Top critical review
3.0 out of 5 starsGreat concept, but execution a little lacking
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on June 16, 2020
Our older first generation non-locking version of this Sportrack rack model, which worked really well and was so easy for my wife and I to load and unload our hybrid bikes onto, finally bit the dust after 15 years, so we decided to upgrade to this newer locking version. It’s a solid rack and I really liked the idea of the locking hooks, but it turns out that they, in conjunction with the newer style of wheel trays (the old ones were flat) may make it awkward or perhaps even impossible for loading some taller-frame bikes. In my case, my Specialized Crossroads 22” hybrid won’t load easily like other bikes in the instructional videos I’ve watched, even on the outside trays. (I haven’t tried loading my bike on the vehicle side of the post where it is supposed to go, being the heavier of our two bikes, because I’m afraid of damaging the car in what could end up being a futile effort to get it to fit on that side of the rack.) This is because the upper arm doesn’t go up quite high enough to permit my frame, which has a gently curving sloped profile along the top section, to get underneath it and allow both wheels into their trays unless I tilt the whole bike back towards me first, then set the front wheel in its tray before slipping the frame underneath the arm and finally setting the back wheel into place. To get it off I have to do the exact reverse. I’ve gotten used to this routine and it’s a pretty quick and simple go-around, but it is necessary in the case of my bike because, unlike the non-locking version of this rack, the lockable arms don’t slip up the center post beyond a certain point and cannot be removed from the post. An alternative approach I tried was to flip the wheel trays upside down, which made it a snap to load the bike the normal way and felt stable enough to be an option one could consider, although I’m sure the manufacturer wouldn’t approve. So, if you have a men’s bike frame that’s tall, it might be a good idea to try this rack out somewhere before you buy, or consider the non-locking version.
Another issue that I never had with my previous rack is that when I’m driving and there’s no bike on it (i.e, the rack is folded up vertically) the wheel trays tend to slip down their shaft no matter how much it seems that I tighten their knobs, often making it necessary to re-align them again to fit our bikes, which is annoying. Tightened hard, the knobs could be quite difficult to loosen for someone with an injured arm or weak wrists.
Note that bikes tend to rock a bit on this type of rack when being driven, so try to secure the rubberized hooks down tight on your bike frame to avoid abrasive rubbing between the rubber of the hook and your bike frame because, depending on the quality of the bike factory's paint job, over time your paint will probably wear off on that spot as it has on one of our bikes.
Be aware that to get full access to the rear of a vehicle you have to remove the bikes and then swing the vertical post down to a horizontal position. However, If your vehicle's back window opens, you may be able to access the back of your vehicle through that window without removing the bikes, or perhaps by just removing the one bike closest to the car. I have a crossover vehicle with a hatch-style rear window that I can open fully with both bikes still on the rack.
I find the pin setup that allows you to fix the wings in place (either opened or folded up) can be a bit annoying to deal with in the dark of night in terms of getting the pins to line up in their respective holes, especially if the plastic sleeve that lines the inside of the receptacle area has moved out of alignment, which it does on ours on occasion. Note, too, that all three pins this rack utilizes are attached to the rack by very thin stranded wire protected by an extremely thin plastic sheath, which isn’t very durable. So be careful during assembly not to scrape the plastic. One of mine was already damaged when I opened the box and kudos to the company I bought the rack from through Amazon who got a replacement sent out to me immediately for no charge. If a wire should ever break, you can also buy a replacement pin on Sportrack’s site, but to be truthful the wire isn’t absolutely necessary because the pins themselves seem secure once they are set in place.
Overall I like the rack. The design concept is neat and it is relatively easy to assemble. Pretty good value for the money, too. While there is a contact phone number for info or parts, be advised that Thule bought Sportrack a while back and, to paraphrase one representative I spoke with, it isn’t treated as a high-priority part of their catalogue.