Saturday, June 24, 2023

Velo Orange Utility Bar & Utility Rack Review

The Velo Orange Utility Rack & Utility Bar
 Early in May I got the Velo Orange Utility Bar and Utility Rack mounted to my 2003 Surly Karate Monkey. Since then I have hauled and carried various items from apparel items, a jar of gravel, books, and tools in a bag I obtained which I mounted to the Utulity Rack. I have also carried my Rodecaster podcast unit on the rack amongst a few other items which I bungeed onto the Utility Rack before I had the bag. 

All along I also had two water bottle cages mounted to the backside of the Utility Bar and usually those bottles were filled up. So, between that and all the various cargo loads I feel I have a good handle on what the Utility Rack can do. 

The Utility Bar has also shown merit as a single speed capable bar which, yes- is a thing. I'll get to all of that in this final take on these items which were provided to me by Velo Orange. (See The Standard Disclaimer

The jar of gravel went in there. The Velo Orange Utility Rack and Utility Bar on duty here in the country.

If you are not familiar with these components, I did an opening review on the Utility Bar and Utility Rack here. The only additional information I have to add here on these components is that they are now available to purchase from Velo Orange. The Utility Bar is $130.00 and the Utility Rack is $90.00.

Okay, so what's the deal? Well, the Utility Rack is a pretty versatile rack for many mid to smaller sized loads. Gotta pick up a small bag of groceries? How about some beer or soda pop? maybe you have a gym bag or backpack you are tired of wearing? Those things and more are perfect items for carrying on the Utility Rack. It mounts pretty securely to the Utility Bar so you don't have rattles, weird mounting issues, or any fear that the thing will move on you in a negative way. If you can lash it to the rack securely, the rack will not let you down. (As long as you observe the spec weight limitations!) 

The Utility Bar is all steel, and it is heavy. I was worried that it would turn out to be a stiff, unforgiving bar that would be painful on my old hands. But, along with some smart Cardiff cork composite grips, it was anything but. The bar actually has some amount of compliance and in the end, some aluminum flat bars I have ridden were far worse in terms of comfort. 

But that doesn't mean that the Utility Bar was a noodle, especially when cranking out a climb or starting from a dead stop as a single speeder. My Karate Monkey is geared a bit on the high side, and with 180mm cranks, I need to stand and mash, leveraging the bar to enable me to stroke the pedals, and the Utility Bar was great in those circumstances. The width is plenty long enough to help you generate power, and you have a lot of leverage over that load which is attached directly to that bar. That's something to keep in mind here also. 

Some folks were wondering about the bottles being mounted facing the rider. Would that cause my knees to strike the cages or bottles? In fact, they weren't an issue. Even wildly cranking out a sprint across a street to beat traffic, I wasn't seeing any contact between my legs and the cages. Of course, this will all be predicated upon your specific set up. A short top tube bike in combination with a lower head tube will cause an issue, perhaps. But on this bike, it was of no concern. 

Negatives or drawbacks? Yes, a couple here I can think of. First, anytime you fix the relationship between components you lose adjustability. So, the rack and handle bar cannot be adjusted for personal preferences without one thing affecting the other. For instance, you cannot level the rack without it affecting how the swept portion of the bar sits in your hands and vice versa. Say you like the sweep of a bar pointed up slightly. Well, your rack base will not be level. That's the thing you have to accept here, the lack of individual adjustability for each part of the Utility system. 

The other thing I found was that my older Avid levers would not fully clamp the Utility Bar, as if it were very slightly undersized. Your levers may work fine, but I was able to move my levers despite the clamp being fully closed on the bar. 

Finally, the system weighs a lot! You cannot be concerned about weight here. If you are, you'd be best to skip the Utility Bar and Utility Rack for something else entirely. These components will never be mistaken for "weight-weenie" items! That said, they are well designed and I have no doubt that these components will be durable and long lasting. I know that they work really well, and so the weight? To me its a good trade-off for functionality and versatility. 

In the end, I have really liked the Utility Bar and Utility Rack. If you can get on with the lack of ergonomic/rack adjustability, which I was able to do, then this should be on your radar if you want a very sturdy, stable front rack and handle bar. You could also just run the bar without the rack and have water bottle mounts accessible from the cockpit of your bike, which is another way to look at the Utility Bar. The Utility Rack could come off and be put back on again, or you could leave it on permanently for the ultimate "utilitarian" bike. (Ha!) 

Thanks to Velo Orange for the opportunity to review these items for Guitar Ted Productions.

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