kaut nv bike rack-2

When we installed the Kuat NV rack, it was a last-ditch effort to keep mountain bikes a part of our traveling lifestyle after a year of bike-rack headaches and horror stories. It had to be tough enough to survive constant use and weather – we live in our van, so the rack isn’t just for transport, it’s also everyday storage – and also so easy to use that we would never hesitate to pull the bikes off and hit the trail. The NV has proven itself worthy.

Taking the bikes on and off is easier on the NV than any other rack I’ve tried, and once the bikes are on, they’re so secure I haven’t yet sweated whether or not the bikes are okay when we’re taking a sharp turn or a speed bump.

The wheel trays and the ratcheting arms easily accommodated our gangly 29er and can handle anything from a road bike to a four-inch tire. There’s plenty of space between the trays to keep larger bikes from interfering with each other. And while we did lower one saddle to avoid rubbing the other bike’s extra-long handlebars, any additional space between the trays would make the rack unwieldy.

The NV’s locking hitch pin adds to peace of mind when leaving bikes unattended, and a quick-release lever allows the rack to be easily stored upright when the bikes are off the rack or tilted downward for easier access to rear vehicle doors, a must for extended road trips.

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The NV took us less than a half hour to install and has options for a two-inch or 1.25-inch receiver hitch. It’s hefty at 49 pounds, but still manageable by one person and takes about a minute to completely remove from the vehicle.

One beauty of the NV is that once it’s installed, there are no removable pieces-no straps or screws to misplace, and no adjustments to make for different sized bikes. The built-in quick-release repair stand is a small addition that saves car space and adds convenience if you like to carry your own repair stand.

Hitch racks in general add to the length of a vehicle, which may be desirable in comparison to adding to a vehicle’s height with a roof-top rack, but it can accentuate low clearance, which we noticed on some rougher dirt roads.

The NV comes with one built-in cable lock, and my only complaint with the rack is that the cable is barely long enough to connect through two mountain bike frames, leaving the wheels unlocked. We carry a couple of extra locks for the wheels, but a longer cable would be a simpler solution.

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The NV accommodates two bikes for $549, and an add-on for two more bikes costs $389, which is in the ballpark of other tray-style hitch-mounted racks. But since we’re almost-daily rack users, Kuat’s user-friendly features and durability have taken the cake.

$529 – BUY


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Contributing editor Hilary Oliver lives in Denver and blogs at The Gription.