Center of Gravity?

Thanks to COVID and Vlad The Poisoner this site has not been about touring in Russia for a good while now. I’m infact planning a short biketrip to Sweden this summer.

This post is mostly based on my amateur observations on how to load your touring/bikepacking bike for a more comfortable ride.

Front

  • Lowrider racks are a very good option as they put the center of gravity low. The downside is you’ll have to balance them. Aerodynamics aren’t that good either.
  • Racks on the top of the front wheel have a problem more to do with modern bike geometry than the racks themselves. Bikes in the French golden era of cycling had way more fork offset. If you draw a vertical line up from the front hub, there is a considerable amount of space between the handlebars and this line. This space is good, but if you place load past this line the weight will turn your front wheel sideways with a considerable force.
  • Bags attached on the forks are in a good spot as they become a part of the frameset but they are often small and need spesific mounts.
  • Bikepacking handlebar rolls also integrate to the bike. Weight this high does make the bike feel top heavy but all front loads affect the stearing anyway. Access to your stuff isn’t great and the cable routing can be a problem too. A Carradice bag as a front bag could work but you might want a small front rack to avoid the front wheel rubbing.
  • An adapter between the handlebar and the bag puts the bag quite far forward.
  • Other small front bags work pretty well but is it worth the money to get that small amount of extra space?

Center

  • In short: bottle cages are placed perfectly, low and dead center.
  • Frame bags, for some reason feel if they are not. Having a frame bag on the top tube puts the weight higher.
  • A bag that takes the whole center triangle means you’ll need to find another place for those water bottles. It’s also super annoying if you have to bend your knees out so you wouldn’t touch the bag. And they rub the frame. Not saying they don’t work. They do.
  • Bigger cages for small dry bags are an option too. If you know what fits in.
  • Small bags for tools etc work, but again, is it wort the investment?

Rear

  • Rear panniers are still the go to option for most cycle tourists. Spaceuos and functional, but easy to load too much weight. The longer the chainstay, the better. More stability and less risk of heel clearance issues.
  • Bikepacking saddle bags only work with light loads. Carradice bags are a better option with heavier loads.
  • Stuff like tents on top of the rear rack is a risk. Center of gravity is too high and causes torsial flex. It can be reduced by placing the weight as close to the saddle as possible. Without clearance issues ofcourse.

Conlusions

  • Good old racks and panniers work just fine if your bike is built for touring. Lots of space for all your stuff. And food too. The heaviest goods usually find their way to the bottom of the panniers and so keep the center of gravity low as it should be according to the old school rules of touring.
  • Same old set of rules say that the weight should be close to the hubs (panniers) and bottom braket (water bottles).
  • Other packing options should integrate to the frame as closely as possible. If you travel outside the road network or do sporty on-road touring, bikepacking bags are worth considering. Aerodynamics play a big role when cycling fast. You also don’t want the panniers to constantly rattle an occasionally pop off entirely on trails and other more demanding terrain.