Küat's NV rack
combines unique features, like a hand tightening cam system to eliminate slop and a cable lock that is cleverly integrated into the rack, with aluminum construction to build it's premium tray style bike carrier. But can it compete with rack heavy hitters Thule and Yakima?Keep reading to see if the NV's special ingredients are enough to put it ahead of the competition,Küat Innovations NV Rack
The Kuat NV rack installed on the my trusty Mitsubishi Delica van
The large majority of racks out there are designed solely to do the job of holding your bike in place securely, which is surely the most important trait of any good rack, but the designers at Küat have also managed to add in a bit of innovation and flare to the mix as well. There are many ways to transport our babies to and from the mountain, including roof mounted racks that are not inexpensive by any means and require the owner to hoist the bike to the top of the car, or strap style racks that can be sketchy at the best of times. The general consensus among those in the know is that a hitch mounted rack is the way to go, especially if it is going to see heavy use or rough roads. The Kuat NV
is a hitch mounted tray style rack, meaning that the bike's wheels sit in long trays on the rack and it is held upright by a ratcheting arm. The NV rack can carry two bikes and is available to fit both 2" and 1.25" sized receivers, although there is a two bike add-on for the 2" hitch model as well. Our Küat NV test rack has seen everything from XC whippets to full-on DH steeds, all while making its way over both rough 4x4 roads and long highway miles in the winter, and everything in-between.
Kuat NV rack features:
- Two bike capacity
- Built-in repair stand
- Quick release fold up and tilt down
- Hand tightening cam system
- Integrated cable lock
- 2 inch and 1.25 inch hitch options
- Two bike add on, for 2 model only
- Fits 20 - 29 inch wheels
- Lifetime warranty
- MSRP $495 USD
The NV's pivot mechanism also gives the rack impressive ground clearance, a great attribute if your shuttle roads feature deep cross ditches like mine do.
Their top of the line NV hitch rack tested here stands out from the crowd with not only its burnt orange anodized highlights, but also some out of the box thinking (for the rack world, anyways
). Extruded aluminum construction, the majority of other options are made mostly from steel, is used to save weight to not only make the rack easier to fold, but also easier to manhandle if you have to remove it from your vehicle. Like all of Küat's racks, the NV uses a clever wedged cam system that is said to allow the user to completely eliminate the dreaded rack wiggle - no more looking in the rear view mirror to see your pride and joy shake and rattle as you roll down the road? Installation is a cinch: slide the hitch assembly into the receiver, install the locking pin, and tighten the cam system with the hand dial located on the front of the unit. The NV comes stock with a locking hitch pin that prevents the entire unit from being lifted from your car while you sleep, but Kuat takes it a step further and has built in an integrated cable lock as well. Each end of the cable emerges from opposing ends of each wheel tray and can be run through the bike's frame in order to secure them from theft. When not in use the cables can be retracted manually back into the trays and are held in place magnetically to keep them from swinging out into traffic. Like most racks, the NV can fold in just about every direction, although it forgoes using a cumbersome pin that you need to remove and install each time as found on some less expensive racks, instead utilizing a quick release lever to control the movement. You can fold it up to the vertical position when not in use, or tip the entire rack down towards the ground enough that your hatchback door will clear, even with bikes on the rack. The rack trays are long enough that any and every DH bike should fit, provided that you aren't doing shuttle runs on a tandem, and they hold the bikes far enough apart that there shouldn't be frame on pedal contact. Bikes with high volume tires will fit no problem, as well as any bike with wheels between 20" and 29" (an adapter is included for anything smaller than a 24" wheel
). The NV also comes equipped with Küat's Trail Doc, a quick release, telescoping integrated repair stand that can be extended from the rack when repairs are needed. This could not only be handy at the trail head, but even in your garage. All told, the Küat NV rack retails for $495 USD and comes with a lifetime warranty.
The NV features a cable lock (top left)that is neatly integrated into the rack body. The Trail Doc (top right) is a built-in repair stand that telescopes out from the rack to make repairs easier. Kuat's novel hand tightening cam system (bottom left) is designed to let the user remove the wiggle between the rack and hitch by way of an expanding wedge. Holding the bikes upright are ratcheting arms (bottom right) that grip the front tire without contacting the fork
Kuat has included a clever telescoping arm that turns the NV rack into a repair stand, be it at the trail head or in your driveway. It is important to raise the stand enough for the bike's pedals to clear the NV's pivoting assembly, otherwise they will strike the rack and prevent you from pedaling full revolutions.
The NV requires more assembly out of the box than other racks due to its segmented design, but all of the tools needed and excellent instructions are included to make the job easy. Each side of the wheel tray is actually a separate piece that attaches to the center section with massive steel bolts that thread into nylock nuts. Compared to a single long steel tray that is welded to the main section as some of Küat's high end competition, the modular aluminum construction had me a bit concerned at first. My fears proved false though, nothing loosened up during the test period. Once assembled and installed into my vehicle's receiver hitch, I was disappointed to see that the hand tightening cam dial wasn't able to remove all of the slop from the joint between the rack and hitch. In fact, there was no less slop than found I found on the Thule T2 rack that I recently reviewed. That's not to say that there was a worrisome amount of wiggle between the rack and receiver, just that Küat's cam system had me wondering why bother, especially when slop could be found at the rack pivot as well.
An important feature for those with hatchbacks, the NV can tilt down and forward to allow access to the rear hatch without having to remove the bikes.
Just as on most other hitch racks, loading bikes onto the NV is quite simple and very quick. Rotating the ratcheting arm is a one handed job while you use your other hand to hold the bike in place, and once that is cinched down you can tighten the wheel strap over your rear wheel. It's worth noting that unlike some other expensive racks, the ratcheting arm does not make contact with the side of your fork lowers. I've never been able to wrap my head around how it seems acceptable that a $400+ rack is made to be able to scuff an equally expensive fork, but there are many out there that are guilty of just that, requiring the owner to use a towel or rag to protect the fork's lowers from cosmetic damage. Küat has managed to design their ratcheting arm so that this is not an issue - major props to them. The bike's position on the rack is not adjustable from side to side, but there is enough room between each bike that contact between the two shouldn't be an issue, even on the roughest of roads. The integrated lock makes so much sense that one wonders why more rack designs don't incorporate such a thing. Stopping for food when returning home from a ride becomes much less of a hassle, although I still wouldn't want to leave the bikes unattended for long periods of time. The NV's quick release tilting design will come in handy if you have a hatchback car or van and need access through the rear door, but it can be tricky to reach the QR lever with two bikes on the rack.
Kuat has designed the NV to standout from the crowd of utilitarian bike racks. Is the NV the most chic bike carrier out there? Probably.
The NV worked well enough over the test period that it is still on my vehicle, but it was far from perfect. As mentioned above, the hand tightening cam system that is designed to remove play between the rack and the receiver doesn't do as advertised. Not only was there still slop between the two, the system strikes me as useless when tolerances at the rack pivot also contributed to the NV being free to wiggle and shake. The other standout feature of the NV rack, the integrated cable lock, is very useful and is ingeniously designed right into the rack, but was only just long enough to lock the bikes together. An extra inch on each end would have saved some struggling on my part, but I also need to fault Küat for deciding to use different lock cores for the cable lock and hitch pin - c'mon guys! While the above foibles are more annoying than anything, I also had trouble releasing the ratcheting arm to remove my bike on more than one occasion. Once snugged down over the bike's front tire, no amount of fidgeting and fussing with the release button would set free the arm! On more than one occasion I was forced to deflate the front tire in order to relieve tension on the ratcheting mechanism within the arm in order to free my bike. This is not only an embarrassing thing to happen while at the trail head, but it's also unacceptable for such an expensive rack. Considering that the NV retails for more than Thule's popular T2 tray style hitch rack, some if its issues need to be ironed out before it can truly compete.Watch the Küat NV rack in action:
Video by Shasta Outdoor Media
There is no denying that the Kuat NV holds bikes securely in place without doing them any harm, that in itself is a step above some other bike racks available, but there is still room to see it improve. The NV could really be the cream of the crop with a few tweaks to its distinctive design, but until then it doesn't quite live up to its $495 USD price tag.Küat responds...
• Küat acknowledged that some of the earlier generation ratchet arms had an issue releasing, but was quick to point out that current models use a different mold to rectify the problem. Any owners of NV racks out there who are having an issue shouldn't hesitate to get in touch with Küat to sort out the problem.
• While my rack was never close to being wobble free, Küat is adamant that this has more to do with the receiver's tolerances than the rack itself. Straight from Küat: "...the cam tightening system will vary from vehicle to vehicle. In many cases it will take out 100% of the play, but depending on the exact tolerances of the receiver and the placement of the pinhole, there are cases like yours where there is still a little wobble. In our experience, the worst cases are still about the same "tightness" as our competitors' bolt-in systems, but without the need for tools so it is much more convenient.
• Küat had this to say about the cable lock: "We agree that it would be great if both locks were keyed alike and that is something that we will be offering soon. The cable lock on the NV is designed to be just long enough to go through the inside of the rear triangle and in some cases the rear wheel of each bike and then to lock in the center. We wanted the cable to be long enough but not too long so that slack in the cable would allow the heavy lock cylinder to bang into the bike frames.
Visit the Kuat website
to see their entire product lineup.Do you have experience using the Küat NV rack to transport your pride and joy? Chime in on the comments section below and let us know what you think of it!