Monday, August 9, 2010

Topeak Explorer Bike Rack Review: Cool Gear

Best Bike Luggage Rack: Cool Gear 

What is the best bike rack? For those of us who can commute and ride their bikes at the same time, there is nothing like the freedom and the exercise that this combines! The same is true when you can go shopping on your bike. And - a couple of days camping while touring on your bike can be a great week-end:-) But, in all cases, unless you are willing to carry a large backpack, you need a good bike rack.

What makes for the right bike rack

Universal mount. The rack needs to be able to mount on your bike, reagardless of the model - it should be as universal possible, given the wide variability in bike frames.

Sturdiness. The rack must be sturdy enough to carry large weights through difficult road surfaces, bad trails and potholes.

Reliability. It must be reliable enough to last many years without damage.

Weight. It should be as light as possible, without shortchanging either sturdiness or reliability.

Light and reflector mount. The rack should allow for mounting a red light and/or reflector.

Compatible with panniers.  It should be easy to mount panniers (carrying baskets for bikes) with the rack.

Good reviews. The rack should show good reviews from its present, and, if possible, long term users.

Installation Issues

All equipment that needs to be mounted on a bike may create installation problems, because bike frames have different geometries and sizes, and because mounted components are all different. It is quite possible that the rack model you pick can be mounted very easily - in fact, it is likely. But there is still a possibility that the way your bike is put together requires some adjustments or extra parts. If you have any doubt, your best bet is to buy the rack you want from a local bike store, and/or ask for the equipment to be mounted for you. It will only cost you a few dollars and make the process very easy. Use your local bike store!

The Best Bike Rack

The $28 Topeak Explorer Bike Rack is a perfect illustration of the right bike rack. It gets the best reviews we could find for a bike rack, with 88% positive ratings (110/125 at Amazon and REI) and a likely error below 6%. Users like the sturdiness: "strong product", "very well made", "feels super sturdy", "very solid and look good too", "very satisfied with the quality, it was very well built","very solid." The weight, at 1.38 lb (625 g), is not negligible, but acceptable: "much lighter than it looks", "a little on the heavy side."  The rack has mounting points for a red light/ reflector.  Numerous reviewers mention mounting panniers on it with success. In particular, many users mention its fit to the Topeak MTX pannier system as a big plus. A similar model with a spring loaded top is available, although some users complain that it rattles more. Reviewers are pleased with the fit of the mounted product: "like a glove."

While the rack can clearly mount onto almost any model of bike, it is not always a perfectly straightforward operation, and the few negative reviews all have to do with installation. The rack can be mounted directly on a bike with threaded seat stay bosses, but, if yours does not have them, a simple adaptor such as this rack mount post clamp will allow an easy mount. Be careful if you have disc brakes: you need the exact same model, but with disc brake mounts. Even positive reviews mention some installation issues: "I did have to bend the little rods on the front of the rack down quite a bit to get them to reach", "with a little bit of ingenuity and time I was able to make it fit","I had to purchase tools to try to fit this on a bike","you can get a seat post collar/adapter to connect the rack with." Given the wide variability of frame geometries, we consider that some installations should be expected to be harder than others, and have not found any other rack model with easier installation reviews.

What if you want alternatives to the Explorer? The Explorer is the clear review winner across the web - everything else is second best. Other possibilities could be the Delta SuperSherpa,  the  Blackburn MTN (-1 at 1.2 lb or -2 at 1.3 lb, depending upon the tire size) for a mountain bike, or the 1.5 lb BlackBurn EX-1 for a 700cc road or cross bike. The Delta model gets good (but fewer) reviews, and the Blackburn racks have a long track record of 20+ years.

 The Topeak Explorer Bike Rack is an excellent bike rack, sturdy and reliable, and adjustable to most frames. We believe that it is the best universal bike rack available today, and have no hesitation in recommending it heartily.

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