Is there an alternative to Blackburn? There are... like Bruce Gordon in the US who is a small maker. They are generally the same companies that make bottle cages. There are two note worthy ones in Japan, Minoura and the other is Nagaoyka, and there are several people who try to copy good racks in Taiwan. None of these other companies has been as pulsed as Blackburn in the American bicycle market and it's need for racks. We've even sold some of the imported racks before, but the fit isn't quite right, or it's apparent they were made for bikes that had been made thirty years ago and modified a little. To be fair about this Blackburn isn't the company that it was just two years ago. At the end of 1992 Jim Blackburn sold the company he founded to Bell Sports. Bell Sports now owns Bell the helmet concern, Rhode gear, Blackburn and recently VistaLite, the LED light company. We know also that they have expressed interest in buying Avocet, and Bell could probably do a better job of running it. But how has the Bell Sports ownership affected Blackburn? Well, 3 of the 8 racks Blackburn made have been discontinued since Bell bought the company. Bell also found the choice of colors to be impractical at the least and probably un-profitable. While the MTN-1 was made in 7 colors (Blue, Black, Lavender, Red, Silver, White, and Canary Yellow) while Blackburn owned the company, it's now made in just 5 colors Blue, Black, Red, Silver, or White. It seems that Bell ownership has diminishes the riders choices. We also saw this when Bell bought Rhode Gear. At the time of the Rhode Gear aquisition, RG made and sold bike bags (seat packs and the like). Shortly after aquisition they were discontinued. One of the chief reasons for the Rhode Gear aquisition was to increase Bell's market share of helmets. At the time Rhode Gear was believed to have between 17 and 19 % of the market share of helmets.while Bell was considered to have just over 40%. The business "fit" was considered good and Bell intended to make helmets in their plant for both brands and market them still under both names. This never succeeded and Rhode Gear helmets were discontinued. Rhode Gear is now a market leader in only rear child carriers and rear deck bicycle carriers, both of which were true pre-aquisition. As of June 1994 Bell had stockpiled $100 million in cash to pay for future aquisitions. This money was derived from a $75 million convertible bond issue that matures in the year 2000 unless converted to stock. We will have to continue to watch Blackburn and see how it goes. Specialized has elected to import and sell a Japanese rack. It differs from the other designs by using 6061 aluminum tubing rather than aluminum rod to make the rack frame. They believe that tubing is stronger than rod, and that may be true, all the way up to the point when a crash crimps or pinches the tubing then all that "strength" evaporates. Rod maintains more of it's strength, and can in some form be bent back. The use of tubing would also require you to make certain that aluminum cuttings and filings were blown out of the tubing before the ends were sealed so it wouldn't rattle, we've found that to not be the case. The aluminum used consistently in the bicycle industry is known as 6061-T6 which tells you it's metallurgical composition, and temper. This is the type of aluminum used in the aircraft industry and is written about and described in the Metals section of this Guide. The Taiwan companies sometime do a good job of copying, but not all the parts are welded and they just don't exhibit the same quality. There just isn't a point to spending 70% of the cost of an original to get a copy that's nowhere as good. The best way to fasten two pieces of aluminum, so you're certain that they won't fail at the joint, is to weld them. The preferred way is to use a wire feed Tungsten Inert Gas welding system. This permits you to join (weld) the aluminum together with aluminum of the same composition. Weakness in the weld usually occurs when dissimilar types of the same metal are welded because one of the two metals must have a lower failure point than the other. TIG welding solves this. When you look at racks, please remember that there is a difference between wheel size and frame size. The wheel size on a bike is determined by measuring the wheel outer tire edge to outer tire edge (diameter). This will be, usually 26 inches, 27 inches, or sometimes for hybrid and Road riders 700c wheels. Frame size is measured in one of three very similar ways. To be truthful it's never been clear why there is more than one. The least used method is to measure from the center of the crank spindle to the top of the seat tube or seat lug (where the seat post fits into the bike). Another infrequently used method is, center of crank spindle to the middle of the top tube (the tube that joins the seat area to the handle bar area). The most widely accepted method is to measure from the center of the spindle to the top of the top tube. The measurement is expressed in inches although more expensive bikes use centimeters.