12 November 2011

Another New Addition (!)

No, I didn't buy another Mercian.  (Having four is almost an embarrassment of riches, really!)  Rather, my "new addition" was installed on Vera.

She, like many other bikes built at the same time (early 1994) she was, has low-rider rack mounts on the front fork.  Vera is, if I remember correctly, the third bike I've owned with those mounts.  However, I've never before used a low-rider, or a front rack of any other kind.

Had I kept Marianela, she would have gotten a front rack.  I've had handlebar-mounted baskets on other bikes but felt they mounted too high, which worsened the bikes' road-handling.  Given that most of the bikes I've used as commuters had more relaxed head angles and, hence, less responsive steering, than my road bikes, that was no small consideration.

So, I decided that I was going to mount some sort of fork-mounted rack on Vera.  I really wanted to use the lowrider mounts.  However, I was willing to consider other ways of mounting the rack.

I first considered the Velo Orange front racks because the materials and construction looked good, and their prices were relatively reasonable.  However, the VO Randonneur front rack wouldn't have worked, because the legs are too short to reach the low-rider and are not adjustable.  (Constructeur rack legs like the ones on the VO Randonneur mount higher on the fork than lowrider bars.)  

I also looked at the VO Pass Hunter.  Its struts bolt onto cantilever/V-brake bosses, which Vera has.  It's a somewhat larger and beefier version of the old Mafac racks that bolted onto the centerpull brake pivots.  Although I would have preferred to use the lowrider mount, I wasn't opposed to using a brake-mounted rack.  However, I wasn't willing to do something else the Pass Hunter would have necessitated:  drilling out my front fork crown.  

That crown is drilled and tapped for 5mm bolts, like the ones used on most water bottle cage and rear rack braze-ons.  The Pass Hunter has an integral mounting bolt that's meant to fit in a hole large enough for a brake pivot bolt.  I simply didn't have the heart to drill out that nice classy fork crown.

So, that left me with two other options, apart from getting a custom rack.  One would have been to buy one of the front racks made for mountain bikes:  They mount on the cantilever braze-ons but have an adjustable strap (like the kind found on Blackburn-style rear racks) through which the brake bolt passes.  The rack is cheap, and looked sturdy enough, but wouldn't have looked good on Vera.

So, with a sigh, I resigned myself to spending the money on a Nitto M-18.  I know, from using other Nitto parts, that their quality is second to none.  And, often, their prices aren't, either.  However, I was lucky enough to find a really good deal on one from Tree Fort Bikes in Ypsilanti, Michigan, which also matched another retailer's price on another item I bought at the same time.  

Still, the Nitto had the same problem as the VO Randonneur:  the struts weren't long enough to reach the lowrider mount. Luckily, the struts are replacable with longer ones that Nitto makes.  It seems that Rivendell is the only retailer that carries those struts (Even the Japanese retailers didn't have them!), so I placed my very first order with Riv.

The struts are really made to attach to a front dropout. 

So I cut them, and within fifteen minutes, I had the kind of rack I wanted on Vera.

It, like the Pass Hunter and Randonneur, is really intended as a handlebar bag support.  But I plan to use a basked on it or simply to strap my purse or shoulder bag on it when I ride to work.


  1. Justine,
    The front rack looks great. I love Nitto too.
    What would you be carrying in the front rack? Do you have a nice bag to go with it too? Will there be a post about a cool front bag? :)

    Paz :)

  2. Ah, the Rivendell catalog. First it's "just some struts". Next thing you know, you're buying the Pine Tar Soap along with synthetic knickers that don't have a fly. ;-)

  3. That is a cool rack. Looks really useful.

  4. I envy your bike mechanic skills! Thanks for the great review on parts and quirks. Looking forward to seeing what bags and loads go on this new rack!

  5. I have this rack on my Rivendell and love it. As you say, works best as a (huge) handlebar bag support. I also like it that I am able to mount a headlight toward the front.

  6. Chandra, Big Oak and Velouria: I love the rack already. I've been strapping my purse onto it when I ride to work. I like that because I don't have to carry the purse on my shoulder, but I can keep it within sight.

    I may look for a small basket or rack top bag to use with it. And, of course, if I ever decide to use a handlebar bag, that rack is perfect.

    Adventure!: "Synthetic knickers that don't have a fly"?! Will the fashion police chase me if I wear them while riding Vera or Helene?

    Cherilyn: Believe it or not, most mechanical jobs on bikes are pretty simple. I say that as someone whose mechanical aptitude is, to put it charitably, unexceptional: I don't work on cars , computers or very many other machines.

    You gave me an idea: A future post could chronicle my motivations, and method, for learning how to fix bikes,and where it led me.

  7. Justine--Don't know about the fashion police, I'll guess you'll have to ask them!

    For me it was more an issue of "use". I'm used to all my pants having a fly of some sort and didn't realize the MUSA knickers didn't until after I ordered them. I tried to look beyond that fact, but I had a few other issues with the pants, so no fly was the deal-breaker.