You may have noticed that a lot of bikes have racks attached to them nowadays, due to the growing popularity of commuting via bicycle.
A lot of people have converted to cycling to work due to the fitness benefits it provides as well as how beneficial it is to the environment, and often how practical it is when compared to sitting in traffic and finding a coveted parking space that doesn’t involve a 20-minute walk across town.
The main drawback that bikes have is that they can’t always store very much, making it harder to carry everything you need for work or whatever else you plan to use your bike for.
This is where bike racks come in. They are simple metal frames that can be mounted onto your bike to provide attachment points and space for a surprising amount of storage, enabling you to get all the benefits of cycling while not needing to compromise on bringing everything you need along with you.
Bike racks, particularly rear bike racks are used for everything today, from food delivery to heavy equipment, camping gear, or whatever else you may need to bring with you.
It’s this versatility that makes a rear bike rack such a great accessory and there are more than a few ways to set your rack up to get the absolute most out of it, from storage capacity to security and protection.
It really depends on which type of rack you use, what you need to store, and whether you’d prefer to mount things directly on your rack or use pannier bags to protect your belongings and keep everything dry and secure. This leads us neatly on to our next point...
Are all bike rear racks the same?
While rear bike racks are often very similar and have a lot of comparable features, there are some key differences that set apart certain rear racks.
The first difference to be aware of is that not all bike racks are made of the same material.
The most practical and common material is aluminum, due to its competitive mix of durability and strength alongside its light weight and resistance to rusting and rain.
There are some stainless steel rear racks that some cyclists think are far stronger than aluminum.
While stainless steel is a touch stronger, it won’t make much of a difference for the average load a cyclist will want to carry, and the added weight and susceptibility to rusting can make these types of rack more troublesome.
There are also rear racks designed for certain types of bikes, with sleeker, more aerodynamic styles for road bikes, as well as sturdier styles for adventure biking.
There are even designs that are made to work with folding bikes. It’s important to make sure you know the type of bike you have so you can make sure your rack is compatible with it before you purchase, to avoid disappointment and annoying returns processes.
There are some bike racks that are spring-loaded, however, we don’t especially recommend these as it’s a little bit of a gimmick that can be prone to failure and doesn’t add very much utility over a quality standard bike track.
There are also rear racks that can mount to your seat post, which can be convenient for very light loads as they’re easy to fit.
There are several drawbacks, however. Seat post-mounted bike racks can be unstable, don’t allow you to use panniers, and can cause a lot of wobbling.
They also can’t store very much. These racks also make changing your saddle height awkward if not impossible, so only use these for very light usage.
Can you add a rear rack to bikes?
Yes, but it does depend on the type of bike. Not all bikes will have the appropriate mounts to allow you to use a bike rack, so it’s really important to check this before you purchase.
Most reputable commuter bikes and all-rounder bikes will have these mounts, which are usually located next to the rear hub and on the seat stays of your bike.
If these eyelets or mounts aren’t there, you can look at some other styles of rack such as a seat post mounted rack, or look at using a different design such as the Topeak TETRARACK M2 which uses a bespoke mounting system that doesn’t need the usual mounts.
It may also be possible to use a standard bike rack if you don’t mind using p-clamps or some other additional clamp system to latch your rack onto.
Just be aware that adding clamps can affect the stability of the overall system and may cause damage to the paintwork of your frame.
A good tip is to use a small square of old inner tube to place between the clamp and your frame to reduce the friction your clamps put on your seat stays or wherever the clamp is mounted.
How do you attach a rear bike rack?
Attaching a rear bike track is relatively easy but can be fiddly. It also may differ slightly depending on the type of rack you’re using, as well as the type of bike you’re using.
Assuming you’re using a standard rear bike track and a commuter bike with eyelets in the correct positions on the rear dropouts and seat stays, it’s a relatively simple process.
The first thing to do is attach the sliding arms to the underside of your rack if your rack uses them.
Once they are attached, you’ll need to mount the rack to the rear dropouts. The eyelets you need should be located on the rear dropout itself, near where your wheels slot into your frame.
Typically this type of eyelet will use the same size mount as your bottle bosses, so feel free to use these to secure your rack if they’re compatible.
Line up the eyelets on the rack and the dropout and then screw in the eyelet bolts on both sides gradually to avoid an uneven fit and prevent them from seizing up.
Your rack is now attached to your bike! However, it will still be able to swivel up and down until it’s attached to the seat stays.
If there are mounts already in place, simply line up the slidable arms or seat stay eyelets on the upper part of your rack with the mounts on your frame or the p-clamps you’ve attached to your seat stays.
Using the same technique you used on the dropouts, simply line up the eyelets and tighten them gradually using the correct bolts to ensure a safe and proper fit.
Once this is done, your rack is now fully mounted to your bike. Give each screw a little tighten to make sure it's fully fitted and prevent rattling.
Give everything a little shake to ensure nothing is wrong and you should be good to go.
What should I put on my rear bike rack?
This is the beauty of a rear bike rack, you can put whatever you want on it!
Depending on the rack you can use pannier bags, baskets, or even mount things directly to the rack.
Bungee cord is your friend when mounting things, and always make sure everything is properly secured to prevent a nasty accident or losing your precious cargo!