For obvious reasons, tray-style hitch racks are clearly preferred when hauling expensive carbon and full-suspension bikes. Nobody wants their high-zoot bike clanging around over every bump or strapped precariously around suspension bits. But, hitch-mounted tray racks are typically limited to just 2 bikes and some can be extended to 4 bikes. But, 4 full trays on the back of a vehicle becomes wicked-unwieldy. Well, Kuat has the Goldilocks solution with the Transfer 3 hitch rack.

Kuat Transfer 3 Hitch Rack Features:

  • 2 and 3 bike options
  • No contact with bike frame
  • Spring loaded foot pedal at pivot
  • PerfectFit™ adjustment system ensures your bike will fit
  • Available security upgrades include locking hitch pin and integrated cable locks
  • Fits both 1.25” & 2” receivers (class 1 receivers have limitations)
  • Fits 20-29” tires
  • Holds up to a 4.5” tire (with use of the Phat Bike Kit – Sold Separately)
  • Max Wheelbase: 47”
  • Max weight per bike: 40lbs
  • Weight: 2-bike (37 lbs), 3-bike (52 lbs)
  • MSRP: $289 for 2-bike or $389 for 3-bike
The Transfer 3 is versatile enough for road, MTB or kiddie bikes.

The Transfer 3 is versatile enough for road, MTB or kiddie bikes.

Give the Transfer 3 some gas

That’s right, give it some gas. With an ingenious little foot pedal to release the rack, the Transfer 3 lets anyone drop the hammer and raise the rack at the same time. That feature alone makes the budget-minded Transfer 3 worth the price of admission because every other hitch rack I’ve used inevitably places the raise/lower lever in the most awkward spot imaginable. But this time, that little foot pedal is right there for the taking. That feature alone is worthy of a recommendation, but let me dive deeper.

Step on the gas with ease.

Step on the gas with the Pivot Pedal.

The Transfer comes in both 2 and 3-bike configurations. When I heard that it came in a 3-bike setup, I was once again sold. You see, those 4-bike trays are a good idea on paper, but downright awkward in practice. With the Transfer 3, however, you can haul an extra bike without the baggage of a 4-bike carrier.

While stored upright, the rack does interfere with rear access and barely clears the rear liftgate glass on my Pathfinder (but it clears) so I can reach inside the back without lowering the rack. Not everyone has that same capability, so that’s where that aforementioned foot pedal comes into play. Whether you tap it with one foot or one hand, it’s the easiest-to-use of any hitch rack I’ve tested.

Assembly was straightforward, but did take some time. Contrary to the instructions, I placed it into my hitch receiver and began putting it together. Be sure you keep your eyes on the Kuat stickers to be sure you’ve installed the ratchet arms correctly. Just remember that you want the arm to always be in the rearward position and you’ll figure it out. I assumed that all rotating items (ratchet arms and rear wheel trays) would need to move freely, but not too freely, so I tightened them just enough to allow for movement. Don’t make them too loose or too tight or you’ll have problems.

During the course of the review, the Transfer 3 found itself on the back of two vehicles: 2005 Subaru Outback and 2006 Nissan Pathfinder. Behind the Outback, the base rack design allowed me to sit on the bumper with the empty rack. I loved this. But, with the Pathfinder, the rack sits higher, preventing that but also allowed me to tilt the rack backwards without the ends touching the pavement. Keep that in mind as lower vehicles may not allow a full rearward tilt without touching the pavement.

A full-tilt does require a tall vehicle, but is easy-to-do.

A full-tilt does require a tall vehicle, but is easy-to-do.

One rack to haul them all

Placing the bikes in the trays is a standard affair. Here, you must rotate the rear wheel trays based on wheelbase and then swing the ratchet arm into place between the fork and the front wheel. Missing here is a nice, audible click when snugging it down. It’s present, but subtle. Releasing the arm can sometimes be a challenge as it did take some finagling on occasion.

The ratchet arm lacks a solid click and can be hard to release at times.

The ratchet arm lacks a solid click and can be hard to release at times.

The rear wheel tray features a dual-sided strap that can be centered based on tire size. I’ve fit up to 3.0″ 27.5+ tires with ease and I know additional straps can be had to accommodate fat bike tires.

As far as variety of bikes, I’ve hauled bikes with 20-29″ tires, road bikes, mountain bikes and plus-sized bikes — all without any issues. I like how the trays feature wide cups for plus-size tires and a narrow channel for road bikes. Additionally, the available, integrated cable locks have come in quite handy and are easily doubled-up when fewer than 3 bikes are carried (I could get all three locks around a single, center-mounted bike for extra security).

You've gotta pony up $50 for the integrated cable locks, but they are worth it.

You’ve gotta pony up $50 for the integrated cable locks, but they are worth it.

Bikes do stay put quite well, but there’s always just a little bounce with any rack and the Transfer 3 is no exception. Over time, the bolt that tightens the 2″ receiver adapter did loosen up, so I put some Loctite on it and didn’t have any issues since.

I do like that this rack can fit both receiver sizes out-of-the-box. You won’t find that elsewhere and can be a great selling point for use on multiple cars.

The rack is a bit like a boat anchor when removed from the hitch and I’ve yet to find a storage strategy, but I think I’ll buy another Swagman X Mount and find somewhere to store it for winter. Again, it’s much easier to haul around than a 4-bike setup.

The Good

  • Carrying 3 bikes on trays is nirvana
  • That foot pedal is genius
  • Rack moves effortlessly up, down and tilts easily
  • Fits a wide variety of tires and bike sizes
  • Durable finish looks like new
  • Available, integrated locking cables are a must

The Bad

  • Ratcheting arms need more audible clicks
  • Arms were hard to release sometimes

The Bottom Line: Kuat Transfer 3

3-bike capacity and that ingenious foot pedal are enough to win me over, but the rest of the rack follows suit as well. While Kuat bills the Transfer series as a more budget-friendly option, it wins me over with its versatility as well. Now you can bring one more friend and his fancy bike with ease.

Buy Now: Available at Amazon.com

 

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

1 Comment

  1. I’ve always been weary of hitch racks – just something about the way they have your bike dangling at the back of your car haha! Anyway the Kuat seems pretty cool and the foot pedal is amazing like you said, Jason. Any idea how the bolts hold up when you tilt the thing?

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