Blackburn Interlock Rack and Barrier Rack Trunk

Blackburn Interlock Rack and Barrier Rack Trunk

In 2012 Blackburn went through a major brand overhaul. A team of people inside what was still called Easton-Bell Sports (it’s now BRG Sports, but that’s a different story) sat down and started asking just what Blackburn should be. While Blackburn started out as a rack company, pure, simple, it had swallowed a number of other brands, most notably, Rhode Gear, which was then best known for the bags and panniers people usually hung from Blackburn racks. The outcome of this exercise was the determination that Blackburn would continue to offer a range of accessories, but that they needed to dial back into their roots and double-down on racks and packs.

I’ve got a soft spot for the go-anywhere freedom of loaded touring. I’ve promised myself that one day I’ll simply pack up a bike and roll out of my driveway with no clear plan. And because I like both touring and gear, touring gear excites whatever center of my brain governs adventure and planning adventure.

I purchased my first rack—a Blackburn, no less—in 1987. I also purchased a rack trunk from Blackburn’s sister company Rhode Gear. Deep in the wilds of my garage, both those items lurk in a box. I mention this because I wish to testify to the durability of Blackburn products and the fact that the ideas that worked then are still very serviceable.

Given how far the industry has come in nearly three decades, the reboot on Blackburn yielded a number of fresh takes on old ideas.

IMG_8855

So what can I criticize about my old rack? Well it’s aluminum and I had to bend it to make if fit the braze-ons on my bike. Had that thing been in use on a daily basis, carrying some load, it would probably have broken by now, but for weekend use, it was fine. Also, it wasn’t particularly adjustable (as the bending would suggest). And anything attached to it was easily removed—both by me and by anyone who happened to walk by, should I happen to leave my bike somewhere. Locking the bike was easy enough, but the panniers? Good luck.

The Interlock Rack is a first-rate re-think of what a rear rack can do. It’s wildly adjustable, both in height and in reach. It can be mounted to bikes with 26″ wheels, 27.5″ wheels, 700C wheels and even 29″ wheels. Versatile. And depending on the size of the bags you wish to use, you can adjust how high the rack sits. The arms that attach to the seatstay braze-ons can be adjusted for reach, height and angle, so no matter how big the frame is, where the braze-ons happen to be positioned, or what style brake is employed, the rack can be mounted to the frame in a secure fashion. And if your bike doesn’t have braze-ons, it’s got insulated hose clamps so it will mount to any bicycle strong enough to hold it (I’m talking to you, carbon fiber).

IMG_8856

I did not weigh this rack. I will not weigh this rack. Weighing a rack is like counting chocolate calories. If you can’t just enjoy the chocolate, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

Pardon me while I write something really unusual. This rack locks. I’m serious. The rack is designed to work with Blackburn’s Interlock series of bags, which means that thanks to the hinged spray guard, when you hook your bags to the rack, you fold the spray guard down and when it clicks into place, it also locks. Don’t get me wrong, this is no Diebold security system. The tumbler is pretty simple. This device is meant to avoid crimes of opportunity—keep the honest honest. Naturally, there’s a spot to mount your Blackburn blinking light so that drivers might see you.

IMG_8858

I mounted the rack and Barrier Rack Trunk on the tandem that I ride with Mini-Shred. I try to pick him up from preschool by bike as often as possible. It’s not uncommon for me to need to carry home drawings or things he’s made in arts and crafts. Stuffing those little creations in a jersey pocket is no bueno. And then there are the times that he started the day with a hoodie but doesn’t want to ride home in it. Having a small bag that can accommodate this stuff makes these trips all the more practical.

It’s fair to ask whether I really need a dry bag, which this thing is. It seals like the lips of a spy, and while that’s terrific, it rains in LA almost as often as the dinosaurs go extinct. So, no, I haven’t really had a need for one of this bag’s more selling features. Last year, when I met Jennifer, one of the Blackburn Rangers, she was using the Interlock bags. I’m such a geek that when I saw they appeared to be dry bags, my heart went pitter-patter, or something like it. And yes, I had to ask the unforgivably obvious: “So do they work?”

IMG_8860

Her reaction indicated that it was such a non-issue she didn’t think about it. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Yeah, everything’s stayed dry.”

Compared to the rack trunk that I used for years, which had one central compartment and three fairly useful pockets, the Barrier Rack Trunk has but one compartment lined with Velcro and equipped with two dividers. It’s a far more flexible system, which allows me to do things like bring home a drawing and a bottle of chocolate milk without the trashing the drawing. Mini-Shred likes to stop for snacks at the “drink store” as he calls it. I’m told it has a 9.5-liter capacity, but I don’t really think that way. It’s big for a rack trunk, how’s that?

IMG_8854

The bag also has one zippered pocket on the side that’s good for keeping a ten-spot and the key to the rack. The pocket is slim and snug; you’d need a lean wallet if you wanted to fit that in there.

The Interlock Rack goes for $119.99, the Barrier Rack Trunk another $109.99. Given what I’ve spent for this sort of gear over the years, these are a terrific value. You can see this stuff in action if you drop by the Blackburn web site; they produced a great video about the system.

Final thoughts: A rack and bags aren’t for everyone, but for anyone who wants to turn a bike into a beast of burden, these are dynamite.

, , ,

7 comments

  1. Richard Duncan

    Spent a couple of hours yesterday at Bike Bags Hub (not online but actually there) trying to find a rack that fit our Ritchey Breakaway CX bikes. We have v-brakes and straight rods that connect to the top braze on are too close to the tire or the cable and top of the v-brake. I asked if there was a rack with rods that were angled… Voila! Do you think it will clear v-brakes? I’ve asked Blackburn the same, but you have it on your bike, albeit with cantilevers.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Richard: Yes, I think you’ll be able to mount it. I found that I could have brought the arms in from above or below the braze-ons, but I thought the mounting was cleaner coming in from above.

  2. Richard Duncan

    Thanks. I’ll see if I can find one. After a little searching to see where I was yesterday, I now know I was at Bike Bag Shop, which appears to be part of Bike Shop Hub. Anyway, BBS gets very few walk ins. I wrongly assumed that racks were straight forward. As I told them yesterday, “How do you buy (one that fits) on line?

  3. Champs

    The bike I ride on days when I don’t kit up and head for the mountains, i.e. most days, has an Arkel Tailrider trunk bag. It’s premium touring kit worth well north of $100. Security for the bag itself is no more than four hook and loop straps, and a razor blade will easily bypass any measures you bother to take for the contents.

    It has the patina to show its seven years. It still hasn’t been stolen, though one time it was emptied. What’s funny is that it would be easier to abscond with the whole thing! I’ve come to believe that this bag is like a helmet; lock it to your ride if you wish, but nobody wants it. Your mileage may vary.

  4. Richard Duncan

    No response from Blackburn. Their racks, however, are sold by many local shops but probably not at the $100+ price level. I need to find a local shop that has one in stock. Most Blackburn racks have straight connecting rods, which will not work on our bikes. After looking at their video on the interlock rack, it requires interlock bags to be able to lock. Other bags may or may not fit on this rack. The locking part is not what I’m looking for, particularly since we have produce in open bags, heavy produce. I’m not sure I would want to suspend 30 lbs off my seat post.
    Maybe I should go back to the “fly” rack that barely clears my worn out cross tires. It will come in contact with a new set of tires. This would be just like the tire savers we used in the 70s and early 80s until they recessed the break bolts.

  5. Richard Duncan

    Blackburn did respond and sent attachments with installation instructions for 2 racks with angled extenders. Unable to find either on line etc.

    I then looked at seat post mounted racks. Seem to be a good alternative for 15-20 lbs, plus easy to install and remove as needed.

    Found your interlock rack at REI and picked up 2. Your are right about the adjustability, but I did not expect the shorter (16 mm) swivel bolt for the lower braze on to extend into the small cog. About to return both when I went though a bunch of bottle cage bolts I for whatever reason couldn’t part with when the alloy or plastic cages broke. (Carbon and steel seem to be more durable.) The 10 mm seems to be long enough to hold it in place. The problem seems to be the bike.

    Racks certainly are ugly, but these come off easily by loosening the 4 swivel bolts.

  6. Richard Duncan

    Replying to yourself… Is this like talking to yourself?

    Curved part of the extender rods used on the 54 cm frame. Turned them around and used the straight part on the 56 cm frame. Still had to the 10 mm bolt on the drive side lower braze on both bikes. (Send Blackburn an email asking them to include a 10 or 12 mm for the drive side. A spacer would work as well, but would have to fit inside the lower rack mount.) One of the mounting options was to use a hack saw to do it yourself… I think not.

    Put on the racks, an old set of bags and new, lockable Blackburn panniers. More proprietary nonsense. The ride was fine, plus function trumps aesthetics and weight. Once we got home, off they came solving the aesthetics and weight issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>