If you’re planning a fully-loaded tour to a remote area, don’t try to save pennies on racks. Since early 2013 Margo has had Tubus racks. These performed so well on our recent Northern Europe trip that Chris also switched to Tubus racks in 2014. We have Logo Classic on the rear and Tara in front.
Chris first had steel Surly Nice Racks, bomb-proof but very heavy, and Margo started out with lighter Old Man Mountain racks. After 35,000 km, the Old Man Mountain racks were showing wear from contact points with panniers due to road vibration. First Margo, then Chris switched to Tubus racks. By making this switch from Surly to Tubus, Chris reduced his total load by over a kilogram – a significant saving!
Note on Surly Nice front rack:
On our Bangkok to Paris trip in 2009, about the only gear failure we had was that a mounting bracket for Chris’s Surly Nice front rack broke. The racks may be sturdy strong, but any system is only as good as it’s weakest link. The mounting points are part of that system, and they failed us.
Note on any front racks where the two sides are not connected over the front tire:
This design inherently lacks strength. We had such separate-sides front racks constantly coming loose on the rough surfaces of our Castlegar to Vancouver trip.
For excellent value, look at Mountain Equipment Co-op house brands. For superb quality and total protection against rain and dust, look at Ortlieb. We upgraded from MEC to Ortlieb classic front-roller and back-roller. The classic is a bit heavier than plus, but we felt the fabric would be more durable. These have served well for more than 30,000 km. We’ve replaced the one Fastex buckle on each bag which was most exposed to UV. (Some were cracking.) The hooks that attach panniers to racks are still fine.
A bike computer (odometer) is essential for navigation. We use studious wired ones we can find. We have used wireless ones but do not find them reliable.
A bell is useful for warning pedestrians of your approach. A cheap compass clipped to your handlebar bag can be very useful for orienting yourself at junctions. Make sure it is not near anything steel or magnetic.
You’ll also need a pump, lights, and a lock. Look for a small pump that has a pressure gauge, and which can be used held braced on the ground with your foot. Lights are the LED variety, with the brightest light going on a helmet mount. On tours, we take a couple of lightweight cable locks for the two of us. We feel a U-lock or heavier cable is excessive for touring. We are never far from our bikes, and our requirement is only to prevent a quick grab.