While some hitch racks have gone with lightweight designs, Yakima went a different road with the StageTwo bike rack. I’m not kidding when I say the StageTwo feels built to withstand a nuclear blast — it’s that burly. This two-bike design has been in test for well over a year and it remains one of the sturdiest and reliable racks I have ever tested.
Yakima StageTwo 2″ Hitch Bike Rack Features:
- StrongArm™ hooks secure bikes at the wheels for scratch-free hauling
- Built-in cable SKS locks for moderate security, or use the integrated lock loop for added security
- 2-inch receiver is built to carry two bikes up to 70 lbs. each
- Tiered trays that can be offset for added bike-to-bike clearance
- Upward-angled design adds ground clearance
- Perfectly-suited for today’s eBikes of all shapes and sizes
- Tool-free locking SpeedKnob™ 2.0 eliminates movement
- Fits 16-29″ wheel sizes and tires up to 3.25″ wide (fat bike kit extra)
- Smooth tilting design for rear access — with bikes loaded
- Security Allen key bolts further thwart thieves
- Can increase to 4 bikes with StageTwo +2 add-on (2″ only)
- Weight: 66 lbs. (built like a tank)
- MSRP: $749
Unboxing the burly StageTwo
Upon arrival, I had little idea what I was getting into. As Yakima’s new premier hitch rack, the StageTwo is burly. At double the weight of the last Yakima hitch rack I tested (Yakima Dr Tray review), I was a little shocked. But, with the rising popularity of eBikes of all shapes and sizes, it makes sense to match braun for braun, so that’s what the StageTwo does. Yes, you read that right, the rack itself is 66 lbs., but in the box it’s close to 80 lbs. It’s definitely a two-person box, and that second set of hands will also come in handy during assembly. For reference, the Kuat NV 2.0 is 52 lbs.
After getting the rack onto the hitch, I proceeded to install the trays, arms, etc. Initially, I decided to set it up offset for maximum clearance between bikes. After fiddling with the bolt holes and getting it installed, I realized that the offset setup isn’t well-suited for a vehicle like my Nissan Pathfinder. The trays extended outside the width of the vehicle and created unnecessary interference when walking around the vehicle. Plus, I don’t have any odd-sized bikes, so, after a few days, I switched the trays back to the standard position.
Through that process, I did discover one of the most frustrating things about this rack — the threaded inserts don’t always properly line up with the holes. Getting the tray bolts threaded in straight required extra elbow grease and another set of hands to exert added pressure for proper threading. Once past that, it was smooth-sailing as this heavyweight rack came together very well. Luckily, that frustration isn’t a regular occurrence, unless you change it from standard to offset regularly.
Initial operation was as expected, with the arms providing the most secure ratcheting of any rack I’ve tested. It helps that every part of this rack is oversized and the StrongArm hooks ratchet on front tires with herculean grip.
Yakima includes a single key system (SKS) for all the locks on the rack. With that, the SpeedKnob 2.0 is the first one you’ll use. After tightening the knob to eliminate any slop in the receiver, a quick lock then prevents the rack from being removed from the receiver. The two cable locks can be pulled out of the ends of the arms and are long enough to go through the head tube of a road bike or the fork of a mountain bike. There isn’t much length to them, so long-term security should be augmented using the center lock loop.
Load up the bikes!
Placing your steed(s) on the rack is where the rubber meets the
road rack. Like all racks using a front wheel hook, it’s a simple affair overall, but Yakima has added a few nice features to make that process easier. When preparing to load a bike, the rear wheel strap opens up widely and rotates completely out of the way. That little feature is really nice because usually you have to use the rear wheel to slide the strap out of the way.
Not only does the strap rotate completely out of the way, it slides easily to match your wheelbase. Ratcheting it down is simple and it fits the widest mountain bike tires (3.25″) without additional adapters. If you ride fat bikes, you’ll need that extra adapter.
Of course, the next step is rotating the lever arm in place and ratcheting it down. Again, Yakima has one of the most burly systems I’ve tested. Sometimes they sound cheap, but cinching down the lever arm over the front wheel exudes confidence. It’s like closing the door of a Lexus versus a Kia — it just feels solid. Without hesitation, I’d say Yakima has nailed the confidence-factor when ratcheting down the arm on the front wheel. And, releasing it also remains excellent, even after a year’s worth of road grime in the mechanism. It still ratchets down and releases its tenacious grip with ease.
Again, after a year on the back of my vehicle, the ratcheting mechanism has worn lines through the paint of the sliding arms. There is a little rusting going on now as well, which is a bummer. Again, a year of it sitting on the back of the car has caused vibration wear, as you can see.
For added road clearance, the rack angles upward. The result is a tiered tray placement. I love the added clearance for off road or around town (in/out of driveways, speed bumps, etc.), but dropping a heavy bike onto the closest tray can be difficult — particularly if that bike is 30+ lbs. I’m 5’11” and have to lift any bike up and over the outer tray to place it in the first tray. If you have a heavy eBike, a second helper may be necessary. Using the StageTwo on a rack with a lower hitch receiver would likely be easier. Luckily, the tray and front tire cradle are wide and secure so you have a large target that helps aid placement of a heavier bike.
Lowering the rack to gain entry to the rear of the vehicle is a breeze, with smooth rotation. That same smoothness and ease-of-use extends to a fully-loaded rack. I’m lucky enough to have both tilting rear glass and a rear hatch on my 2006 Pathfinder. The glass opens easily with the rack in stored position and rear access is easy with or without bikes onboard. The large lever pull makes releasing the rack even easier. Again, all touchpoints are large and easy to manipulate.
Moving the rack from one vehicle to the other or taking it on/off when not in use is challenging. Again, this rack is built like a Sherman tank, so hauling it around and storing it in the garage (even with a wall mount) is difficult. Aside from the ratchet arm paint wear, the rack looks great after a full year on Utah’s roads. It looks nice and I’ve just kept it on there because I use it regularly.
Lastly, all that heft absolutely translates into solid transport. On the back of the vehicle, the bikes don’t budge and the rack remains steady and solid. On rough terrain, there are no squeaks or bouncing. I can’t think of a more solid and confidence-inspiring bike rack.
- Built like a tank — holds bikes with tenacious grip
- Doesn’t bounce around on rough terrain
- Looks great after a year on the back of the vehicle
- Pivots and rotates smoothly
- Ratchet arms offer solid engagement/disengagement (like a luxury car)
- Added security prevents theft (locks, secure Allen bolts)
- Strap pivots out of the way for bike placement
- Large front wheel tray
- Trays tilt upward for excellent ground clearance
- Handles even the heaviest bikes with ease
- Holds bikes without damaging/scratching your bike up
- Perfectly-built for large/heavy eBikes
- Paint wear from the ratchet vibrating on the arms
- HEAVY and difficult to move around or store when not in use
- Slight bolt misalignment does make tray install difficult
The Bottom Line: Yakima StageTwo Bike Rack
As far as hitch racks go, the StageTwo wins the brute force award. Twice as heavy as comparable racks, the StageTwo doesn’t mess around and has the security to match. I’m 1000% confident that this rack is going to hold any bike in place on the roughest roads. And, every touchpoint remains solid and secure — even after a year of use and abuse. With the popularity of eBikes of all shapes and sizes, the StageTwo has you covered and can even stagger the trays for added clearance.
Buy Now: Available from Yakima’s Amazon Store