Winter is now subsiding in most places. Spring Break has nearly come and gone for those able to take advantage. If you haven’t taken a little bike trip already this year, there’s still all of Summer just on the horizon to act on your adventurous urges. You’ve got your kit washed, bike prepped and a list of trails you’re determined to ride. Sounds sweet! But how exactly do you plan on transporting your bike? Assuming you’re within driving distance, you may lay your bike down in your bed of your truck, hang it on the tailgate or even stuff pieces of it into the trunk of your car. These are a few options and while they do get the job done, there are many who may prefer something a little more purpose-built for carrying your bike from points A to B. Perhaps you’re packing heavy and there’s no room left to justify those three examples. Maybe then a hitch rack is worth checking out.
To be honest, I’ve never put serious thought into using a hitch-type rack for my bikes. I’ve had this Nissan Xterra since I first got into riding and it was always ‘easy enough’ to just slide my bikes into the back with my seats folded down. Initially, I had no concerns about my bar ends scuffing everything from my door panels to my headliner, but it wasn’t ideal. All of my little, passive complaints about traveling with my bike inside were relieved once I installed my new rack. I chose the Küat NV Base 2.0and I’m happy I did.
Assembly of the NV Base took no more than 30 minutes. It included all the necessary tools to complete the task as well as the assembly manual, of course. Assembly time could be greatly reduced if you had a buddy, but it is certainly possible to assemble by your lonesome, just tricky at some stages. Nothing worth noting really; just be patient when installing the four bars that support the bike’s tires.
I’ll admit seeing the pieces in the box intimidated me a little, but the build went by pretty quick and before I knew it, I had a usable rack with no leftover parts!
This isn’t by any means the cheapest rack on the market, but it surely isn’t the most expensive either. At $549, if anything, it is competitively priced for a more than comparable product. I’ve found this rack to be super rigid (supports up to two 60lb bikes!), dependable (Lifetime Warranty), and consistent in its life so far. Features such as the tire cradles are a sought-after design that allow a wider spectrum of tire sizes to be accepted. All established brands have gone this route and the NV Base 2.0 is no exception. I’ve even transported a fat bike (3.8in tires, rack accepts up to 4.8in) and a co-worker’s road bike (25mm tires) in the same trip when he needed a lift home. How’s that for versatility?
Versatile tire cradles allow your skinniest road bike tires up to your beefy snow-capable bike to be secured. Ratchet straps make for quick installs and releases.
Other well-known brands with their equivalent hitch racks, while priced very similar do offer some less than ideal features that Küat has put more thought into. As for unique designs and features, Küat secures their bikes by holding down via the tires instead of the frame. I’ve talked with many rack owners with varying brands that have to use a rag/towel to reduce the chaffing that some racks can inflict on owner’s frames. Küat’s method of security isn’t dependent on top-tube designs or needs any special adapters. Men or women specific frames, this rack will be happy to accommodate. Even with a flat tire, this rack can support your bike safely. In the rear, the wheel rests on the opposing arm. This arm is flat and has a ratchet strap that feeds through the wheel and secures the wheel to the arm. The strap can freely slide along the arm to be used with bikes with varying wheelbases (up to 48in). Küat also includes a fat bike specific strap to make up for the additional tire circumference.
There’s a few other features that are key points for consumers to look out for. Things such as bike security, rack rattle, storage and access are pretty important, so let’s knock these out in order. When you’re not doing a simple point-to-point, trailhead-seeking mission, it would be wise to lock your bike and even your rack as well. Not only does Küat provide a locking hitch pin with three keys (and yes, a bottle opener), but also integrated cable locks for your precious cargo. Personally, I have no hope in cable locks (Damn, I miss that bike…), but this is better than nothing, I suppose. The cables are burly and have a built-in lock mated with those three keys mentioned earlier.
Designed with security in mind. (Top: locking hitch pin/ Middle-Bottom: integrated cable locks feeds through rear triangle)
Now that your bike isn’t going anywhere, how can we get rid of that horrid rack rattle and that rack bobbing up, down and around in your rear view mirror? To eliminate this issue, Küat has a hand-tight cam system that cinches up the rack into your 1.25” or 2” receiver. This nifty feature takes a few goes to get used to and if you’re the type to remove your rack frequently, PLEASE don’t forget to loosen the cam before removing the rack or you might risk hurting yourself or at the very least look silly trying to tug that stubborn thing loose. Now let’s cover the last two points at once, storage and access. Removing your rack and want it to be low profile in your garage? With the foot lever below and to the right of the rack’s main structure, you can tilt up your rack (without bikes on of course) into a folded position. This makes removing and installing the rack easiest. Now perhaps you’re keeping your bikes nice and neat on your rack, but you need to access the back of your vehicle. Using the same lever, slightly pull your bikes down and away from your vehicle, the bikes will tilt away allowing you to open and access your hatch/tailgate. Slick, huh? Küat also sells an add-on to both NV models to extend your 2-bike rack to a 4-bike capacity. All the features remain, but with the “more the merrier” mentality for when a bigger road trip opportunity presents itself.
Top two: Hand-tight cam knob with adjacent foot lever pivot release. Bottom two: The 3 positions of the NV.
Road trips to distant enduro races or short trips through town to local riding spots, this rack after hundreds of miles is still doing its job in fine fashion. Now, <1000mi on a rack doesn’t say much, but with a lifetime warranty always on reserve I think first impressions from a non-rack user (now converted) are hopefully worth their weight in gold. If you’re in the market for a rack and you know it’ll get used over many bike’s lifetimes, then definitely give it some thought to invest in a companion that’ll pay for itself in its first few uses. I can’t see myself going back to not using a rack or maybe any other rack for that matter. I’ve grown to adore the sleek, strong look and feel to the NV and have total trust in it hauling my steeds around. All the ‘fancy’ features I’ve listed above just add to my confidence and satisfaction. Hopefully this rack will free your mind to worry about other things on your next trip!