Rack ‘em

If you’re serious about replacing your car with a bike, you’ll need some way to carry stuff. A rear rack and a pair of panniers is a good place to start, but eventually you’ll probably need more carrying capacity. Here are a few ways to increase the carrying capacity of a bike:

  • Handlebar bags, baskets, and rack trunks are simple additions that can increase carrying capacity by 20% or more.
  • Front cargo racks can easily double the carrying capacity of a bike.
  • The ultimate cargo add-on is the Xtracycle Free Radical Kit, though it increases the wheelbase of the host bike which can be problematic for commuters.

Fully dedicated, production cargo bikes like the Big Dummy, Yuba Mundo, and Dutch Bakfiets are able to carry the largest and heaviest loads, though standard bikes with front and rear racks can carry a surprising amount and may be more versatile for everyday use than their cargo-specific counterparts.

The two bikes pictured above are a Civia Loring (right) and a modified Surly LHT. The Civia comes ready-to-go from the factory with a rear rack and a front cargo rack. The LHT is sporting an aftermarket Tubus “Cargo” rear rack and a front cargo rack from Pass & Stow. Both bikes are capable of carrying fairly substantial loads if packed and loaded carefully.

15 Responses to “Rack ‘em”

  • Helton says:

    I’ve been having some limitations to travel with my wife (on her own bike) and her 7yo kid, who goes on a home made chair over the back rack, because sometimes we do not sleep at home (weekend, holiday) and need to take many clothes.

    I think about putting (buying or building) a front rack for a pair of panniers, and am thinking about lowrider or “highrider” (the later being a small back rack mounted on front).

    Good post, and very good “heavy load” front rack on LHT!

  • John says:

    How long did it take you to get your Pass & Stow rack once you ordered it? I have a CETMARack on order, but I think the mounting may not play nice with my front light setup.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get ahold of CETMA or Pass & Stow via e-mail. I guess I might need to hit the phone to get my answers.

  • Karl OnSea says:

    More than anything, I think adding a rack to a bike is what signifies it’s move from ‘leisure toy’ to practical basic transportation. Even the least practical sports car has a luggage compartment, and small electric cars (the boondoggle du jour if ever there was one) all boast about how much of the week’s shopping they can carry just as soon as they’re charged up.

  • Roland Smith says:

    Over here it’s not unusual to see people cycling with one or two shopping bags hanging from the handlebars. This is very unsafe IMHO, because it very negatively influences the handling of the bike.

    I feel ambivalent about the fork-mounted front racks that move with the wheel as well. I think that (cargo)bikes with frame-mounted racks are much safer.

    Maybe you should look into a detachable trailer?

    Of course, if you want to haul a really heavy load (300 kg!), there is always the original cargo trike. (flat terrain only, though :-)

  • Alan says:


    “How long did it take you to get your Pass & Stow rack once you ordered it?”

    It took approximately 3 weeks from order date to arrival (I’m close by so shipping only took one day). I think the turnaround is likely to vary depending upon where you catch them in the production process when you place your order.


  • Donald says:

    The Pass and Stow is a beautiful rack but I hope you got some sort of trade discount on it. The rack would be worth more than my bike. I use a Blackburn front rack. Not as elegant and the platform is quite small but it gives the ability to hang front panniers and to mount lights away from the handle bar bag. For big loads I hook on the Burley Nomad cargo trailer. I love the look of a bike with front and rear high mount racks. To me, it looks like you are ready for some serious hauling, or a long tour.
    Sacramento, California

  • Ryan says:

    I have a Surly Big Dummy Xtracycle and I don’t find that I am having any problem at all using it as a daily commuter. I ride it 11 miles to work and take it with me into the bathroom when I shower. The bike also fits in the elevators at our work just fine (at a diagonal) and I really love having the kickstand and the snapdeck on the back. I think that having the bike has made my commute easier because I find that loading up the freeloaders is easier than loading panniers. Usually I just carry a few Chico Bags with me to put different things in and that organization works really well.

    Enjoy Bike Month!

  • Alan says:

    Hey Ryan,

    That’s awesome that your employer allows you to bring your bike right into the office!

    In my case, I have a long multi-modal commute that involves buses, trains, and bike lockers, and in-office storage is not allowed. Consequently, my commuter bikes all need to fit standard racks and City lockers. As much as I like them, long wheelbase cargo bikes and recumbents just don’t work for my situation.


  • Steve Fuller says:

    While I find that Pass and Stowe rack quite practical, I do have to say that I think it ruins the clean lines of your LHT that I’ve grown to love. Hopefully it’s not a permanent fixture. :)

  • Ryan says:


    I am lucky that I haven’t been yelled at yet for bringing the bike into the office. It would be a pain to have the long wheel bike on a multi-modal commute. I wanted a LHT really bad but decided to go with the BD because I can get it everywhere I need to on a dailiy basis. I had plans to go say hello at the Folsom College meet up a couple weeks ago but I could not get away from work that early.


  • Alan says:


    “The Pass and Stow is a beautiful rack but I hope you got some sort of trade discount on it.”

    LOL.. no, I paid full retail. It’s an expensive rack, but it will outlast the bike and there’s not much on the market to compete with it. I look at it this way (major rationalization to follow): I need to be able to carry more stuff and I was considering adding a Big Dummy to the stable, so by going with the P&S rack I saved myself a couple of grand and some garage space. :-)

  • Alan says:


    “I had plans to go say hello at the Folsom College meet up a couple weeks ago but I could not get away from work that early.”

    I’m sorry we missed you. Let me know if you’re in Sac – if so, maybe we can meet at the Bicycle Kitchen’s upcoming Second Saturday event.


  • Ryan says:


    I live in Folsom and I have been wanting to check out the Bicycle Kitchen. We should meet up. Also, Bikeramento is going to start next Sunday right? (The closing of one of the downtown streets for cyclists and pedestrians etc.?) I am going to try and make it down town for that. I am on twitter @ryanalward. I follow @ecovelo.


  • Barry says:

    My Xtracycle Free Radical unit serves all my commuting and baggage needs. The bike handles well with heavy loads and is easy to strap on large items. In my case, I was able to utilize my old mountain bike that I was considering selling.

  • Kay Rigg says:

    For even bigger loads check out the gigantic bike trailers at http://www.bikesatwork.com/bike-trailers/. These folks are into serious hauling.

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