In an ideal world we'd all have access to an endless network of amazing trail right from our front doors, eliminating the need for fancy bikes racks, expensive shuttle vehicles, and all the other accessories that go along with transporting bikes to trailheads. That's unfortunately not the case for most riders, which is why there's no shortage of options for hauling bikes around.
I've used a carboard bike box as a shuttle pad in the back of a pickup truck plenty of times, but at a certain point a purpose-built rack makes a lot more sense. Especially one that doesn't get soggy and fall apart in the rain.
StageTwo Rack Details
• Available for 1.25” & 2” hitch receivers
• Fits wheelbases up to 52"
• Offset, tiered bike trays
• Max bike weight: 60 lb (27.2 kg)
• Tilts up and down
• Off-road rated for bikes up to 36 lb
• Weight: 66 lb (30 kg)
• Price: $849 USD (rack) / Light kit: $219
Yakima's Stage Two rack is their top level tray-style, hitch mounted rack, which holds two bikes in an offset, tiered configuration that helps keep bikes from contacting each other and provide more ground clearance. The base and the arms are steel, and the trays that the bikes sit on are aluminum. Befitting its 'premium' designation (Yakima's classification, not mine), the StageTwo sells for $849 USD. Adding $219 to that price gets you the SafetyMate kit that's shown in this review, which adds on brake lights and a license plate holder to hopefully give the police one less reason to pull you over. ASSEMBLY & INSTALLATION
The StageTwo comes partially disassembled in one giant box that weighs almost 70 pounds – be sure to say thank you to your delivery driver. Most of the tools to assemble it are included, including the wrench needed to tighten the theft-resistant bolts. I'd say put aside 30 minutes to get it all up and running, which is in line with other similar racks.
Once it's all together, the easiest way to get it onto the vehicle is with it in the folded position, so that it forms an L-shape. Carefully pick it up (remember, it's pretty heavy), and then slide it into the vehicle's trailer hitch until the hitch pin holes are lined up. The little hitch pin is just a backup safety feature – it's the StageTwo's expanding wedge system that holds it into place. A large knurled knobs pushes the wedge out, and once the rack is wobble-free turning a key in the knob deactivates it, which means that if someone tried to turn it and remove the rack it would just spin without doing anything.
The SafetyMate brake light kit is easy to install too, although I do wish it was slightly better integrated. The wires load into the top, center portion
of the rack, and it ends up looking like that add-on that it is. It's also expensive, especially compared to some of the trailer brake light kits that already exist. It is bright and effective, though, and it's nice to have more visibility, especially considering how many distracted drivers are out there trying to do a TikTok dance, change lanes, and finish their latte all at the same time.LOADING & UNLOADING
There aren't any surprises when it comes to loading and unloading bikes with the StageTwo. The offset tray design works as advertised, and I haven't had any issues with bikes contacting each other. The ratcheting arm that holds the front wheel has a very positive click at each position, making it easy to tell when it's locked into place. It does takes a little while for the arms to break in – they required a decent amount of effort to move into place at first, but they're now operating smoothly.
The rear wheel holder slides to accommodate different bikes lengths, with a maximum recommended wheelbase of 52”, or 1320mm – that's in the realm of what a modern XL bike measures. As far as wheel and tire clearance goes, the rack can fit wheels from 16” to 29” and up to a 3.25” tire. There's also a fat bike kit available that allows the rack to work with 5.0” tires for all the snow and sand riders out there.
Yakima also offers an e-bike ramp kit that makes it possible to roll heavy e-bikes into place rather than lifting them. I know, it's easy to flex those muscles and scoff at the fact that such an accessory even exists, but you're not the target market, tough guy. E-bikes, whether a commuter or an eMTB, are
heavy, and not everyone want to fight to lift a 50 or 60 pound bike a few feet off the ground.
When it's not in use the StageTwo can be folded up by squeezing the handle at the end of the rack. This was the source of my main sticking point with the rack – the handle isn't that easy to activate, especially with one hand. Kuat's NV system is much easier to use, especially since it can be activated by foot. On the Stage Two, it's more of a two handed affair to fold it up, or to tip it downwards to gain access to the back of a vehicle.
The plastic mount around that handle also doesn't seem to fit in with the idea of a 'premium' rack – it doesn't sit that securely into the steel frame, with more side to side motion than I would have expected. BIKE RETENTION
I've used the StageTwo to haul all sorts of bikes, everything from dirt jumpers to heavy e-bikes, and they've all remained securely in place. Every time I looked in the rearview mirror they were right where they were supposed to be – there wasn't any worrying swaying or wobbling. It's a very solid rack, and even on rougher dirt roads there was minimal side to side movement - my shitbox of a van was bobbing and weaving way more than the rack was.SECURITY
Leaving a bike unattended on a rack for an extended amount of time is a risky proposition, no matter how many locks you secure it with. The StageTwo has a cable lock that extends from each arm and around a fork or headtube. It's not going to stop a thief for very long, but it's a good extra measure for those times when you need to leave the bike for a minute or two – running into a gas station, dropping off a package, etc... There's also a bracket in between the two trays that can be used with a burlier chain lock for extra security.
The rack itself requires a key to remove from a vehicle, and the theft-resistant bolts are used to attach the arms and trays, which means it's less likely that you'll return to your car to find the entire rack missing. DURABILITY
The Stage2 has seen a mix of road and off-road miles, and everything has remained tight and fully functional. It has developed a slight squeak when raising and lowering it, likely due to the steady rain that it's been subjected to. I'm sure a little grease will quiet that down; other than that there aren't any issues to report so far.COMPARISON
Yakima TwoStage: $849 USD / RV compatible / bikes up to 60 lb / 1320mm wheelbase / 66lb rack weight
Kuat NV 2.0: $849 USD / not RV compatible / bikes up to 60 lb / 1270 max wheelbase / 52 lb. rack weight
1Up Heavy Duty Double: $685 USD / RV compatible / bikes up to 50 lb / 1371 max wheelbase / 46 lb rack weight
Thule T2 XTR: $799.95 / bikes up to 60 lb / 1270 max wheelbase / 52 lb rack weight
I'm not convinced that there's one perfect rack to rule them all, despite what the diehard 1Up fans who are undoubtedly already proselytizing in the comments may claim. Yes, the 1Up racks are US made, less expensive than the other options on this list, and have a very appealing utilitarian look to them. They're also more awkward to load and to fold up, and don't have as extensive of a feature list as the StageTwo. Does that matter? It depends - every rack has its pros and cons, and it's a matter of choosing which features you prioritize the most.
Very solid, wobble-free platform+
Design limits bike contact and provides good ground clearance+
Multiple anti-theft features
Expensive, although it's in line with competitors-
Heavier than similar options-
Tilting system isn't that easy to use