Type of riding you do
Where you ride will greatly influence how you use a carrier…front or rear and what type of carrier will be compatible with your bike. You must aim to be balanced and not have a load that interferes with your ability to steer safely.
Type of loads you will carry
Think about the things you will most likely use a carrier for…how strong does it have to be? You must find out its weight limit and if that will suit your uses.
Construction & Design
Twin or triple leg carriers – more sturdy & stable…gives you greater strength for heavier loads. Can be made from aluminium which is the cheapest and does a great job. Steel is stronger but needs to be stainless otherwise overtime it will rust. Titanium will be lightweight and won’t corrode but it is more expensive. Specialist touring carriers will have side brackets to the rear of the carrier to prevent bags from hitting your wheel. For more on this topic see our series of stories on the best bike carriers for different types of riding… coming soon.
Attaching a Kids Bike Seat
If the carrier is for attaching a kids bike seat make sure it can carry the weight…a good rear kids bike seat will take your child up to 5 or 6 years of age – around 22kg so make sure the carrier can take loads up to 25kg or more
Will it be easy to attach?
Does your bike have mounting eyelets for carriers or fenders (mudguards)…usually found on the seat stays, rear dropouts and ends of the forks. If not you will have to use another method for attaching, which can be done with clamps (a visit to a hard ware store will solve this issue). For more… How do Carriers Attach to Bikes. Having a carrier with flexible seat stay mounting arms will make attaching it so much easier. See How to Attach a Topeak Explorer Rear Carrier.
Non-traditional attachment methods do exist. A great example of this is the Thule Tour Rack which attaches to any bike frame via a clamping system. Direct attachment to the frame and the carriers design means it is only suitable for lightweight loads. See more at How to Attach a Thule Tour Rack
Will if fit?
Stuff you need to know about your bike to get a carrier that will fit onto your bike…what is your wheel circumference (found on the sidewall of your tyre). A carrier will be designed to be used with different wheel heights so that it has clearance over your wheel. What type of brakes do you have rim or disc? (For help with this go here). Most carriers need a place to attach to down in the middle of your wheel and disc brakes interfere with this. There are plenty of carriers that are adjustable and will fit any combination of wheel circumference and brake type – just expect to pay more for this ease of instalment e.g. Blackburn Deluxe. Other brands just offer you different compatibilities for the same model of carrier e.g. Topeak Explorer comes in a range of different styles – disc or non disc, and wheel circumferences 26″ to 27.5″ or 29″.
Rear reflector mount
As always anything that adds to your visibility in traffic is a plus. If you use a rear carrier chances are that you will block out the line of sight to a rear light mounted onto your seat post. Having a good rear light mounting plate solves this issue so add this to your list of things your carrier must have.
Make your purchase a success…
Make it a part of your routine bike check to have a look at the screws holding your carrier/s in place as they can become loose with the vibration of riding a bike. Also check that any panniers or bags you attach aren’t worn or broken.
Balance your load
Never exceed the recommended load limit. Try to balance out your loads side to side and back to front. If you are new to cycling get used to a rear load before adding anymore at the front of your bike. Always practice for the first time in a safe environment. The more you load onto the back of a bike the less pressure you will have on your front wheel – this can be dangerous when cornering, worse case scenario leading to your front wheel sliding out from under you.