Rack Packing: A Trendy Term for Timeless Touring

13 comments by Igor Shteynbuk

In the world of cycling, it's amazing how something old can be repackaged, sprinkled with a dash of modern marketing magic, and presented as the latest and greatest innovation. Enter "rack packing"—a term that's making some waves in the cycling community. But let's cut through the jargon and call it what it is: the same old rack and panniers setup that bicycle tourists have been using for decades.

The Not-So-New Kid on the Block

It's interesting to look at various "Rigs of" galleries on Bikepacking.com of how to approach off-road races over the years. Up until a couple years ago, racks were completely shunned with folks opting for pure bikepacking-style bags strapped from everywhichwhere on the bike. The idea is that hard connections using racks are more likely to break when bumped around off-road. This concept even bled into touring on pure road bikes with the style dubbed "road packing".

Photo courtesy of Bikepacking.com from 2019


For those of us who have been cycling long enough to remember when "bike packing" was simply called "touring," the rise of rack packing is mostly amusing. With a bit of marketing spin, rack packing is being sold as a revolutionary approach to long-distance cycling.

Photo courtesy of Bikepacking.com from 2024

The concept is straightforward: attach a rack to your bike, hang some panniers off it, and hit the road. This isn't rocket science; it's the bread and butter of bike touring. Panniers, those trusty saddlebag-like containers, have been faithfully serving cyclists since the 19th century. They distribute weight evenly, keep your gear accessible, and transform your bike into a pack mule ready for adventure.

What really grinds my gears is the way this rebranding overlooks the rich history and practical wisdom accumulated by generations of bicycle tourists. By dressing up the old rack and panniers system in a fancy new name, we risk forgetting the lessons learned by those who came before us.

Let's Keep It Real

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for innovation and improvements in cycling gear. But let's give credit where credit is due. The cyclists who have been touring for decades with their trusty racks and panniers deserve recognition, not a slick marketing campaign that pretends to reinvent the wheel. Or maybe they were simply visionaries.

Scott touring Sweden in 1993

In the end, whether you call it rack packing or simply touring, the joy of loading up your bike and hitting the open road remains the same. Let's celebrate the timeless tradition of bicycle touring and appreciate the gear that has carried us through countless miles and unforgettable adventures. After all, it's not the name that matters—it's the journey.

So, here's to racks and panniers, rack packing, bike packing, road packing, light packing, and everything in between. May your wheels keep turning and your adventures never end. Happy riding!


  • Ron

    I have been using four Carradice Super C panniers for years, first on a Schwinn Voyager SP, now on a Campeur. Pedal in to a campsite, pitch your personal village, pedal down the road at sunup. Great way to see the country.

  • Bruce Buchanan

    I’m old, so it’s amusing to see how “rack packing” is being presented as something new. This is the way I was taught to load a bike in the 80’s: keep the load as low as possible so it doesn’t screw up the handling. Then along came “bike packing”: just tie big ol’ heavy sacks all over the top and ignore how much this screws up the handling!

  • Leroy Rochester

    Just wait, they are going to rediscover triple chainrings as “Adventure Gearing”.

    Or maybe, “Explorer Bearings”, for when sealed bearings are too risky to take on the epic mountain tour and you need the security of big balls that you can service yourself.

    Panniers and racks just had too much utility for the bikepackers to ignore them forever.

  • Kyle

    I’d say that Scott is a visionary. Let’s call it Scottpacking.

  • Alan

    Just finished 850 miles Boston to Pittsburgh & then down Cumberland GAP & C&O Canal. Used rear Ortliebs, Banjo Bro under top tube, small handlebar bag & tent/sleeping bag on fork. W every ride start always involve making adjustments but most important always seems to be – how to make it ever leaner, sparse, lighter. I never fail to wonder at end why I brought something.

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