Stuff We Like: Rivendell/Nitto Big Back Rack

We’re fortunate that we have the opportunity to play with a wide variety of commuting gear. We’ve been particularly inundated with bags and racks this past year. As much as we enjoy testing new equipment, it’s been a little puzzling, and more than a little frustrating, that many of the panniers and rear racks we test are not compatible with one another. Some racks don’t accept closed loops, others don’t accept standard clip diameters, some aren’t compatible with loop straps, and so on. The one pannier rack that we’ve had in-house that accepts every bag in the bike room is the Rivendell/Nitto Big Back Rack.

Take a close look at the above photo to see why this rack is so versatile. At the bottom, near the dropout eyelet, you’ll notice a pin that accepts loop-style pannier connectors. Above that there’s a horizontal bar suitable for S-type connectors, and on top of the horizontal bar is a loop that can be used for strap-type connectors such as those found on some European panniers. There may be others out there, but this is the only rack we’ve seen that can accommodate all three types of pannier connectors. And unlike some of the European racks we’ve tested, the Nitto is made from small diameter tubing that accepts every type of upper rack attachment as well.

The Big Back Rack is manufactured by Nitto for Rivendell. It’s constructed from 9mm tubular chromoly, the joints are fillet-brazed, and the whole thing is nickel-plated. Besides being the most versatile rack we’ve tested, it’s also one of the strongest and most beautiful.

Rivendell/Nitto Big Back Rack

Note: A similar, if not identical, rack is sold under the Nitto label as the Campee R-32 Rear Rack.

Disclosure: Rivendell is a sponsor of this website.

18 Responses to “Stuff We Like: Rivendell/Nitto Big Back Rack”

  • brad says:

    I’ve spent a lot of money on rear racks in the past year: my problem is that the wheelbase on my city bike is fairly short and my feet are really big (size 14-15). So I have a hard time finding a rack that allows me to install my panniers and ride without practically having to pedal with my heels.

    So far I’ve settled on one of the Tubus racks with an extension that pushes the rack back slightly, but even with that I only have about 1/4″ of clearance between my heel and the pannier when pedaling with the ball of my foot, and if the pannier’s full I still end up kicking it unless I pedal at my arches.

    This one looks like it might do the trick, but it’s hard to say. Are there any “long tail” racks out there that might work for a Bigfoot like me?

  • Doug P says:

    Mr Bigfoot Brad;
    Maybe try a different approach.
    That is to use front (lowrider) panniers for the heavy stuff, and only the top of the rear rack. This approach solves 2 problems. First, the heaviest items will fall below the front axles, meaning the bike will become more stable and can be ridden no hands. Second, the rear items, like a tent or sleeping bag, can be moved much farther forward on top of the rear rack, again making for better handling and NO chance of heel strikes. I realize this doesn’t work for the really big loads, but it is more fun to simplify if possible, no?
    Anyway, have fun and keep the rubber side down!
    Doug
    velocodger

  • brad says:

    Thanks Doug. I have a touring bike with front and rear racks and panniers, and because the wheelbase is longer I have no trouble with heel strikes there. It’s the city bike that’s the problem, and that’s the one I use to go to the market and come back with 40 pounds or more of bulky groceries. And unfortunately the city bike doesn’t have braze-ons in front for lowriders (although I could clamp ‘em on, I guess). Plus I prefer to keep the fork on my city bike free of a rack, as it makes it easier for me to use the rack-style bike parking at the market (which can accommodate several hundred bikes; it’s actually hard to find a parking space there on summer weekend mornings when everyone rides to do their shopping!

  • Jonathan says:

    I have the Nitto Big Back Rack, love it, and use it every day, but I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even realize how versatile it is! Both of my sets of panniers are S-hook style, and they do attach easier to this rack than any I’ve had. Looks like I can safely go bag-shopping with the confidence that anything will work. Thanks for pointing out all of it’s features!

  • Jeff says:

    @ Brad
    Have you consisered a trailer?

  • JB says:

    @Brad,

    I recommend an xtracycle. Plenty of heel clearance, and hard to beat for 40lbs of bulky groceries.

  • Doug P says:

    Wow Brad, you are really lucky to be living where people ride bikes in large numbers. At our local Trader Joe’s, I usually share the bike rack with one or two other cyclists. The parking lot is too small, forcing drivers to queue up. This leads to frayed tempers, horn honking, and finger salutes among the motorists-yet still almost no one bikes. Our California weather is not to blame, either. Hard to figure….oh well-enjoy your Big Rack if you buy one. It certainly is a thing of beauty!

  • Alan says:

    @Brad

    Unfortunately, the issue of insufficient heel clearance is all too common with city bikes; that’s one of the reasons I put together my grocery hauler based upon a touring frame (Surly LHT). I hate to say it, but JB’s recommendation of adding an Xtracycle kit may be the best, though albeit expensive, solution; I think it’s unlikely any standard rear pannier rack is going to solve the problem.

    Alan

  • brad says:

    Thanks, all for the comments, very helpful. I’ve heard these recommendations before, but that’s good, because the more I hear them the more I realize that I should follow them! ;-)

    I should indeed consider either a trailer or Xtracycle. Wike makes an interesting shopping trailer that converts to a shopping cart, which appeals to me although some of the stores I go to have narrow aisles and I’d have to leave it outside. I’ll look into the Xtracycle as well.

    @Doug, I live in Montréal, which is full of bicyclists, even in winter! It was snowing here yesterday and I encountered a bunch of other cyclists on my trip to the food shop yesterday afternoon, several of them in their 70s or 80s. I’m just about done for the season, though, as I don’t like riding on ice (even with studded tires) and snow.

  • Doug P says:

    @ Brad- Malgré la neige, vous roulez toujours sans char? Chouette! vous êtes fortiches! We Californians are way too auto-dependent. Chapeau!

  • Liz says:

    The one thing I noticed about the Rivendell/Nitto rack is that it doesn’t seem to take — at least without an additional mount — nice European rear lights (the ones that have two bolts horizontally to attach). The Tubus racks seem to be the only ones that do. The Nitto racks look lovely otherwise, but without a decent light attachment, eh…

    See the Busch and Muller rack-mounted taillaight below.

    http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/taillights-bat.asp

    – Liz

  • Alan says:

    @Liz

    If you have a Euro tail light, all you need is this little $3 part available at Peter White and elsewhere (some lights even come with an adapter). The Nitto (and most other racks) will accept U.S. style light mounts without an adapter.

    Alan

  • Barbara Kilts says:

    When Burley was making recumbents, they sold a rear rack mounting kit that would kick it back a good 3-4 inches to allow the seat to be laid back. Perhaps you can find one at a dealer or online. It does look a bit extreme, but for Brad’s case, may work.

  • Rob Perks says:

    How well does this rack play with the Arkel mounting system? I have been using their system for a couple of years now and am quite happy with the cam locked hooks both on and off of the pavement. I have shied away from these racks in the past as the bracing appears to conspire againt the hook/cam combination. As you now have both, your insights are appreciated.

  • Mark says:

    Re: Arkel Mounting System:

    My research indicates that the large Arkel panniers using the 10″ mounting tracks work just fine. See http://lemolobags.wordpress.com/the-pannier/ for pictures showing the 10″ Arkel hardware in action with this rack.

    As for the bags using the 8″ mounting track, an acquaintance verified that if the hook hangers are reversed so they face the opposite direction, those bags work fine as well.

    If I get any further info from Arkel or Rivendell, I’ll update here.

  • Mark says:

    Re: Arkel Mounting System – Final Redux

    I contacted Rivendell and Arkel to get their take. The person answering the phone at Rivendell just said that they don’t have any Arkel gear at Rivendell so they didn’t know how it works. Hmm… cop out.

    Arkel was not much more helpful. They said that the design might pose problems but they didn’t know for sure. They’d be happy to give a full refund if it didn’t work out. Hmm… again.

    So I took my new Nitto Big Back Rack to Calhoun Cycles to see for myself — they stock a huge selection of Arkel bags. I can say that the bags using the 10″ tracks can be made to work, but they might not work smoothly. It took jiggling to get the cams to close when hanging on the rack and to open when removing the bag from the rack. The bags with 8″ tracks looked to be about the same, but I didn’t actually put one of these on the rack (see my previous entry, however). I didn’t have time to fiddle with the bag; I just used the stock settings, so some adjustments may have made things go more smoothly.

    Your mileage may vary…

    I personally have opted for Swift Industries panniers, which better fit my tastes and budget.

  • Alan says:

    @Rob

    The 8″ Arkel commuting bags (Metro and Bug) fit fine with a slight adjustment from the factory settings. All you need to do is slide the hooks closer together by about 1″-1.5″ so that one fits in the gap between the rear of the rack and the rear strut, and the other fits toward the front of the middle section of the rack, between the struts.

    Alan

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