When the first Hummingbird racks were built in 2003 their initial focus was on ultralight touring on single bikes, incorporating designs that utilized panniers with 14” internal tubular frames. But it was immediately apparent that the design of the Hummingbird systems was, potentially, extremely versatile, and with limited modification could be applied to every type of touring. Probably the most neglected area of touring is tandem touring in that it is a highly specialized area of touring with little specialized equipment, so step by step, many elements of Hummingbird design were applied to rack/pannier systems for tandem touring. The Hummingbird systems are a perfect fit for tandem touring because of their extreme stability, their gear loading systems that afford highly effective sub division of gear within the panniers to balance gear on a tandem, and because of their extremely low weight. The first step in creating highly effective tandem systems was to develop super-lightweight 18” tubular internal frames for the panniers, which makes the panniers four inches longer and proportionately narrower relative to their overall size and carrying capacity. Designs were altered to make the panniers more durable to carry heavier tandem loads, and finally, a special tandem version of the Hummingbird front high-mount rack was designed.
The Hummingbird Tandem High-Mount design is, in every detail the same as the Standard design, with the exception of a couple of very important details. The top platform of the rack is two inches longer to better accommodate sleeping bags and other gear in a lengthwise position. More crucial to higher levels of performance in accommodating heavier tandem-touring gear loads is that the bottom of the side platforms are two inches wider. This design modification allows the spacing of the fittings for the Ultra-Lock mounting system in the racks to be increased at the top from seven inches to eight and at the bottom from three inches to five. Especially in large panniers, and even more importantly in those with tubular frames, mounting system fittings need to be as widely spaced as possible to increase strength, and to increase mounting rigidity, which is very critical in bearing heavier gear loads in tandem and expedition-oriented touring.
Reducing the weight of touring gear, as well as racks and panniers, is a very important part of the preparation and design in tandem and expedition touring. The Hummingbird rack/pannier systems are designed in a radically different way than other racks and panniers to develop an extremely high level of performance. Their weight, relative to their much higher levels of performance, through design, is in great contrast to that of other gear. Commonly, large panniers constructed of heavy materials, with heavy plastic stiffening plates, can weigh more than six pounds per pair (moderately sized dry bag panniers will weigh up to five pounds). Even aluminum racks for tandem touring can weigh two or more pounds each. In a set of front and rear racks and panniers for tandem touring, the combined weight can easily add up to 15 pounds or more. That amount of weight, especially in panniers and racks that are designed to develop a low level of stability, is a lot of poorly controlled weight. In extreme contrast are the Hummingbird rack/ pannier systems. The combined weight of front and rear Hummingbird systems, including Hummingbird IFT panniers with 18” internal frames, will be between 4.5 and 6 pounds, total. What tandem tourist would not love to get rid of 10 absolutely unnecessary pounds of funky, poorly designed racks and panniers that perform at a very low level, to be replaced by ones that provide, through advanced designs, extreme increases in gear-carrying stability and in bicycle handling quality, that are afforded by the use of the Hummingbird rack/pannier systems?
And one last thought about front tandem racks. With few exceptions, in the past three decades when touring tandems have been built, they have included fork fittings to mount a front rack in a low-mount position. To put it very mildly, this is very unwise. Conventional low-mount racks are so low that well-designed tandem panniers will be on the ground, or near it, when they are mounted to such racks. Also, low-mount racks without a platform over the front wheel provide no place to mount a sleeping bag and pad on the front end of a touring tandem. As far as I'm concerned, when a full compliment of touring gear is carried in tandem touring, or expedition-orient touring, low-mount racks should be completely avoided. There is simply a much better, and much more advanced approach, performance-wise, through the use of well-designed high-mount racks and panniers.
Base price of a Hummingbird Tandem High-Mount front rack in a system with Hummingbird panniers: $1495