Those early hitch racks were a lot like trunk racks: not terribly attractive. It was the same way with roof racks. It wasn’t until some time in the 1990s that roof racks became status symbols rather than eyesores. And that’s where we’ve been with most hitch racks until recently.
This past winter I began using a Küat Sherpa 2.0. This was after a giant SUV rear ended me and allowed me a chance to go for a ride in a truck with lots of fancy lights. The old hitch rack (and hitch) fared as well as an earthworm under a size 14 boot, but they really did the back half of my car a favor. Where were we?
Yeah, so I replaced my old rack with the Sherpa 2.0. I’ve been wowed by its big brother, the NV 2.0, but I wondered how much you’d be giving up in going with the Sherpa 2.0. Both carry two bikes and both have the carrying capacity to carry nearly any bike I own: neither can carry my cargo bike or my tandem. The NV 2.0 carries bikes with a wheelbase as long as 48 inches (122cm), while the Sherpa 2.0 will carry bikes with a wheelbase as long as 47 inches (119cm); it gives up very little and is likely only to be an issue with a few mountain bikes.
The NV 2.0 has a carrying capacity of 60 pounds, which seems like overkill when you consider that the Sherpa 2.0 will carry a bike weighing up to 40 lbs. This is likely only going to be an issue for a few select downhillers and ebike owners.
So far as I could see, in my riding life the only feature I’d be giving up between the NV 2.0 and the Sherpa 2.0 was the fact that the NV 2.0 came with a bike repair stand integrated into the carrier. A neat feature, to be sure, but not one I need on a routine basis.
One of the truly genius features of the Sherpa 2.0 was the way the box became an assembly stand for the rack and the instructions were clear and well-written. Assembly took less than an hour.
Security is low-key. There’s a cable that locks in the rack itself, but isn’t retractable. This will keep honest people honest and little more. It’s long enough to get around two bike frames, but it’s nearly impossible to get it through all four wheels and into the lock.
I dig that the release to fold the rack down can be operated either by your hand or your foot. It’s handy (see what I did there?) to be able to push the lever with your foot and then just pull the rack down for bike loading. Pull the lever a second time and it will fold away from the car so that you can get the rear hatch open even with bikes aboard the rack.
Compared to many other racks I’ve encountered, the Sherpa 2.0 is a good deal quieter. By that I mean that thanks to the powder coating of the parts there’s not as much rattling and clanking when the lever is pulled and the rack folds out for loading. Also, there’s a knob to tension the rack in the hitch mount so that it doesn’t bounce around every time the car runs over a bump. Truly, this rack would only be quieter with the addition of noise-canceling headphones.
My one gripe with the Sherpa 2.0 was that the wheel bar doesn’t lower enough to hold a 20-inch wheel securely. I drive bikes with 20-inch wheels (Mini-Shred’s bike and the freestyle bike I’m riding at the pump track here) more often than I drive adult bikes. The only way I found I could secure them was by clamping the seat, which was effective, if inelegant, the way Mad Dog 20-20 will get you drunk but won’t be any fun until you are.
Then I learned about an accessory so that the ratchet arm can hold wheels smaller than 26-inches.
This little doohickey affixes to the ratchet arm with velcro straps. While it isn’t easy to find online, the children’s wheel adapter tends to go for $10 and allows you to secure a smaller bike with the ratchet arm. The remaining problem I see is that some kids’ bikes will still be difficult to carry because the wheelbase is too short to reach from the front wheel cradle to the rear wheel cradle where the ratcheting strap is mounted. But so far, I’ve been able to carry all but our 12-inch-wheel bike on the rack.
The fact that the front wheel cradle folds closed when not in use is one of the rack’s more attractive qualities, something I didn’t realize until I once forgot to fold the cradles closed before flipping the rack up. It also allows the rack to sit closer to the vehicle than it might otherwise, giving you more maneuvering room when you aren’t carrying bikes.
One thing I’ve noticed on some hitch racks is that the bikes are so close together that you have to work to accommodate both bikes due to interference between pedals and sometimes between bars and saddles. When Küat redesigned the Sherpa 2.0, they increased clearance to 14 inches. And they did this while maintaining enough stiffness in the rack that it doesn’t wiggle like an old car antenna.
Küat has managed to redefine my expectations for a hitch rack. Now if they would just come up with a more elegant solution to carrying bikes with small wheels.
Final thought: Perhaps the only hitch rack that looks like an upgrade to the vehicle.
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