Bontrager's BackRack Lightweight is apparently aimed at commuters, and while it's a generally capable beast of burden, I would be more inclined to suggest its sleek, slender profiles are most complementary to steel-tubed sportive/audax bikes on calorie-controlled diets.
The rack itself looks stunning. Fashioned from 6061 aluminium, its TIG welds are uniformly neat throughout and it all feels reassuringly solid. Ours has a gloss black powder coat but there's also a silver version.
Although it looks good by factory standards, closer inspection suggests the powder coating was applied directly atop the aluminium alloy sans primer. This is common practice, saving grams and cash, but goes some way to explaining why the BackRack was vulnerable to stone chip and abrasion damage.
In any case, there's a limited lifetime warranty covering manufacturing defects, and mummifying any points where luggage makes contact under electrical tape will prevent mounting hardware from gnawing through.
The rack's tubes offer decent tenure to most pannier fittings, but provide insufficient support to bigger, 20 litre panniers, and 13 litre rack bags tended to hang paunch-like over the relatively narrow top rails. However, it proved a solid platform for 1.5 litre soft drinks bottles and similarly awkward roadside purchases when lashed down with an elasticated 'cargo-net'.
Little touches such as the integral mounting plate for dynamos/LEDs and a beautifully engineered, ultra-comprehensive fitting kit (including quick release skewer, slip-on eyelets, seatstay bridge mount and stainless steel fasteners) are typical Bontrager.
The only prerequisite is a drilled brake bridge (or seatstay eyelets) – and frames with carbon fibre dropouts are a non-starter.
My fixed gear winter/trainer's wishbone triangle makes what would otherwise be a straightforward build tricky, but a patient, methodical approach had it perfectly aligned and the arms trimmed to size in 40 minutes.
Bontrager doesn't stipulate a maximum payload, but lateral stiffness has been impressive with 15kg spread across two 14 litre panniers and a 10 litre top bag – more than most of us would regularly commute, or weekend tour with. Upping this to 20kg and extending rides to 50 miles revealed some very minor whip, but nothing to write home about.
Ultimately, there are better – dare I say cheaper – designs for commuters and tourists looking to use bigger panniers, rack bags and/or cart heavier payloads. However, this should be high on your list if you're looking to fit a proper rack to a racier bike.
A good rack with a brilliantly engineered fitting kit, particularly suited to lightweight audax/sportive bikes
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Backrack Lightweight
Size tested: 13-22in
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bontrager says: "Turn any bike, including most road bikes (with the included adapters), into a touring or commuting beast. The alloy, bag-compatible Backrack Lightweight rack is our lightest without sacrificing strength or utility."
It has some scope for moderately laden commuting and touring, but in my view it's an ideal complement to audax and sportive builds on calorie-controlled diets.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Includes adapter kit for mounting to most road bikes
* One size fits most
* Compatible with Interchange trunk bags
* Long-lasting, corrosion-resistant, stainless steel hardware
* Do not use with carbon dropouts
* frames must have brake bridge or seat stay eyelets
Well made but powder coated finish seemed vulnerable to chipping and similar damage.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the Bontrager BackRack Lightweight is an excellent option for riders who would otherwise struggle to fit a rack to minimalist or tricky frame configurations and who want to carry relatively light loads. It's surprisingly rigid and good looking, but there are better choices for commuters and tourists wanting to haul bigger cargos or 20 litre pannier(s).
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Generally well engineered and with a very comprehensive range of fitting options.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Finish a little disappointing on ours.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if their frame made fitting a 'normal' rack difficult and wasn't full carbon.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross and traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)