Blackburn Outpost front rack installation

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  • This is one of those threads that I am writing because I could not find this kind of info anywhere online. I can either bitch about it or fill that gap. This thread is about filling that gap.

    So. This is how to install a Blackburn Outpost front rack using a QR skewer.

  • Some context on the purchasing decision first.

    I am doing some touring later this summer with full camping gear.

    I am not bikepacking. There is no “gnar.” There is no gravel. The tyres are not tubeless and they are not knobbly and they are not tanwall. I am not sleeping under a thin piece of plastic in a hammock strung beneath trees deep in the forest primeval. Fuck that. Full tent. Full cooking gear. Inflatable mattress. Sleeping bag. Camping chair. Food. Clothes. The shit you need for a week in civilisation. I do not need a frame bag. Or a saddle pack. Or a bar bag. Or a feedbag. This is not about speed. I am not TCR-ing or TABR-ing or Trans-ing anything other than a stretch of French canal in the middle of the Burgundy. I need a front rack to help me carry my wine from campsite to campsite. I have a Surly Cross Check with lots of attachment points. I can make this work.

    Fuck me good front racks are expensive. Even used.

    But you can get lucky sometimes and I picked up a ex-demo Blackburn Outpost Expedition front rack not too many GNs on ebay. It’s a bit overkill for basic touring but, to reiterate, fuck me good front racks are expensive. And I didn’t like the look of the alternatives in the same price bracket.

    A visit from the postman and I have a rack with a bag full of hardware. Let’s look at the instructions.

  • What is this! Instructions for ANTS!!

    Yes. These are the instructions and that is a beer bottle cap for scale. The pics are so small I ended up downloading the PDF from the Blackburn website and zoomed in very far so that

    1) I can read the 3 point type they used for this and
    2) I can see any detail in the pics before so I can try and figure out what the hell is meant to be happening.

    Dear Blackburn, this sucks. It looks like you literally spent about 10 minutes on this after giving it to a design intern before ignoring all of his/her sensible suggestions on layout, formatting and content. This is easily the worst set of vendor instructions I have ever come across. Really fucking terrible. Which is a real shame as there are about 6 different ways to mount this which gives it lots of flexibility for lots of different frames.


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  • So, for a couple of different reasons I choose to mount this using the QR option. For those of you who do not have an electron microscope, this is what I was able to glean from the instructions.

    “Install extra long quick release skewer (available separately) through the lower mount and bicycle hub. Follow your bicycle/wheel manufacturer recommendations for removing and installing quick release or have a qualified bicycle shop replace it for you.”

    So. One order for a very long Blackburn QR skewer later and I am ready to go.

    But. The instructions still suck. So let me Google this - I am sure someone has written up the instructions or done a youtube video or something about this.

    Nope.

    Miscellaneous forum posts from US forums of completed installs but no pics in progress and no write ups.

    OK. I can do this and take pics and the same time.

  • So this rack has a couple of oddities worth mentioning.

    1. Whatever the coating is on the rack is brittle. I have had fried chicken with a more durable coating than this. It’s like they forgot about tolerances for the coating in the design of the hardware so you have no choice. If you get one, do not expect a pristine rack post-installation.
    2. The Blackburn QR skewer sort of sits on top of the mounting points, it doesn’t recess into them as I would have expected. It all seems solid, but it a bit odd. Like they didn’t quite finish the design for some reason.
    3. The machining of the attachment points on my model was really, really poor. The eyelets,
      once screwed into the extenders, didn’t end up either flush or even parallel. It was all quite shonky.

    I appreciate that points 1 & 3 could easily have come from the fact that this was an ex-demo rack. However I don’t that’s the case here as;

    The rack had chips of the coating come off in new areas when test fitting for my installation.

    I cannot fathom why a shop with access to the Blackburn distro would not have found asked for replacements if they considered the attachment hardware to be below par. Maybe this ex-demo rack was an early run with quality issues, but if that was the case why would they not not just warranty it?

    The QR skewer design issues stand I think firmly with Blackburn.

  • So, onto the installation.

    Install and mark the QR and take a hacksaw to the extra 4 cm of the QR axle. It is an extra long axle. But there is nothing special about it. I suspect I could have repurposed a rear wheel QR and gotten the same result.

    It is quite fiddly making sure that the wheel is firmly set in the drop out before clamping though. Where the rack touches the dropout is much narrower than your standard clamp. I suspect I will go back in later and add in a washer to even out the clamping forces.

    It’s very hard to get a good feel for how firm the clamp needs to be too. But you’ll get there.


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  • There are three options for mounting the rack to the rest of the fork. Mid fork eyelets, p-clamps and canti brake bosses.

    I am going for mid fork eyelets as the mounting point to the frame. I didn’t want P-clamps. I am running cantis and didn’t want to have to remove them, install the rack and then set the brakes up again with the rack in the way. So with some faffing and some swearing and you can get it set up roughly.


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  • The extenders that connect the rack to the for use a cam lock and that is what chews up all of the coating. Even just trying out a couple of different test fittings created additional damage. At least it is aluminium and won’t rust. And it also helps that I don’t give a shit about the aesthetics; I have a cargo bike kickstand on my bike FFS. Some scratches on the rack are not going to bother me at all.

    Anyway. You need to chop that extra bit off the extenders and then tidy up the sharp bits with a Dremel. I did one side at a time. But beware, the final look ain’t pretty.


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  • FWIW - This job is much easier if you have a wife who is an engineer. It means that we have tools for everything and more importantly good clamps that attach to a work bench to go with top quality hacksaw blades and a top of the range Dremel.


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  • So I mentioned the weird machining of the eyelets. You can see what I mean with this pic. You can see the misalignment gaps and a general disregard for sensible tolerances.


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  • In order to prevent and rattling or general working loose (which admittedly is unlikely) I dived into the parts bin for leather washers. This gave me elegant bodge to that keeps everything from rattling before I tightened up everything at the final installation.


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  • So a bit more work to reroute the wiring for the dynamo but everything came out fine. The optional bridge piece worked well as a light mount but it needed a longer bolt to hold it all together.


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  • Overall I think this will be pretty solid. I will be doing a proper shakedown ride soon to test it all in anger but don’t expect it to give me any issues.


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  • Some final thoughts on this.

    Looking at the instructions and the need for metal working tools, I can only reach the conclusion that Blackburn assumes is that this will NOT be installed by the average home mechanic. That may be the case for most people but that doesn’t explain the poor fittings; even a good bike mechanic would struggle with the inherent defects I found in mine.

    I honestly would have expected something a bit more elegant from a design standpoint. I get that they have about 1000 bike makes to accommodate with this design, so I can cut them a lot of slack for that. You have 6 mounting option combinations and that will get you something that will work for your bike which is pretty impressive.

    In hindsight, for the basic touring I will be doing, I probably should have bought the swanky Tubus s-curve front pannier racks instead for a lower faff solution. But this will work absolutely fine for many years to come and I’ll just deal with it.

  • Tl;dr

    If you really want one, get a bike shop to install it unless you are mechanically adept and have access to good tools.

  • my thoughts,

    The whole qr thing looks shonky as hell. This is not down to your implementation of it but rather Blackburn's design. I understand you don't want to mount the rack ontop of your mudguard thingy and you can't do it the other way because of the design of the rack but what about putting the rack in the fork eyes and then mounting the guards to one of the spare holes in the upright support piece in this image?

    I'm sure I ran that set up for a while with mine.

    To counter the rattly crapness of these pieces...

    I added a nut onto the thread, I spin the nut as far down as I can, install the dished part as per the instructions then tighten the nut against the champagney coloured piece. It holds the dished piece at the desired angle and stops the rattles.

    You say "I am running cantis and didn’t want to have to remove them, install the rack and then set the brakes up again with the rack in the way." the rack goes on top of the brake so you would only have to undo the bolt that holds your brake arms on and then put the rack part in place and fit the special bolt that fits into the concave dished bit, no re-setting up of brakes required.

    Edit:

    I agree about shonky tolerances and stuff by the way but then I found the Pizza rack is a similar story. Guess there's actually quite a lot of making in a rack so to get the price down to something sensible the quality suffers.

    Also, I haven't cut my support arms down ever. I've swapped it to a couple different bikes and have been glad I never got around to doing this as I needed the extra length sometimes. I always managed to tuck the extra out the way.

  • Yeah. I agree about the QR piece. I will look at a washer between the rack and the dropout - that should even out the clamping forces. I will have a fettle later today I think.

    I added a nut onto the thread, I spin the nut as far down as I can, install the dished part as per the instructions then tighten the nut against the champagney coloured piece. It holds the dished piece at the desired angle and stops the rattles.

    Do you have a pic of that? In my head I can't see there being enough thread for that on the eyelets. Unless I have misunderstood something.

  • Crap meant to get a pic the other day.

    I’ll try and remember to do it tonight.

  • You finally forgot.

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Blackburn Outpost front rack installation

Posted by Avatar for Aroogah @Aroogah

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