UD Racks for (almost) every bike

UD Racks for (almost) every bike

Handlebar bags are one of the best places to carry luggage on your bike. Right in front of you, the contents are easy to reach. A handlebar bag doesn’t increase your frontal area, so it’s aero, and it doesn’t get caught on obstacles when you ride through tight spaces. Handlebar bags have more capacity than most other bikepacking bags, and there’s none of the ‘tail wagging the dog’ effect you get with rear bags, especially when climbing out of the saddle.

Handlebar bags work best when they are supported by a rack. That way, the bag sits as low as possible and doesn’t swing from side to side – both important for good handling. Ideally, your bike’s front-end geometry is designed to accommodate the extra load, but many riders enjoy their handlebar bags on a wide variety of bikes.

Bike makers are finally putting rack mounts on many bikes. Even carbon forks come with them now – but good racks are hard to find. We’ve drawn on decades of rack building experience to design a rack system that adapts to most bikes. Unlike most adjustable racks, the UD racks don’t give up functionality. Rene Herse UD racks (UD stands for Universal Design) work on bikes with disc or cantilever brakes – provided the fork crown has a hole that goes all the way through. (Without that hole, it’s difficult to come up with a rack that attaches securely.)

Analyzing the stresses on a front rack, we found that a firm attachment to the fork crown is essential: It stabilizes the platform. You want this connection as rigid as possible. And yet, many racks use a simple metal strap here that only keeps the rack from rotating forward, but doesn’t add any stiffness. Our Rene Herse racks use a U-shaped tube here that is as strong and stiff as possible.

The platform itself is made from ultra-strong, yet lightweight, CrMo tubing and chrome-plated for durability. UD racks weigh between 221 and 240 g, depending on the model. You won’t find a lighter rack that offers the same functionality.

The diagonal uprights carry most of the weight. They are adjustable to work with almost any fork. Any adjustment introduces a little flex, but it doesn’t matter here, since flex is inevitable in the long stays. (That is why the attachment to the fork crown should be stiff, since it’s the only connection that adds meaningful stability to the rack.)

The Rene Herse UD racks are available in two versions: The UD-1 (above) is intended for bikes with disc brakes. The diagonal stays come in two lengths. Usually, you attach them to mid-fork eyelets, but they’re long enough to reach all the way down to eyelets on the dropouts, if needed. The stays are made from aluminum, so they are easy to cut to the required length.

The UD-2 is designed for cantilever brakes. The diagonal stays attach to the cantilever bosses with our special Rene Herse bolts. You don’t need mid-fork braze-ons to attach this rack – as long as your fork crown has a hole, you can mount this rack.

The UD-2 stays need to be stronger to resist the bending forces at the bottom, so they are made from steel. They come in two lengths to cover bikes with a distance between fork crown and cantilever bosses of 70-114 mm. We’ve measured dozens of bikes with cantilever brakes, from classic sport-tourers to mountain bikes, and that range covers all of them.

All Rene Herse racks have a fender mount at the front. This provides a third attachment point to stabilize your fender, so it’s quiet (and safe) even on rough roads. If you don’t run fenders, no problem – it’s small and unobtrusive.
The UD racks are designed to work with our Rene Herse light mount. It attaches the light underneath the rack, where it’s protected, yet it provides optimal illumination of the road ahead. The Rene Herse light mount allows adjusting the angle of your light without tools, yet the bolts will never come loose. (The attachment to the rack is designed so that the weight of the light tightens the bolt.)

The platform is the same on all UD racks, and the stays are available separately. That way, you can move the rack from one bike to another. Or you can replace a stay in the (unlikely) event that you’ve measured incorrectly and cut it too short.

In addition to the UD racks, there are the Rene Herse M-13 (for cantilevers; above) and CP-1 (for centerpulls) racks. They’re even lighter, but since they aren’t adjustable, they require bikes that are designed for these racks.

All Rene Herse racks have been thoroughly tested in the lab and on the rough gravel roads of the Cascade Mountains to make sure that they’ll withstand many years of hard use. They may be superlight, but their smart design makes them stronger than most.

Together, these racks and parts make it easy to equip most bikes with a handlebar bag. And once you’ve ridden with a handlebar bag, you won’t want to miss the convenience. It’s nice to access your clothes, food, camera… without having to dismount your bike. For more information about our racks, click on the images above.

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Comments (19)

  • Stefan

    One major drawback to handlebar bags was not mentioned in the articel:
    higher center of gravity on the front and how it affects steering. I know that the low-trail forks try to compensate this, but it never felt right for me. Especially with the usually big randonneur front bags there is often too much weight in front.

    For me the bike feels much better during the ride with a seatbag and only a small, very light handlebar bag (thats attached to the bars). The seatbag wag is only noticeable when you ride out of the saddle and you get used to it quick. Or lowriders where the center of gravity is straight over the front wheel axle if you need even more space.

    But it´s of course a matter of personal perference.

    January 13, 2020 at 7:16 am
    • Jan Heine

      As you say, it’s a matter of preference. For me, the wagging of a rear bag is noticeable even when I’m pedaling in the saddle.

      January 13, 2020 at 11:22 am
  • Dr J

    Unfortunately, all of those racks have a threaded strut that is supposed to be inserted into the fork crown and secured with a nut on the other side. The steel fork on my bike has a M5-threaded hole in the crown so I’d look for a rack that has a simple plate that can be bolted to the crown.

    January 13, 2020 at 8:18 am
    • Jan Heine

      A plate always will be more flexible than a set of tubes, so we designed the rack with tubes. However, as you mention, many carbon forks have only a single hole, so we’ll think about a solution. On a steel fork, you can drill the hole all the way through the crown with no ill effects. That’s what I’d do…

      January 13, 2020 at 11:24 am
  • Dennis

    Which Rene Herse racks work with linear pull brakes?

    January 13, 2020 at 9:51 am
    • Jan Heine

      That depends on the brake – if the arms are tall enough that the straddle cable sits above the fork crown, the UD-2 is a good choice. If the straddle cable interferes with the attachment to the fork crown, you’ll have a hard time finding a rack that works well, since the attachment to the fork crown is essential to making the rack stiff and strong.

      January 13, 2020 at 11:25 am
  • Arvi

    On a bike like the Lightning Bolt picture above, one could attach a rack to either the canti bosses or the eyelets a little lower down the fork blades. In such a case, which mounting position would you prefer? The canti rack is lighter, but perhaps there’s a downside to sharing a mounting point with the brakes?

    January 13, 2020 at 11:14 am
    • Jan Heine

      The green Crust is shown with the M-13 rack. You could also mount a UD-1 to the mid-fork (low-rider) braze-on, or a UD-2 to the canti studs.

      Your concern about rack supports sharing a mounting point with the brakes well-founded. IF you sandwich the rack and brake on the same attachment bolt, it’ll come loose over time if you brake hard. That is why the special Rene Herse boltsare double-ended, so you first attach the brake, then slide the rack struts onto the end, then secure it with a nut. This isolates the forces from the brake from those imparted by the rack, and it won’t come loose no matter how rough your roads are and how hard you brake.

      January 13, 2020 at 11:30 am
  • Mike Morrison

    I remember when I had a front rack on my bike. When I carried a front load, the steering changed dramatically; not for the worse, just different to what I was used to without a front load. I could get used to it, much like I get used to the change in the feel of the bike going from summer tires to winters and vice-versa. I got rid of the front rack (not a Rene Herse product) because the struts were too narrow, and there was no fender mounting point, so any movement of the fender would rattle against the rack, and eventually drove me bonkers. I would like to get a UD-2 rack someday, but I can’t justify the expense when I have other, more pressing, purchases coming up, and I have plenty of cargo room with my rear rack and bags. I regularly go grocery shopping by bike and with the the current setup I can carry 2.5 full bags of groceries home; if I had just the front bag, I might get just one bag home.

    The infamous “tail wagging the dog” effect that everyone cites (but which few describe!) is something that I notice only when carrying rack-busting loads in the rear. There was the time that carried some 100 lbs of concrete pavers home for my backyard patio. I felt some sideways movement then, even more so when standing. The motion could be easily dampened by keeping my center of gravity over the frame. I don’t feel any such motion with normal-size loads.

    January 13, 2020 at 1:58 pm
  • Mark

    I’ve used front bags with and without racks. I prefer the way a bike steers and handles with them to how it rides with just a front bag or with rear bags of any sort. I don’t believe so-called aero bikes make much difference to overall speed in anything but racing conditions, or when seeking Strava KOMs, on smooth roads. I’ve reproted before about finding no meaningful difference in overall annual average speeds between my 25–32 mm tyred c.8 kg carbon or titanium bikes and my 11 kg (when fully loaded) steel bike with 38 mm tyres. My present bike has low trail and a Rene Herse rack. They work well. But I now question whether a front bag is “aero”, if by that you mean it doesn’t increase the overall drag of the bike and rider. It may not increase the overall frontal area, but my experience strongly suggests that my bike with a more or less rectangular box attached to the front of it is slower overall than the same bike without the box. I won’t say significantly slower, since my significantly might be someone else’s I don’t give a damn, and I’ve found to my surprise that my overall average speeds on all these bikes is more or less the same. But it’s enough of an impediment that I can feel the difference between with and without the bag and I sometimes wonder if it’s worth it, or if I’m just getting old. The trade off between convenience, handling, and “aero” means I’m happy most of the time to ride with a front bag & rack, but for situations where I don’t need to carry too much—tools & spares, some food, jersey/jacket, leg warmers—I believe a top tube hung frame bag and a food bag behind the head stem to be a faster if less convenient option. And frame bags (I don’t mean the ones that fill up the triangle) don’t affect the handling. That said, I see many riders using front bags on long brevets and have done so myself.

    January 13, 2020 at 2:41 pm
    • Jan Heine

      my experience strongly suggests that my bike with a more or less rectangular box attached to the front of it is slower overall than the same bike without the box

      We tested that in the wind tunnel: Compared to a saddlebag or panniers, the handlebar bag had the smallest increase in drag. That was a Berthoud bag with side pockets. We didn’t test the bags with smooth sides, but they should be more aero yet. In crosswinds, the effect of any bag is greater, since it no longer shields the rider’s body (or is shielded by it). Even a frame bag will increase your drag in a crosswind…

      January 14, 2020 at 9:01 am
      • Mark

        As I wrote, I’m not sure that the increased drag is a ‘significant’ impediment. I note, too, that my bag isn’t a Berthoud bag, does have side pockets, and isn’t a cube as its top slopes slightly to the front. It may catch wind in ways that a more traditional bag does not. That said, and nothwithstanding what I said about the frame & top tube bag combo, when I carry a more substantial load than the usual spares, tools, small amount of food, jersey & leg warmers, a front bag is definitely the way to go. As I suggested, there are trade offs to be made between convenience, load capacity, handling, and speed.

        One thing I’ve noticed—and this is irrelevant to the absolute ‘aero-ness’ of bags &c—is that the load I carry tends to increase in direct proportion to the capacity I have to carry it. Put another way, if I have a big bag, I’m tempted to carry a big load. If I only fill part of the bag, I pay an aero penalty for space I don’t use. One virtue of the frame bag is that I’m not tempted to carry too much. As well as considering the absolute weight, drag &c of bags, perhaps we should carefully consider our patterns of use, hard wired psychological cues, and our ‘habitus’ before choosing one! Or construct an accordion like bag that expands and contracts with the load.

        Finally, IMO, if you want a front bag, use a front rack. The RH rack I have is light, rigid, and rugged.

        January 14, 2020 at 4:09 pm
        • Jan Heine

          the load I carry tends to increase in direct proportion to the capacity I have to carry it.

          I hear that quite often… It’s not my experience. I usually ride with an almost-empty handlebar bag on fast day rides. Similarly, my car (now sadly stolen) had a big loadbed, but it usually was empty.

          On the other hand, when I take a Bicycle Quarterly test bike with limited capacity on a real adventure, my jersey pockets are bulging, I stuff the bags I carry almost to bursting, and if I need to bring a big camera, I carry a backpack. To me, what I need to take is determined by the ride and conditions, not how much capacity my bike has.

          January 14, 2020 at 8:48 pm
  • Niraj Shrestha

    Are there rule of thumbs regarding how the amount of weight on a front handlebar bag relates to the trail for optimal handling?

    January 13, 2020 at 5:30 pm
    • Jan Heine

      We tested that, and we found that it’s non-linear. For a standard handlebar bag load, a really low-trail geometry (30 mm trail) worked best for all our testers. With a heavy load on a porteur rack, a little more trail (40 mm) was required to add wheel flop that helps overcome the inertia of the heavy load. This was with 42 mm tires – wider tires may change the equation. Narrower tires require more trail simply because they have less pneumatic trail.

      How much is a ‘standard handlebar bag load’? I’d say anything less than 5 kg (11 lb). That is already quite heavy – you rarly need that much. The racks are rated for more, but it’s not as pleasant to ride. For loads that heavy, front low-rider panniers are the best way to carry the load, at least on road (paved or gravel).

      January 14, 2020 at 9:04 am
  • Mat Grewe

    What is the weight limit of this UD-1 rack? And is that from the manufacturer or your experience? Thanks so much.

    January 15, 2020 at 7:15 am
    • Jan Heine

      We’ve tested the UD-1 rack to 10 kg (22 lb) without problems. That is basically a large handlebar bag filled with water – I doubt you’d want to carry more weight than that.

      January 15, 2020 at 8:11 am
  • Tom

    I see you tested the Ud-1 weight limit to be 22kg. How about the ud-2? I would assume it’s different given the stays are not the same Thanks!

    January 15, 2020 at 2:37 pm
    • Jan Heine

      We test all Rene Herse racks to 22 pounds (10 kg) – each rack has to survive 100,000s of cycles on a test rig with the weight strapped tightly onto the rack. In the real world, the tires absorb the shocks, and the load can move a bit, too, so the stresses on the rack are lower. Basically, we guarantee that a Rene Herse rack won’t fail even in very hard use. We back that up with a 5-year warranty.

      January 15, 2020 at 5:50 pm

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