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Bike rack selection

Old 04-21-21, 01:48 PM
  #1  
kwandtke
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Bike rack selection

So just got a new car and had a hitch installed with the specific purpose of getting a bike rack. I love the Thule platform I use on my wifes car but it is a bit to mount as it's a trunk mount. Once on it's great but trunk does not open ez and wife does not like leaving it on so ...

Now I'm looking for a platform not a hanger .... now looking at a KAC E2 which from reviews and all looks decent. What I'm wondering about is how a Thule (for example) goes for almost $600 while this KAC runs under 2. I'm sure Thule is good quality and all but I'm not a pro .. this is for simple weekend cycling use (my favorite ride is with my two daughters on one of our great county trails thru parks .. ending at .... a beer garden .. so ya see .. recreational riding.

All kidding aside I buy good stuff when I can see it's worth it .. I'm just not seeing what makes the Thule (or Saris, etc) worth that much more .. what am I missing?
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Old 04-21-21, 02:35 PM
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I'm not familiar with the KAC E2, but i work at a large outdoor retailer and I'm very familiar with Thule products. Thule is a favorite amongst the people in the store I work at. Some big reasons are quality, how Thule handles warranty claims/customer service, and ease of us. The Thule racks are not the most expensive we carry, Kuat is quite a bit more but in my opinion the quality isn't there. I've seen too many Kuat racks fail in the same spot. Thule however is a Swedish company meaning that most if not all of their products have to follow Swedish road standards and my understanding is that the products get crash tested (this is what a Thule rep told me during a training). So they're actually safer than most other options. I've had to handle a lot of customer claims and be a middle person for the customer and dealing with Thule is always easy. They are helpful and generally willing to send replacement parts for free or super cheap. And my last reason for leaning towards Thule is that they are generally super easy to build with intuitive instructions and easy to use.
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Old 04-21-21, 03:26 PM
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I forget the precise name - too many letters and numbers - but I think mine is the Thule XT Pro T2, or something like that. Probably the one you are talking about, as it was about $600. And it is good.

Before you try to save money by buying a no-name (never heard of KAC) cheapie rack, consider the value of the bikes you will be carrying. If they are cheap, too, no problem - unless the rack might let them go at highway speeds.

PS: I looked up the rack you mentioned, and it is a different type than the Thule -- the KAC clamps down on the frame's top tube, and the Thule (and the 1UP that Elvo mentioned) clamp on the wheels. The former type will work better if your bikes have fenders, while the latter type are favored by people with nice paint jobs on their frames.

Last edited by Koyote; 04-21-21 at 03:53 PM.
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Old 04-21-21, 03:46 PM
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Old 04-21-21, 05:09 PM
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In my experience the difference is in longevity with regular use. For just an occasional short trip a few times a year... some cheaper racks are fine. But if you are looking for something to leave on the car and use often, that is where higher quality makes a difference.

There can also be differences in how convenient they are to use. Extra features that add complexity are going to be more reliable with a higher quality rack.
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Old 04-21-21, 08:59 PM
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The KAC is fine, it is just the same old swagman xc2 design that has a hundred knockoff versions. It works it just isn't fancy, is clunky, and touches the frame. One of the guys I ride with had one for years and my own bike has been in it a few times. He now has a 1up along with everybody else around here including me .
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Old 04-21-21, 10:32 PM
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Looking at the rack you're considering, thule sells the exact same under another name through Dick's, I bought one recently and was completely unimpressed with it. Used it a few times and then took it back. The only up side was that it was light, the whole thing was just clunky to adjust and while I believe it will hold up ok long term it wasn't as sturdy as I want to trust one to be. The one from Dick's was slightly better then the version you're looking at since it came more out and up from the hitch and was only 220.00 I believe. Ended up with the Swagman Chinook (250.00 range) which which was noticeably heavier but clearly sturdier. The wheel holders are nice but what set it apart besides the heftier construction was the ratchet system that holds the bikes down and that they can be locked on. Also liked that it could fold up closer to the back of the car when not in use. Although I've always been happy with true Thule and saris equipment I do find the prices hard to swallow, the nicer swagman has my approval though.
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Old 04-22-21, 09:30 AM
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I have a 1Up-USA rack and love it. A bit pricy but, in my opinion, well worth it.
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Old 04-22-21, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by kwandtke View Post
All kidding aside I buy good stuff when I can see it's worth it .. I'm just not seeing what makes the Thule (or Saris, etc) worth that much more .. what am I missing?
Better fit and finish; Cheaper racks tend to user cheaper, heavier steel tubes. Better racks are powdercoated or have thicker, tougher paint. You'll also see more ease of adjustment (which can be important if you have multiple, different sized bikes) Things like SS or cad-plated hardware, as opposed to plain steel. Wheel holders will get nylon ratchet straps instead of velcro.

The better brands usually have more fold up / fold away features as well, which let you access the trunk more easily when there's bikes on it, and / or fold closer to the car when it's empty.

That said, I had a Hollywood / Swagman of the design you're looking at that stayed on my car 9 months out of the year. I bought it used, and had it for about 6 years, its advantage was it's simplicity, It was so basic, that there wasn't much to go wrong with it. A little Kroil on the hardware, and some spray grease in the pivots every spring; No complaints here.
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Old 04-22-21, 11:09 AM
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I went cheap and have not had any problems. I have driven 4-5 hours from home on back roads and Interstate. Pick the style and number of bikes you want to carry.

https://www.amazon.com/stores/page/F...e&ref_=ast_bln

I use this style. It touches my top tube, but have had no scratches or damage. I do not leave it on all the time, only when needed.

https://www.amazon.com/Allen-Sports-..._dp&th=1&psc=1

Last edited by themp; 04-22-21 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 04-22-21, 12:42 PM
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Never heard of KAC before so I wouldn't really want to trust it. I have seen some of those Amazon brands and not really much of quality. Nothing I wouldn't want to put my bikes on and travel with. Thule costs more money because they are a quality company with excellent support and innovative products. You are paying for R&D not just lets sort of sloppily copy a design we saw in a picture. You get easier on and off, pivoting, tilting or swinging gates so you can open the trunk in some cases with the bikes on the rack and really solid mounting and other neat design features that companies are starting to copy now.

In terms of Saris they are cheaper racks over all but do have a lifetime warranty and decent enough quality on the low end for the casual rider. I do have occasional problems with their racks but pre-pandemic they have always supported us and the customers during the pandemic of course things have changed quite a bit but I know they are working through a lot.

Keep in mind these are safety devices and if it does fail it could cause some major issues. Sometimes it is just a wrecked bike but sometimes it can be more serious and end in injuries to people or worse. I want to know that because this is a safety device that the manufacturer will support me if it does happen to fail or at least will be around should I need them.

If you are a pro there is a team car with probably some more custom designed roof racks, I have not seen any hitch or trunk racks at any pro races. If you were a pro you have sponsorships and all of that and wouldn't need to be asking questions here. Though it would be cool to hear from Mathieu Van Der Pol or Peter Sagan or someone like that here. If you were a pro you could get a sponsorship from Thule or KŁat or something and get some really neat racks and such. I would love to build out the ultimate gravel/CX/MTB vehicle with a Thule Roof Tent and Thule rack at the back and sorts of other fun Thule accessories that was all taken care of through sponsorship but that ain't gonna happen.
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Old 04-23-21, 09:16 AM
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kwandtke
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Originally Posted by Ironfish653 View Post
Better fit and finish; Cheaper racks tend to user cheaper, heavier steel tubes. Better racks are powdercoated or have thicker, tougher paint. You'll also see more ease of adjustment (which can be important if you have multiple, different sized bikes) Things like SS or cad-plated hardware, as opposed to plain steel. Wheel holders will get nylon ratchet straps instead of velcro.

The better brands usually have more fold up / fold away features as well, which let you access the trunk more easily when there's bikes on it, and / or fold closer to the car when it's empty.

That said, I had a Hollywood / Swagman of the design you're looking at that stayed on my car 9 months out of the year. I bought it used, and had it for about 6 years, its advantage was it's simplicity, It was so basic, that there wasn't much to go wrong with it. A little Kroil on the hardware, and some spray grease in the pivots every spring; No complaints here.
Thanks Ironfish .. I think I knowwhat you mean. I have a trunk mnt Thule platform and I love it .. but it's trunk mount and cannot stay on all the time (or for long periods) .. I appreciate how nice that one is .. but ya .. long and short I don't see myelf buying one new .. just can't justify $600 for the amount of riding I do. I guess I have to consider my age so a rack that will outlive me while neat .. is not needed. Thanks again
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Old 04-23-21, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by themp View Post
I use this style. It touches my top tube, but have had no scratches or damage. I do not leave it on all the time, only when needed.

https://www.amazon.com/Allen-Sports-..._dp&th=1&psc=1
I have a slightly cheaper version of the Allen rack; the difference being yours has better gripping tie-down straps while mine has straps made of slippery nylon webbing that quickly become loose within their buckles. My solution to fix that problem is to tighten the straps and then secure them by wrapping them tightly with a bungee cord. Of course this means I have to take care not to scratch my bike. And of course I am paranoid the bungee might break or come off so I keep an eye on it while I am driving. But for the few times a year I use the rack, it is mostly OK otherwise.
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