Blackburn EX1 expedition pannier rack (and Blackburn MTN1 pannier rack)

All of my bikes that have been fitted with pannier racks have Blackburn models. There is no particular reason other than that they were ‘in’ when I took up cycling seriously in the late 1970s. You will find no shortage of cyclists who will tell you they prefer the racks produced by other manufacturers. I would not argue with them. Nor would I argue with those who prefer to call this accessory a carrier. This is a short review of the Blackburn EX1 expedition rack, with additional comments on the smaller of the two Blackburn MTN racks.

Blackburn EX1 expedition pannier rack

The Blackburn EX1 rack comes with a variety of hexagonal nut fittings and a basic light bracket to fasten to the rear of the rack. (There are also clamps for bikes without braze-ons etc.) Blackburn recommends that you fit their shallow-headed bolts from the inside of the frame and use the nuts supplied to secure on the outer face of the rack itself. The bolts provided weren’t quite long enough (for reasons that will become clear later) and I chose to screw in the bolts from the outside of the frame. The photograph below shows the bolt protruding beyond the frame.

There isn’t a real problem here, as the smallest sprocket is 11T; however, when I replace this cassette with another with the smallest sprocket of 13T I am fairly sure that the chain will rub against the bolt in the lowest gear. As I say, this fitting is temporary.

Be aware that the inner foot of the pannier rack will strike against the bottom of the seat stay on some frames. I have seen pictures of the rack that show the inner foot (the one nearest the front of the bike) partially sawn off in order to fit it in place. As a temporary solution I slotted a domestic tap washer over the bolt to act as a spacer to move the bottom of the rack away from the seat stay. This is far from ideal for a number of reasons including that it means there is too much of the bolt sticking out from the frame, and the rack appears to squeeze the dropouts closer together when you need to replace the rear wheel.

The adjustable stainless steel stays are very easy to bend in to shape. Don’t fully tighten the bolts at the top of the chain stay, and leave some slack on the four nuts and bolts that fasten the adjustable stays to the top of the rack before getting the top of the rack in the horizontal. There is no height adjustment.

On my disc-brake mountain bike the MTN version of the Blackburn rack (this is the smaller of the two sizes available) also had to have longer bolts, with washers acting as spacers, to spread out the ends of the stays where they fasten near the dropouts. However, there is no inner foot (in fact there is no inner stay at all) on the MTN version.

My oldest Blackburn rack has never failed me. It is fitted to a very rusty (for now) Coventry Eagle Touristique. I have toured with camping equipment and used three different types of pannier, all of which fasten to the rack with no trouble. That's why I bought an MTN version for my Ridgeback MX5 and the EX1 for my Kinesis Racelight T2. However, the one on the Ridgeback needed washers on the bolts to avoid fouling the disc brake and the Kinesis frame didn't like the inner foot. There also seems to be excessive clearance above the 700c rear wheel. For very light touring I wonder if the largest of the MTN versions would be a better fit for the Kinesis frame.

Anyway, the new rack is on a bike with an aluminium frame and a different geometry to my old touring bike. The newer bike also has only one pair of holes into which both the pannier rack and mudguard are secured. It is, of course, always preferable to have a touring bike with two pairs of holes through which the mudguards and rack can be secured separately so that less of the bolt protrudes from the outer face of the bicycle’s frame (and consequently less strain is placed on the bolts).

I shall probably saw off the front feet on the new rack (which I resent having to do on a brand new purchase), and fit shorter bolts (reversing their direction), before I try to carry anything but the lightest load.

9 comments on “Blackburn EX1 expedition pannier rack (and Blackburn MTN1 pannier rack)”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    My Ridgeback Panorama touring bike came with front and rear Blackburn touring racks. The rear one is pretty much identical to your Blackburn EX 1 expedition rack but has a reflector fitted on the back, and it's silver. The inner foot is clear of the chainstay too.

    However, the front Low Rider rack was impossible to fit. I couldn't get the fixings to line up on the fork. So I got a Tubus Tara, which has a hoop over the front wheel for extra stiffness. The Tubus is made in steel and the Blackburn in aluminium, so I would imagine the Tubus is stronger overall – but more expensive. Looking at the racks page on Blackburn's website, they don't seem to make front racks any more, but you can buy a Blackburn Low Rider on Wiggle and other places.

    Good photos, BTW.

  2. Garry wrote:

    Ahem,... Calling a carrier a "rack" is another example of creeping Americanisation. Similar sins include "regular" coffee, a bike "store", "touching base" and so on. I'll have to rack my memory (sorry, carrier my memory) to think of others!!

  3. Martin wrote:

    um it's Americanization, with a "Z"

    Anyway, blackburn is definitely good. I have a pannier rack by Arkel which I am very happy with.

  4. David wrote:

    Any chance you could show or email me some more pics of the rack attached to your MTB. Im having real problems getting it attached to mine due to the disc brakes.

  5. Chris wrote:

    Hi, David. My MTB is at work at the moment. If you can wait I'll get it back in a day or two. In the meantime, did you try a long bolt spaced out with washers? More later...

  6. Chris wrote:

    The Blackburn MTN1 rack showing the rear brake disc brake retaining bolts (Ridgeback MX5) narrowly clearing the frame of the rack:

    Blackburn MTN1 side image

    Note the two zip ties holding the mudguard stay away from the brake caliper

    View from the front showing – through the dirt – the washers slotted over the bolt securing the non-drive side foot of the rack:

    Blackburn MTN1 image from front

    Blackburn MTN1 pannier rack foot viewed from the front

    From left to right in the photograph – bolt head; washer; rack foot; two washers; mudguard stay; two washers; bike frame:

    Blackburn MTN1 image from rear

    Blackburn MTN1 pannier rack foot viewed from the rear

    This set up is far from ideal; in theory it places too much of what I believe is called "shear strain" on the bolts. But it works for me. I have carried – at the same time – two laptop computers; an external hard drive; A4 folders and a change of clothing. I also used this bike to carry luggage and everything else (plus a rack bag) on a short cycling tour of Belgium last summer. Hope this helps.

  7. Patrick wrote:

    Or possibly "bending moment"?

    I have the same issue with my Giant (with disc brakes). I'd probably need a Tubus Disco rack, which can be mounted on the skewer as well as the eyelets.

  8. Nick wrote:

    I don't get why the nuts on the buttonhead screws for the rack won't tighten fully up. Either I'm being thick (and the instructions aren't good enough) or the design is bad.

  9. Chris wrote:

    Nick wrote: I don't get why the nuts on the buttonhead screws for the rack won't tighten fully up.

    Sorry, Nick. Can you explain exactly what you mean, please? If I can help I will.

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