Tuesday, 16 October 2012

By jove, I've finally cracked it! (part 1)

I've generally been pretty happy with my Dahon bike since buying it.  However, there have been a couple of things that have niggled at me persistently throughout that time.  First among these was the need to carry my worldly goods in a rucksack with the attendant achy shoulders (on heavy days) and sweaty back that it caused.
I have always looked with envy at the front mounted luggage available to Brompton owners and wished that something similar existed for my Dahon.  There used to be a Dahon bracket listed in their website to mount bags and baskets on the front of the frame but it seems to have been discontinued (think it might still be available in the US).  I did consider modifying a Brompton one to fit the mounting holes on my bike but at over £100, the bags are a bit pricey had it not worked!  Pricey but with a super reputation for good quality, I might add.

Panners would be good too - I know plenty of cyclists who swear by them - but the standard Dahon rack sits too close to the floor and if anything sticks out beside it (as panniers would) you tend to hit your heels on every pedal stroke.  Not great.

Eventually however, and very randomly, I found an online link the Rixen and Kaul "Klickfix" range of products and was more than pleasantly surprised!  They do such a huge range of bike luggage and mounting options that it would be hard not to find a solution to most problems.  The website and downloadable catalogue is here.  They do a front mount that fits the Dahon and also a seatpost mount - all with a common interface to a range of bags and baskets.  The rucksacks that they make look great but I was concerned about the weight limit of 5kg quoted in the catalogue.  On a "heavy" day recently, with my own rucksack full of laptop, charger, change of clothes and lunch, I weighed it.  Unfortunately it came in at over 7.5kg and some of the roads I ride are a little uneven to say the least.  I had visions of snapping the bag from it's mount in the middle of a ride and, given the price of the kit, wasn't willing to fork out to try it!  Am I coming across as a cheapskate?

However, I did really like the idea of mounting luggage on the seatpost, out of the way behind me. 

Sooo, a short Google later, I found a number of seatpost-mounting luggage racks compatible with lots of standard panniers.  Even the good quality ones (with plenty of positive reviews on Amazon) were relatively cheal and so fewer than forty pounds later, I became the owner of a luggage rack and panniers.

I've had them on for a couple of weeks now and have to say that they are excellent.  It is so nice to ride unencumbered by a rucksack and although I still work up a sweat, it is nothing like before.  When heavily laden it does sway a lttle and make the bike feel odd - usually when standing up out of the saddle to pedal up hills.  It's nothing too bad though and I think would be improved if I fix a way of securing the bottoms of the panniers.  They have straps but I want something that will release more quickly to get on and off trains.

Both of the items I bought were "Avenir" products which I think are made by Raleigh:

Simple, strong and lightweight.  You can get them with removable sides
but those were wither expensive or had poor reviews.  This one is excellent.

Simple but good quality and most importantly my laptop (just) fits in.
A netbook or tablet would be no problem whatsoever.

And here's a (poor quality) picture of it all installed.  Not sure why the back tyre looks flat in the picture
as it wasn't!  Just the angle or a trick of the light I reckon.

The only slight issue I've had is that the Dahon has such a fat seatpost!  Most of the seatpost mounted luggage state that 31-32mm is the maximum diameter that they will fit.  The Dahon's is about 33.5mm.  However, although this means that the quick release link doesn't reach, by replacing it with a longer bolt and packing out any gaps (between seatpost and clamp) with rubber pads It is fitted safely and securely.  This set up has endured a couple of heavy days without any problems at all.

So the upshot of it all is that I am now a much happier bunny with a less sweaty back and less achy shoulders. 

And the second thorn in my side?  Well that'll have to wait until I have a bit of time to write it up!

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