Bike Rack Hacking: Mounting a Rear Pannier Rack on the Front Fork

I have used the Sunlite Gold Tec front rack on my bike and it works well with a small dry bag or mounting a small basket with zip ties, but a 9.25″ overall length, it is just a bit short for most rack trunk bags.  I do like the mounting system, with one bolt at the rear and one to each of the unused V-brake mounting bosses on my disc brake equipped bike. It is dirt cheap, light and simple to install.

But I wanted more length for fore-and-aft carry. The best option I found was the Old Man Mountain Sherpa and Pioneer racks that use the front axle for the lower mount and the V-brake bosses on the top end for a solid 4-point mount. BUT— they run $140-$150 US and are rarely found on sale or discount. If I were trekking the Andes, I would cough up the dollars, but for my around town and short local trips, my cheap nature and I sought less expensive alternatives.

In my stash of thrift store and yard sale finds was a used $20 Tobus Robin rack that was just about the right size. Now that is a rear rack design, but I thought I could flip it around. The bottom mounting holes lined up with my font fork mounts, but it needed some spacers to clear the fork itself. The mounting holes are behind the tubing on my fork and there is a disc brake caliper just to the rear of the mounts, so anything that is bolted there needs to come in directly above, or have spacers to clear the fork, so those were added with Allen headed 5mm screws of appropriate length. The spacers are 22mm black aluminum that come from rear rack installation kits. Most bike shops will have a handful in the shop that were leftovers from rack installations that didn’t require spacers.

I needed a slightly longer screw on the right side to add the fender brace mount. My front fender mounting scheme uses asymmetrical mounting points, with the left side higher  to clear the brake caliper. The asymmetry really isn’t noticeable and works well.

Everything bolted up, but there was a hitch: the front axle quick release on thee right side was covered by the mounting plate on the rack. That would mean unbolting the rack any time I had to remove the wheel. The prospect of doing that with a flat tire and a loaded rack on a dark rainy night in the middle of nowhere was not to my liking. Head scratching ensued and then the light bulb came on: I got a set of Delta Axlerodz bolt-on axle skewers that use a 5mm Allen wrench and drilled a hole in the rack mounting plate to allow the wrench to slide into the axle skewer nut. I got the extra security of the bolt-on skewers front and rear and I can drop the wheel out of the front fork without removing or loosening the rack mounts. I don’t mind the loss of the quick release as I’m going to have the tool kit out if I have a flat anyway. The bolt-on skewers are actually a few grams lighter. FYI, the rack itself is 1.5lbs.

Toba Robin Rack 3 Toba Robin Rack 4

Toba Robin Rack 8   Toba Robin Rack 7

novara locked on street

Uses:

  • Carry 20-25 liter dry bag fore-aft with my sleeping gear
  • Carry an 11-18 liter rack trunk bag
  • Strap down odd-shaped light items like a CCF foam sleeping pad.

Caveats:

  • I am using components in ways they were not designed, so this is all at my own risk and would at your own risk too should you try such things.
  • The mounting and drilling affects the load limit of the rack. The rack was rated for 40kg/88lbs used as designed and I plan to put no more than 15 pounds there and  likely half that, so I’m okay with my adaptations.
  • The length can put the load out front quite a ways, changing the handling characteristics of the bike
  • It blocks the view just ahead of the front tire, in fact I can’t see the tire at all.
  • I could haul panniers on this rack, but I’m not a fan of stuff hanging off the sides of the front fork. I don’t like fork mounted water bottles and “cargo” cages either: catch one on a branch or traffic hazard and it will dump you on your face. I’ve seen bikepacking rigs that went to long lengths to avoid racks and panniers and then add side-hamper in the most dangerous place possible.
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