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!


  • Christian Bratina

    Thanks for the sanity. While I can see bikepacking for single track trails, it makes no sense for dirt or paved road riding. We have been cycle touring on tandems and singles for 40 years, with panniers. I always pack my night cloths and tablet on the off road side and my cycling clothing on the road side so I can lean my bike against a wall or pole and pull out a rain jacket or stow my long sleeve jersey. It is so easy to find things with panniers. To try to pull something out of the bottom of a stuff sack is nuts, and the frame bags are always knee bangers. I use a Berthoud VO rack mounted bag with RaClips from Waxwing Bag that are excellent quick releases, with Ortlieb front mounted panniers.

  • Tim Long, Just Up The Hill From Lock 15

    And, when you’re not out properly seeing the country at 11mph, your racks and panniers can carry home supplies from the grocery and hardware stores. One less car…

  • Josh

    Thank god somebody in the bike world finally wrote this post!

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