Small and Lightweight Front Racks for Bikepacking

Small and Lightweight Front Racks for Bikepacking


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With the resurgence of basketpacking setups and large top-opening handlebar bags, a minimal yet sturdy front rack makes a useful addition to many rigs. From hauling extra gear for longer expeditions to running errands around town, a small front rack can serve a variety of purposes. In this roundup, we identified over a dozen small, lightweight front racks for bikepacking and touring and put several of them to the test…

It’s always fascinating to see the wide variety of gear and aesthetic choices in the bikepacking world. We get to admire setups that range from incredibly ultralight rackless bags to rack-supported waxed canvas luggage, as well as all types of variations that integrate hardware and accessories for extra carrying capacity. Although the lightest bikepacking bag setups forego the use of tubular metal supports altogether, racks are often the best option. Incorporating a small rack can open up possibilities for a basket, bag support, or just another place to strap things—and there are a number of options that don’t add much weight. Whether you’re scheming a multi-month bikepacking expedition or commuting by bike closer to home, a good front rack is a worthy accessory to consider.

Why Use a Front Rack?

There are quite a few reasons why integrating a small/lightweight front rack into your kit might be useful. Here are the top three:

basketpacking

Basketpacking

A front rack is a must for an off-road basketpacking setup. The popular Wald basket is sold with handlebar clamps that position the basket quite high above the front wheel, which isn’t conducive to hauling heavy loads, and the lower struts are fairly flimsy. This is where a dedicated rack and basket setup is recommended. It’s important to choose a rack that can support the load you plan on carrying in your basket bag, however.

Nitto M18 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

Bag Support

While many saddlebag-style top-loading bags are fully capable of mounting to the bars on their own, having a small front rack not only helps support the load, it also keeps the bag from abrading your headtube and helps make space for cables. It’s important to check the height of your bag to match up with the rack platform, but you can also strap sandals or other gear atop the rack and use the rack’s backstop as a strap point for the bag.

Rene Herse UD-1 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

Extra Gear

Another reason a small front rack might come in handy is if you’re using a small front bag and simply need an extra spot to strap some smaller items such as a sleeping pad or lightweight tent. One example of this is if you prefer a small camera bag on your handlebars or you use narrow drop bars and need to make up for the lost packing space. We’ve used front racks to lash on everything from fishing equipment to a pineapple.

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Choosing the Right Rack

Figuring out what rack will work best for your bike depends on its design and mounting options. While some racks provide lots of versatility to fit nearly any bike out there, many aren’t as adaptable and require extra attention to ensure proper fit. The more adjustable the rack is, the more points for potential failure exist, so there are tradeoffs either way.

The first thing to look out for is the upper mounting point on the rack. Some racks, like the Surly 8-Pack Rack, require mid-blade crown eyelets, while other more svelte options have a fixed single mounting point on the fork crown—the same hole that’s often used for mounting fenders. Most racks have some sort of adjustable mounting option, either the upper struts or legs, which are usually designed to work around different bosses to level out the rack on your bike.

Beyond finding something that fits your bike and fork, you should consider what you’ll be using it for and make sure to take a look at the manufacturer’s specs so you don’t overload it or use it beyond its limits. The weight limits vary drastically between smaller racks, and some aren’t designed for hauling heavy loads and are better suited as bag supports. Failing to follow these specs could be catastrophic.

Small Front Racks for Bikepacking

We’ve put together a list of 15 small front racks that we believe are some of the top contenders for use with basketpacking, as bag supports, and for bikepacking in general. Nine of these options were tested by our team and we’ve included a mini-review of each with key specs such as the weight, platform size, and cargo limit. Also, find a few other options listed at the bottom of the post.

Allygn Diamond Front Rack

Tested by Logan Watts

Allygn is a framebuilder-owned and operated component company that’s a part of Fern Bicycles (@fern_bicycles) in Berlin, Germany. Over the years, they’ve built multiple iterations of the Diamond Front Rack, all the while perfecting this unique design for release. Recently, they finally unveiled a production model in a limited batch of 100. I was lucky enough to get one and have put it to use for a few months, and we just heard that Allyn has a fresh batch of Diamond Racks that they’ll be adding to their webshop in the next week or two.

Allygn Diamond Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

  • Allygn Diamond Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking
  • Allygn Diamond Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

The Allygn Diamond front rack is made from thin-walled, high-strength 25CrMo4 steel featuring a 3D bend diamond design. As you can see, it’s different than most other options as it forms more of a cradle shape, instead of a flat platform. This reminded me of the Trek solution at first, but in use, it’s quite different. It’s unclear what its load/weight limits are. But, according to Allygn, the Diamond front rack is made to carry a handlebar bag, a drybag loaded with sleeping gear, or a six-pack on your local commute. It comes with fully adjustable stays for fork lowrider eyelets or canti stud mounting.

Another thing that makes the Diamond rack unique is the lighting mounts and routing. The rack platform features an overhead direct M6 light mount, J-Light-Adapter for upright mounted headlights, and zip tie cable guides for dedicated light cable routing. The first iteration also came with J-Light-Mount, loads of mounting hardware, a detailed manual, Gramm-Tourpacking strap, stickers, and a limited series Allygn x Ass Savers Mudder Mini front fender.

  • Allygn Diamond Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking
  • Allygn Diamond Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

I loaded it up on a couple of occasions with a tent, chair, and other cylindrical items. It also shared duty as a bag support sometimes as I had a bag rest on top of the strapped-on gear. Given its size, I’m not too worried about it getting overloaded. It can only accommodate a few items. Even so, it feels quite strong. My one complaint about the Diamond rack is that there are no nubs that keep the strap or straps from wandering to the sides. So really, you can only have either one strap, or two close together when you wrap them around the entire rack. If you thread the straps above the second rack bar from the front, this kind of accomplishes this, but I’d prefer to have a couple of small stops on the lower front and top back. Otherwise, I really like the direction Allygn went with this rack. It makes a good complement to a small handlebar bag and works well with cylindrical items.

  • Tubing: 25CrMo4, aluminum mounting struts
  • Platform Size: 215 x 205mm
  • Actual Weight: 326 grams
  • Load Rating: Not Specified
  • Place of Manufacture: Taiwan
  • Price: $200 Euros
  • Manufacturer’s Details: allygn.de

NITTO M18 Front Rack

Tested by Logan Watts

Nitto makes a lot of racks, both under their brand and in collaboration with other companies. We’ll mention a few others later in the article, but the Nitto M18 front rack is probably the most widely known and universally useful mini rack that they offer. As such, it’s become a go-to for many rando bikes and touring rigs. The M18 can be used as a bag support or as a base for a basket, although there’s a 5kg weight limit that you’ll need to consider.

Nitto M18 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

  • Nitto M18 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking
  • Nitto M18 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

The M18 is pretty much adjustable to any bike with a drilled crown using a sliding steel bracket that bolts onto the crown and under the rack platform. The rack struts can attach to the fork legs bolts or P-clips, depending on your frame. All the necessary hardware is included for both options. As shown in these photos, I bolted mine to the Fairlight Faran 2.0 fork using the threaded crown bolt and attached the struts to the exterior mid-blade eyelets.

  • Nitto M18 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking
  • Nitto M18 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

All in all, I’m very impressed with the Nitto M18 front rack. It’s simple, light, and seems to punch above its weight. On my first ride, I loaded it up as a support for the oversized “right height” bag by BXB, complete with all my camping gear, a couple of beers, and a chair before riding a long and bouncy route to my campsite. There were no issues to speak of and I’ve used it a few more times since. I expect that it will be fine for a normal-sized load over the long haul.

  • Tubing: Chromoly
  • Platform Size: 190 x 108mm
  • Actual Weight: 255 grams
  • Load Rating: ~5kg (11lbs)
  • Place of Manufacture: Japan
  • Price: $130-180
  • Manufacturer’s Details: Amazon (No MFG Page)

Rawland Rando V3 Rack

Tested by Miles Arbour
Currently in its third iteration, the Rawland Cycles Rando Rack is designed for both straight and raked forks and is constructed from steel to offer a hefty 15kg weight limit. Its narrow 4.5” platform can easily support smaller baskets, but can also double as a bag support when tire clearance is limited. There are multiple mounting points for lights and fenders, and the rack ships with two sets (straight and offset) of 230mm adjustable aluminum struts. Longer 425mm struts are available to purchase separately. The Rando Rack has a single, fixed mounting point at the fork crown, sitting about 1″ above the fork crown—which provides ample room for big tires and/or fenders.

Rawland Rando rack

I’m a huge fan of Rawland’s Rando Rack. I installed it on my Hudski Doggler well over a year ago and it has lived there ever since, taking on basket-hauling duties, supporting my larger Bags By Bird Piccolo handlebar bag with ease, and providing an optional mounting point for a dynamo light as well. The integrated decaleur does a solid job at holding any cargo, including larger top-accessed handlebar bags, away from the front of the bike to protect your head tube. The fixed fork crown mounting point and semi-adjustable struts might be a deal-breaker for some bikes, but if it fits, then it’s a really solid option for anyone who prefers a low-profile design but still wants a rack that can handle some serious weight.

Looking for something with a bigger platform? The larger Rawland Demiporteur V3 Rack shares all the same specs as the Rando Rack but has a 313mm by 262mm top platform (approximately 12×10″) for larger baskets, bigger bags, and added stability.

  • tree to sea loop
  • Rawland Rando rack
  • Tubing: Chromoly Steel
  • Platform Size: 202mm x 113mm (8″ x 4.5″)
  • Weight: 472 grams (including all hardware)
  • Load Rating: 15kg (33lb)
  • Place of Manufacture: China
  • Price: $90 USD
  • Manufacturer’s Details: RawlandCycles.com

Rene Herse UD-1 Front Rack

Tested by Logan Watts

The Rene Herse UD-1 front rack is a super lightweight rack—the lightest platform rack here, as a matter of fact—designed specifically for bikes with disc brakes. The UD-1 is quite simple and has just three pieces, aside from the bolts and mounting hardware: the platform and two struts. The platform is made from Cromoly tubing and the struts are solid aluminum. Weighing in at just 215 grams, it doesn’t seem like a heavy loader, and Rene Herse doesn’t make such claim. But, it seems suited for a bag support or for stashing extra gear.

Rene Herse UD-1 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

  • Rene Herse UD-1 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking
  • Rene Herse UD-1 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

The UD-1 features a unique, one-piece platform with a fixed, 40mm fork crown bolt. This threads through the 6mm thru-bolt hole in the fork crown and uses an M6 nut to clamp it in place. The two struts are adjustable by sliding through the securing bolts on the platform. While designed to bolt onto the fork mid-blade braze-ons, the struts come in two sizes, standard 240mm for eyelets in the top third of the fork, or long 420mm versions for mid-fork or dropout eyelets. The struts are available separately, so you can buy multiples and move the rack from one bike to the next if need be. You can also get different struts to attach to cantilever posts. I used the shorter option and attached them to the interior mounts on the Tumbleweed Stargazer Boost fork.

  • Rene Herse UD-1 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking
  • Rene Herse UD-1 Front Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

The modular UD-1 rack is likeable in that it’s quite simple and very lightweight. Rene Herse doesn’t spec a load limit, but I’ve used it to load extra gear sandwiched between a loaded BXB bag, filled to the brim. I had no problems, despite some bumpy rides with a rather heavy load. It seems like a perfect bag support option as long as your fork has the proper thru-bolt hole and mounts. They also offer a light mount, available separately.

  • Tubing: Chromoly
  • Platform Size: 170 x 120mm (Backstop: 48mm)
  • Actual Weight: 215 grams
  • Load Rating: Not Specified
  • Place of Manufacture: Japan
  • Price: $170
  • Manufacturer’s Details: ReneHerse.com

Surly 8-Pack Rack

Tested by Miles Arbour
Surly’s front racks were introduced back in 2016, and both the 8-Pack and 24-Pack Racks were positioned as ideal for light-duty touring and running errands. Although not much has changed since then, they’ve both received some minor tweaks, and are still a popular option for carrying bags, baskets, and cargo (Lucas used the 24-Pack Rack on his Cross-Check commuter). The more svelte 8-Pack Rack has a 6.3” wide platform, adjustable mid-blade and fork crown struts, and is made from 4130 Chromoly Steel with stainless steel hardware. Although the rack is designed to work best with Surly’s rigid forks, it should be compatible with most tire sizes and forks out there, providing it has both mid-blade and two fork crown bosses.

Surly 8-Pack Rack

At 640 grams, the 8-Pack Rack is on the heavier side, but makes up for that with its durable and reliable construction. This thing is a beast. With all four struts secured close together, it provides an impressively rigid platform that’s perfect for a heavily loaded Wald 137 basket or saggy front-loading handlebar bag. Surly’s Petite Porteur House bag is also compatible with the 8-Pack Rack, attaching directly to the rack’s platform using a combination of velcro straps. The rack is finished with a number of threaded braze-ons that work well for customizing cargo tie-downs or for dialling in your dynamo light position. The Surly 8-Pack Rack retails for $125 USD and is available in black or silver finish.

  • Surly 8-Pack Rack
  • Surly 8-Pack Rack
  • Tubing: Tubular 4130 Chromoly Steel
  • Platform Size: 270mm x 160mm
  • Weight: 640 grams
  • Load Rating: 13.6kg (30lb)
  • Place of Manufacture: China
  • Price: $125 USD
  • Manufacturer’s Details: SurlyBikes.com

Swood Twisted T-Rack

Tested by Logan Watts

The Twisted T-rack is the brainchild of Swood Cycles, a Richmond, Virginia-based frame and rack builder. However, the Twisted T-rack isn’t really a rack—at least not in the traditional sense. There’s no platform, no struts, and no places it has to be bolsted to the frame with M5 bolts. Instead, it’s a one-piece T-shaped chromoly system that’s purpose-made as a handlebar bag support, working in conjunction with the fabric loops on a top-loading, saddlebag style bag.

Swood Twisted T-Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

  • Swood Twisted T-Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking
  • Swood Twisted T-Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

The Swood Twisted T-rack mounts to the bike by taking the place of a 20mm spacer directly underneath the stem on any 1 1/8″ steerer. It supports the handlebar bag by providing a little lift and rigidity in the bottom position. Another set of perks is that it stops the bag from rubbing against the headtube and provides a little more space for the brake and shift cable housing.

The Twisted T-rack is made of stainless steel tubing and normally powder coated black, although mine was left raw. It also comes in three sizes: small (for stems from 30-50mm in length), medium (60-80mm stems), or large (90-110mm), with or without a pinch bolt. According to Swood, the compression from a properly installed headset is normally enough to keep the rack from rotating on the steerer tube. Hpwever, the pinch bolt adds extra security to stop the rack from rotating and is recommended for forks with carbon steerer tubes. I opted for the pinch bolt as it seemed better suited to rugged terrain.

  • Swood Twisted T-Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking
  • Swood Twisted T-Rack Review, Front Racks for Bikepacking

I was pretty excited to try the T-rack with my BXB Teardrop bag. Having a bag rubbing the top tube has always bugged me. I’ve only used the Twisted T on one trip, a 140-mile ride that involved a lot of potholed-gravel roads and some of the most bumpy rooted tracks I’ve experienced. It performed flawlessly. It stabilizes the bag, and keeps the cables neatly tucked behind it. Another perk is that when using Voile Straps, it makes the front bag super easy to remove and install, almost like having a quick-release system. You simply slide the T-bar into the fabric loops, then pop the Voile’s on and ride. Note that it won’t work for a bag without one or two fabric loops that lineup. Theoretically, it could work with a roll-bag, such as the Revelate Sweetroll, too. I suppose if there’s one con, it’s that the T-rack is simply not an option for anyone that’s fitted to a bike without any spacers under the stem.

  • Tubing: Chromoly Tubing
  • Platform Size: N/A
  • Weight: 104 grams
  • Load Rating: N/A
  • Place of Manufacture: Richmond, VA, USA
  • Price: $60-70
  • Manufacturer’s Details: Swood Cycles

Tumbleweed T Rack (as a Front Rack)

Tested by Miles Arbour

The T Rack is a simple Chromoly steel rack that features a set of “three-pack” triple bottle mounts on each main strut and a 120mm wide by 300mm long top platform that can be used to support a large handlebar bag, basket, or to secure a drybag in lieu of a seat pack when used as a rear rack. With the option of using cargo cages or bottle cages on the struts, it’s a fairly unique rack that offers a few different options for carrying extra gear and water. The T Rack can clear large tires (up to 29 × 3.5″ or 26 x 4.75”), making it perfectly suited for dirt-road touring or bikepacking.

Trek 520

  • Tumbleweed T-Rack
  • Tumbleweed T-Rack

The T Rack comes with two sets of upper mounting struts—100mm and 300mm long—and is designed to work on either the front or rear of most bikes. It’s also offered in two leg lengths to accommodate a variety of bikes, as long as they have standard upper and lower rack mounts. If used as a support rack, taller riders may opt for the larger 380mm T Rack to get the platform high enough for their bags. Tumbleweed put the T Rack through dynamic ISO load testing up to 25kg (55lbs), making it the strongest rack in this roundup, an impressive feat for a rack weighing just 500 grams.

I’ve found the T Rack to be the perfect platform for swapping between a basket setup and running micro panniers. The platform is wide enough to accommodate a loaded Wald 137 basket, and the benefit of its sturdy legs means it’s also a great option for hookless panniers, like the Rockgeist Microwave Panniers. I’ve found the T Rack easier to install than some of the other racks I’ve tried, mainly because the legs are fixed and the upper struts can swivel and slide to accommodate different types of forks. The Tumbleweed T Rack has proven to be incredibly reliable and works great as a rear rack as well. Make sure to check out our full review here.

  • Tumbleweed T-Rack
  • Tumbleweed T-Rack
  • Tubing: Chromoly
  • Platform Size: 300mm x 120mm
  • Actual Weight: 617 grams
  • Load Rating: 25kg (55lb)
  • Place of Manufacture: Taiwan
  • Price: $130
  • Manufacturer’s Details: Tumbleweed.cc

Velo Orange Flat Pack Rack

Tested by Miles Arbour
The Velo Orange Flat Pack Rack is designed to be adaptable and strong, and it just happens to have a classic, timeless look that fits great on vintage bikes and commuters. All three mounting points are adjustable, easily providing room for different sized tires or for working around different mounting points. The rack ships with four aluminum stays that curve at the ends for a clean, flush fork mount, and they can all be used together to increase the overall carrying capacity. The only real fit requirement is that your frame must have a fork crown that’s drilled all the way through, due to the thickness of their hardware. The upright tombstone is removable and can be replaced with a decaleur receiver for randonneur-style handlebar bags that benefit from extra support.

Velo Orange Flat Pack Rack

The wide platform on the Flat Pack Rack is great for basket setups, supporting larger handlebar bags, or as a platform for randonneur bags. Its classic styling makes it a perfect option for that 90s hardtail in your basement or for adding some flare to whatever bike you ride. Velo Orange also let us know that an update is in the works and that the fork crown attachment will be redesigned in the next batch.

  • Velo Orange Flat Pack Rack
  • Velo Orange Flat Pack Rack
  • Tubing: Stainless Steel Platform, Aluminum Stays
  • Platform Size: 275mm x 203mm (10.8″ x 8”)
  • Weight: 708 grams (including all hardware)
  • Load Rating: Two Stays: 5.4kg (12lb) / Four Stays: 7.7kg (17lb)
  • Place of Manufacture: China
  • Price: $175 USD
  • Manufacturer’s Details: Velo-Orange.com

WholeGrain’s Jack the Bike Rack

Tested by Miles Arbour
Jack is made from a single piece of cold-formed 304 stainless steel rod with a 420-denier fabric platform. Two high-strength straps are used to attach it to the bike, cantilevering JACK over the front wheel. One threads under the stem, which holds the rack up and keeps it from rotating down toward the tire, and the other goes around the steerer tube, which keeps the rack from rotating upwards. The rack is officially rated for loads up to 5kg (11 pounds), but according to WholeGrain, it can carry significantly more than that. Jack comes with a removable fabric base, shims for 31.8mm and 25.4mm bars, four different stem load straps, an adjustable steerer tube strap, and two 1.2m bungee straps with a snakehead buckle and carabiner.

jack the bike rack

  • jack the bike rack
  • jack the bike rack

Compatibility is pretty much as universal as it gets, requiring no special mounting points or modern features. It’ll work with both metal and carbon handlebars, requiring 10mm of free space on both sides of the stem. At least 225mm (~9″) is required from the centre of the handlebar to the top of the front tire (measured perpendicular to the ground), and it works well with rigid and suspension forks. The stem angle also plays a role in compatibility and works well with 0° to +40° stems or negative angle stems that are fixed to the steerer tube. Jack works with both threadless and threaded quill stems. Check out the full review here.

  • jack the bike rack review
  • jack the bike rack review
  • Tubing: 304 Stainless Steel
  • Platform Size: 225mm x 280mm
  • Actual Weight: 700 grams
  • Load Rating: 5kg (11lbs)
  • Place of Manufacture: China
  • Price: £58 (~$80 USD)
  • Manufacturer’s Details: WholeGrainCycles.com

More Front Racks

There are a handful of other front racks that come recommended that we haven’t had a chance to test yet. Find them below.

Nitto/Rivendell Mark’s Rack

340 grams / $146 / Link

Nitto RBW51 Rack

528 grams / $172 / Link

Sim Works/Nitto Obento Rack

638 grams / $168 / Link

Old Man Mountain Divide

970 grams / $148-$180 / Link

Brick Lane Bikes Lite Rack

270 grams / £22 / Link

Brick Lane Bikes Rack

480 grams / £45 / Link

7Roads Front Rack

460 grams / €81 / Link

Custom Rack Makers

There are also a wealth of small frame builders who can make you a custom rack designed to fit your bike and with your unique hauling needs in mind. Find a mix of suggestions below.

We obviously haven’t listed all the options out there. If you have a suggestion for a small or lightweight front rack for bikepacking or bicycle touring, leave us a suggestion in the conversation below. Also, include any small, custom builders that make racks.

Related Content

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