Nick Broadbent, the Bristol-based inventor of the Tailfin carbon fibre rack, has a background in engineering and this, combined with a passion for cycling and product design, has led to the development of a product that has taken Kickstarter by storm.
Unimpressed with current racks, which are heavy and only fit bikes with rack mounts, he saw a gap in the market for a lightweight design that could be fitted easily to any bike, even a carbon race bike without any rack mounting eyelets.
The Tailfin, a sleek and light carbon fibre rack, hit Kickstarter last month and has exceeded even Nick’s loftiest ambitions, with the £50,000 goal now seeming a modest target when the total has surpassed £127,000 at the time of writing (there are still four days to go).
I’ve written about a lot of Kickstarter projects over the years, some good and many bad, but the Tailfin is one of those that stood out. So, of course, I was keen to take a closer look at the product when Nick offered to pop along to the office this week
The rack comprises three main components; a carbon fibre hooped beam, aluminium support rod and quick release skewer. Carbon was used for the main component simply because the low weight that was one of the key objectives of the product wasn’t attainable with aluminium. The supporting beam, which attaches to the seatpost, is made from aluminium, carbon would have only saved a handful of grammes. The whole rack weighs just 275g, compared to 465-770g.
There are no tools needed to fit the rack to a bike. To demonstrate, Nick fitted the rack to a GT Grade that was in the office. It’s simply a case of removing the standard rear wheel skewer and replacing it with Nick’s own skewer. The key difference is the two long barrels on each end that are used to fix the rack to. The axle fits bikes with 130 and 135mm width rear dropouts.
The rack is attached to this replacement skewer, with a tool-free latch that locks everything solidly into place. It can be fixed more permanently with the addition of two small screws. There’s a similarly tool-free bracket that clamps onto the seat post, fitting most typical sized posts, from 25.4 to 34mm. An adapter for aero seatposts is being developed.
Because the funding has gone so well, Nick has developed a rack mount adapter, so the Tailfin can be fitted to a frame that does have rack mounting eyelets. This is useful for a frame with a thru-axle with rack mounts, as many of the new breed of adventure bikes do, such as the Specialized Diverge. Useful too if you want to easily swap it between different bikes. There is plenty of tyre clearance, upwards of 42mm tyres if using the rack mount adapters. Following a lot of requests, Nick has also developed a neat little clip-on mudguard - yes it clearly won’t rival a full-length mudguard for rear wheel spray protection, but it will stop some of it.
And that’s it. Once it’s fitted to the bike, it’s extremely secure and there’s no movement. Not only has Nick developed his own rack design, but he’s also developed to panniers that work specifically with the rack, though the rack is compatible with other typical panniers available on the market.
The panniers are interesting because they incorporate a carbon fibre back panel that adds a lot of structural rigidity to the system when they are attached to the rack. There’s not a bit of excess movement even when giving the bags and rack a solid shove. They have a 24-litre capacity and are large enough to take a 17in laptop, and are made from a durable waterproof fabric with a roll-top closure.
There is an 18kg weight limit to the rack, so it’s not a product for cyclists that like to travel with the kitchen sink, but for many purposes, whether it’s commuting or lightweight touring, it’s probably ample.
With the Kickstarter campaign a success, Nick aims to deliver the finished racks in October. You can still get a rack if you’re quick. £152 will get you the rack, quick release skewer and adapter pins while £197 will add one pannier bag to the package, or £240 if you want a pair of pannier bags.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Nick has some other developments and products up his sleeves that point to a bright future for someone that has taken Kickstarter by storm with his debut product.
Also interest, he has recently produced this comparison video putting his rack and panniers up against a seatpack and rucksack.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.