Installing a front rack onto your bike is a great way to increase your carrying capacity when you’re touring long distances. Rather than carrying a backpack, front racks take the strain off of your back but allow you to carry loads of up to 35 lbs. You can also maximize your capacity by combining front panniers with rear ones, which are attached to a rear rack. In this article though, we’ll be focusing on the many benefits of front racks.
There is an abundance of racks to choose from, ranging from Lowrider styles to Porteur, to Suspension designs. A basic front rack with a single anchor point is great for lightweight luggage of up to 15 lbs, while a front rack with double anchor points allows you to carry heavier loads of around 30 to 35 lbs. Various racks offer different benefits depending on the weight you need to carry.
While touring, it’s essential to keep your load as light as possible, but if you're going to be touring for a while and need to carry a lot of luggage, a Lowrider rack allows you to maintain maneuverability and stability while doing so. Front racks can also be ideal for quick and easy access to important items and can be used to hold either a front bag or pannier set, depending on your carrying needs.
You needn’t worry about scrolling through the endless options, though. We’ve done the hard work for you, and have picked out our favorite touring front racks on the market. We’ve also put together a handy buyer’s guide so that you can make an informed decision when it comes to purchasing your perfect front rack, so you can get touring as soon as possible!
Top 5 Front Bike Racks For Touring Bikes
OUR TOP PICK
The Tara by Tubus is one of the longest-standing front racks for long-distance touring. This design has been around for 25 years and is a trusted favorite among touring cyclists. It has a capacity of 33 lbs, which Tubus recommends as the maximum weight you should add to your front forks.
Over time Tubus has moderated this popular design, changing the mounting system from three individual holes into one longitudinal hole. The entire mounting to the fork has been improved, making this design even more compatible with various bike forks, allowing a more flexible positioning. The Tara also has extra mounting tabs for mounting fenders directly to the rack, so you won't have to share your behind-the-fork-tip mounting eyelet between rack and fenders. There is plenty of clearance for tall tires and fenders within the rack, and the Lowrider design improves the handling of your bike by keeping your load’s center of gravity low so that you can maintain control over your speed despite the extra weight.
This rack is designed with tourers in mind, and Tubus run a series of tests - including verticle stress, UV, and salt spray resistance - to ensure all their racks can endure the elements. Tubus racks are constructed from steel, yet their designs are surprisingly lightweight, allowing you to combine capacity and longevity with lightness.
- Lowrider design - ideal for touring
- Sturdy, robust frame for heavy loads
- Reliable, long-standing manufacturer
- Front light clip
- Steel material
- Not suitable for mounting on spring or carbon forks without eyelets.
This lightweight yet sturdy aluminum alloy design from Axiom promises that better doesn’t have to cost more. Buyers praised this bike rack for its ability to endure long-distance tours yet not break the bank. While aluminum is less robust than steel, this lightweight design means you won't be adding unnecessary weight to your frame with a bulky rack.
This rack is bolted onto the lower fork eyelets and includes rubberized “V” brackets to ensure a stable 3-point contact on each fork blade for maximum stability. The fore/aft adjustment slots accommodate a wide variety of fork angles, however, these, unfortunately, aren’t compatible with disc brakes.
With an 18kg capacity, this rack holds two panniers and offers the Lowrider design recommended for long-haul touring. If you’re on a budget, this does the job just fine.
- Lightweight design
- Includes rubberized brackets for mounting
- An affordable option for front touring rack
- Not compatible with disc brakes or suspension forks
- Some issues with missing hardware
Another winner from Tubus, and available in silver or black, this simple, attractive model is specifically designed for touring bikes. Tubus make some of the strongest rack systems out there and this one is no different - promising to tolerate extreme loads and fit most panniers. It features a longitudinal hole for optimal fit and increased flexibility. One thing to bear in mind though is that this product isn’t suitable for mounting on spring or carbon forks, as your forks are required to have eyelets on the inside and outside for this rack to be compatible.
This rack has a load capacity of 15 kg, and, thanks to the Lowrider style, you’ll also be able to install an additional front rack higher up, if you require extra storage. As mentioned above, Lowrider designs keep the load's center of gravity low, meaning a more stable ride and more control when cycling at high speeds and over difficult terrain.
Fans of the Duo praise the design for its large capacity, sturdy construction, and the fact that you can store it on a bus/car rack where an arm goes over the front wheel - something that other manufacturers may not have considered. As mentioned previously, Tubus racks are made from lightweight steel and are built to survive the most challenging of tours and weather.
- Strong and durable steel material
- Simple, minimalist design
- Perfect for touring, especially if you need to travel by car or bus with your bike
- A longitudinal hole for optimal fit and flexibility
- Won’t fit bikes with carbon or spring forks
Can’t decide whether you need a front or rear rack? Don’t worry about it - this Blackburn model can be fixed to the front or rear of your bike. Constructed of aluminum, and weighing in at just over 1kg, this model is perfect if you’re looking for something that won’t weigh you down.
A highlight of this product is its universal mounting system, which means it can be installed on most bike models with minimum hassle. No need to fret if you’ve got disc brakes either, as this product is disc-brake friendly to ensure you don't miss out. The swivel-mounting hardware is designed to be easily attached using braze-ons, brake boss’ or P-clamps, and the unique design allows it to swivel and work at odd angles.
Blackburn have engineered their universal mounting system to fit on as many frame/fork configurations as possible, meaning you can spend less time installing, and more time riding. You shouldn’t have to bend or rig the hardware to get this to fit your bike, as the height and width are adjustable, with Blackburn promising that this will fit most road and mountain bikes.
With a 20 kg capacity, it's perfect for touring, and you’ll be able to pack a lot onto this rack despite its lightness. It also comes with a handy cargo net for keeping your luggage secure, plus it has a light clip for your front or rear light, perfect for low-light riding.
- Lightweight design
- Can be used on rear or front of the bike
- Light clip
- Universal thanks to swivel mounting design, and disc brake compatible
- Height and width adjustable
- Not ideal for panniers
- Aluminum is less durable and strong than other materials
Made in Japan, this sturdy design from Minoura is constructed from steel and is excellent for carrying heavy loads while touring. The bike is designed to carry 5kg on either side of the front wheel, however many buyers boast that this is strong enough to hold even more.
This Lowrider-style rack will enable you to carry a significant weight without losing steering power. It’s suitable for a 700C touring/ Cyclocross or MTB bike with V or cantilever brakes, and the rack is brazed-on using the Quick Release skewer axle which is included. Once fixed this rack is unlikely to budge and remains stable even when cycling over difficult, uneven terrain.
If you're looking for a rack that won't break easily and can haul your luggage the length of the country, this rack will last years thanks to its sturdy, steel construction which makes it more robust than other aluminum designs on the market. The drawback of this is that it will be slightly heavier to lug around, but if sturdiness is key for you, then the quality of the design and material will outweigh this factor.
- Strong, steel design
- Lowrider style to maintain maneuverability
- Easy to install
- Cheaper than similar designs on the market
- Heavier due to steel material
- Some customers have had issues with missing parts
Front Bike Racks For Touring Bikes Buying Guide
How your rack is installed onto your bike is key to its strength and capacity. Single anchor front racks are usually less durable and are designed for smaller weight loads, while double anchor racks can usually hold more and will ensure the load remains stable and secure, especially when riding on uneven terrain.
Regardless though, it’s best to keep your load as light as possible when touring, so the less you carry, the easier it will be to steer and cycle. There are specific bikes that are designed for carrying a front-load, such as a low-tail bike. These usually have faster steering speeds to balance out the slowing impact of a front-load, however, you don't specifically need one of these bikes to mount a front rack or to go touring!
Type of rack
Touring cyclists usually go for Lowrider racks as these keep your pannier weight as low as possible to the ground, allowing you to maintain speed and steering power while not compromising on capacity.
They also allow heavily-laden touring bikes to remain as stable as possible, especially when moving at high speeds. If you require extra space, you could fix another rack higher up on the front of the bike. If you want something minimalist and simple, Randonneur racks are ideal for very light loads.
In general, bicycle racks are constructed out of steel, aluminum, or Cromoly - a strong steel alloy. Steel racks tend to be very durable and the most trusted by touring cyclists. They’re also easily repaired if damaged as they can be welded back together. Aluminum racks are lighter and are generally more common, but are less reliable and durable, and can’t be easily fixed if they break. Cromoly racks are a good midpoint, as these are usually lightweight and durable, and have become increasingly popular in recent years.
Our advice is to go for Aluminium for shorter hauls with lighter loads, and Steel or Cromoly for long-distance tours where you’ll be carrying a heavier load. Don't forget, if you're going to be touring for weeks or months at a time, you need something that isn't going to buckle under the weight of your luggage.
Single anchor front racks generally bolt into the front brake studs and are best-suited for cantilever or side-pull brakes. Double anchor front racks are installed by bolting the rack through the threaded eyelets at the bottom of the fork and then the threaded braze-ons halfway up the length of the fork. A braze-on is a predrilled hole in the bicycle’s frame, and they’re included on most touring bikes. If your fork doesn’t have braze-ons, there’s no need to panic.
You should be able to install the rack using a pair of vinyl-coated clamps, and these are usually included with the rack. If your bike doesn’t have eyelets, don’t fret - there's a range of products available to solve this issue, for example, rubberized P-Clamps which you can usually find from your local hardware store. Be prepared to improvise a little bit and do your research first - and, if you're still struggling to install your rack, your local bike or hardware store should be able to advise you.
Frequently asked questions
Should I store my load high or low?
There is some debate over whether your rack is better off fixed higher up, or lower down, in the form of a Lowrider rack. Generally, the consensus is that you’re better off keeping your load as low as possible, as this lowers the bike’s center of gravity and therefore achieves better maneuverability. However, if you have a light load then it shouldn’t be an issue to store it higher up via a Randonneur or Decaleur rack.
Though if you’re using your bike for touring, you’re far more likely to need a Lowrider rack which can hold panniers, as these will generally have a higher capacity, and also allow space higher up for another rack, should you need it.
How do I know if the rack will fit my bike?
You need to check how the rack is installed and then check your wheel size and brake types to see if they’re compatible. Single anchor racks usually bolt into the brake studs, while double anchor racks are threaded through the eyelets and braze-ons, which feature on most touring bikes. If your bike doesn’t have these, you can invest in some extras which should solve the issue - check out the “Installation” section of the Buyer’s Guide above.
How much weight should you store on a front rack?
The golden rule of touring is to keep your load as light as possible. The heavier your load, the more this is going to slow you down and make the bike harder to steer. Typically, single anchor racks have a capacity of about 15 lbs, while double anchor front racks can carry up to 30-35 lbs. Double anchor racks are usually fixed lower down in order to maintain maneuverability and generally are used with two panniers. If you’re new to touring and need more space, it’s worth thinking about purchasing a rear rack, too. On average, traditional touring bicycles are designed to hold four panniers: two on the rear rack, and two on the front.
Which type of rack should I go for?
Front racks come in a range of styles and these tend to vary more than rear racks. Not all of them are ideal for touring though, for example, baskets are great for a trip to the grocery store, but they're not going to be ideal for touring when you'll need something sturdy, weatherproof, and secure. For touring, Lowrider racks are the go-to design as they keep the load stable and your center of gravity low, allowing you to carry heavy loads while maintaining speed and control.
They also allow you to attach panniers, and these usually have a bigger capacity than other bags or baskets. A Lowrider rack and panniers put your gear weight in the most optimal location for good bike handling. Most importantly, remember that there is no "one style fits all" design, as different racks are compatible with different bags and bikes, so check the manufacturer's specifications carefully before you buy, and refer to our handy buyer's guide if you need to.