The best front bike rack for bikepacking and touring will offer an extra mounting place for gear while being very reliable. It’s usually a secondary alternative after a rear rack since it adds weight to your bike’s front wheel and can greatly affect the steering and balance. Front racks are common with touring cyclists who carry a significant amount of gear.
There are two main types of front racks:
A standard rack (also called “top mount”) expands gear capacity since the load can be carried directly above the front wheel as well as hung to the sides.
A low rider rack allows bags only on the sides but holds the weight closer to the ground which allows for better balance.
As with rear racks, front racks are designed to attach to the braze-ons on your bike.
There are several front rack options to choose from for your bike touring or bikepacking setup. Some people believe that a true bikepacking setup doesn’t utilize racks, but I believe term bikepacking refers to the type of terrain you’re riding, not the type of setup on your bike.
There are several bikepacking pannier designs available that you can find here in this Bikepacking Panniers article. With that said, there are some racks that are better suited for bikepacking.
In this article I will cover a range of racks suited for both bike touring as well as bikepacking.
There are few things to consider before you purchase the best front bike rack for touring or bikepacking. The most obvious is the racks intended use, will you be using it for touring and need the ability to mount panniers or are you looking for a platform rack that is more suited for bikepacking? A large platform rack allows you to use bags such as the Rando bag while others are smaller and used as a support for handlebar bags.
The strength of the rack is particularly important, so I have only included those that have been vetted by the bike touring and bikepacking community. The racks below should work fine for your application as far as weight capacity goes unless you plan on carrying lead bars around for some reason.
When looking for the best front bike rack for touring or bikepacking pay close attention to the material that the rack is made from. Aluminum will be lighter than the ones made of steel but will not be as strong. If you plan on riding rough terrain, I recommend you look for a front bike rack made from steel as it will hold up better to the abuse of those backcountry forest service roads riddled with washboard.
Another factor to take into consideration is your bikes ability to accommodate a front rack. Most all touring bikes will have plenty of braze-ons to mount racks, but bikes designed for a bit of off roading may not. Where most have trouble is with front suspension bikes, though there are still options available for those with suspension.
If you’re type of riding has more bikepacking in mind, consider a handlebar bag paired with something like the Salsa Anything cages mounted to either side of your front fork. This type of setup will usually be a little lighter and allow you to squeeze into those tight places on any single-track you might be riding. Going with this type of setup however limits the carrying capacity versus using a pannier setup.
Below is a list of the best front bike racks for touring and bikepacking culminated from the bike touring and bikepacking community who agree that these are the best for traveling the world.
- Tubus Duo
- Tubus Tara
- Origin8 Classique Cargo HD
- Pass & Stow Five Rail
- Specialized Pizza Rack
- Bontrager Carry Forward Front Rack
- Pelago Commuter Front Rack
- Blackburn Bootlegger
- Old Man Mountain Sherpa
- Nitto Mini Front Rack
- Surly Touring Front Rack
- Velo Orange Randonneur Platform
The Tubus Duo front racks are good for bike touring but not so much for bikepacking. They have some limitations and are not the best racks out there. For example, they are not able to mount to suspension or carbon forks without braze-ons. They do however serve a specific purpose though.
Your bikes forks are required to have braze-ons on the inside and outside for this rack to work on your bike. Tubus does make some of the strongest racks and this rack is no different, it’s able to endure heavy loads and fit nearly any pannier style.
These are a lowrider style rack that allows for more space to run an additional front rack like the Nitto Mini. This lowrider style brings the center of gravity lower to the ground which is said to make the ride more stable. The rack weighs just 560 grams and has a load capacity of 33lbs.
The Tubus Tara is another one of my lowrider front rack options. This front rack design has been in existence for over 25 years and has had a few slight improvements over the years. Such as the old style that was made with three individual holes for mounting panniers was converted into one larger hole to accommodate a larger variety of panniers.
The entire mounting system for the fork has been improved as well, making the Tara more compatible with a larger selection of forks. They also upgraded the classic lowrider front rack to include a mount for a headlight.
Users report the simple design is pretty easy to install. It has a weight capacity of 39.6 lbs and weighs in at 500 grams for the standard option and 510 grams for the Big Apple version.
Origin8 Classique Cargo HD
This front rack is one that I personally use on my bikepacking bike and consider it one of the best front bike racks available. It’s made of lightweight aluminum but it’s build quality is fantastic. From vibrating all day cruising down graded gravel roads to hitting horrible brain rattling washboard this front rack just won’t give up.
It will fit any bike with at least a size 26” inch wheel thanks to its adjustable lower legs. And although Origin says this rack is not compatible with thru axles, I was able to mount mine using the lower set of three pack mounts on my fork.
The one draw back to this rack however is that it doesn’t pack away flat. If you plan to be flying and ship your bike in a bike box this rack will not fit into the box. Checkout my video review here.
Pass & Stow Five Rail
The Pass and Stow Five Rail front rack offers a flat platform design like a few others on this list but has a slightly better design if you ask me. It comes highly recommended by the world travelers but is one of the most expensive options since they are custom made. And since they are custom made weight capacity and the weight of the rack itself varies.
Bontrager Carry Forward Front Rack
Similar in design to the Surly Touring rack the Bontrager Carry Forward front rack is very versatile. This is the rack that comes standard with the Trek 520. This lowrider front rack mounts to the fender eyelets in the fork and utilizes clamps for the fork leg mounts. With its budget friendly price tag, versatile mounting options, and a weight capacity of 33lbs means this is a popular option.
Pelago Commuter Front Rack
This is the front rack that is utilized for the Restrap Rando bags. It’s made to have a large flat platform and also has additional attachment points for panniers. Since it’s made from stainless steel it won’t ever rust so you’ll be able to count on this front rack to serve you well. The simple construction means that it will fit most bikes.
The Blackburn Bootlegger is one of many front racks that Blackburn makes, and they cater to the more budget friendly crowd. The Bootlegger front rack is also the most popular among the community of bike travelers and rightly so. It can handle 45lbs of gear and weighs a modest 917 grams.
The platform is made from aluminum and mounts using a couple attachment clamps for your fork, it does require a braze-on close to the axle to mount the lower leg. The kit also comes with a cargo net to keep everything secure.
Old Man Mountain Sherpa
These front racks are arguably the best front bike racks for bike touring. They are built extremely tough and can carry up to 40lbs. These utilize a top plate design which means that when mounting panniers, they will be slightly higher than if you were to use a low rider rack.
This front rack will fit virtually any bike, 26″, 27.5″, 29″ wheels and bikes with Fox or Rockshox forks. They use a clamping system instead of relying on braze-ons so this front rack will most likely fit your bike. Featuring a minimalist design that weighs just 635 grams it’s ready to carry your panniers whether you have a front suspension, QR15 axle, v-brakes, or disc brakes.
Nitto Mini Front Rack
This small front rack from Nitto has a poultry 4.4lb weight limit and is intended to be used as a support for a handlebar bag or Rando bag. If you have V-brakes I would recommend looking at different options as this front rack will most likely interfere with the brakes, unless you have the longer arm style of V-brakes. If your touring or bikepacking bike has cantilevers or disc brakes this could be a solid option for you.
Surly Touring Front Rack
This kind of front rack allows several different mounting options. You can run your panniers high or low, or use the top platform above the wheel to attach a tent or sleeping bag. Stamped with the Surly name you can be sure that this front rack is as durable as their bikes. Made of chromoly steel, these racks have been built to last.
They have been used for years on expeditions all over planet. The touring front rack fits on most of Surly’s forks and fits some other manufacturers forks as well. The kit includes all the stainless-steel hardware you need to install it. Since the height of the front rack is adjustable it can fit a wide variety of wheel sizes and allows you to keep the center of gravity as low as possible for a more stable ride.
This burly rack weighs in at 1,382 grams so it’s not the lightest option, but it does have a load capacity of 70lbs.
Velo Orange Randonneur Platform
The Velo Orange Platform front rack is a great option if you are looking for the best front bike rack to carry a handlebar bag. It serves the same purpose as the Nitto Mini in that it is intended to be used as a support for handlebar bags.
Velo Orange is known to make some tough gear and this Randonneur Platform front rack is no different. This rack is made from polished stainless steel, so it won’t ever rust and is perfect for supporting a handlebar bag, a simple dry bag, or even a basket. The weight capacity of this rack is 12lbs, so it’ll be great for supporting a bag with items such as cameras and a few snacks for the day.
I hope that this list of the Best Front Bike Racks for Bikepacking and Touring helps you narrow down your search. Remember, this list was curated from bike travelers who have traveled the world and these racks come highly recommended. Cheers and thanks for reading.
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