A few months ago I took a good look at the type of riding I was doing, and compared it to the type of bike I was riding. There was a mismatch, and this is the story of how I made it better.
With four riders at my house, I've got room (physically, and financially) for exactly one bike of my own, so it's got to do everything I need. I was riding a very nice Surly Karate Monkey, outfitted for (mostly) city riding, but with a full range of mountain bike gearing. I justified it by telling myself that I could always take it to the mountains, or do a cyclocross race or two. Truth is, I used exactly 3 gears 99% of the time. When I've got spare time, I don't go mountain biking any more, I go surfing. And for me, cyclocross races are only fun to watch.
So I sold the Surly, bought a nice new wetsuit, and invested in a 1970-something Raleigh Sprite, with 8 gears. I put a little more into new tires, brake pads, and a saddle, and then started looking for a good system for hauling stuff around. I don't have much of a commute, but I do need to roll by the store now and then, or haul stuff to the UPS store. I considered all the standard stuff like rear racks, those foldable wire grocery haulers, trailers, and Xtracycle setups. I finally decided that a front rack, known as a porteur rack, was going to meet my needs the best, and then it was just a matter of narrowing down the options.
I was most interested in finding something locally made. Living in Oregon made that a very real possibility. I was starting to focus in on the CETMA racks down in Eugene, particularly the 5-rail, which looked about perfect for my needs. I also eyeballed the Ahearne racks, which are very sweet, and can be nicely customized (also see their flask holder). I checked out some DIY porteur racks, too, but didn't figure I had either the chops or the gear to make that come together.
Somehow I stumbled upon TCB racks, and knew I'd found what I was after. Tad is an engineer. He knows the hard math. And he makes these racks with math and care in his garage in NE Portland. I acquired the wood version of the Prêt à Porteur and Tad even graciously installed the thing for me. What I love most about this rack is that it's mounted only to the front axle and top of the fork at the brake mount. with a somewhat triangular mount, you'd think it might have a sort of lateral wobble, but there's nothing of the sort. It's bombproof. Tad recommends no more than 70lbs on the rack. I don't think I've hit that limit, but I've shuttled both my 6 year old and 9 year old sons (individually) around town, with no troubles other than the standard awkwardness of an extra 50lbs over the front wheel. I regularly throw a couple of grocery bags on there, or boxes for the UPS guy, with no trouble. Zero regrets with this rack. It's solid, it looks good, it's easily removed/stored, has a ton of utility, and can be easily modified/upgraded down the road. Killer rack, highly recommended. Pics follow...