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I love my road bike. Carbon goodness is everywhere: frame, fork, handlebars, stem, crankarms, seatpost, seat, derailleurs, and various other places. However, therein lies my predicament. My affection for my road bike forces me to give all my attention and money to it. It also means that my road bike is my do-it-all bike. From my rollers rig in the winter to long training rides to everyday commutes; I‘m on my road bike. Commuting seems to be where the bike is most out of its element. Anything I want to carry must be carried in a backpack, because they don‘t make racks for bikes like mine, right?
In the past I saw a few that might work. However, I never found one that I trusted. The user‘s guide for Topeak‘s RX BeamRack “for lightweight road bikes” warns that it “is not suitable or intended to be used with carbon fiber seatposts.” The offerings from Bontrager and Blackburn clamp to the seatpost via four bolts. This means each time you mount the rack you are tightening a clamp to carbon. That always makes me nervous. Plus, the rack is only supported at one location; concentrating the load on your post while at the same time also allowing the rack to possibly rotate around the post.
It wasn‘t until Interbike 2012 when I was hurrying from somewhere to somewhere else that I was proven wrong. Even in my haste, a red trunk bag caught my eye, but what really got my attention was that this bag was riding on a rack that was attached to a carbon post. The double-take and slight stutter in my step was enough to get me roped in by Joe “The Metal Cowboy” Kurmaskie. If you are not familiar with Joe, look him up. He has some great stories to tell, and he tells them exquisitely.
Joe was at Interbike representing Arkel, a company born and bred in touring. Arkel‘s racks and bags are their focus and specialty. They‘re not a “we also sell” found by clicking four dropdown menus on a website. Go to Arkel‘s site, and you‘ll be hard-pressed to find a page that doesn‘t feature a bag or rack.
One of my first questions for Joe arose out of my previous inability to find a rack for my bike. “So, it appears that rack is carbon friendly. Is it?” Quick answer: absolutely. I would do Joe an injustice should I try to quote him or paraphrase his answer. Joe has both passion for the Arkel products and an eloquence that allows him to express that passion.
After about a 10 minute conversation and some product demonstrations, I was sold. I was also convinced that not only does Arkel make a helluva product; they also had found the perfect representative for their brand.
Arkel‘s carbon-friendly rack is the Randonneur Rack. I received mine this week and have been using it on my commutes. I am even more impressed based on my own usage than I was when I left the booth at Interbike.
The Randonneur Rack has a three-point attachment system to distribute the load. The rack attaches to the post via a rubberized clamp, which both prevents scratches to your post and allows the clamp to fit a variety of posts. The rack also fastens to the seat rails. This mounting configuration results in a rock-solid attachment to the bike. In fact, I was even able to pick up my entire bike by the rack.
This security doesn‘t mean you need a toolkit and 10 minutes to install and uninstall the rack. The post clamp is held shut by a Velcro strap, and the seat rails bracket has an ingenious quick release system making it an easy removal. Joe demonstrated that with some practice, it can be removed in seconds. I don‘t quite have it down to as fast as Joe, but I‘m sub 30 seconds. This feature is especially nice when the rack is used on a bike that is not a dedicated commuter. It also means the rack can be easily switched between bikes.
My scale showed a weight for the rack of just under 19 ounces or slightly less than 1.2 pounds. Arkel recommends a maximum load of 13 pounds, mostly due to the possible limitations of the carbon bits it might be attached to. I have found that I can get clothes, shoes, lunch supplies, a towel, and my iPad packed and still be well under this weight. I have loaded the rack to just over 10 pounds on a commute, and it felt stable and solid.
If you‘re like me and want to stretch your do-it-all bike a little farther, or you are just looking for a rack for your carbon rig, look no further. The Arkel Randonneur Rack is exactly that. You can find all you need to know about the rack, including pricing and ordering information, on Arkel‘s page. Now since I don‘t need a new commuter bike, how much are those carbon wheels?