When I first saw the Freeload bicycle rack at the 2009 Interbike tradeshow in Las Vagas, Nevada, I knew it was something that readers here at Bicycle Touring Pro would be interested in. But after more than three months of using the rack myself, I’ve come to the realization that the Freeload bicycle rack is one of the most exciting new cycling product I’ve seen in years!
The Freeload Rack is an adjustable bicycle carrier designed to fit any kind of bicycle – full-suspension bikes included! A rack that fits on standard road, commuter and touring bikes is one thing, but the fact that the Freeload rack so easily fits and functions on full-suspension bicycles is what makes this product such an industry changing piece of gear.
For years now, cyclists have been looking for a way to carry large items on full-suspension bicycles, but because of the various moving parts found of full-suspension bikes, traditional metal racks simply wouldn’t cut it. Adventure racers, every-day mountain bikers, and long-distances tourists on suspension bicycles have for a very long time now been looking for a way to carry the gear they need while out on their bikes without having to carry a backpack or rig up a home-made system to transport their belongings.
That’s where the Freeload Rack comes in to save the day!
The Freeload Rack’s unique design allows it to be both used and transferred between bicycles of any kind. Because the rack uses a system of tight fitting straps and ratchets to secure the rack in place, there is no need for your bicycle to have braze-ons or traditional mounting points (as has been necessary in the past). With a soft, rubberized foot and a patented attachment system that allows you to mount the rack to any frame, shape or material, the Freeload Rack is aptly named as “your platform for adventure.”
How To Mount To Freeload Rack To Your Bicycle
Fitting the rack to your frame for the very first time is the most difficult part of the process, but after you’ve done it once, you realize just how easy the installation process really is.
To start, first attach the mounting brackets to your bicycle’s fork or stays. The “Freeload” logos should be facing outward (as shown in the photo below). To lock the rack into place on your bicycle, wrap the black mounting straps around the fork leg or stay of your bicycle and back through the slot in the stainless steel ratchet pin. Then, using the included 5mm Allen-wrench, tighten the ratchet pin and take up any and all slack in the black mounting strap. Make sure the rack is positioned properly on the bike before tightening the straps all the way. Once you’ve done this on one side of the bike, do it on the other.
Next, select the correct stainless steel strut for your bike. The Freeload Rack comes with three different lengths of stainless steel struts, so that no matter what kind of bike you have, you will have the parts you need to correctly mount the rack to your bicycle. You want to select the strut that will allow you to mount the top of the rack so that it is parallel to the ground. For the front of my bike, I had to use the shortest strut available and mount it in an upward position (see the second photo below). For the back of my bike, I had to use the longest included strut. What strut you use will simply depend on what kind of bike you’re riding and the angle at which you wish to mount your rack.
Once you’ve selected the correct strut for your bike, line up the holes in both the mounting bracket and the plastic clamp on the rack’s frame and fit the stainless strut between these two holes with the supplied 15mm bolts (again, see the second photo below). After you fit the stainless steel strut between the mounting bracket and the frame on one side of the rack, be sure to do the same on the other side. Keep the bolts loose while doing your initial installation so you can adjust the rack perfectly before tightening into place.
Once you’ve got the rack securely mounted to your bicycle’s frame/fork, you can clip on the top deck. To do this, flip the deck upside down and push the green release buttons on the bottom of the deck so as to open up the two attachment hooks. Then, push the top deck’s green toe plate (shown below) into place inside the curved part of the rack. Now, flip the rack right-side up and use your hands to push down firmly on the center of the rack until you hear a loud, resounding “click.” This click is the sound of the green hooks on the bottom of the top deck locking onto your rack. Once you hear this noise, your rack is locked securely in place. If necessary, move the rack forward, back, up or down depending on where exactly you want it mounted on your bicycle. Once you’ve got the rack in a position you like, lock it down by tightening all of the necessary bolts and ratchets.
Mounted On The Back Of Your Bicycle
The photos below show the Freeload Rack mounted to the back of a full-suspension bicycle. On the rack is a sleeping bag, secured with the two small bungees that are included as part of the rack attachment system.
With the Freeload Rack in place and gear mounted to the back of your bike, the rack is nearly 100% undetectable. On the back of your bicycle, you’ll be hard-pressed to even notice that you’re riding with a rear rack at all. The rack in no way affects your handling of the bike; it does not interfere with your wheel, seat post or frame stay; and it carries your gear exactly as it should.
On the back of your bike, the Freeload Rack is a total A+.
Mounted On The Front Of Your Bicycle
Mounted to the front of your bicycle, the Freeload Rack performs nearly just as well. Again, the design of the rack prevents it from interfering with the wheel, fork or frame of your bicycle and it performs as it should by transporting your gear in style and ease.
The photos below show the Freeload Rack mounted on the front of a full-suspension bicycle and carrying a small tent.
With the rack up front, the handling is almost the same as if the rack weren’t there at all. But as is normal when you add any kind of weight to the front of your bike, it does cause a little drag – something that may take a little getting used to for some riders. The more weight you add, the more drag you create and the more difficult your handling becomes.
The biggest problem with the rack up front, however, is not the way the bike handles with it in place, but the fact that the rack can block the view of your front tire. For some riders, I fear this may be a small problem. When riding over rough and rocky trails and roads, many riders want to be able to see what their front tire as they approach oncoming obstacles. Unfortunately, with the Freeload Rack mounted up front, this can be a little difficult.
Personally, I have no problem with not being able to see my front tire as I ride, but my model (shown in each of the photos in this review) shared with me that not being able to see his front tire was throwing off his riding just a bit. I assume that this, like many new products when you first try them out, is something that you simply have to get used to.
Overall Impressions Of The Freeload Rack
In the end, the Freeload Rack is one of the most exciting and well-designed products I have come across in years. It has the potential of changing the way many cyclists carry their gear… and with some of the additions and add-ons the company has planned for the product in the future, the Freeload Rack could one-day become a serious player in the worldwide bicycle market.
The best features of the Freeload Rack are that:
- It fits on any kind of bicycle – full suspension bikes included.
- It is lightweight.
- It is made to handle the demands of heavy off-road riding.
- It is easy to adjust once on the bike.
- The rack can work on both the front and rear ends of your bicycle.
- It comes with all the necessary parts and tools needed to mount it to your bike.
- It doesn’t affect your handling (hardly at all) or interfere with any moving parts.
- There are a bunch of add-ons planned for the product in the future (including the ability to carry panniers)
The things I don’t like about the Freeload Rack are that:
- It is a bit tricky to install the very first time. I’d love to see the company produce a video showing both how the rack works and how it functions out on the trail.
- Because of the placement of the ratchet pins, tightening the attachment straps is a slow and frustrating process (as you can only turn the Allen-wrench one click at a time).
- There is a key that you have to use to unlock the mounting bracket from you bike. I would rather not have a key to carry around and potentially lose. It would be better if I could detach the rack using another 5mm Allen-wrench.
My Overall Rating: 10 out of 10
For more information on Freeload Racks, head on over to: www.freeload.co.nz