Racks are often dismissed amongst the bikepacking world, too heavy, too fragile or maybe just too limiting are all reasons cited but sometimes a rack may prove not just your only option, it might just be your best option. The Freeload rack doesn't look like other racks ... because it isn't like other racks. It's blindingly obvious from the moment you take it out of the box, that someone has taken a long hard look at bicycle luggage racks and decided that there was a better way to design and make them and this is the result.
Fitted and ready to go.
I tend to find that when people describe something as being 'universal' it usually means that it doesn't really fit anything particularly well but (with some messing about and occasional violence) can generally be made to fit most things. I'm sure you can imagine my surprise and actual delight when I tried to fit the Freeload rack to numerous different bikes both on the back and front ... and couldn't find a single bike I wasn't able to attach it to. I didn't have to bend anything in a vice, file any brackets or even attack it with a large rock. It genuinely is a universal fit, regardless of bike or your desired location on the bike ... hardtail, rigid, full suspension, front or back it really doesn't matter, it's all good. All the hardware required to set the rack up perfectly for any bike, is in the box. It's not a difficult task, just select the correct length stainless cross braces so the rack sits level and that's it ... see simple.
The bits that hold it on, cunning and very strong.
The rack attaches to the bike by way of 4 nylon straps that are tightened by a cunning ratchet mechanism, you don't require any rackmounts, braze-ons or mounting holes. Now I know that in a world of nuts and bolts, 4 nylon straps doesn't really sound like it's up to the job but trust me ... once tight it really isn't moving, no matter what you're riding over or carrying. If you want to remove the rack it'll take you about 30 seconds, simply release the 4 ratchets with the supplied security key and away you go ... no spanners required!
Reviewing a product that works is always a difficult task. If something doesn't live up to expectations then you've plenty to write about ... when it just works you're often stumped! I 'field tested' the rack by fitting it to the back of my Inbred, strapping a drybag to it then completely forgetting all about it. I didn't have to think about it, there was never any reason to. I had wondered if the straps may 'give' a little when they got wet (and yes they got wet, very wet) but after checking them twice I gave up. They hadn't come lose, the rack was still as stable as it was when I'd first fitted it ... not something that's always true of more traditional racks, especially off road on a rigid bike.
The rack I've tested has the 'touring' deck fitted, which is the largest one. A smaller 'sports' deck is available, it can be swapped over in a couple of seconds. For me the touring deck was ideal, it held a 13L drybag perfectly without been ungainly. For anyone wanting to use proper panniers then a pair of side guards can be clipped on to prevent your panniers swinging into your wheel.
Tour deck ... plenty of room.
So there you have it, a truly innovative product that really is universal ... what more do you want? It fits, it works and it removes many of the problems we often associate with racks, I can't fault it.