Some friends accuse me of being too practical, foregoing aesthetics for versatility. Think of a four year old pair of Carhartts, or a WW I era hunting rifle passed down through the generations. It's not because I'm cheap per-se. Rather, I prefer to spend my hard earned cash on things that will last: a pair of hand stitched, all leather boots will keep going for a decade or more. With that in mind, I recently purchased Surly's new the 8-pack front rack.
I love Surly's attitude. Every time I order one of their products, I find something unique in the packaging, subtle messaging, or design that reiterates why I support them. Likewise, one of the first thing I noticed was the "intended use" notice on the packaging. Easy to miss if you weren't paying attention. Additionally, the packaging surprised/impressed me for some reason. Kind of a mix between industrial and sleek.
Right out of the box, the heft of the rack is noticeable. I didn't put it on the scale, but its definitely heavier than any aluminum rack in the shop. That shouldn't be a surprise thought, as its made out of strong, reliable, and repairable Cromoly steel. The advertised carrying capacity is 30lbs, and I have no doubt it will carry that much, probably more.
Mounting: Racks are right up there with fenders as the most annoying and frustrating accessory to mount on a bike. The wide range of frames and rack designs result in no two racks/bikes mounting up in the same way. Using a bike or fork that is actually designed to carry things, makes this a whole lot easier. As such, I mounted the 8-pac up on Surly's Cross Check fork complete with mid blade as well as fork crown eyelets. These mounting options are nearly essential for the rack to work. I'm sure you could jimmy rig it on with straps and such, but I won't go there.
The assembly of the rack was as straight foreword as one could hope. I opted to use some V-brake conical washers to improve the junction between fork leg and rack support. I'm sure this wasn't necessary, but I like the little bit of adjustment this adds. The rack easily clears the cantilever brakes as well as the fork crown cable stop.
Impressions: The first thing I noticed is just how solid the rack is, both in construction as well as its hold on the fork. I can't get any flex or movement between the rack and fork even when wrenching them around by hand. In its stock form, the cross pieces that make up the actual platform of the rack are pretty widely spaced. This could be problematic as the large gaps can allow cargo to slip between them. Large cargo, like a 12 pack of adult beverages will have no problems, but a traditional 6-pack of cans will easily fall between the rack supports. Surly has though of this and included plenty of threaded barrel bosses on the rack that will come in handy when mounting accessories. Some sort of lightweight box or crate, bolted to the rack, will provide the needed platform to easily carry smaller items. Time to get crafty. While I decided to mount it up to my single speed commuter, the 8-pack is equally at home on a off road touring machine: perhaps a Surly Pugsly or ECR.
So far I couldn't be happier with the 8-pack rack. Sold, versatile, and relatively easy to mount provided the proper fork. I do plan on attaching some sort of minimal crate to reduce smaller items from falling between the gaps. This rack fills a void in the front rack world where we just haven't had a ton of options for minimal, but capable front cargo options. It even looks good, to boot.