Most hitch-mounted bike racks are built with such a focus on utility they’re often ugly and gangly things, especially when unadorned with nice looking bikes like a Salsa Fargo Ti. There’s nothing wrong with adding a little form to function, and that design ethos is evident in everything Küat produces. Their highly acclaimed NV rack is a harmonious blend of useful features combined with sharp design aesthetics. It’s easily the best hitch rack we have ever tested.
The highly sculpted wheel cradles accommodate everything from road bike wheels to the chunky tires of a fat bike.
Hitch racks come in a variety of formats and the Küat NV uses a front wheel clamping mechanism to secure the bikes. This popular style of rack loads quickly and accommodates a wide range of wheel sizes and bike shapes. It also doesn’t require any part of the rack to contact the bike frame, which is an appreciated bonus for fussy bike owners like myself. To load the rack, the user simply places the bike on the full length tray, slides the wheel clamp down and against the front tire, and then secures the rear wheel with the small buckled strap. The entire process to load two bikes takes all of one easy minute. Once the bikes are in place, two retractable locking cables slide out from the bike trays and provide just enough length to thread through the bike frames keeping would-be thieves looking for easier targets.
It’s a really sharp looking rack and has weathered nicely over several months under the unforgiving Arizona sun.
The hand-wheel does a great job of securing the rack without any unwelcome wobble. The orange quick release lever requires just one finger to actuate allowing the rack to tilt up or down as needed.
One of the challenges with any hitch rack is the interference they create with rear gate access. To alleviate this concern, the NV employs a simple tilt-down feature to move the rack away from the rear of the vehicle. Tilting the rack downward with two bikes loaded is not a problem, and returning it to the upright position is easier than expected. When the rack is empty, the NV can be folded virtically against the rear of the vehicle as to not have it dangling out into space waiting to get crunched.
Even the lock is crafted with premium materials and cleverly stowed in the rack tray.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the Küat NV is the addition of the built-in Trail Doc repair stand. It would have been all too easy for Küat to throw together a cheesy repair stand just to say they had such a feature, but they didn’t take that shortcut. The Trail Doc is a legitimate stand with a well developed clamp actuated by a simple cranking lever. Now trailhead repairs are easier than ever. With ample adjustment, the Trail Doc holds the bike in just the right position and rotates out of the way when not in use.
The Trail Doc has proven to be a handy feature, something I didn’t think I’d use as much as I do.
No rack manufacturer will ever advocate using their racks in offroad driving situations, but this being Expedition Portal, we have to assume most users will venture far off the tarmac to reach their favorite riding haunts. The NV mounts to the vehicle’s hitch receiver with a hand-actuated wedge mechanism that reduces the inherent wobble which plagues most hitch racks. Naturally, few are likely to tackle the Rubicon with two bikes on the back of their rig, but for mild offroad terrain the NV provides ample confidence that the bikes are secure. For those needing to carry additional bikes, a two-bike extension permits the carry of a total of four bikes. It’s worth noting the decreased departure angle with the NV mounted to the hitch. Extra care must be taken as to not crunch the rack when rolling off small ledges.
The departure clearance is something to be cognizant of when driving in varied terrain. I have had to remove the rack for some ledges, but it only takes a minute or two.
We’ve tested other Küat products in the past and couldn’t be more impressed with the quality of construction, creative features, and the clean design attributes. A step above the rest, Küat racks continue to set the standard, and most importantly transport our most valued toys with comforting piece of mind.