In the last few years, I have embraced bikepacking bags and now, most of the time, I like to travel using those instead of traditional touring panniers. I have explained my reasons in one of my previous articles. But panniers are still the most common way to carry your gear around while cycling. So, choosing the right panniers is clearly important, but choosing the right racks is as important as choosing good panniers. This article is about that.
Before jumping into a list of some of the best rear bike racks out there, I would like to mention a few things about materials and specs. Bike racks come in many different materials like aluminium, titanium, carbon and steel. Just pick the one you like the most and that matches your budget. My only tip is: if you go for a long bike trip in exotic lands or on rough roads, use steel, as it can be fixed anywhere just by welding it.
The specs of your bike are also an important element to take into consideration when purchasing a bike rack. Some bikes have rack mounts, some need clips. Having a bike with disc brakes means having racks with more clearance than if you have rim brakes. If you ride a smaller frame, you need to make sure your heel has enough clearance and you will not touch the pannier during every stroke. Bikes with 29” wheels need different racks than 28” bikes. Long story short, make sure the rack you are going to buy fits your bike. If you are not 100% sure, ask the producer or the dealer.
That said, let’s see some of the best rear bike racks available on the market.
My favorite manufacturer of bike racks is Tubus. Not only is the quality great, but I also like the clean design. Today, you’ll find a Tubus carrier on practically every high-end touring bike. On their website, they claim to make an incredible amount of tests. Lateral tests, vertical tests, UV tests, Salt Spray Tests and many more to make sure that a Tubus luggage carrier will withstand extreme conditions.
While my first Tubus rear rack was the Cargo Classic model, I now like to use the Vega Classic. That’s because it is about 200 grams lighter than the Cargo, but still carries up to 25 kg.
Weight: 540 g
Loading: 25 kg
Ortlieb is one of the most famous manufacturers of panniers and they make pretty good bike racks too. I had the chance to try the Rack Three model, which is a very high-quality rear carrier that is specially designed for their Ortlieb’s QL3 bags but can also be used with a standard pannier with hooks by just removing the three QL3 mounts (quick and easy, you just need an Allen key). The rack also has a holder for an optional rear light.
Weight: 700 g
Loading: 30 kg
Topeak, the famous Taiwanese accessories manufacturer, makes a few very nice rear racks. My favorite is the model called the Explorer. It is the one I use for our tour company’s bike fleet for two very important reasons. First, the steel arms are flexible, so you can use it on MTBs, touring bikes and even gravel bikes. The second reason is that in my opinion, it is the best-priced quality bike rack on the market.
Last but not least, it is sturdy because it has three tubes on each side to carry the load while most racks have only two. It also has a very strong taillight mount compared to most of the competitors.
Weight: 820 g
Loading: 26 kg
Thule Tour Rack
I think the “Tour Rack” model offered by the Swedish company Thule must be included in every list of the best bike racks because it offers a different solution than all the others. In fact, it does not require any frame eyelets for mounting. This means that it can be even used on a full suspension MTB, a racing hardtail MTB or a road bike (or any other bike on the market, although if you have frame eyelets on your bike, I recommend a standard one). The Tour Rack can be used both as a front and a rear rack.
Weight: 1.1 kg
Loading: 22 kg
If you don’t have a big budget, you should consider Ibera racks. They work well and are very affordable. The PakRak Touring Carrier Plus+ is adjustable for 26″–29″ frames.
Weight: 820 gr
Loading: 25 kg
Recently my dream to make a custom bike finally happened. I had a gravel bike custom made for me by Festka, a premium brand based in the Czech Republic. The bike is very light and has a top-notch paint job and I am not too happy to have the frame scratched by bikepacking bags. So, I was looking for a bike rack that would be super light and cool at the same time. I found a British company called Tailfin and in particular their rear rack called the “X Serie”. It is the winner of a prestigious Red Dot Design Award. It comes in three different variants: Carbon, aluminium and a combination of the two. It can be mounted on every bike and it is super easy to fit or remove (10 seconds) thanks to fast-release dropouts. A true masterpiece if you ask me.
Weight: from 330 gr (all carbon) to 480 gr (all alloy)
Loading: 27 kg
Price: from €150 to €324