otherwise, having the load over the rear only was fine.

    Oh dear! My planned route takes me over the Gospel Pass.
  • lc1981lc1981 Posts: 820
    BobScarle wrote:
    Oh dear! My planned route takes me over the Gospel Pass.

    I was also on a mountain bike, which is very easy to lift the front end of even without panniers. You'll be fine. It's also steeper coming out of Hay than going towards it, so it depends which way you're crossing.
  • I am riding from Chepstow to Holyhead, the Lon Las Cymru, so I'll be going into Hay from the south, the easier way over the Gospel Pass. Should have happened this year but circumstances have meant that it had to be postponed.
  • You'll be fine. I recently did 7 days with well over 20kg all on the back, it took about a day and to get used to the handling and about 3 days to come to a standstill from 30mph.

    Make sure the weight is balanced correctly between the 2 bags and try and get the heavier stuff as close to the front as poss to help reduce the amount of time spent with only one wheel on the ground.

    Don't even think of getting up out of the saddle to tackle steep hills. You will be a lot slower pulling away from lights/entering roundabouts than usual.

    Bungee cords are your friend!
    One for the road.....
    The beer not the bike!
    FCN 11

    http://app.strava.com/athletes/399251
  • lc1981lc1981 Posts: 820
    Don't even think of getting up out of the saddle to tackle steep hills.

    Oh yes, I forgot that. Stand on the pedals and chaos ensues!
  • Out on my normal road bike I would often stand on the pedals to get up hills. I am not sure about getting up some of the Welsh ones with a laden bike. I might change the cassette to give me a low (very low) bottom gear. In a completely unscientific survey I looked at a few touring bikes and noted the bottom gear. Most had a 32 tooth at the rear and either a 26 or a 28 at the front. This is considerably lighter than my lowest gear which is 30 front, 27 rear.
  • HoopdriverHoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    BobScarle wrote:
    lc1981 wrote:
    I had fun with this going over Gospel Pass earlier this year! Otherwise, having the load over the rear only was fine.

    Oh dear! My planned route takes me over the Gospel Pass.
    Gospel Pass is brilliant. Worth every stroke of the pedals.
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    I ride with rear panniers only. Lots of people do. Possibly the majority of touring cyclists

    I never have problems with the front wheel lifting: this is an issue that is to do with the bike's geometry not the load - your panniers are well below the centre of gravity of the bike plus rider.

    You also shouldn't have problems getting out of the saddle - but getting out of the saddle is OK for short bursts but not long climbs.
  • lc1981lc1981 Posts: 820
    Hoopdriver wrote:
    Gospel Pass is brilliant. Worth every stroke of the pedals.

    Agreed.
  • I'm sure you will be fine. I've done a couple of camping tours this year. The first just with rear panniers, the second with front and rear. I could climb hills out of the saddle with both setups. I carried pretty much exactly the same gear both times. The big differences I found...
    * Bike felt much nicer to ride with front panniers
    * Lots more room in the panniers and so much easier to pack them, and particularly much easier when buying food etc.
    * Nothing on top of my rear rack, so no messing around with bungee cords etc. This also makes it easier to access the rear panniers.
    * Obviously more weight due to the extra racks and bags, but I can't say I noticed it.
    So I'd say go for it with just rears, but if you plan to do a lot of camping and touring you may at some point want to try adding the front panniers
  • gloomyandy wrote:
    So I'd say go for it with just rears, but if you plan to do a lot of camping and touring you may at some point want to try adding the front panniers

    What he said!

    I went with just rears to keep costs down as couldn't beleive the cost of the rack and bags and maybe its my frame geometry as has been suggested (20 year old MTB with no mounts on the seat stays :oops: )but I stand by the fact that the bike felt VERY unstable when standing, pushing up hills wasn't an option either as it had just as much of a tendancy to topple. I can imagine that front panniers will aid stability a lot.

    I can see that having the top of the rear rack free would help lower the centre of gravity but this was the ideal place to put the tent/extra water bottle!

    As for food I took loads with me (pasta, cous cous etc) next time I wouldn't bother as you will pass loads of places that you can buy this on the way and if you are having dinner after riding 80/100 miles then whats the point of lugging the extra weight for all that time?
    One for the road.....
    The beer not the bike!
    FCN 11

    http://app.strava.com/athletes/399251
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,388
    I started off camping touring with an early mountain bike in the 1980s using rear panniers only and managed fine. But the bike does feel a bit odd with all the weight at the bike and you have to accept the handling and descending stability are compromised.

    I now use a traditional touring bike with panniers front and rear and nothing on the top of the rear rack when I go camping. Handling and stability are significantly better than having a heavy load all at the rear. For B&B touring, I use just a saddlebag (Camper Longflap) or a pair of lightly loaded rear panniers.

    I do sometimes meet fellow tourists complaining about handling and stability problems. They are often on lighter, less stiff, shorter wheelbase frames, such as audax or cyclo-cross bikes. Such bikes cope less well with all the weight at the back than a stiff-framed mountain bike or tourer.

    So I would say to the OP: Keep the weight down to 12kg, get used to the effect on handling and you should be fine with rear panniers only. But consider adding front panniers in the future if you want to do more serious camping touring or want to carry more weight.

    I've done the Gospel Pass with rear panniers only and front and rear - and it's a superb ride. Tough climb, great views.
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    IME what makes the most difference to the handling is the position of the panniers. If you can keep the panniers low (using a rack like the Tubus Cargo - which has a second carrying rail) it helps a lot - as does keeping it inboard as much as possible and avoiding carrying lots of weight on top of the rack.

    And the common element between MerciaMan and Oneforthe road's posts: 20-year-old mountain bikes. I suspect the frame geometry is the root cause of the handling problems.
  • Thanks for all the responses. I am greatly re-assured about using only rear panniers.

    It is interesting to read comments about bike geometry. I do not have a specific touring bike, instead I intended to use my audax bike which has slightly tighter angles. It is not racing geometry, but neither is it touring. I am going to have to buy a pair of panniers so I guess a laden test run would be in order.

    I hope that this short tour will be a success, you never know, this could become a regular thing. I am a complete novice when it comes to cycle touring so I need to experiment with many things, bike, panniers, tent, food, etc. I have to buy nearly all of the equipment over the winter (maybe looking for recommendations later).
  • andrew_sandrew_s Posts: 2,511
    andymiller wrote:
    You also shouldn't have problems getting out of the saddle - but getting out of the saddle is OK for short bursts but not long climbs.
    It depends on the bike.
    An audax bike won't really be stiff enough for a camping load in rear panniers only, and frame twist can make the handling quite alarming when out of the saddle. You do get used to it after a few days, after which standing does become easier.
  • satanassatanas Posts: 1,303
    ^ I generally agree with this comment. Chances are the seatstays will flex a bit more than is ideal so handling might be a bit vague at times. However, for four days you'll be fine and certainy nothng will break. As previously mentioned, keep the weight forward and low, and try to avoid standing.

    Personally, I hate rear panniers and would rather use fronts only as they affect handing much less, and create less drag.
  • Being pretty new to touring myself and having completed around four trips, I'd be inclined to go for all four panniers. But I think it depends on how much stuff you are taking. I'd be wary of over-stuffing the rear bags. its also nice to have the option of splitting the weight or when things get wet etc separating them out. I found it balance much better around corners too. You're probably overloaded with advice now!
  • I've never toured with more than rear panniers and a handle bar bag, that's a week to four weeks, camping and not camping. For a weekend weekend or few days away it's possible to easily manage with handlebar bag and small saddlebag if not camping.
    If you're taking front panniers as well, the temptation is no doubt to take more, rather than spread the same gear out. Generally the less weight you take the easier and more pleasurable it is, the further you go.
    I've usually toured with an old mountain bike, and with the lower gear ratio that brings, so you don't need to be out of the saddle as much. However short spells out of the saddle are possible without losing control.
  • satanassatanas Posts: 1,303
    ^ This works the other way too: if you only take front panniers, there's also less temptation to over pack, and they're usually smaller too. :-)

    Still, if it is necessary to carry a lot of stuff - for instance several days worth of food - the bike will handle vastly better if all of this mass is not balanced precariously above the rear wheel.

    Less weight definitely equals more speed, especially if it's mountainous where you're going, but better balance = more control, and having front panniers as well does not mean they have to be full!!! The solution is to figure out the minimum amount of stuff first, and then pack whatever this amounts to as efficiently as possible, and this will vary depending on where one is riding, i.e., on road or off, whether the bike will need to be carried sometimes if off-road, etc, etc.
  • Phew, what a mass of information and opinion! Thank you all.

    It appears to me that the sensible option is to try it. Get some rear panniers and go off for the weekend and see how I get on. I have been looking at changing the rear cassette and I think now, from what has been said about standing on the pedals, that would be a good idea. All the riding will be on the road so no need to worry about carrying the bike, I hope!

    If I try to keep the weight down and well below the manufacturers limit that should lessen any frame flex.

    Right. Got some shopping to do over the winter. Dear Santa....
  • andrewjosephandrewjoseph Posts: 2,165
    make sure you try the tent out before you buy it. Cotswold outdoors helped us a lot by getting in a few 2 man tents for us to try. setting them up in the shop so we could check headroom and sleeping length.

    we went for the heavier but more comfortable tent.

    get good quality sleeping kit. if you're not comfortable at night the whole thing will seem awful. better to have a sleeping bag that's too warm than one that's too cold. same with sleeping mat's/pads. We've got alpkit stuff as it seemed a good compromise between the high and low end stuff.
    --
    Burls Ti Tourer for Tarmac, Saracen aluminium full suss for trails
  • apreadingapreading Posts: 4,532
    I recommend the self inflating matresses for a sleeping mat - but if you can go for the 3/4 length ones that are also shaped like a lozenge - they are alot smaller/lighter when rolled up and you dont need a mat below your knees.
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