Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Build it yourself, Cheapskate!: Porteur Rack edition

This past weekend I headed back to the family farm to take care of the cattle for my parents. I'm happy to do this, not only for the chance to play farmer, but because my father has a pretty well equipped metal working shop.

I've been wanting a porteur rack for some time, and been drooling over the offerings from VO and others. The price put me off though, especially since they would cost more than the actual bike.

Porteur racks come in a variety of variations and materials, each with their pros and cons. What was possible was limited by the materials available, and what I was capable of producing. In the end, I settled on welding 5/16 mild steel. I know that the weight of this rack is much higher than any production rack, but it was within my capabilities as a welder, and the materials were dirt cheap. (I have no photos of the construction because I doubted my ability to manage fire, a camera, and a three year old simultaneously.)

I decided on a flat rack without side rails, with the struts running down to the axle, and the rear attached to the front brake. Many porter racks will run to the fender mounts, but those are already in use on this bike. I also doubted how much weight they could stand.

Construction caught me a bit off guard. I had anticipated that building the platform of the rack would be the hard part, but getting the rack to mount to the bike was the hard part. Initially, I had planned on flattening out the top of the rod to enable bolting it straight to the rack

But the torch was out of oxygen, so that was out. I welded washers on instead, but getting a good weld without burning through the washer was an issue. I'll admit a serious lack of experience welding small parts, which resulted in this weld being by far the weakest point of the rack. To avoid making any more weak points, I fabricated some very crude washer/enclosed dropouts.

Emphasis on crude. Richard Sachs would have a stroke if he saw these.

Strut attachment solved I welded a bracket to the rear of the rack, to attach between the jam nuts on the front of the brake. Problem was that there was not enough threads to allow the jam nuts and the bracket to fit. I tested mounting without the jam nut, but then the entire rack twisted every time I applied the front brakes.  I had seen racks attached to the handle bars, but that would reduce my ability to adjust my handlebars. I had also seen attachments to the fender itself, but I had no threaded bosses available. Also I suspect this rack will switch between bikes, and I don't want to be constantly drilling holes in fenders. In the end, I built a longer bracket that wraps around the rear of the fork, and clamps to two of the rods on the rack.
The left side of the bracket misses the barrel adjuster by about 1/8 inch...
...but it does clear through the full brake travel

This should enable me to fit this rack to almost any bike with a drilled bridge, which 3 out of the 4 of our bikes do have.

So it's heavy, and more than a little ugly, but it's solid and cheap. Finishing may have to wait for a bit until we get temps above 50F.

This evening I mounted the unfinished rack to the Schwinn
Operating Table

I had been wanting to use p-clamps to attach the rear bracket to the rack, but no local hardware store carried them, so I used cable clamps instead. They do stick above the plane of the rack more than I like, so they may be replaced if I find something better. Future racks need a less clumsy rear attachment
Everything went together great, with a little help.
Not yet three, but she's perfectly capable of starting a bolt without cross threading.
I'm so proud.
If you look close, you can see that the rear bracket mounts to the lower end of the cable clamp, then the clamp goes around the rod of the rack

This bike is quickly earning the nickname "Shovelhead"
The finished rack is approximately 12 1/2 x 12 1/2. It ended up clearing the fender by about 3", which is more that I like, but I won't consider it a problem unless it becomes a problem. I have no idea what the weight is, but it's high.

Later that night, I took a shake down run to the college library with the rack empty. I was looking for any rattles, but none appeared. On the way back from the library, I strapped my backpack (with book and crescent wrench inside) for a weighted run. The weight is definitely noticeable, but not unpleasant. The weight up front make the bike corner very smoothly, it seems to reduce some of the twitches out of the handling. Starting from a dead stop takes a bit getting used too, as any wiggles get magnified by the weight of the rack. I had a perception of hill climbs being easier, perhaps with the increased freedom of movement without a backpack?

My first impressions are very positive, and I'm excited to test out the weight limits of this setup. Adjustments are inevitable, so we'll have to see what this rack looks like in a few months.

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