In the early 2000s I despaired of bike racks. There had been a proliferation of racks that allowed you to leave both wheels on the bike and an arm swung up and clamped the down tube. Fine for steel or aluminum, but those jaws would leave marks on bar titanium and crushed more than a few carbon fiber downtubes. Couldn’t a rack get the job down without marking or damaging the bike?
And then hitch racks hit and we haven’t looked back. I basically don’t see roof racks or trunk racks anymore. And why would I? The hitch racks are better in a host of ways. You know, why don’t we count them?
- They are less expensive than most roof racks.
- They are easier to use.
- They don’t require you to lift the bike as high.
- They won’t mar or damage the frame.
- While you can back into stuff, you can’t ram the bikes into a low overhang.
Saris has introduced a new hitch rack to their already extensive lineup. This one is called the Superclamp EX. It’s available in both two- and four-bike versions; I’ve been using the double.
Unlike most racks, the SuperClamp EX has wheel clamps on both arms. There’s one facing inside and another facing outside on each arm. The idea is that this will help hold the bike more securely and will also remove some stress placed on the front wheel. In that regard, it works exactly as intended. The bikes wiggle less and should I hit a big bump, I have less concern that the front wheel on a bike will wind up tweaked. Here, I’m most concerned about the front wheel of a mountain bike as nothing else has as much mass behind it.
The trick with using this rack is to find the position that allows you to secure wheels on each side of the rack. That’s not as easy as it sounds. I had to do some playing around to position the wheel trays so that I could grab the wheels of my mountain bike and Mini-Shred’s mountain bike, which is significantly smaller in every regard.
In addition to ratchets that hold the wheel clamps against the wheels, the arms also have ratchets that prevent them from opening outward without a button being depressed. That means that often the best way to secure a bike’s wheel is by positioning the arms pointing toward the sides of the vehicle rather than toward the midline of the vehicle, though I’ve used it successfully both ways. Straps secure each wheel to its wheel tray and reflectors on each wheel tray add to your visibility.
While the wheel trays will accommodate tires up to 4-inches wide, the challenge in using this rack is that the wheel clamps sit pretty close to the arms and it can at times require some effort to position the arms in a way to securely hold the wheels while avoiding the fork or rear triangle. This is more of an issue with a mountain bike than with a road bike. The good news is that the rack is built to carry a load and do it securely; you can carry bikes up to 60 lbs.—each.
The SuperClamp EX is $469 for the two-bike version and $849 for the four-bike edition. There’s a big handle that allows the rack to be folded away when not in use or folded out in order to access the vehicle’s gate or hatch when loaded. In terms of security, the hitch pin features a lock and the rack has tumblers to accept the cables which are contained in the rack and retract when not in use.
This was flat-out the fastest installation of any rack I’ve every used, and I appreciated that it came with a 2-in. hitch adapter so that no matter what hitch you have, you’ll be able to use the rack that comes out of the box. It makes inventory management much better for the manufacturer and retailers, the upshot being if you purchase one you know it will fit your hitch.
Final thought: The best racks are blind to the kind of bike they carry.