When you get into bike commuting you may be surprised at how sweaty your back can get after just a few minutes of riding. The sweat is mainly caused by the backpack blocking air ventilation, thus preventing moist air to escape.
While a backpack is more practical and stylish than panniers, the latter definitely has the benefit of comfort when riding longer distances. Many people, including experienced commuters, report that changing to panniers was one of the best choices they made.
If you want to use panniers, but you don’t have mounting points (eyelets) for a bike rack, you can get a seat post mounted rack like the Dirza Rear Bike Rack (available on Amazon). It is a great deal for the benefits it offers. It is an easy to mount, yet sturdy rack on which you can mount your panniers. It is strong enough carry up to 115lbs (52kg). This is way more than you need for commuting, and you can even use to carry a lot of shopping items on it too.
What I really like about this rack is that there are two ways of mounting it. If you want to enjoy its full load capacity you can install it with its additional mounting arms. This will allow you to use its maximum capacity. If you carry 30lbs (13kg) or less then you don’t need to install the supporting arms. This means that the installation only takes a few seconds.
The Dirza Rear Bike Rack has wheel guards that prevent your panniers from touching the spokes. This is an absolutely necessary feature. Panniers getting into the spokes can cause damage to the wheel, to the pannier and what’s in it.
Here are the benefits of the Dirza Rear Bike Rack.
- Easy and fast installation
- High load capacity
- Wheel guards prevent panniers from accidentally touching the spokes
- An integrated bungee cord helps hold small items on the rack if necessary
- It mounts on a variety of seatpost widths
Some caveats when using a seatpost mounted bike rack
If you have an oddly shaped seatpost such a rack might not fit your bike. Also if you have a carbon seatpost you need a special rack given that carbon fiber’s unparalleled strength is only in the intended direction of force, but it can snap when force is applied from another direction and angle.
Also keep in mind that some bikes (mostly road bikes and some hybrids) have a short wheelbase. If your rear wheel is particularly close to the pedal, you may find that you don’t have enough heal clearance and you keep hitting your pannier as you pedal. The Dirza Rear Bike Rack is adjustable in length. You can create more heel clearance by pushing it further away from your seat post. Keep in mind that the further out you push the weight the more it will affect the handling of the bike.
A rack mounted directly on the seat post without any protection will probably end up leaving its mark on your bike. Most racks come with a protective rubber grip, but I either misplaced mine or it didn’t have one in the first place. I used some black electrical tape to protect my bike. It worked well for a while, but after removing the rack several times the tape got damaged. When I scraped it off I should have put back some tape or cut a piece of inner tube to insert it under the clamp. Unfortunately by the time I thought of it it had already left its marks on it. It’s not the end of the world, but something you can keep in mind.
How does a rack affect bike handling when you carry panniers?
Riding on a flat paved road the extra weight is barely noticeable, even if you have a fully loaded single sided pannier. I have been asked several times if the weight pulled to one side, but this isn’t the case.
You feel the difference in how the bike handles when you hit potholes or at curbs. With weights over 10 lbs you will definitely feel the yanking as you come to a road imperfection when you step out of the saddle and accelerate. Not strong enough to make you fall but you can feel it. Naturally, the heavier the weight the more you can feel this.
Make sure that you don’t keep unnecessary weight in you panniers and you regularly get rid of everything that you don’t need in there.You may be surprised just how much small weights can add up and make a big difference (keys, coins, pens, watch etc).
Even if you’re a confident rider and you can shift your body weight without the tires bottoming out, you still need to pay attention to the extra weight on the rear wheels. You will still be able to lift your front wheel, but you will find it difficult to lift the rear one because of the increased weight. You should pay special attention and avoid potholes as much as possible. When you have to get up a sidewalk curb or some other obstacle, approach it with a slower than usual speed. Once your front wheel is up shift your body weight to the front as much as possible. It is also a good idea to run your rear tire at a higher pressure than you normally would in order to avoid pinch flats. You trade some comfort for peace of mind.
Another scenario where carrying added weight is noticeable is going uphills when you stand out from the seat. The higher the rack is clamped onto your seatpost, the more noticeable the difference is. This translates into a less comfortable ride.
You should pay attention to mount the rack as low on the saddle post as possible in order to minimize the discomfort. This brings the added weight closer to the ground, and provides a more comfortable ride. In this respect the regular, frame mounted racks have an advantage, because they sit lower, closer to the rear wheel, and make handling a little bit easier.
Does the weight in your seat post mounted pannier rack shake the seat?
If the rack is mounted properly and the bolts of the seatpost are tightened properly you will not notice any shaking in your seat except for the occasional yanking mentioned.
Where to mount rear lights on the bike if you have a rack?
You can never underestimate the importance of visibility when it comes to bike commuting. Rear lights mean visibility for the vehicles behind you and a safer ride for you. You should take some time to think what’s the best spot to attach your rear light.
Initially I mounted my rack too high on the seatpost and it made it impossible to mount the light above the rack, so I ended up mounting it underneath. Apart from this looking strange it wasn’t very practical either, because it wasn’t visible from an upper angle, so cars and especially trucks couldn’t see it when they were close behind me.
If you have a single sided pannier, mount the rear light on the seatpost above the rack or on the bike frame on the other side of the wheel. Some panniers also allow you to attach a light to them. If you have a double sided pannier, attach your light to the seatpost. If you have a bag or something else that obstructs its visibility, you should get a frame mounted light.
Main disadvantage of a seat post mounted bike rack
A rack that you can mount and dismount quickly can be easily stolen. This is one of the downsides of the Dirza Rear Bike Rack. It may not be a good option if you park your bike in a busy area where it is likely to be stolen. Depending on the safety of your parking place at work this may be a deal-breaker. It would be very upsetting to arrive at your bike with your pannier just to find out that you have nothing to mount it on.
You should definitely invest in a good seatpost mounted rack if you don’t have a permanently mounted one and you intend to commute carrying your stuff in a pannier (and a backpack doesn’t float your boat). You will not regret it.
Enjoy the ride!