With the proliferation of wagons, crossovers, and SUVs, the hitch rack has become the most ubiquitous type of bike hauler, but there are still occasions when a roof-mounted bike rack is preferred. For long road trips I tend to portage my bikes aloft as it frees up the back of my car providing unfettered access to my lift gate. I also like transporting my bikes up high when traveling as it keeps my toys that much further out of the reach of thieving hands.
I first started using Rocky Mounts ages ago when they were the only manufacture to offer roof mounts offered in a variety of colors. They were simple things back then, always functional and priced well below the competition. In the years since, their products have evolved and still come in a small selection of colors. Last fall I started using one of their latest racks, the SwitchHitter, to portage my bikes over thousands of miles and I’ve been quite pleased with the performance.
The SwitchHitter was released just last year in response to a handful of new developments in crossbar technology, namely those bars with internal mounting channels. I’ve had several such system including the most prevalent, Thule AeroBlades and the Yakima Whispbar and Jetstream systems. For those disinclined to mix-and-match brands, Rocky Mounts offers their own channeled aerodynamic crossbar called the Ouray.
Crossbars with internal channels provide a handful of benefits, the most obvious is the clean and streamlined mounting of accessories. I was a quick convert to these types of bars initially, but have also come to appreciate the non-channeled bars like Yakima’s heavy duty and aerodynamic Corebars. The disadvantage for those of us using multiple rack accessories and channeled bars is the adding and removing of said accessories. They have to be slid in and out of the ends whereas the traditional clamp-around mounting systems can be removed and added without disrupting the other components.
For my needs I elected to forgo the channeled bars and went with the SwitchHitter’s optional bar-clamp attachments. Installation was quick and required no more than 10 minutes from unpacking the rack to mounting my bike atop it. Once my bike was clamped into the fork mount and the rear wheel strapped in place, I gave the bike a sturdy shake to test the stability and was pleasantly surprised how little movement I could detect.
Like a number of similar racks on the market, the fork block is removable and the kit comes with additional blocks to accommodate all of the standard fork formats including 12 x 100, 15 x 100 and Boost 110 (15 x 110). If you need it, and there are a few of you out there, it can also be fitted with a traditional 9mm block for you old-school QR hub users. Swapping the blocks out is quick and only requires a few turns of two small bolts atop the rack head.
With bike theft one of the primary concerns with any cyclist, I was pleased to see the SwitchHitter includes a cable lock housed within the rack tray. No lock will prevent a determined thief, but even a small cable can be enough to encourage some crooks to look for easier prey. The SwitchHitter provides placement for two lock cores, one in the head of the rack, the other in the cable, but the cores are not included in the box. Two cores are only $20 and worth the add-on purchase.
There’s a lot to like about the SwitchHitter. Available in five colors and offered with free shipping through the Rocky Mounts website, it’s easy to mount, versatile, and most importantly it holds a bike securely without an excess of wobble. When empty the trays are quiet at highway speeds, look handsome on any vehicle, and accommodate a wide variety of bar systems. The $189 asking price is more than fair given the quality of materials and construction and the ease of use makes the SwitchHitter a winner.
At roughly 50-inches from the fork block to the tail end of the tray, the SwitchHitter can’t get much shorter, but it may cause some interference with some hatch gates. I wish more companies would find a way of placing the fork block in front of the forward crossbar mounting point as it would add 4-5 inches of hatch clearance. For my application, I blame Jeep for a lousy placement of their roof rails.
Rocky Mounts has come a long way since I bought one of their very first racks in 1995, only two years after founder Bobby Noyes started selling them in local shops. The SwitchHitter is as advanced as anything else on the market and there’s not much I would suggest for improvements. I just wish I still had my red 1993 Jeep Wrangler with the matching red Rocky Mounts on the roof. www.rockymounts.com