For the past couple of weeks I’ve been carrying my full commute load (lunch, change of clothes, laptop, papers, e-devices, etc.) in a pair of panniers on the back of my Civia. Like the Surly I was riding before I purchased this bike, the Civia has high trail geometry optimized for carrying a rear load. The assumption seems to be that a person will throw a rack and a pair of panniers on the back and call it good, which is probably true in most cases. Up to a point, the Civia handles well when loaded in this way, with the steering livening up as some weight is placed on the rear. Beyond a certain amount of weight though, the front end starts feeling a little light and squirrelly, an issue that may be exacerbated by the fact that the internal gear hub also shifts the weight bias rearward.
In an attempt to mitigate for the unbalanced feeling of overloading the rear of the bike, I recently installed my Pass & Stow porteur rack and Freight Baggage bag on the front fork of the Civia. This is the rack/bag combo I’ve been running on my Surly for the past couple of years. With this set-up I’m able to balance the load between the front and rear of the bike. Like on the Surly, having the rack and bag on the front slows down the steering and increases the tendency for the wheel to flop to the side, but it’s something I’ve been able to adapt to with minimal effort. The plus is that the bike feels much more steady and planted on the road when the cargo is split front and rear in this way. An added benefit is that the front wheel stays on the ground while loading the rear panniers (with no weight on the front of the bike, the loaded panniers cause the bike to tip back on the rear wheel when up on the Pletscher Double kickstand).
This is still a work in progress, but even after a short time I’m liking having a little weight on the front wheel again. I’m carrying lunch, layers, and tools up front, with the remaining weight in the back. My guess is that this splits the load approximately 40/60 front and rear. This weight distribution worked well on my Surly and so far it looks to be a good set-up on the Civia as well.