By Eric McKeegan
PHOTO: ADAM NEWMAN
The term porteur references the bikes used by newspaper delivery kids in Europe during the early and mid-1900s. The main characteristic they all shared was a large front rack reportedly capable of carrying up to 100 pounds of newsprint.
Got a hankering to relive your glory days slinging papers onto your neighbors’ porches? Soma has just what you need in their $115 Porteur rack. Constructed from chromoly steel and available in chrome or black, the rack is adjustable to fit most bikes with 26” or 700c wheels. The struts mount to the axle or quick-release, which means it works fine on any bike without braze-ons. Two caveats: it was a pain to load the bike onto a fork-mount car rack, and the rack didn’t work at all on a fork with hooded dropouts.
I spent some extra time getting the rack to mount as low and close to the head tube as possible to keep it from getting floppy when heavily loaded. This created some fit issues with my front fender; setting the rack up higher off the wheel would avoid this. I also zip-tied a cut-in-half handlebar grip to my down tube to protect it from getting bashed by the rack when it swung around.
After using it for a few weeks, I was converted. This is probably the single most practical change I’ve ever made to a bike. With the addition of a few straps or bungees and the Soma Porteur Rack Fence ($35), I’ve managed to carry all kinds of things to and from work and the store while still enjoying a light and speedy bike when unladen. Very heavy loads can make for steering that needs a steady hand, but it only took me a few rides to get down with loading it up and heading to work. The max load I was comfortable with for longer rides was around 25 pounds. My typical lock, laptop, tools, and lunch load was just fine. My ailing back has been thankful to take the load off, Fanny.
I wholeheartedly recommend this rack for just about anyone who rides for utility, with the caveat that the changes to handling might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The versatility of the Porteur rack made it a better choice for me over a rear rack or basket; with little more than a bungee cord I was able to carry wheels, a case of beer, a big sack of food, or a cooler. It can even mount small panniers on the side, making your city bike a great option for a short bike camping trip. www.somafab.com