Review: Yakima Dr. Tray & EZ+1 add-on hitch rack

Hitch racks are becoming the de facto standard for transporting bikes, and with good reason. As someone who carries dozens of different bikes on my car throughout the year, I am stoked to never need to deal with adaptors with different axle standards or wheel sizes.

I’ve also used almost a dozen hitch racks, and Yakima’s claim that “Dr.Tray is the ultimate bike tray rack for your hitch” might actually pass my hyperbole (read: bullshit) detector. It has been a rock solid companion for the last few months.

A locking knob tightens a wedge into the hitch to keep the rack sway-free and secure, and each tray has a cable lock stowed inside that is designed to loop through the frame and both wheels. There is tool free adjustment for side-to-side and fore-and-aft adjustment of the trays, so even the fattest of fat bikes, or smashy of downhill bikes, will fit fine with no seat-to-handlebar interference. Kids bikes fit fine too, assuming 24-inch wheels and up. Yakima only claims 26-29 inch wheels with tires up to five inches wide, but my son’s 24×2.1 tires did just fine. Bikes can be up to 18 inches apart, which is a huge amount compared to anything else I’ve ever used.

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The Dr. Tray was super simple to assemble, and even the add-on EZ-1 bike tray was an easy four-bolt job. The EZ-1’s mounting bracket sits above the other two trays, which improves ground clearance, a good thing for those of us without lifestyle 4x4s. Installing the EZ-1 reduces the spacing of the other two trays, but it never created issues that a little adjustment couldn’t solve.

The rear wheel mount pivots instead of sliding. It seems like it shouldn’t work, but it handled everything from a 24-inch wheeled kid’s bike to a 48 inch wheelbase all-mountain 29er. The longer bikes’ back wheels end up hanging lower than the front, but in the end, it didn’t make a lick of difference to the functionality.

The biggest tires on the market fit fine, but I noticed both the wheel strap and wheel hook can be hard to release when firmly secured on low-pressure tires. The rear wheel straps fit any size tires, no need for an extender or accessory for skinnies or fatties. The release handle to pivot the rack up and down needs a firm pull to activate, but even with three bikes, it is easy to reach. The cable locks weren’t always long enough reach though frames and both wheels, but really, a cable this thin is more about appearances to keep the honest people honest than keep the professional thieves away. All the locks use the same key, and when not used they store neatly in the tray, so I was always glad they were around for a quick run into the store, but I always apply a bigger lock when sitting down to eat somewhere.

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I have a specific set of needs for a hitch rack. It needs to fit a 1.25 inch hitch, it needs to carry three bikes, and it needs to fit just about any bike in production today without adaptors. The Dr. Tray is one of the few racks on the market that hits all those points, albeit with a $808 combined price tag. But after using a lot of less expensive racks, the fact that this is easy to assemble, easy to adjust, easy to add a third bike, easy to install and remove and easy to fold, I can see why it costs real money. No one needs this rack, but it has made my life a lot less frustrating, and that is worth some extra cash.

Yakima Dr. Tray – $579
EZ-1 Add-on – $229

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Review: RockyMounts MonoRail Platform Hitch Rack and Single Bike Add-On

The MonoRail may be the RockyMounts lower-tiered platform hitch rack, but the way I see it, why pay for a bunch of extra functionality if you don’t need it. This rack is perfect for that user who prefers a lightweight, simple platform rack and won’t be carrying the entire neighborhood’s bikes to the park and back. It packs all the right necessities that an everyday user would want and no more.

The rack is available in both 1 ¼ and 2 inch options, though only the 2 inch option will allow you to carry the MonoRail add-on ($170) for a total capacity of three bikes. The T-shaped handle sits under the rack, which allows the platform to be easily raised and lowered without the add-on installed. This is a great feature and much easier to use than racks that use a release pin near the hitch. However, once the add-on is installed, there is no way to extend the handle further back like you can in the Thule Pro XT. I found it cumbersome having to reach under and to the front of the add-on in order to engage the handle, and particularly difficult when all three bikes were loaded up.

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The racks trays should have you as close to future-proof as one can be within the bike industry, having the ability to fit bikes with 20 to 29-inch wheels and widths from a 23-millimeter road tire all the way up to a 5-inch fat bike tire. In order to accommodate the larger wheel widths, you will need to utilize the strap adapter on the rear wheel, which is included. I like the hook clamp on the front wheel; it’s simple and intuitive. Although, I have noticed that the internal ratchet mechanism is prone to freezing in cold temperatures, making it difficult or impossible to engage the mechanism. This is something I have noticed both on this design and on other brands as well.

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The bikes are spaced 13 inches apart, which is a ½ inch more than the Thule Pro XT and Classic. Each tray can be adjusted 3 inches laterally, but it involves loosening and tightening four bolts. I found it easier to just adjust the seatpost on one of the bikes rather than monkey with the side to side adjustments, which is something I had to do often with a size small 29er and large 29er. A simpler option is using the third bike tray and keeping the center tray empty. The rack includes a cable that can then be secured near the hitch via the included lock, although it is not anything worth writing home about, and I chose to use my own cable and bike lock system whenever I wished to “secure” bikes.

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Aesthetically the rack is clean looking with minimal branding; there is only one spot where there is a brand sticker, which can only be seen when the rack is up and not in use. This is a bit of a conundrum for me though; I want clean aesthetics, but I also want visibility so that other drivers are aware of the extension of my car. I placed orange ribbon on the rack to attract attention, but it probably would not hurt to pick up some reflective stickers as well. The threaded hitch pin and lock prevents any wobble and keeps the rack solid and secure within the hitch, even with the add-on in use.

This is one of the cheapest and lightest platform hitch racks on the market from a reputable brand that also allows an add-on. From what I can find, the Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is the most comparable rack based on weight and general function. The Kuat is 7 pounds lighter, offers an extra inch of spacing between bikes, is maxed out with two bikes and costs an extra $119. For the person who really only needs to be able carry one to three bikes, RockyMounts MonoRail is an incredible buy at $370 plus $170 for the add-on. However, If you need to be able to carry four bikes, RockyMounts offers the SplitRail ($500) that can accommodate two single-bike add-ons ($220 ea.) as an option as well.

Price:
MonoRail: $370
MonoRail Single Bike Add-On: $170

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Ode to bike baskets and a Wald review

When I got into cycling 15 years ago, racks were for randonneurs and cross-country riders and people who “had” to commute by janky, clapped-out bikes (the cool kids rode fixies and carried hulking messenger bags). Front baskets were only for brightly-colored women’s-specific cruisers. In short, anything that was simply functional was dorky to me: a teenaged roadie wearing white Spandex and maniacally hammering farm roads under a brutal Texas sun. (Any irony was clearly lost on me, at the time.)

When I moved to a certified bicycle friendly city in Colorado and began running errands by bike, I carried an enormous backpack and learned to suffer under heavy loads. Fortunately, in recent years, the cycling culture has shifted—a shift that put a renewed focus on adventure travel, everyday cycling and bike-as-useful-tool. The idea of leaving your car at home to run short errands has finally trickled down from big city centers. I think one of the best things to come out of it is the general acceptance of the rack and basket.

So, of course, I had to try it. I’m not so much a trend follower as I am a good-idea follower, and a set of racks seemed like a good idea. I settled on a large, sturdy, traditional rear rack for panniers and a long, flat surface for lashing things to, paired with a small front rack platform that would leave room for a handlebar bag. Because Velo Orange already has a lot of my money—its lovely offerings constituting a candy shop for bicycle beautifying addicts like myself—I chose a few items from its stock and ordered them up.

It wasn’t without consternation that I choked down the $80 price tag on a VO Pass Hunter Front Rack with a mere 4-inch by 8-inch platform. My esophagus tightened further after I found the rack didn’t fit on either of the bikes I could have installed it on, and even further when I discovered that the cantilever brake post mounts aren’t functionally adjustable.

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Meanwhile, on my cycling-heavy Instagram feed, I started seeing a wire basket with lanky mounting legs showing up on everything from vintage bar bikes to full-on road/gravel touring rigs. I liked the idea: just shove crap in there as needed. Some were big enough for a box of pizza. All of them were big enough for a bag of donuts, a six pack, a copy of War and Peace and a spare jacket. Or, camping gear.

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The baskets I saw most are those made by Wald Cycle Company, which has been in existence since 1905. Needless to say, I’m way late to the party in “discovering” this company. Wald’s components and accessories have been Kentucky-made since the 1920s, and yet its prices are startlingly reasonable.

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Front baskets range in price from a mere $20 to a slightly more luxurious $55 for a model with a wooden platform included. There’s even a version with a quick-release bar mount that allows you to pop off the basket without tools and take it with you to do your shopping. The price, spaciousness and universal fit of the Walds swayed me. I paid a whopping $25 for my made-in-the-USA “Multi-Fit” model and needed all of five minutes and one Phillip’s screwdriver to install it. I didn’t even need to look at the directions; common sense sufficed.

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The generously sized bar clamps work on all diameters and set the basket far enough away from the bars to allow room for even the messiest of cable clusters. The legs are just about infinitely adjustable and can mount on all kinds of forks or the hub skewer. The result is a basket that’s damn sturdy. Even when I decide to take the dirt detours into town, I don’t hear any rattling or notice any unnerving movement. With a few, cheap elastic straps across the top, there’s not much I can’t carry that I need on a regular basis. The basket’s dimensions are roughly 14.5 inches by 9.5 inches by 9 inches, with a two-inch taper at the bottom.

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Indeed, a Wald basket may look a bit gauche. It’s not sleek and understated like the lovely VO rack I started with—and really wish would have fit. Big baskets also make your bike’s front end heavy and floppy. The Multi-Fit’s heft is three pounds, but the bike I put it on is early-90s lugged steel with a set of ancient bullmoose handlebars that, alone, probably weigh as much as the rest of the bike put together. I’m not worried about the weight of the Wald.

The Wald’s overall quality seems excellent, though I haven’t had it long enough to comment on longevity or how it holds up over time under repeated heavy loads. Still, I feel plenty confident recommending it and, thanks to the four-pints price, I will probably purchase a smaller one for my 1984 Bridgestone T700 touring bike.

 

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Shop Window: new toys from Surly

Surly just announced three new products for the touring and commuting crowd: a 26-inch (not dead yet!) touring tire and two racks.

Surly Extraterrestrial Tire

The Extra Terrestrial tire is a 26 x 2.5” heavy-duty off-road touring tire with a 60tpi casing, Kevlar flat protection and tubeless readiness. It is intended for dry hard-pack trails or even on-road touring, with traction for corners and off-camber stuff. Suggested rim width: 24-50mm. MSRP is $60 per tire.

Surly 24-Pack Rac

On the front-mount rack front, Surly is now offering the 8-Pack ($110 MSRP) and 24-Pack ($150 MSRP). They are less “intense” than Surly’s touring racks (though still the same heavy-duty construction) and intended for in-town utility. The racks are made of CroMoly steel with stainless hardware. They are designed to attach to forks that use mid-blade and fork crown eyelets, or uni-crown barrel bosses (like on most Surly forks). They are height adjustable for a wide range of wheel sizes and, clearly, will happily play porter for the choicest case of beverages.

Surly 8-Pack Rack

The 8-Pack platform measures 160mm x 270mm (6.2in x 10.6in) and the 24-Pack platform measures 400mm x 270mm (19.2in x 10.6in).

More info from Surly.

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This Just In: Saris Cycling Hottie bike stand

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One of the less-than-awesome things about cycling is that storing bikes can be a pain, especially if you live in a house or apartment with limited space. Plus there’s a good chance you have a certain affinity for your bike, so it’s nice to have it somewhere you can see it.

Saris Cycling, the brand best-known for its trunk-mounted bike racks, is entering the indoor storage market with a line of new bike stands, including the $260 Hottie model pictured here. The idea is that Saris wanted to create a piece of high-end furniture, worthy of holding onto your prized possessions. It has a steel chassis and a modern, blonde wood face.

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The arms are adjustable to hold bikes of various sizes and shapes, and there is an integrated accessories shelf for your sunglasses, bike lock or other paraphernalia. It can hold two bikes up to 35 pounds each, and while it is freestanding, it does include a small strap that you can affix to a wall stud to keep it from accidentally tipping over. Best of all, it’s made in Madison, Wisconsin, and comes with a lifetime warranty.

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Now if you have a bike you really want to show off, well, the $275 Show Off rack is for you. A wall-mounted design, it cradles your bike with a cushioning cork handle and highlights it with an integrated LED light. The cradle even pivots to accommodate sloping top tubes to keep your bike level.

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If you’d rather keep your bike on terra firma, check out the $45 Boss rack, which is a small, freestanding stand that can hold your bike upright wherever you’d like to park it.

 

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