General Cycling Discussion - hitch racks
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05-18-07, 05:49 AM
i've been reading old threads and researching online. i'm looking for opinions on hitch mounted racks. i've decided i want one that supports the wheels like the saris thelma, cycleon or cycleon pro. the others i'm looking at are the thule and xsport versions. personally, i like the idea of the bike being supported by the wheels and locked in by the top tube with a frame hook. seems to me like that distributes the pressure points on the bike when you're going over rough roads. the xsport is the only model like that and it's significantly cheaper than the saris or thule.
mechanically, functionally, etc., is there a reason the saris and thule use a different design? is that the reason (in addition to quality) that they are so much more expensive?
lastly, the saris thelma locks the wheels in place by "cupping" them. the cycle on has hooks that ratchet down on the wheels. mechanically/functionally, is there an advantage to one of these designs over the other?
I have one of the racks that holds the wheels in hoops and has a hook that pulls down on the top tube. It's a little cumbersome to get into the hitch, and more cumbersome to put the bikes on. but it does hold them quite stable. they don't move much, and thus can't slam into each other or the car. i have a new Civic and didn't want to get the trunk rack, or roof rack, so i had a hitch installed (the expensive route, i know) but it is nice to have a rack that works on my wife's SUV too.
I did have some problems with the bolts that clamp on the hooks being very very stiff and difficult to turn, and when you had it as tight as you could get it, and it felt very tight, after a couple miles of driving the hook would pop loose and let go of the bike :eek: so i started bungee cording the bikes tightly together. I took apart the clamps and saturated them with WD40 and now they are smooth, easy, and secure. they don't pop loose at all anymore. my dad has the standard hitch rack where the bikes just sit on 2 bars and a velcro strap holds the top tube. his is sooo much faster, but the bikes sway and hit each other and it just doesn't seem as secure. other than being a little slow to get set up, my only complaint about my hitch rack is that it mounts onto the hitch with a bolt rather than a cotter pin. i understand cotter pins allow the rack to wiggle and shake more but the bolt isn't as secure as a locking pin would be. and it is a very long bolt so it takes a while to install/uninstall. also the nut for the bolt is welded inside the hitch rack neck, so using a cotter pin isn't even an option unless i break off the nut inside, in which case the bolt would no longer be an option :o overall i like the rack though.
05-20-07, 08:08 AM
I have a Sportworks Mod, great rack if you can still find one. The company sold that division to thule and they only make a 2bike or 4 bike version.
with the rack folded I can still open the hatch and when I take the rack off you can't hardly see the hitch.
It takes seconds to put the bike on, it is very stable at highway speeds and easy to lock in place with a cable.
I have had a 2-bike version of the Saris Cycle-On Pro for going on two years. It is an expensive bike rack as car racks go, but I was determined to avoid a roof rack and I wanted the bike and car as far apart from each other as possible. The design of the Cycle-On Pro does all that, and that has been a good thing. I have mine on a 2-inch hitch receiver which is stronger, and is required if you want to mount an extension platform for an additional two bikes (I don't, but I thought it would be stronger and got a 2-in. aftermarket hitch receiver put on by U-Haul. My car, an Infiniti FX35, does not have a receiver standard.)
I can make several observations. First, it is best to have a receiver at your bumper height, since the extended bracket and tensioning knob can scrape easily on driveways and other steep road surface changes if mounted to a receiver lower than the bumper. It limits the approach angle and damages the knob by scraping on even modestly steep approaches, like driving off driveways onto highly-cambered roads. Second, the hardware I received with mine, which you need to bolt it together (as the carrier comes partially assembled) has a tendency to rust badly over a short time. I leave my carrier on the car most of the year as I travel with a bike whenever the weather allows, even in the winter here in Maryland. I suggest that until Saris decides to spec stainless bolts for the rack that you swap out the cheap fasteners they have and use stainless instead. Third, the racheting arms that brace the front bike wheels are susceptible to corrosion and the spring mechanism inside will freeze as a result. I have had Saris replace both not two years into my ownership from new purchase. In fairness to them, they honored the warranty without a fuss and sent me replacements, but keep in mind that you might need to do the same if you live anywhere where there is wet weather, or near the coast or where they salt the roads in winter. Last, the rear wheel cradles which are made of stamped and formed powdercoated sheet steel bolted to the rack frame have corroded particularly badly, enough that I think they were not properly coated at manufacturing. I had to remove them, sand, feather and prime and repaint them this spring because they were so rusty (good old Rust-oleum.) I suppose I could keep the rack in storage, but my expectations of this piece of equipment is that it should be able to stand up to weather and typical road conditions. My car isn't rusting to pieces and neither should the rack.
On balance, I don't regret buying the rack. I like the convenience of a low carrier (used a Thule roof rack for years on lower-height vehicles) and the only similar model was the Thule which none of the shops in my area carried. I don't think I chose badly between the two.
My recommendation to Saris is that they work on the corrosion resistance of their design and that they improve their powdercoating prep.
05-21-07, 08:01 PM
I too have a Saris bike carrier like yours. I agree exactly with all your points including the potential for problem rust areas at the "lock" slot where the hold down arms clicks in (and where it clicks into when in the "down" position). The release button is a little stiff at times too, I imagine some silicone spray might help.
As for the mechanics of day to day use though, I'm 90% happy. Real easy to get in and out assuming you can lift your bike up to hitch level+. Heavier bikes might present a problem. Clamp arm has never caused me any concern. Do remember to put the locking pin in before you drive off:eek: I forgot once and it could of been nasty if a fast stop was called for, as it was the not so gentle bonk on my rear window was sufficient to make me not forget again
One small issue is that mixing a mountain bike or a cruiser with my bike (hybrid/flat bar roadie) when two-up required me to adjust the MTB seat to avoid my handlebars. This could be specific to my particular combination of bike types i.e. two drop handle bikes would probably be fine.
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