I have a reserved parking spot at Home Depot. OK, not really, but it certainly feels that way, and as someone who keeps a bike rack on the truck year-round, loading up drywall and 2x4s over the bike rack is no small feat. RockyMounts has solved this problem with the BackStage Swing Away rack, which does exactly that — it swings away, allowing you to access the back of your car or truck. It’s an excellent system and a very good rack overall, though there is one glaring weakness.
But first, the cool stuff: The rack’s basic functions work flawlessly. The rear wheel dock pivots with little effort to accommodate the angle of your bike’s wheel. The front wheel arm moves smoothly and locks tightly into place. You’ll want to pay close attention to the position of the bike trays during installation to ensure handlebars and saddles don’t overlap too much when you’re toting two bikes, but once you get the position right, it’s easy to stow two bikes of any kind. The bright blue release lever on the arm has plenty of leverage for easy operation.
If you intend to haul your fat bike, you’ll need to attach the included wheel strap extensions. It’s a quick and easy solution, though if the primary wheel straps were longer, perhaps you wouldn’t need these extensions at all.
The rack includes a cable lock that attaches to the rack beneath the bike trays. Just wrap one end of the cable around your bike frame, then slip the looped end onto the cable lock boss, and secure with an included lock pod. It’s easy, but again, this is perhaps an opportunity to streamline the system: Other racks I’ve tested have a way to stow the cable on the rack when not in use, but with the Backstage, you’ll need to stow the cable in your car when not in use. Or you could simply wrap it several times around the rack and secure the cable to itself. Ultimately this is just a nitpick, though.
The Swing Away function really takes the headache out of accessing the rear of your car or truck. To really be sure, I drove it to Home Depot and loaded up with some 2x4s for my never-ending basement remodel project. I learned a few things in the parking lot: first, be sure you’ve got plenty of clearance between your car and the car next to you, otherwise you run the risk of dinging your neighbor. Second, the Swing Away function works wonderfully well and gets fully away from the back of your car, but here’s the rack’s glaring weakness: the main bolt (RockyMounts calls it a locking handle) that secures the rack when it’s not swung away is something of a clunky system.
First, when it’s not threaded in place (behind-the-car position), it sort of rattles around loosely and can even fall out. When you re-stow the rack, you have to line up the bolt again, which takes a bit of fiddling. Some sort of quick-release system would be a big improvement, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
I would like to see the plastic handles and controls made from a tougher plastic, too. The locking handle I mentioned above started to mushroom out slightly where it connects to the metal bar. That’s certainly due to over-tightening, but it was all-too-easy to over-tighten this lever. Call me paranoid, but I want that thing to be as snug as possible if it’s hauling two very expensive bikes. The mushrooming is only cosmetic, but it still seems like a good place for a tougher material.
(Fortunately, RockyMounts is aware of both the plastic weakness issue and the locking handle jangling. In response to the early production run problems, RockyMounts doubled the wall thickness of the plastic handle so the mushrooming should no longer be a problem. The fit of the bolt head in the handle has also been improved so the bolt does not loosen from the handle itself, basically preventing the bolt from sliding out when you loosen the handle.)
The swing-away function and overall simplicity and stability of the rack is enough for me to overlook the plastic parts and clunky locking handle. There’s room for improvement, but RockyMounts has created a stable and convenient rack for truck owners, #vanlife aficionados, and car campers who need to access the rear of their vehicle without removing bikes.