is there a specific way that bike builders build mounts/eyelets for racks for panniers and eyelets that hold fenders? I'm specifically thinking about eyelets on the rear dropouts. I know that if a manufacturer doesn't want a rack at all he or she won't put mounts on the seatstays, but is there any structural difference between the two?
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There's no difference that I'm aware of.
My bike has 2 sets of eyelets, and I have a fender screwed into one set, but I could just as easily use the other set. I suppose the same could be said of using either set for rack mounts.
Looking at it from a structural point of view though, it would probably depend on the bike and the materials it's made of. But if it's in the right place, I'd probably give it a go :)
No, there is no structural difference. Bikes with two eyelets are meant for a rack and panniers, but are basically the same tabs.
If you only have one eyelet, you can attach both rack and panniers to the same one, and use p clamps to secure the rack to the seatstays. A lot of racks come with hardware to do this.