Large Front Panniers?



jeepguy32

New Member
May 26, 2007
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I've just built up a Surly Long Haul Trucker, complete with their Nice Rack racks. My Arkel GT-54 panniers (the largest non-tandem pannier Arkel makes, I think) which I use on my rear rack also happen to fit on the front rack in the low-rider position, and still leave room for my big touring basket on top for miscellaneous handy light stuff.

I am thinking about finally getting panniers for the front, and am considering buying another pair of the large panniers I already own. My question(s) is this: Since I am able to mount large panniers up front, why not? I would have capacity for high-volume low-weight items for sure. Does anyone have ACTUAL EXPERIENCE using large and/or heavy panniers in a low-rider position up front?

Thanks!
 

watermelon

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Feb 15, 2010
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I think you have to consider the braking effect of all that size (not very aerodynamic) and a slower steering (heavy). I really like my small front panniers but I keep trying to get lighter.
 

alfeng

Well-Known Member
Jul 23, 2005
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There may be an advantage to having a heavier front end, but I don't know what it is.

As I've stated in the past, I think you want the least amount of weight on the front of the bike as possible.

So, if you use rear panniers on the front, pack them with the light, bulky stuff ... and, be sure the left-and-right are as balanced as possible -- your "3 lbs." sleeping bag on one side, and about the same amount of weight on the other.
 

biketowork

New Member
Jul 14, 2010
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I second not recommending heavy stuff up front. I have done a bunch of fully loaded trips, up to a month long, and have always used small front bags, and even then were always careful with keeping it light, as I did not like the feel of heavy steering, not to mention handling characteristics on fast downhills and around corners on downhills. Have toured most of teh Pyrenees mtns, have gone down the west coast of the US and purely from a safety angle, keep it light is my experienced opinion.

not to mention just plain old less work for you, being very minimalist for me came from doing my first big trip fully loaded (Gaspe penninsula, Quebec Canada) where I had too much stuff, and it wasnt fun on the killer climbs that I encountered--I learned the hard way.

its the old axom, like a gas that will fit a given space whether big or small, if you have large front bags, you're going to put **** in em. Again, from a handling pt of view, you wouldnt want big bags with little stuff in them being "shifty" or "floppy", nor as someone stated, why put a even bigger "sail" in front for headwinds.

only you will know after attempting a trip what weight is ok for you, or if having a big wad of stuff up front is a prob for you or not, maybe you take it easy on downhills, or whatever, but my opinion is to keep it lean.

Oh, Same goes for a handlebar bag--this really impacts your steering if it is "heavy".

last opinion--try to realistically pack your big as for a trip and actually ride the thing long BEFORE your trip, this may be an incentive to trim your stuff down. And IMO, no, you dont need a chain whip, or a big honking adjsutable wrench, or cone wrenches etc, (depending on where you are going that is I realize) One cooking pot, light plastic cup instead of your fav stainless one etc etc

All kinds of stuff adds up to weight, and riding BEFOREHAND with your god-awfully-heavy bike will show you what it really feels like. Hell, go up a good steep hill with it like this, and down too.
 

rcrampton

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Mar 17, 2005
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I usually run GT-54's on the back and GT-18's on the front. I've had a couple of occasions where I put the GT-54's on the front, and it was fine. They weren't heavily loaded and I didn't ride big miles. maybe 50 or so. The only thing I was worried about what steering in things like sand. I wondered if a lot of weight on the front would cause the tire to bite into sand/loose dirt and cause problems. Buy I never tried it out.

I've consistently ready the same as everyone else - keep weight low and don't put too much on the front. I've toured with various amounts of weight on the back and front and while I can tell the difference I've never felt like any configuration was unsafe, hard to handle, etc. I just strap **** on wherever it fits and ride.

If I had a crapload of weight I wouldn't hesitate to put half of it on the front. I'd be curious what you learn if you try it.
 

rcrampton

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Mar 17, 2005
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I usually run GT-54's on the back and GT-18's on the front. I've had a couple of occasions where I put the GT-54's on the front, and it was fine. They weren't heavily loaded and I didn't ride big miles. maybe 50 or so. The only thing I was worried about what steering in things like sand. I wondered if a lot of weight on the front would cause the tire to bite into sand/loose dirt and cause problems. Buy I never tried it out.

I've consistently ready the same as everyone else - keep weight low and don't put too much on the front. I've toured with various amounts of weight on the back and front and while I can tell the difference I've never felt like any configuration was unsafe, hard to handle, etc. I just strap **** on wherever it fits and ride.

If I had a crapload of weight I wouldn't hesitate to put half of it on the front. I'd be curious what you learn if you try it.
 

vspa

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Jan 11, 2009
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i have used medium size front panniers, low position, worked fine.
 

Froze

Well-Known Member
Jul 13, 2004
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There's nothing wrong with large panniers up front, that's why they make them! You just have to watch your weight distribution to make sure it stays at 40 percent in the front and 60 in the rear. And that front weight has to include your handlebar bag stuff too.
 

bbrauer

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Feb 27, 2007
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I've done longer tours with front bags and also had my touring bike set up as a "heavy bike" training mule with sand bags as weights in the front and rear. I don't really mind the slower steering with weight up front if I'm using lowrider racks. It's more important that you have the weight balanced AND have the bags securely attached to the racks. One one trip, I used bungee cords to lash the front bags down so they were really secure and didn't flop around. If you have a good rack/bag combo that has a solid rear backing and a stiff rack, then that helps. That said, I still used the front bags to store clothing and toiletries and lighter stuff that I didn't necessarily need quick access to....maybe some guide books as long as they're evenly divided between bags. Used the rear bags for food, cooking gear, bike repair, heavy guidebooks and stuff that I needed access to. Put the tent, bag, Thermarest on top of the rear rack and lashed it down.

I wouldn't be afraid of the weight so much. When you're on the flats, the weight is almost a benefit once you get that inertia going. Combine that with the slow steering, you feel like an irresistable force.
 

cruisin

New Member
May 21, 2007
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You will only know by trying. I have a converted mountain bike with a surly instigator fork that handles any load I put on the front. I also have a Fargo that seems to hate front panniers at all.
 

The1Maya

New Member
Sep 20, 2010
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Have you considered a trailer? The newest trailer on the market is Maya Cycle, single wheel bicycle cargo trailer that has a kickstand to hold bicycle and trailer upright and also converts into a wheelbarrow. Check it out at www.mayacycle.com and let me know what your thoughts are. We just launched but I've been using the sample myself for years now (while product has been in development) and I think its awesome and so convenient. I've used other trailers in the past, even two-wheel but the Maya Cycle is definately the easiest to use and the most convenient. Paniers are cool too when you don't have a lot of cargo, but if you have up to 66 lbs, trailer is the best way to go. Happy Holidays everyone!!!
 

Froze

Well-Known Member
Jul 13, 2004
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Not afraid of the weight? How much weight would you consider to be too much before you do fear it? You have to remember, for every pound of weight that gets you that "inertia" going also will slow down that inertia a lot going up hills. Use some common sense before you write. Most heavy laden tourers don't pack more then 70 pounds of gear.

And on any web site on the internet or books on the subject does anyone say to have the same weight front to rear, they all use the 40/60 rule. I can only assume that Bbrauer was referring to evenly balancing the weight from one side to the other, and not front to rear.

There are pros and cons to both panniers and trailers, read this site then make up your mind which appeals to you: http://www.adventurecycling.org/features/bigdebate.cfm

And if you want more information on any subject involving touring see these websites:
http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/touring/
http://bicycleuniverse.info/touring/
http://www.bicycletouring101.com/TableOfContents.htm
http://www.cyclocamping.com/Tips_Tricks/87-1-cat.aspx
http://www.myra-simon.com/myra/bike/tips.html

There's also a great book called: "The Essential Touring Cyclist, A Complete Guide for the Bicycle Traveler" By Richard A Lovett; Ragged Mountain Press, second edition.
 

nuliajuk

New Member
Dec 5, 2009
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Having commuted to work on a hub gear bike for two years now, I'm inclined to think that front panniers would be the way to go if, heaven forbid, I ever took this monstrosity on a tour. The weight at the front would balance the heavy back end quite nicely, and the hefty disc brake forks would easily carry the load.
 

Ablejack

New Member
Aug 19, 2014
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I always ride with larger panniers up front. Or often with no panniers in the back. It is primarily an a British preference to do it the wrong way. I mean the other way of course! I follow the more continental approach with bigger baggage and more weight in front. The French tradition is to carry about two thirds of the weight in front. I have tried both ways and this is what I prefer if since I have a proper continental frame for that. Basically that means medium to low trail on my light touring 650b randonneuse . Handling is enhanced rather than hindered by the front carriage and there is no aerodynamic penalty either. You may actually enjoy a benefit having your legs in the lower pressure "dirty air" turbulence behind the panniers. This takes advantage of any drag rather than uselessly creating turbulence behind you, just like a motorbike faring or a randonneur bag does. I find having weight in the rear makes the bike feel "whippy" which is especially unnerving at higher speeds during descents. As somewhat of a retro-grouch I also appreciate the classic look of the larger front panniers (especially french waxed canvas gear). But really whatever works best for you IS best for you: Even if we base our preference on preconceived notions. The best set-up is the one that gets us out on our bikes for a while.
As for trailers, they do not fit well with my style. I will often find trails to take along my way and enjoy the freedom of being able to dismount and carry my bike to cross difficult passages such as stairs, streams, etc. Also I feel it would be cumbersome to have a trailer in urban traffic or more technically demanding trails.
 

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