I’ve been using a porteur rack on my everyday commuter for a couple of years now. I’d become so accustomed to having one on the bike that I started wondering what it would be like to live without one. So, when I got my new bike (Civia Bryant) I rode it for a couple of weeks sans rack before moving my Pass & Stow over from my old bike. It was an interesting exercise, but I must say, I missed the rack and I’m glad to have it available again.
My Civia is not optimized for carrying a front load (neither was my last bike, a Surly LHT). Both have high trail geometry optimized for carrying weight in the rear. But, for commuting and utility riding where trips are not often more than 15-20 miles tops, front loading a high trail bike is not as much of an issue as it is for randonneuring or touring where trips can be hundreds of miles at a stretch, sometimes when the rider is tired and sleep-deprived. In other words, I’ve had no issue with a porteur rack on either of these bikes for the short hops and city riding that I do.
So, what’s so good about a porteur rack? Well, to put it simply, I find having a level, 10″-12″ square platform on a bike immensely convenient for carrying stuff. Here are just a few things porteur racks are good at hauling:
- Bulky, lightweight items such as cases of paper towels, toilet tissue, chips, etc.
- Items that are too large for panniers such as pumpkins/squash/watermelon, cases of water/beer, pizzas, lumber, and so on
- Bulky clothing such as rain shells, overcoats, extra shoes, etc.
- Wet items (to keep them separate from the dry/delicate items in your panniers)
As seen in some of the photos on the blog, I often have a Freight Baggage dry bag strapped to my porteur rack. This waterproof bag is specifically designed to fit the Pass & Stow rack (Swift Industries also makes a similar bag for this rack). I find the Freight Baggage bag quite useful for everyday commuting. It carries my lunch and any loose items, plus it’s large enough that I can use it as a stuff sack for the extra layers I peel off on the afternoon leg of my commute. I also keep a repair kit and extra tube in the front pocket.
The bag sometimes comes off on the weekend (it only takes 10 seconds) for more serious hauling. When I need to lash something larger to the rack, I either use a bungee net or a couple/few Irish straps. It’s when hauling oversized items that a porteur rack really shines and the limitations of a rear rack come more into focus.
Certainly a rear rack with a pair of large panniers will suffice for many people—I could make a basic two pannier set-up work for much of how I use a bike. But, the convenience of having a place to quickly stow loose items, as well as the flexibility and usefulness of having a stable platform for carrying oversized items, make a porteur rack an indispensable part of my commuting/utility rig.