A strong rear bike rack for panniers is essential when preparing for a long distance bicycle tour. Here's the best rear racks for bike touring.
Choosing A Rear Bike Pannier Rack
If you only listen to one thing I have to say when it comes to bike racks for touring, make it this.
Get steel bike touring racks.
Steel is by far the best material for a rear bicycle rack, as it's hard wearing and far less likely to snap. If it does snap (and I hope it doesn't!), it can easily be welded back together.
What to do if you rear pannier rack breaks when bicycle touring
In fact, this happened to me when I was cycling in Sudan. The rear rack on my bicycle snapped, and I had to get it welded literally in the middle of the desert.
It was only at that point that I realised my bike pannier rack wasn't steel.
With the help of some friendly locals, I managed to bodge together a fix that lasted me the rest of my journey down to Cape Town, but it did kind of bend the bike frame during the process.
So, make sure your rear rack is not only steel, but 100% steel!
Related: Why does my bike rack wobble?
Things To Consider Before Buying A Rear Bike Rack
Now that we've discussed the material a bike rack is best made of, it's time to think about different variables.
Every touring bike is different, and additionally, if you are converting an old bike for touring, there are considerations to be thought of.
For example, rear bicycle racks for a fat bike are going to be an entirely different beast than a rear rack for a Brompton.
Likewise, if you're running disc brakes on your bike, your bicycle pannier rack might need extra clearance than if you have rim brakes.
Also, does your bicycle have braze-ons to attach the bike back rack to, or will you need to use clips?
Finally, you'll want a rack that gives you plenty of heel clearance if you actually want to be able to turn the pedals when the panniers are attached!
Best Steel Rear Bike Racks
When it comes to steel racks for bike touring, Tubus are perhaps the most well known brand.
Offering solidly built products, Tubus racks can seem expensive, but it should be kept in mind that good bike racks are something you buy only once. Hopefully!
Tubus Rear Rack
Make sure to check your wheel size and dimensions to get the one best suited to your own bike. Note that the Tubus Cargo racks may be more suitable as a touring bike rear rack in some circumstances.
Available via Amazon: Tubus Logo 26/28 Pannier Rack
My Current Rear Bike Touring Rack
At the moment, I am riding a Thorn Nomad II bicycle. This is a pretty bomb-proof touring bicycle, with a heavy duty rear bike rack to match.
The racks are made by or on behalf of Thorn themselves. They came with my bike build, but you can also order the rear rack from them separately.
I know from experience that Thorn can deliver around the world, so if you need a new rear rack mid tour, you could always order some for delivery.
Weighing in at just under 1kg, they are extremely well made, and particularly suited to expedition cycling. These are not for everyone, but if you're looking for the ultimate in expedition cycling rear racks, you won't get any better.
More info here: Thorn Expedition Steel Rear Cycle Pannier Rack
What about Titanium Pannier Racks?
Yes, you could choose a titanium bike pannier carrier rack, but they can be twice the price!
If you are supremely weight conscious, and shaving off a few grams in weight is more important than money, then by all means try them out.
Aluminium Bike Racks For Touring
As mentioned previously, I am not a fan of aluminium when it comes to bike racks for touring. There's always the potential for them to snap, and do you really want that to happen in the middle of nowhere?
Still, if you are only doing bike tours for a week or shorter, and don't carry much weight, a rear bike rack made from aluminium could be an option.
Topeak Bike Rack with Disc Brake Mounts
Topeak may be best known for their Alien II multi-tool (at least to me!), but their rear rack is one to consider, especially if you have disc brakes.
This is probably best suited for light weight bike tours, and might also be a good rear rack for commuting. Again, there are different models so choose the one that suits best.
Available via Amazon: Topeak Explorer Bicycle Rack with Disc Brake Mounts
Panniers for a rear pannier rack
Once you've chosen the best rear rack most suited to your needs, it's time to think of what pannier bag to use.
In my experience, Ortlieb offer a durable and reliable system of bags and panniers perfectly designed for touring bikes.
With a classic roll close design, features include waterproof materials, and a mounting system that will easily attach to your bike rack.
You can also expand on the system for when you are carrying more, by using a trunk bag which sites on top of the rack and the rear panniers.
Find out more here: Ortlieb Classic Panniers
FAQ About Pannier Racks
Here are some commonly asked questions about racks for bicycles:
Do pannier racks fit all bikes?
Some bicycles such as touring bicycles have purpose built eyelets in the frame where pannier racks can be attached. Other bicycles such as road bikes may not, so in this case, a fixing kit may be required.
What is the rack on the back of a bike called?
The rack on a bicycle may have different names in different countries. Typically they are simply known as racks, bicycle racks, pannier racks, or luggage racks.
How do I choose a bike pannier rack?
Most cyclists will start by choosing a rear rack. There are a number of different types available made out of different materials, but wherever possible a steel rack is recommended. Although heavier than aluminum, it will be able to carry more weight should that be required.
Can rear pannier racks damage your bicycle?
Provided that a pannier rack has been attached to a bicycle correctly using either frame eyelets in the case of a touring bike, or a fixing kit if using a bike without eyelets in the frame, there should be no damage to the bike.
Best Pannier Rack For Touring
If you enjoyed this guide to the best bike rear racks, you might also like to check out these other bicycle touring guides and articles:
- Best Pillow for Camping When Bike Touring
- Electronic Gear To Take On A Bicycle Tour: Cameras, GPS, and Gadgets
- Best Front Bike Racks For Bicycle Touring
- Best Bike Tool Kit For Home Workshops
- A guide to Bike Touring Pedals
- Best Saddles For Touring: Most Comfortable Bike Seats For Cycling
- Best Powerbank for Bike Touring – Anker Powercore 26800
– Dave Briggs
Dave has cycled around most of the world on different bicycle tours, including riding from Alaska to Argentina, and England to South Africa. In addition to this rear touring bike rack guide, he's written many other posts about bike touring.
Follow Dave on social media for travel, adventure and bicycle touring inspiration: