When I acquired my newest bicycle, an endurance cycle made for multiple conditions (Kona Esatto), the company website mentioned all the accessories that could be used put on it. Including bike racks and panniers.
Unfortunately, a standard bike rack with arms on the front that attach to eyelet mounts (or bosses) on the upper seat stays were not one of the types of bike racks that could be used with it as there are no eyelet mounts there. There were threaded holes on the lower seat stays above the dropouts at the hub.
Not sure why, and not sure what kind of bike rack they are referring to otherwise.
So anyway…what I have used in the past with this bike is a seat post mount bike rack made by Schwinn (or rather the company that owns Schwinn) – it’s cheap, light, and pretty hardy for what it is. I wouldn’t want to carry TOO much on it but for lunches and small cargo items to transport it works fine, except it is a complete pain in the rear to take off the seat and seat post so the bike rack’s single arm can slid up the stem. There are some seat post mounts that have a split clamp or have a hinged clamp with a split; either of which would allow them to be put on without taking the seat post off – which would be much, much better. Because, if you are like me; you get your seat exactly right to the millimeter and once you have to take it off again, no matter how well you keep track of the last position, it still has to be tweaked.
It can be a pain in the rear, literally, pun fervently intended.
Also, depending on the geometry and sizing of your bike, having the rack right there attached to the seat post may not give you much room for your bike bag as well as the bike rack and any bag you attach, requiring you to either squash the bike seat bag in under the seat and between whatever bag or cargo you put on the rack or taking the seat bag off.
So I set out to get a more conventional but still cheap bike rack that would not attach to the seat post, give me lots of room for a larger bag, and be relatively easy to put on and take off. I’m not planning on carrying anything too heavy on it but I wanted lots of space and versatility, something I could attach cargo to as well as any of the multitude of bike bags I have.
I do have an old, old bike rack from when I was young. I’m not sure why I still have it as it is probably 70’s vintage, decrepit, a little rusty, made of real steel with no thought to weight savings, and probably could hold a person riding on it. And with the old-style front mount that attached via a bolt. Not workable for me.
So I decided to get a regular bike rack and rig clamps to the upper seat stays for the mounting for where there is no attachment point. I’m sure you’ll find lots of other blogs and website posts on doing this very same things in various ways and with the same as well as different hardware; but I wanted to relay/blog my experience with doing it.
I used regular P-clamps (around a 1/4 inch) that can be bought at pretty much any hardware store. If you are a DIY’er you might have used them for many other things over the years, as well as similar ones without the rubber coating. They may be called just a clamp, a cushion or cushion clamp, hose clamp, rubber-lined clamp, etc. You might have to look in the specialty section in your local hardware store. Or heck, go into your local hardware store and find the guy working there and tell him that you want “one of those p-clampy things with rubber ’round ’em” – he’ll know what you mean.
They are just a clamp with a little rubber sleeve around the part that is going to be touching whatever tubular object you are attaching them to, with one side of one of the arms bent at a near-ninety degree angle and the other side straight, looking down at one they look kind of, sort of, like a “P”. Some are slightly different in that they seem to be dipped or coated with a black covering instead of having the black rubber sleeve, there are also heavier duty and non-flexible versions. The rubber coating is going to protect the finish on your upper seat stay and also give a grippiness when the whole thing is tightened, to help make sure the clamps don’t slide down if you put a bit of weight on the rack.
The size you use will depend on your seat stay tube, as well as how heavy-duty you want it. I would guess that if you wanted to go real heavy-duty you could get a large P-clamp even if it was too big around for your seat stay, cut it short, bore a hole in the cut end, round it off with a file and have a super-heavy-duty one. I suppose you could also use a heavy duty one without doing this by wrapping the seat tube in something like an old tire tube cut in strips, the possibilities are endless.
To measure you can cut off a little strip of paper and wrap it around the place where you are going to install the clamp and cut or rip it off at the diameter that you need – this will roughly correspond to the point on the clamp starting at the right angle and going around the rubbery coating. If it’s a bit too small that’s fine, just make sure the bolt is long enough. If it’s too big though, you might have to pad it.
For a bike rack I bought the Ventura Universal Bike Rack, which is a general purpose generic type bike rack with a couple of different mounting options. You’ll find this rack sold everywhere it seems. I’m not sure what it is made of, though I think there is mention somewhere that it is steel but it is light as aluminum, my guess is that it’s a hollow steel construction alloy. The capacity is around 20 kg or forty-four pounds according to the specs. That may be about right but I think in reality I wouldn’t put that much on it just to be sure, though it does seem pretty well made. Mine came without a bit of the hardware but it wasn’t stuff that I planned on using anyway. Unfortunately lacking pieces is something to watch out for as reviews on Amazon have mentioned certain hardware, usually nuts and bolts, not being included. Mine had a bunch of standard bike-type of allen head bolts but no nuts or washers. BTW, at this point there have been over 1300+ reviews on Amazon for this bike rack, with a 3.1 score out of 5. Not that great, but for my purposes (just needing the basic moderate-duty rack and planning on doing modifications to it) it was a good buy, and cheap.
I knew that I would want to or would need to make a few mods to this rack. Like taking off the spring-loaded flap – which I believe was originally supposed to be used to mount old-school panniers back in the 70’s, unfortunately I had to use a cutting tool to cut each part of the springs attaching it off. You can still buy plenty of these panniers that attach this way like this one, I believe.
I experimented with various pieces of mountain hardware for the upper seat stay clamps. You can use more conventional allen-headed bolts that are standard fair on mounting bike racks and other stuff, like water bottle holders, and find nuts for them. You may have to go to a speciality hardware store to find the right threads for your nuts if you go this route as they aren’t a common thread. For the lower seat stay I used them as the lower seat stay holes are threaded for these, of course and I didn’t need to do anything else with that part of the mounting process. My guess is the P-clamps could be used on the lower seat stays near the hub if they didn’t come with holes already threaded or available.
For everything else I used more conventional nuts and bolts. In assembling the bike rack I used nylon locking nuts (like these – but the size of course depends on your bolts obviously) as the sides of the rack and the top of the rack would be permanently attached to each other to make up the assembled bike rack.
But these nylon locking nuts could also be used on the clamps. Though I’ve found that over long-term use where the nylon nuts are continually taken off and put back on they can start to lose their ability to clamp as well, plus you can’t thread them on by hand past the nylon part at the end. So I used regular bolts, nuts and locking washers. Depending on the size of the clamps you get and how sturdy you want it, as well as the size of the P-clamps that you use; you may want to go with larger nuts, bolts and locking washers. I went with smaller ones as I am not going to be carrying a lot of weight.
I even experimented with various configurations – including using a long bolt that went through both clamps (as shown in the photo at the left). This actually worked pretty well and was a quick mount/unmount option. But probably not something I would normally use – a bolt/locking washer/nut combo on each clamp is better.
I won’t say it’s real fast to put on and take off but it isn’t bad once you do it a few times. On some bikes and racks it may be much quicker than mine but I have to fiddle with the clamps so they are not too close to the brakes but low enough for the rack to be level without having the adjust the bike rack’s arms (on this bike rack they can be adjusted quite a bit if needed). And don’t be in too much of a hurry; you’re working with somewhat sharp metal things that can scratch your bike if you aren’t careful. Of course, if you are leaving it on permanently you don’t need to concern yourself with worrying about scratching it once it is attached. I alleviated the chance of scratching by dipping everything I could in Plasti-dip rubberized coating. More about this later.
And of course if you are leaving it on permanently or semi-permanently the nylon lock nuts are probably the way to go. Otherwise make sure you use some sort of locking washer or nut so nothing works its way loose.
In the picture to the right you can see that I attached my wife’s Topeak bike rack using the same clamping system, as an experiment. It worked just fine.
The first time you try the configuration you might want to check it once in a while while riding, maybe even bring an extra bolt/washer/nut set or two. If you’re really paranoid about it working loose and you’re not leaving it on permanently you can double nut the bolts (if you have room and long enough bolts), use some thread lock, dip a spot of the rubber coating mentioned above on the threads, cut a slim strip of duct tape and wrap it tighten around the end, or use any of a number of secondary backup measures to make sure the hardware doesn’t loosen. The lock nuts SHOULD be sufficient though. Tighten everything but don’t go crazy as it’s likely not needed with the rubber sleeve around the clamps and such, just tighten enough to hold it. Especially if you have a carbon bike – in fact some people might caution against even doing this and, like everything else I post here, use your own judgement.
One thing to be careful about that I will again mention; whether you are just holding the front arms up to see where you need to put the clamps or whether you are attaching everything – don’t scratch your bike! That’s why I dipped everything I could in some Plasti-coat that I had lying around from years ago – the stuff seems to keep for a long time, also comes in different colors and can be used for lots of things, including other bike-related things. Not including the threads of the bolts and the nuts of course. Though you may find that after a while it can come off the parts and you’ll need to re-apply. But it’s especially good for initially sizing and measuring and experimenting with everything and can be re-applied easily enough. You can dip, you can use a popsicle stick, small brush, or get the spray-on type.
I’m not sure how much weight this whole set-up would hold, I suspect there might be some slipping with extreme weight on the rack but the rubbery coating that came on the clamps seems to help hold it even with the bolts not tightened very much, and of course holds it real well after tightened. I think the next size up in clamp size would increase the capacity (and ability to not slide down under a lot of weight) but they may then need a spacer or nut in between the clamping parts, or a modification of the clamp.
As I mentioned above I think that if you didn’t have holes in the lower seat stays you could use the same P-clamps to attach to the lower seat stay also. Seems like it would work perfectly well.
As you can see in some of the photos the P-clamps are a bit noticeable cosmetically (I took a few of the photos before I had ‘painted’ the rest of the parts that I could with the rubbery coating – you can use various tools to ‘paint’ the rubbery coating on – from small sticks to small paint brushes) as the non-plastic sleeved parts are silver. But you can easily use matching paint to paint the exposed silver parts to match your bike as well as some of the other hardware, as much as possible (painting the outside of the nuts and such). Unfortunately you can’t paint the black rubber coating that is already on the P-clamps though just painting the clamps themselves and as much of the hardware that you can goes a long way to making them harder to notice. In my photos you see that I only dipped the end of the clamps in the rubbery black coating, not the part that already has a rubber sleeve on, but there’s no reason that you couldn’t do the whole thing to make them less noticeable, and maybe add some more rubbery adhesion to the clamps in general.
If your bike is one of the colors or at least similar to the color that they make the rubber coating in you might find that dipping the whole clamp in their entirety might make them blend in pretty well. Or you can get some of the Plasti-dip where you can even mix your own colors for the rubbery coating to more exactly match your bike – a bit pricy but if you really want it to match it might be a good solution. I suspect there might be a bit of experimentation to get the color right and it seems like you could mix any color you wanted, even using other paint not included in the kit.
If you are permanently leaving the bike rack on your bike you can paint or coat (or both) more of the hardware as you don’t have to worry about having to unbolting things in that case.
So far so good with the P-clamp mounting. Everything stays tight, it holds the (admittedly light) weights that I want to carry, it’s not too noticeable, and it’s fairly easy to put on and take off and easy to configure first. Another of the benefits can also be that you can adjust the leveling of the bike rack on the bike much easier than you may be able on a bike that already has the eyelets. Just be careful about scratching things.
I think you’ll find this an excellent solution if your bike does not have the upper seat stay eyelets (most of my bikes don’t), and if you have multiple bikes you can easily transfer or install most any bike rack on which every bike you want using the clamp system.
Addendum 7/19/19 – here is the Topeak MTX Trunkbag and Topeak Tubular Explorer Rack with saddlebags deployed installed on my bike using the added mount. To see a review of this trunkbag and rack see my blog post here.