If you call Recon Racks with a question about one of their products you’re likely to speak to a guy named Cody, who was probably just assembling a rack, or boxing a rack, or working on the website or welding something or…you get the idea. Cody Fuks is a one-man, rack-building machine. If you haven’t heard of Recon yet, that’s because Fuks dove into the rack building business full time a bit more than a year ago, after a whole lot of years spent welding other people’s stuff and tinkering with his own rack designs in his spare time. Recon Racks, however, is quickly building a following.
Recon offers four, five and six-bike versions of their shuttle rack. Prices range from $775 (four-bike model) to $1,170 (six-bike model). We opted for the five-bike model, which sells for $930.
Recon Gen-2 R5 Details
• Hitch-style rack
• Fits 2'' recievers
• Four, Five and Six-bike options
• Three height positions, to adjust for bike-to-ground clearance
• Front wheel baskets fit road to fatbike tires
• No plastic components--all steel, Grade-8 bolt hardware
• Made in Bellingham, WA from Made-In-America parts
• Grom-bike friendly. Stock baskets fit 24-inch wheels. 20-inch compatible baskets also available.
• Five-bike MSRP: $930 USD
Loading bikes works best if done from left-to-right, tallest axle-to-stem height bikes first (i.e. DH bikes) down to kids bikes. That said, I just slap bikes into the thing willy nilly and it all works out fine.
Thanks to its massive pivot, the Recon Rack tilts nicely out of the way. I've been able to load four-foot wide plywood sheets into the back of my car without removing the rack.
The shuttle rack is exactly what it sounds like—a burly beast designed to hold as many downhill bikes as possible while you pound pot-holed fireroads up to the start of the trail. This isn’t a rack that can withstand that kind of abuse—it’s a rack that was made for that kind of abuse. There’s a difference. That said, the Recon clearly does the around town, down-the-interstate, across-the-country bike transport thing just fine. If cruising to the super market in a Sherman tank is your thing (it’s mine), the Recon is your pony.
I tested the rack for months with an earlier version of the front-wheel baskets. These newer baskets more easily accommodate bigger tires, but will still hold skinny road tires as well.
Here's a more typical sight--29x2.4-inch tires. The new baskets will accommodate full-fat bike meats. As you can see, the bulk of the contact with the rack is focused on the tire tread itself.
The rack market is full of very innovative products with cool features, such as ratcheting arms and integrated. color-coordinated repair stands. This rack sort of shrugs its shoulders at all of that. Yes, the Recon has the basics down. You can vary the height of the rack (to keep from bottom rear tires on asphalt). You can easily tilt the thing out of the way, to access your trunk or hatchback, and Recon will soon offer a beefy, swing-away option, which will give you full, unrestricted access to your vehicle's backside.
If, however, you are into super-sleek products that aim to marry the sophistication of a fine Italian espresso machine with the lush wood paneling-and buttery-smooth leather aesthetics a Jaguar XJ, the Recon Rack is not going to be your idea of an industrial-design wet-dream. Recon’s design protocol boils down to this: simple, strong and reliable. For instance, let’s say you want ratcheting wheel straps… Well, you’re not getting them here. Instead, Recon offers super-sized bungees. Why? They don’t rattle. They still work great when the temperature has dropped below freezing and they’re coated in ice... And if you ever need to replace one, Recon sells the bungee balls for $2.00. Oh, and it takes about 15 seconds to thread one through a hole and add a knot to the end. Simple.
Compared to the ratcheting straps on many racks, the bungees on the Recon may seem suspiciously low-tech.
Then again, I have used these bungees in the snow and mud and they work a charm, don't rattle and allow for plenty of tension adjustments.
Aside from the bungee ball itself, there are no plastic components on this thing. The rack is constructed from thick, plate steel and grade 8 hardware. It’s built to last. As in decades. Fuks says he uses entirely USA-made materials in his Recon racks and that he sources as many of the materials as possible from local vendors in the Bellingham, Washington, area. All that steel is sandblasted and given a good powder coat. The rack, no surprise, is a heavy mother (80 pounds). If you want to take the rack off your rig and store it somewhere, Recon also sells a separate ($165) rack stand. For my part, I carefully (and slowwwwly) flipped the Recon over and let it rest on its baskets.
Built like a brick shit house. The Recon rack is one beefy mofo.
Assembling the rack requires a handful of sockets and a couple wrenches. Judicious use of a cordless impact driver will speed things up as well. Be prepared to spend bit of time here, though the assembly instructions
on Recon's site illustrate that this isn't exactly brain surgery.
The latest generation of rack features this massive pivot and bearing assembly.
The 5/8-inch stainless steel key features a beveled leading edge.
Cody Fuks is constantly tweaking and innovating, which is how the Generation 2 racks came to be. The rack's tilt function is enabled by an enormous pivot. Once you pull up the spring-loaded key this thing tilts away nice and easy. As you return the rack to its upright position, the spring loaded key automatically snaps back into its slot.The key itself sports a beveled edge; it's a seemingly trivial detail, but Fuks contends that as the powder coat starts wearing away, the latch key will progressively settle more and more into place and the rack will remain tight and quiet over the years. As it stands, the key is easy to pull up and it snaps confidently back in place. There's no play in our test rack at all.
I've spent the past nine months putting the Recon throughout its paces. In that time, I've employed the rack on 16-hour interstate drives, around-town transit and the occasional motoring up shitty fire roads at unsafe speeds. It's gotten plenty of use. About a month ago, Fuks dropped off a new set of front-wheel baskets, since he'd changed to a design that more easily accommodates true fat-bike tires.
First off, I have never used a rack that is easier to load than the Recon. Lift your bike up, drop the front wheel in the basket, shift it slightly to make sure the front wheel is centered, stretch the bungee cords into place. Done. In seconds. I've used plenty of very good hitch racks, which I thought were dead simple to operate, but the Recon has them all beat on ease of use.
The new baskets don't naturally guide the tire into perfect alignment as well as the previous, narrower baskets did, but they are far burlier than their predecessors and allow you to slap just about any tire on earth in place. The old baskets maxxed out on 3.0-inch tires (which is, admittedly as wide as I'm ever going to run), but with the new baskets you can do the full 5-inch front tire thing if that's the flavor of fat that you roll. Securing the front tire is, again, accomplished courtesy of the bungee cords. They work well and you've got enough slots (four of `em) to securely lock down everything from 700x25c road slicks to the beefiest mountain tires imaginable.
The business end of the lower tire bar.
The lower tire bar can be lifted, providing plenty of room to open the ambulance-style rear doors on vans.
Once strapped in, there's very little in the way of bike wiggling. I could confidently tear up dirt roads with five bikes strapped in and not worry that the handlebars and brake levers would be gouging one another. The rack is rock solid--not only in its construction, but in the actual application of holding bikes steady. Recon isn't forging entirely new terrain here--the North Shore Racks built a dedicated following for similar reasons, but I prefer the actual mounting of the Recon--there's no frame or fork contact at all. The front tire is the point of contact. Could you see some degree of sidewall wear because of that fact? When I squeezed 3-inch tires into the older, narrower baskets, there was definitely a fair bit of sidewall contact going on and in that case (some of those 3-inch plus tires have mighty thin sidewalls), it might have made sense to tuck a bit of cardboard between the tire and the basket during long, multi-hour road trips. With these newer baskets, however, there's almost no contact with the tire sidewalls at all. I haven't encountered any sidewall wear. Moreover, I'm stoked to not have any portion of the frame or fork crown resting on the rack.
The only part of the rack that is not built like a brick shithouse is the lower tire bar. There's a reason for that. Cody knows that people have a way of backing into large, immoveable objects and that something has to give when that happens. That something could be your bike or, but in this case, it's likely to be the lower tire bar, which is the only part of the rack that is not constructed from tank steel. If that lower bar does get bent during a bone-headed back-up, it's easily replaced. I know. My mother-in-law drove my car and took out a giant chunk of the hedge in my front yard. Way to go, Grandma. When that happened, I promptly forbid her from ever touching my car keys again, then I bent the lower tire bar back into order and just kept using it for another four months. The rack still worked perfectly, but Cody offered to replace it a couple weeks ago. After about three minutes of wrenching, we did just that. Simple.
In a pinch, the rack also serves as an impromptu, bike repair stand.
A welded lock hoop lets you cable-up your bikes.
What's lacking? If you are rocking an inch-and-a-quarter trailer hitch and you want this rack, you're bummed. This is a big, burly rig and you'll need a 2-inch receiver to use it. In other words, some folks with light-duty passenger cars may be out of luck. There are no integrated security cables and locks on this beast. Instead, the rack features a welded hoop that you can attach locks and cables to. It works just fine for securing your bikes to the rack. However, if you're parking for an extended period in a place populated with particularly industrious, wrench-toting thieves, you'll also want to secure the rack to your car by running a cable and a lock between the welded loop and the trailer hitch.... because, no, this rack does not feature a locking hitch pin. I wish it did. But that's my only gripe with the rack.
Oh, wait, it's expensive. How could I leave that till the end? Well, here we are looking at the price tag all the same. So, yes, it is pricey and there is no way to soften that up, but its worth noting that this is a five-back rack. If you buy a hitch-mount rack for two bikes, you're generally looking at about $500. If you want to add another two-bike fixture, you'll spend closer to $900. For four bikes. Not a huge difference in price. The hallowed North Shore Rack comes in at a very cost competitive price--$800 for the six-bike rack. So there's always that to consider.
So, it all comes down to this, this Recon rack holds five bikes, it's made in America and it doesn't feature plastic components that will, eventually, age and go funky after so many seasons in the sun and snow. It's simple. All that either appeals to you or it doesn't. To each his or her own.