How strong is a Tailfin system?

One of the questions everyone here at Tailfin gets asked a lot when out riding is “I really want to use a Tailfin setup but I’m not sure it will be strong enough for ‘proper’ bikepacking”.

At a time when more of us are beginning to feel the call of the wild and are pushing our trips further into the great outdoors, be it a midweek after work campout or a longer trip, reliance on our equipment is paramount. There is nothing worse than poorly performing kit, except maybe kit that breaks in use and lets you down when miles from anywhere.

Whilst Tailfin systems were first introduced with a more tarmac-based focus, Nick (the founder) felt it important to design a modular system that would put up with even hard off-road use for years to come. It’s a philosophy that Tailfin still stands by and we have been fine-tuning our products over the years to ensure that they won’t let you down.

How much weight can you carry?

What you carry and how you carry it can of course have an impact on the reliability of any piece of bikepacking kit. We put weight limits on all of our setups and recommend a maximum of 9 kilograms for any top-mounted bags (e.g. all AeroPack systems and our own AP20 Top Trunk bag). You can also add additional weight either via our pannier mounts or the triple bosses found on the latest alloy arches. Pannier mounts will allow for an additional 9 kilograms per side whereas the triple bosses will allow for a maximum of 4.5 kilograms per side when all three bosses/bolts are used (1.5 kilogram maximum per boss/bolt).

How you pack and where you put the weight can also have an impact and we would always recommend heavier items placed in an AeroPack or AP20 to be stored above the arch rather than fully at the front of the pack.

9 kilograms might not sound like a huge amount of weight but it is very surprising what you could potentially carry that would weigh less than this. For example, going on average weights for mid-level 3 season camping kit you could easily carry a two-person tent (2kg), sleeping bag (1.2kg), sleeping mat (0.6kg), cook kit (1kg), food (1kg) and a complete set of spare clothing (1.5kg) and still have plenty of weight limit left! In fact, in most instances, it would be the volume of the kit that would limit the weight more than the weight of the kit itself.

Are your Racks and AeroPacks suitable for offroad use?

Absolutely. We would recommend opting for axle mounting to ensure complete strength in the system but all mounting options should be strong enough for off-road use. By attaching your Tailfin system to the axle the stresses on your frame are almost eliminated, making this the safest option for use off-road especially with light and high-end carbon bikes. It is the mounting approach we recommend above all others. 

What have you done to ensure all the parts are strong enough?

Real-world testing is a key part of product development. World explorer Andy Cox is part of our test team. Find out more about Andy in this blog and more about his European Divide Trail here.

Tailfin’s designers have vast experience working with materials including carbon fibre, metals and a wide range of fabrics. This ensures that the correct materials are used for all applications from metal grades for bag frames to the right carbon layup for a Carbon Arch. Being a small company we are able to test and choose materials from a complete range. We are not tied to any particular brand or material. If we find a better way of making something, we will.

Every product goes through the full design and development cycle before being released to the public. We start with initial virtual testing using the latest CAD software and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) This allows us to virtually test the design in a number of different materials without needing to produce unnecessary and costly real-world prototypes and in quite short timeframes. FEA helps identify areas of the design where strength is needed most and also allows us to pare away material where it is not needed, enabling us to keep weights as low as possible without compromising strength. From this virtual testing, we are able to get to a stage where we can commission several prototypes of the parts required for the new product.

Prototypes are then put through proper testing using the ‘Washing Machine’, our fatigue testing machine. This mimics the movements of a bike and undergoes 100,000 cycles (movements) in a four-hour session. It’s quite brutal and quickly finds weaknesses in parts if they prove to not be up to the job. We will operate several sessions starting with the bare part before adding more weight until we find the failure limit. 

We then move to our drop test rig for additional weighted testing – this drops the test part from a two-metre height to a hard stop to identify any weakness through a different type of movement.

These two tests form the benchmark for us determining the maximum weight limits we recommend for all our products. 

Once the workshop based testing is complete we move to real-world testing. Tailfin staff and supported riders form the basis of the test team and we try our best to use and abuse the kit to a level that we would expect our customers to put our products through. This often takes place over a few months and can take in everything from everyday commuting, endurance racing of the highest level to multi-day bikepacking trips. We are lucky enough to count Andy Cox, Ben Davies and Jay Petervary, all long-distance legends, amongst our test team so you can be assured that they put the kit through its paces.

We may go through several prototype stages and multiple months of testing before we are happy enough with the quality of materials and construction to press the button on full production. 

I ride a mountain bike – is a Tailfin rack designed to work with it?

Yes! Tailfin Racks and AeroPacks are a perfect match for all types of mountain bikes. The design incorporates three different points of articulation (movement): at the seat clamp, the rear mounting point and the lower mount. These three points allow the rack to move with the bike and is why Tailfin systems work incredibly well with full suspension mountain bikes. Compared to other structural rack systems you don’t need dedicated mounting points on your frame in order to fit a Tailfin system thanks to our axle fit. And finally, compared to most standard seat packs, you can still use your dropper post with a Tailfin.

I have a dropper post – can I still use it?

Dropper post users rejoice, using a Tailfin system will allow you to maintain most of the functionality of your seatpost. There are several factors that will still have to be taken into account though in order to avoid any unwanted issues. You might want to consider that even with a full drop there will still be a large bag behind your saddle that will prevent you from moving too far over the rear wheel!

When using an AeroPack or AP20 Trunk Top bag you will probably find that a longer travel seatpost or smaller frame might foul the bag when the rider attempts to drop the saddle. If this occurs the first thing we would recommend for AeroPack users is to try our Extended Seat Connector. This will push the pack further back and potentially mitigate any issues. If your saddle still interferes with your pack you can try packing softer, compressible items at the front in order to allow for a little more saddle movement without damaging any load.

We have found riders to have broken the internal frame of the AeroPack/AP20 by repeatedly dropping a saddle with too much force onto the pack so we do recommend that you exercise care when using this combination. If in doubt test your setup out and just be aware of any issues.

What have you done to the design to make it cope with hard riding?

How strong is a Tailfin system?

We build in strength wherever possible without compromising performance – this is outlined in how we develop our products (above). This might sound like a well-worn cliche but it really is the case. On top of this, one of the great advantages of being a small company is we are constantly innovating and improving our products whenever a better material or design refinement comes about. We often don’t shout about this but if you were to place a series of the same model AeroPack or Rack side by side you will see changes to the arch, mounting connectors, internal bag frame, and even a change of bolts from hex head to Torx. All in the aid of improving performance and reliability.

Even if you have a system from a few years ago the good news is thanks to the modular nature of all of our products you can potentially upgrade your setup to the latest version without worry.

What if things go wrong?

We get it. Accidents will happen and sometimes things do break.

We are so confident in the quality of our products that we offer a five-year warranty against manufacturing defects. Any issues with materials or function from five years of purchase that are deemed to be from a manufacturing issue will be covered. Sadly we can’t cover usual wear and tear issues within this but the good news is we even have you covered if your rack or bag gets damaged thanks to our Crash Replacement Policy.

There’s nothing worse than the feeling you might have just broken something you love so we want to soften the blow by offering a 30% discount against a like-for-like replacement Tailfin product. We’re conscious that you don’t want to go through the hassle of sending broken parts back whilst you might be on an epic trip, so we will endeavor to send the kit out priority, wherever you are in the world. Whilst we can’t promise to help you pedal the rest of the way we will do our best to keep you on the road.

The same goes if you urgently need a new piece of Tailfin kit wherever you are in the world. If it’s in stock we will get it shipped priority and in your hands as soon as humanly possible. We pride ourselves on being able to send our kit to almost anywhere worldwide but feel free to contact us first to work out the best options with regards to your personal needs.

A further standout of all Tailfin products is their modular nature. This is a crucial feature ensuring any damage that might occur during the everyday life of your Tailfin system doesn’t necessarily mean the end of a product’s life. Firstly all Tailfin mounting systems share the same bolt sizes and secondly, there are several shared components. For example, you might have spotted that both our Rack and AeroPacks share the same arch and also the same trunk top bag (the AP20) – it’s only the way they attach that changes.  All components are available to purchase separately so it might be a simple and relatively cost-effective way to repair your system and get back on the road.

Find out more about the Tailfin product range in the comprehensive Product Guide.

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