While the ever-popular roof racks continue their dominance in the market, more and more innovative options are showing up in the hitch mount category. Kuat is well-known for offering high-quality hitch-mount bike racks that are sexy, functional and light.
Kuat NV Hitch Bike Rack Features:
- 2 bike capacity (2″ version can expand to 4)
- Built-in repair stand
- Lever fold up and tilt down
- Integrated cable lock
- Hand tight cam system
- Front and rear tire ratchets
- An ample 13″ between bikes
- 2″ and 1.25″ (tested) receiver options
- Fits 20″- 29″ wheels
- The NV is the best option for downhill, freeride and other larger bikes
- Lifetime warranty
- MSRP: $549
Kuat NV Hitch-mount Bike Rack Review
Like most hitch racks, the NV does require a bit of assembly to get it road-ready. Out of the box, the assembly steps are straightforward and can be completed in less than 30 minutes. To assemble, I slipped the rack onto my hitch and proceeded to piece the parts together. A sizable Allen wrench is included and that’s about all you’ll need. A separate adapter for wheels smaller than 24″ is included and must be attached to safely carry small bikes.
The overall fit and finish is impeccable. Many of the trailhead onlookers were first attracted to the anodized burnt orange bits that make the rack stand out. But, what wins people over is just how easy the rack is to use — securely attaching bikes is a breeze and tilting the rack up and down, then out of the way is likewise simple.
I really appreciated the tilting feature as it allows complete access to the rear of the vehicle (2001 Subaru Outback) even when two bikes are installed. Flipping the lever and letting the rack tilt back and repeating while lifting up was an easy process that was done hundreds of times throughout the course of the test. The mechanism has consistently performed and worked as expected. I love how the latch is spring-loaded so you don’t have to pull out and then re-insert a pin to achieve tilt-away nirvana… it does it automatically.
The stability wedge system provides for a wiggle-free attachment in the receiver. Many other racks suffer from wiggling rack syndrome, which can cause unnecessary bike movement while racked. There is still some minor sway in the rack itself, but the attachment at the hitch isn’t the culprit.
With the NV, you can safely haul road bikes, 29ers and freeride bikes alike in a stable and easy-to-use location. Not to mention, you’re getting the bikes off the roof where they can (in one easy act of forgetfulness) be crushed by the garage door, carport, parking garage or drive-thru restaurant. I loved being able to drive straight into the garage and shut the door — with bikes attached.
I have had some annoyances with the rack. The foremost was with the ratchet arms. Apparently, my test unit came with early-generation units that had problems releasing when needed. A quick email to Kuat and I had new lever arms that attached more securely and released with ease — problem solved. If you have these issues with your arms, contact Kuat for replacements.
The other issue that still lingers is with the retractable cable lock. Getting the lock cable to slide all the way back into the stowed position is no easy task. Lots of wiggling and finagling is involved and in the end, I’ve been OK leaving about 12″ extended that I can loop back into the tire strap (see below). I’ve been told a potential solution will be to file down the pin that holds the cable in place. Apparently this can cause snagging on occasion. When I get time, I’ll give that a whirl.
With the NV’s built-in bike stand, it was easy to perform simple maintenance at the trailhead or in the garage. While it won’t replace your Park workstand, it is easy to operate and holds the bike securely. If you’re working on shifting performance in the bike stand, the inside pedal typically strikes the rack (when clamping on the seatpost), so I’d suggest a little longer arm on the stand to reduce this issue.
- Sturdy enough to handle burly bikes
- Easily adjusts from 24-29 inch wheels
- Love the tilting feature with the spring-loaded latch
- Hitch wedge reduces sway
- Built-in locks for the receiver and bikes
- Great-looking rack
- Provides plenty of rack clearance when entering/exiting steep driveways or rough terrain
- Gets your bikes off the roof for safer, easier hauling
- Keeps the bikes well-separated
- Nothing touches the frame
- Lock cable doesn’t always easily slide back into the rack for storage
- Rack interferes with pedal rotation when in bike stand mode (clamped via seatpost)
- No way around it… the rack is cumbersome to store and move around when off the vehicle
- Need an adapter to go down to 20-inch wheels
- Would be nice to have the same key for both the bikes and the hitch
- Rack can impede the view of rear brake lights (not unique to this hitch rack though)
Bottom Line: Kuat NV Hitch-mount Bike Rack
Definitely one of the nicest-looking racks on the market, the Kuat NV bike rack is not all just good looks — it performs well and is super-easy to use. You can trust it with your burliest bikes and skinny’s alike.
Buy Now: Available at REI
I’ve been interested in hitch racks for the reasons listed but on my last car purchase I ended up gettting roof rack again since I already had thule trays/wheel carriers and a ski box. Biggest issue is I still need to be able to haul skis so 500$ for just the bikes plus all the cost of getting the hitch ruled it out. Replacing another car soon though so this is going to come up again…if it has a hitch could make the decision easier.
Couple of questions. Do you know the weight on the unit? How long would it take to take on and off? I know it folds up (and down when loaded) but there are times I’d think about taking it off. Any issues at steep trail head parking, parking lots etc? How is the height?
JoshG: Yeah, a multi-purpose rack this is not, but a single-purpose bike rack it does very well.
The rack weighs somewhere near 30 lbs, but it’s not the weight that’s the issue it’s the awkwardness when carrying it around that’s the big issue. There’s no way around that as you tiptoe around your cars to find a suitable place to store it. Removing it and installing it is simple, however. Untwist the knob, unlock the pin and slide it out.
As far as clearance, I’ve not had a single issue. The raised tongue puts the bike trays higher than the bumper, so even extended, it has zero issues in my tests. You’d have to come at something with a crazy pitch to even come close to causing issues.
I guess bikes behind the vehicle will mean less wind resistance and better fuel economy?
@dave, it’d certainly seem like they’d be less exposed to dirt and bugs. I hate getting somewhere and have to scrape my grips/levers and exposed parts on my suspension clean after a buggy drive. Sometimes use the bike bra covers. I would be interested to see some numbers on fuel economy but that might vary lot car to car. might be a thread on mtbr about it…never looked.
forgot to add…thanks for the info jason.
I think Mythbusters would be the best ones to test this. 🙂
I haven’t done enough of a mileage comparison to say either way, but JoshG is right… your bikes are less buggy after a long trip.
Have you had any problems with the arms that hold the wheel hitting the bike’s fork legs? I own the Thule T2 and my biggest complaint is that on long trips I have to wrap my fork leg in a towel to keep the rack from destroying the outside of the fork (and I just have to live with the little nicks caused from more local trips). I need a rack that has adequate clearance.
Todd… I haven’t experienced any fork rub to speak of from the arms. They stay free and clear without touching anything but the tire and one side of the fork, but the rubberized hook doesn’t leave any permanent marks.
Pingback: Thule T2 917XT Bike Hitch Rack Review - FeedTheHabit.com