Rear mounted bike racks are incredibly useful. Whether you’re riding to school or work each day, or touring Asia by yourself, a rack can help to reduce the strain on your back. While carrying a backpack while cycling is acceptable, over time, the weight can cause aches and pains which aren’t ideal if you’re touring a country.

The solution is to install a bike rack. They are usually very affordable, and even small ones can carry a lot of weight and bulk. Normally you would attach them directly onto the eyelets on your bike. But not everybody has eyelets. Typically, modern bikes do, but older models may not have them, in which case attaching your rack might not be as simple.

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One easy solution which nobody ever talks about is to return the rack and purchase one that is specifically for older bikes without eyelets. Many of these racks exist, although they are more expensive. They come with specialized attachments that will secure onto the bike and ensure that you are cycling safely and won’t lose luggage on your way.

However, most people don’t want that solution because they are trying to save money, or they are stubborn! Fortunately, there is a way to attach a standard rack to your bike. There are multiple ways. However, one is superior because it’s simple, quick, and affordable.

The solution is to use P-clamps. These nifty attachments are the fix for almost every bike related problem, and you can find them in every home hardware store in the nation. They come in a variety of fixtures, sizes, and materials. Measure the diameter of the metal on your bike so that you can be sure that you’re getting the right clamps.

Likewise, you’ll need to decide on the type of material that you want to use. If you’re only carrying a few books and your lunch, a cheap pair of metal and rubber clamps will likely be sufficient. However, for extensive touring or for carrying heavy weight, you’ll likely need stainless steel clamps. You can also get titanium versions which are perfect for large backpacks.

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If you need to carry cumbersome objects, then you shouldn’t use this method. It’s not the most sturdy, and it isn’t going to be able to support large objects. Instead, you’ll need to get a rack that’s designed specifically to mount onto an older bicycle that doesn’t have the eyelets that almost all frames rely on to fit.

Is Your Bike Missing Eyelets?

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Typically your rack will need to mount onto eyelets at the top of the seat stays and at the point where the pipes connect to the rear wheel. Most older bikes won’t have eyelets at the top of the seat stay. However, many will have them at the bottom where they attach to the wheel. If you do have them, use as many of them as possible because they are much stronger.


Eyelets will give you a fantastic grip. You can always use a clamp at the top, or bottom, and holes at the other end.

Mounting with P-Clamps

P-Clamps

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P-clamps are great for attaching racks. These clamps are specially designed to connect two pipes. Where the rack legs would usually bolt onto a brazen bolt, you’ll attach the clamp so that it sits sturdy and then screw it around the bicycle itself. The result will be a firm hold that keeps the rack in place without the need for eyelets. P-clamps are great because they are:

  • Affordable
  • Strong
  • Durable

Attaching at the Seat Stay


Typically, older bikes will not have eyelets here, and therefore a clamp will be needed. To start, you should attach the clamps to the upper part of the seat stay, before it connects to the main seat pole. The result should be two clamps, one on each side, which you can attach the mounting struts too.

Next, take the rack and lay it in the position that you want it on the back of the bike. Doing this will allow you to more easily attach the mounts to the clamps without accidentally putting it in the wrong place or position.


The P-clamp will have a hole that continues through both halves of the piece. You need to position the rack mounting legs in this place so that you can thread a single bolt through all four holes. Then, you can place a nut on end to tighten it into place and keep everything tight. If there is a lot of space, you might also consider using washers.


Washers have two purposes. They can prevent bolts and nuts from scraping away at the metal of the clamp and the bike. They can also fill space. If the mounting legs have too much space in between the P-clamp holes, you can always use more washers to create a tighter fit that won’t allow the rack to shift side to side.


Throughout the process, you’ll want to ensure that you have got the bike rack level to the ground. Doing this isn’t easy. It’s wise to use a bubble level on the rack to maintain the correct angle. Alternatively, many smartphones will have applications which can measure the angle to check if it’s flat to the ground to prevent sliding of objects on the rack.

Attaching the Rack Legs


Now that the upper rack is on the bike, it’s time to give the rack a lower mount which will hold the vast majority of the load. This connection is the most important, and therefore you should use your stronger clamps here if you are using a variety of different components.


Our goal is to connect the legs of the rack to the bottom the seat stays metal, right where it connects to the wheel. A significant concern is the length of the bolt. A bolt that’s too long will get caught up in the spokes of the wheel and can cause damage. In preparation, you should ensure that you find a bolt that is the right size.


Now, we’re going to repeat the steps that we followed above. Attach the clamp onto the metal of the bike and position such that there is one on each side of the wheel and they are perfectly inline. Keeping them at the same height is essential. Another tip is to keep them as low as possible because this means any sliding will be less impactful.


With the clamps in the position, you should pull the legs of the rack down and into place. The should sit in the middle of each clamp so that you can thread a bolt through them, the same as you do up top. Once the bolt is through you should attach a strong metal bolt, ideally stainless steel, onto each so that the rack is kept upright and can hold a load.


Once this is complete, you should check that the bike can hold a heavy load by testing it. Again, use a bubble level to ensure that you have installed it at the correct angle. You can adjust this easily by loosening the nuts and sliding the clamps up or down.

Is P-Clamps Enough?

A common question that gets asked about this approach is whether P-clamps are sufficient. If you ask ten people about this, you’ll probably get ten different answers. The truth is that it depends on how much you’re carrying, what materials you used and how well you attached the rack using the clamps.


If you’re touring a country for months and are expecting to carry a big backpack and other objects, this might not be the ideal solution. If you were to use this approach you would need to use stainless steel or titanium clamps, bolts and nuts to provide extra strength. Alternatively, you can weld on eyelets or get a specialized rack with different attachments.


However, for the vast majority of people, this solution is perfect. It’s very cheap and will probably cost you less than ten dollars and only takes a few minutes to complete. It should hold tens of pounds and will ensure that you can carry more to work or school. Again, if you’re holding more, you should use stronger materials.

Welding Eyelets

An alternative solution, which most people never consider, is welding eyelets onto your existing bike. Eyelets aren’t complicated; they are only chunks of metal which are connection points and anchors for the weight of the rack. Truthfully, eyelets are the best options because they help to hold the weight more evenly and are more sturdy.


Welding eyelets onto a bike are very simple. The problem is that you probably don’t have the correct equipment at home. However, many bike shops will have welding tools and eyelets to attach. Alternatively, you could try to find a metal worker in your area who might be willing to attach them for you.


This process will take a couple of minutes, and it shouldn’t cost you a lot at all. The main issue will be finding somebody with the right equipment and training to perform the work on your behalf. For this reason, many people go with our P-clamp method because it offers simplicity, a quick fix, and a very affordable price point.


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