Cycling around San Francisco almost everyday for the past year and a half made me want to look for a better way to carry stuff with me.
I tried the rear rack with baskets approach, but I kept clipping my heels on the baskets and having lots of weight in the back made my bike fish tail too much for my liking. It especially made the bike handle poorly at low speeds and when walking the bike since I hold the bike by the stem1.
Convinced, I picked up a front porteur rack, the Origin 8 Classique, and immediately preferred it to my old rear rack set up. However, I realized quickly that my bungee cord solution for attaching stuff to the front rack left a lot to be desired.
After looking at a lot of different porteur bags, I ended up swinging by Inside Lines Equipment’s shop over in Berkeley and played around with their made-in-Berkeley Rackbag. They had it in a beautiful limited-edition copper/gold color in the XPAC material with a fully waterproof tarpulin liner. Unlike the other XPAC colors, this color was matte and did not have that technical-looking sheen to it. XPAC is a great bag material, it feels very solid and holds its shape well, while also being lightweight. I had to get it and now that I’ve had it for about two weeks I thought I would give a quick review of what I like and what I don’t.
One of my favorite features are the two easily accessible pockets at the rear of the bag that face you while on the bike. These are great for storing things that you need to be easily accessible on the go. I keep my Abus U-lock in one pocket and miscellaneous things I need in the other. They are quite large and you can easily fit even large snacks, smartphones, etc.
It attaches via two easily adjustable straps on the bottom of the bag. Once you set them to work for your rack, you can attach it and go pretty quickly. I can attach it based on feel now so I don’t need to squat down any more to attach it.
Let me go ahead and say that this bag is huge, it can expand to hold 42L of your stuff. You’ll probably hit the weight limits of your front rack before filling this thing up. It has some straps hidden in the velco flap to strap on oversized items.
Like any porteur bag, it looks the most at home on the bike, but it can pass as a messenger bag whenever you need to leave the bike behind. The flat, rigid base makes it have unique profile that might not be for everyone.
However, that leads me to probably my least favorite aspects of the bag: there isn’t a good hand hold if the shoulder strap is attached. They include a nice grab strap, but that can only be used in place of the the shoulder strap, not in addition to. The only other complaint I have is that it would be nice to have some kind of organization inside the main pocket because everything just jostles in the same cavernous hole.
Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase. It very freeing to not have to put everything on my back while riding and I find that I much prefer having the weight in the front. The ILE Porteur Rackbag is a high-quality, lightweight, versatile, and waterproof bag that I’m sure will last me a very long time.
Cetma Cargo’s reasons for preferring a front rack, in case the link goes down
Four barely compelling reasons for using a front rack:
The rear wheel is inherently weaker than the front wheel due to its asymmetrical build, offset hub, and torque input.
The rear part of the frame is where almost all frames break. The thin chain stays and seat stays are notorious weak spots.
Carrying weight on a rear rack makes the entire bike feel unstable and top-heavy. Put a heavy box on a rear rack and try to ride down the street. The entire frame flexes and the bike tries to lay down. Come to a stop and it gets downright scary. Transporting that box becomes a precarious balancing act. It’s easier to handle cargo when it’s up front near your hands.
Rear-loaded freight remains behind you while you ride (duh), and you can’t see if it’s shifting or about to fall. It’s easier to keep an eye on cargo when it’s in front of you.)
- Cetma Cargo