Complete Guide to Racks

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Introduction to the Rack System

What makes a Tailfin Rack unique?

The key differences between a traditional bolt-on rack and a Tailfin Rack are the way it attaches to the bike, the connections between the Rack and luggage and, last but not least, the aesthetics. 

A standard rack typically requires dedicated mounting points to be fitted to the bike frame and isn’t compatible (without rudimentary adapters) with bike frames without the relevant threaded eyelets. A Tailfin Rack doesn’t require specialist mounting points to fit your bike as it uses the rear axle to mount. This makes it compatible with far more bikes, including lightweight road bikes and full-suspension mountain bikes. This means you can use your favourite bike for your daily commute or next bikepacking adventure – not something possible with traditional rack setups.

On top of the increased compatibility due to our mounting methods, a Tailfin Rack also features a quick-release design allowing it to be easily fitted and removed within seconds. This quick-release design uses tool-free mechanisms that provide the same level of attachment security as you would get with a bolt-on style rack.

Another advantage of a Tailfin Rack is that it has been designed to work in conjunction with a complete range of dedicated luggage, creating an entire bike luggage ‘ecosystem’. This symbiotic approach, rather than using separate, individual products, means that all the bags connect perfectly to the Rack. All our bags use dedicated mechanical mountings, ensuring a completely secure and rattle-free fit.

Finally, a Tailfin Rack has very distinctive aesthetics compared to a traditional rack. Consisting of the unique rear Arch and detachable top stay, it is far removed from the shape most people associate with a rear rack. This provides a more sympathetic outline that works well with all bikes, including high-end, sleek aero road bikes.

Video Complete Guide

What to choose, how to fit

The four Rack options:

carbon rack
Carbon without pannier mounts
Our lightest Rack with the cleanest aesthetics for carrying smaller loads.
Carbon with pannier mounts. Lightweight but with the capability to carry additional luggage by fitting side pannier bags.
Alloy without pannier mounts Features additional triple bosses for mounting cargo or bottle cages and additional loads.
Carbon with pannier mounts Lightweight but with the capability to carry additional luggage by fitting side pannier bags.

Carbon vs Alloy

This is purely down to weight and cost. The Carbon Rack is just as strong as the Alloy version (just ask our racers doing 2000+ km off-road MTB races).

The easiest way to decide which is better for you is to weigh up how much you wish to spend on the setup, and how much of a factor weight is to your objectives.

Bigger budget, high weight concerns = Carbon
Medium budget, low weight concerns = Alloy

The other main difference between Carbon and Alloy Racks is the triple bosses, which are on the Alloy version but not the Carbon. These allow you to run Cargo Cages with Cage Packs or water bottle cages, further expanding your carrying capacity.


Non-Pannier and Pannier-Mount Versions

We also offer a range of pannier bags, specially designed to fit our Racks and AeroPacks, using our X-Clamp technology to offer a secure, robust, and rattle-free ride.

When selecting the options for your Rack, you’ll be asked to choose whether or not your Arch will have pannier mounts. It is not possible to add these onto the Arch later, so it’s important to decide now whether you’re going to want to use side panniers with your Tailfin setup in the future. The non-pannier version of the Arch is the sleekest and slimmest version, whilst the pannier-mount version allows you to carry more, using pannier bags.

Top Stay Length – Long or Short?

The Top Stay is the horizontal bar that connects your seat post to the rest of the Rack, and is made from the same material (Carbon or Alloy, depending on which you chose). Both Top Stays will work with almost all bikes, but to get your ride dialed in properly it’s always best to take some time to decide.

The long Top Stay has been designed to allow the Trunk Top Bag to sit further back from the saddle. On small bikes, or those with the saddle set quite far back, this will allow easier access to the bag as well as allowing you to utilise more of the bag’s volume-carrying capabilities.

The long Top Stay is 50mm longer than the short and we would recommend it for riders with bike frames <54cm, bikes with a dropper post installed, or with less than 100mm of visible seat post.

For help choosing the right size look at the guide here.

Why use a Rack over an AeroPack?

A Tailfin Rack system accesses the most versatile combinations we produce. You can choose exactly how you carry your luggage with a rack. As it consists of a base framework, you can opt to fit any combination of trunk Top Bag and side Pannier Bag*, including fitting side pannier bags from other manufacturers**. 

As the bags can be rapidly removed, this choice should appeal to those riders who want the convenience of being able to take the bag/s with them when arriving at the office, accommodation, or supermarket. We recommend using a Tailfin Rack for road and light gravel use.

Check out the Complete Guide to AeroPacks here.

aeropack and rack side by side

*when opting for the pannier mount version
**using optional Third Party Pannier Adapters (sold separately
)

Fitting to your bike

Our Racks are designed to fit 99% of bikes on the market – whether that’s road, touring, gravel, hardtails, or even full-suspension mountain bikes.
We do this by offering a variety of ways to mount to your bike, so our systems even fit bikes without rack mounting points:

For a more detailed explanation of mounting options for your bike read our Mounting Your Rack or AeroPack Guide.

Whilst all mounting options will work well, we would always recommend Axle Mounting (Option 1) as it provides the most robust and weight-bearing mount. If you’re unsure on your axle type, use our handy tool here.

Modularity

A unique feature of Tailfin products is modularity. Components have been designed to be replaceable and can be swapped over. So if you purchase an Alloy Rack and panniers for your commuting and then want to save weight for an upcoming ultra-distance road race, it’s possible to buy a Carbon Arch and Top Stay on their own and swap these over in a matter of minutes, ready for the start line. 

Alternatively, if you wanted to swap your Rack out to become an AeroPack, you can do so by purchasing an AP20 Top Bag and AeroPack Connector Part, then simply remove your Top Stay, and now you have 2 separate set-ups to choose from.

Repairability and other details

Repairability

The other distinct advantage of being completely modular is that damage to one part of the system doesn’t mean the end of your Rack, as each component can be replaced easily. Our Racks are guaranteed for 5 years for equipment failures/defects, but in theory, they should last a lifetime of use.

All individual parts for Rack systems can be found and purchased in the Accessories and Spares section of the website.

Which accessories can I use with a Tailfin Rack?

The AP20 Trunk Top Bag is a 20L roll-top bag that attaches to any Carbon or Alloy Rack in a matter of seconds.
5/10L Mini Panniers – Smaller volume side pannier bags, ideal for off-road bikepacking use or when you only need a small amount of additional storage capacity.
SL/UD22 Pannier bags – Our largest capacity side pannier bags with 22 litres of volume. Available in Super Light or Ultra Durable materials.
Cargo Cage – Helping you to carry an extra load on your bikepacking trip safely and securely. Cargo cages can be fitted to Alloy Racks with triple bosses and can be bought with Cage Packs.
Light Mounts – Allowing you to attach lights directly to the bag and stay more visible.
AP Mount – CNC machined aluminium mount for the rear of the bag allowing for the attachment of an extra cargo or bottle cage.

Further information

For another deep dive into the Rack and Top Trunk Bag system, check out off-road.cc’s review.
If you can’t find what you need here, you can always contact our friendly Customer Service team.

Rack FAQs

The AeroPack is an integrated seat pack, meaning that the top bag and arch are connected together. With the Carbon and Alloy Racks, the top bag is detachable. For some riders this is an important difference, for others, it is not. The AeroPack is lighter for the weight-conscious rider and has a more simplistic design – which is sometimes preferential on longer trips. For more info, read this.

Both alloy and carbon racks have been tested to the same standards and are capable of carrying a maximum of 27kg. The Carbon Rack has been designed to be strong, and we have historically seen close-to-zero failures due to impact. The main differences between the Alloy and Carbon versions of the Rack are weight, price, and aesthetics.

It is possible to mount a seat-post strip light to the Rack, just as you would your regular seat post, but may rub the Rack finish after heavy use. The AP20 top bag has loops made for certain clip-on lights, or we offer Seatpost mounted light mounts, and regular rack mounted light mounts, which affixes to the AP20 to allow you to mount your rear light directly to the pack.

Yes, the AP20 can carry up to a 13″ laptop, with the only limiting factor being the amount of available seatpost space. If your saddle is low then you will have less space available to fit the laptop and in this case, it may be best to use a side pannier instead. You can pack it vertically (providing there is space as mentioned), or horizontally. If packing vertically you’ll want some items on either side of the laptop to keep it stable over any rough terrain.

This depends on the type of riding you’re doing now and your plans for the future. If the majority of your trips are short overnighters then you probably won’t need side panniers, likewise if you’re riding mainly singletrack. If you’re planning some big adventures, commute often, or want the option to carry up to 27kg in the future, then we recommend the pannier mounted model as you can attach Tailfin Panniers to increase capacity. With our Pannier Adaptors, you can also carry other brands of panniers.

Still have questions? Get in touch with our amazing customer support team now.