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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MonoRail Single Bike Add-On: $170
Bike racks continue to evolve to be lighter, stronger and more user-friendly. Here are a few new ones that we saw at Interbike:
3 new bike carriers from Thule
By Scott Williams
The EasyFold XT is Thule’s new foldable platform hitch rack which will be available come March for $749.95. The two bike tray is capable of holding bikes up to 66 pounds in 2” and 1.25” options which is pretty incredible considering that this puppy only weighs 45 pounds and is 15 pounds lighter than Thule’s T2 Pro XT and fits bikes all the way from 20” – 29” wheel, 700c and fat bikes up to 4.7”. Riders who often have difficulties getting their bikes situated on the rack will be relieved to hear that this rack also comes with a foldable ramp that stows away nicely within the center and allows you to roll your bike right on the rack. Loaded with convenience this rack has the ability to fold up to roughly the size of a suitcase for easy storage solutions and offers an easy foot actuated pedal to tilt the rack for quick and easy trunk access.
Thule’s other new racks include their single platform rack which weighs 37 pounds and offers frame free clamping with a ratcheting arm and integrated cable locks. This bare-boned single bike rack does not offer a tilt feature but is easily folded up when not in use by activated the HitchSwitch on top of the rack. And if you still prefer to utilize the space on the roof of your car for carrying your bikes, Thule now has the UpRide. This upright bike rack features an intuitive interface for switching between wheel sizes and provides additional support with the scissor-like interface for the front wheel.
New bike transport solutions from Yakima
By Helena Kotala
The BackSwing adapter from Yakima converts almost any hitch rack with a two-inch receiver into a swing-away rack (even those that aren’t Yakima). It will hold up to a four-bike rack with bikes (or about 250 pounds), will retail for $299 and will be available in April.
The SingleSpeed one-bike rack is designed for folks who tend to travel solo (or don’t have any friends) and want a minimalist hitch rack. It is compatible with a variety of sizes of bikes from 20-inch BMX to fat. It will also be available in the spring and will retail for $259.
The GateKeeper truck tailgate pad will be available in two different sizes (fitting five or six bikes depending on the size of your truck) and features individual straps to hold each bike in places as well as a cutout to allow use of a backup camera with the pad in place. The larger of the two (62 inches wide and holds 6 bikes) will retail for $149 while the smaller (54 inches wide and holds 5 bikes) will cost you $139. They’ll be available in February.