These are now fitted, so this is just a quick update on how the fit went and my first ride with them on.
The rack simply came in a plastic bag with some Topeak bumpf on it and a small thin box which contained the mounting brackets, nuts, bolts and washers. The first thing I noticed was the traditional (silver), thin alloy mounting brackets it had in the pic had been replaced by a much more solid 2-piece (black) bracket which would be easier to adjust the angle of rather than bending.
After I figured out the orientation of the brackets, I put the two pieces together with a nut, bolt and washer and secured these loosely to the rack. I undid my mudguard bolts and fitted the guard mounts between the frame and rack and secured them loosely again with the bolt provided (both sides). I adjusted the angle of the mounting brackets to ensure the rack was horizontal and then tightened the 4 bolts on the rack top, the bolts on each mounting bracket and the 2 bolts on the rear stays and the seat stays. all done. Solid as a rock and centred.
Fitting the panniers was simple. They clip onto the top of the rack tubing and you slide a retaining clip (further down the inside of the bag) around a rack upright so they don’t ‘flap’ over bumps. There is also a clip in between the 2 main clips which turns 90 degs to clip under the top tube of the rack to stop it jumping off. The only thing I did have to do was move the panniers further back on the rack so that my foot didn’t snag them when pedaling.
The bags themselves are great. They seem big enough and upto the job. When you unclip the hood, inside is a drawstring collar which closes the top of the bag and there is a zipped pocket right on the top too. Wheel-side of the bag is nice and sturdy with a PE board that helps retain the clips that secure the bag to the rack. The bike seemed a lot heavier but all in all I’m very happy with them as I expected that. So far so good
The first ride
It was time to go back to work and resume my commutes after the Xmas break. I had been ill and only ridden once in 2 weeks since Xmas Eve so I was a bit apprehensive about my fitness despite having to cycle a heavier bike now. I needed to take my kit in for work. All of it. A fresh towel, jeans, t-shirt, underwear, my lunch and shoes. I got it all in one pannier and opted for just the one on the right hand side. I clipped the lid down and then picked up the bike. Jeez. It felt like it was 30lbs. Probably wasn’t but my bike is 23lbs (heavy 30c tyres, guards, bottle, lights etc) as it was before the rack and panniers were fitted. I Just got it in my head I was going to struggle over the Lickeys.
D-day then. So I got up, did my thing and then left the house as normal. I’d decided to leave 5 mins earlier as I expected to be slower. I rode out of my street. All was ok. I got out of the saddle and the right hand pannier was very obvious so I sat back down. The first mile is downhill and then I have steady drag up and over the Lickeys which was the first test. I hit the drag, clicked down the gears and just pushed on. Same effort as normal but surprisingly not particularly much slower! Hmmmmm. Downhill was fine. Braking was fine. Riding around the bendy bits out of Barnt Green was fine and then there are a couple of drags out of Alvechurch village and up past The Holloway towards Redditch. I expected the weight of the bike to bite here. Nope. Absolutely fine. I could feel it obviously but a little extra effort was all that I needed. This played out all the way to work and I rocked up chuffed and fresher than I was expecting. Perhaps this isn’t going to be as bad as I thought then!
Coming home, a couple of guys from Boardman bikes were riding home my way too on their way back to Stourbridge. They come past my house so we ride together. They were riding carbon Boardman’s which although they had guards etc, were still a faster bike than I had. My bag wasn’t as bad coming back but it was half full with dirty kit I was coming back with. We set off home steady and the first few drags were fine but I could tell keeping up with them on required a little bit of extra effort to stay in the wheels. By the time we got to Barnt Green, I knew all I had to do was get over the Lickeys but Fiery Hill Road this side is much steeper and this time it did bite. Significantly. I had to dig deep to stay with them over the top. On the steepest bit, it seemed no matter what I was putting through the pedals I was just slowing down. It is was only short and sharp but my legs did complain that night in the bath.
So overall, it was fine. Its super steep stuff I’m going to need to be mindful of in May which conveniently leads me onto my next post about my research on my gearing and my new(ish) wheels which will take me
These were my commutes with the rack and bag. 40 mins is about right without a rack and pannier so I was pleased with that