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Last summer we received one of Küat Innovations’ (pronounced Koo-at) new NV trailer hitch racks for testing.
The week prior, I had just bought a new car — an orange Honda Element. Imagine how cool it was when I opened the NV box to find that it was grey and orange, an exact match for the new ride. After assembling the rack, which took about 20 minutes, and was very straightforward, I installed it and played around with some of the features.
I have to say, in terms of build quality and design, it’s hard to beat the Küat. “Elegant” is not typically a word I would use when describing a bike rack, but I think it’s appropriate here.
• Tray-style rack
• Mounts in a 2-inch or 1.25-inch receiver
• Accommodates up to a 2.3-inch tire
• Built-in repair stand and cable locks
The design is simple enough: a lightweight, aluminum hitch-mounted rack that holds up to four bikes with an optional extension pack. It can be used with either a 2-inch or 1.25-inch receiver. There’s no need to remove the wheel of your bike; you simply stand the bike up, zip the rear wheel down and slide the U-shaped, ratchet cam over the front wheel to secure the bikes. Anyone who has used a hitch rack from Thule or Yakima will feel right at home. The front wheel tray can accommodate just about any size bike tire. I ride a 2.3 up front and there is plenty of room to spare. You can also get a ratchet arm to accommodate the kids’ 20- and 24-inch wheels.
It’s the features of the NV that set it apart from the competition. The rack features a built-in repair stand, which makes on-the-road tweaks and repairs a snap. It also has a built-in cable lock that hides inside the trays when not in use. The rack can be folded down with bikes on it to provide access to the rear of the vehicle. When not in use, I can open the back hatch of my Element without folding the rack down. I’ve never bottomed out in a driveway either, thanks to the slightly elevated platform.
A common complaint about hitch racks is that they tend to bounce around a lot. With the NV this is reduced considerably with a rather creative use of the old quill stem technology. Once you’ve put the rack inside the hitch receiver you simply turn the knob, which expands the quill inside until it fits nice and tight. Clever. And once the bikes are up and mounted, they have a roomy 13 inches between them, which is great for downhill and freeride bikes with wide bars.
The NV is comparable to the Thule 916XTR hitch rack — although the NV is about $60 more. Both use a similar cam system to hold the front wheel in place, and both fold out of the way for access to the rear of the car, and of course Thule’s reputation for quality is stellar. The Thule’s locking mechanism, however, only holds the front wheel; the rest of the bike is insecure and requires the purchase of an extra cable lock — a feature built in to the NV.
I’ve been hauling with the NV for nearly a year now and have had absolutely no complaints — It does exactly what a good car rack is supposed to do: make you forget it’s even there. After many long trips to Moab, Sedona, Fruita, and elsewhere in Colorado and the West, the NV has held up firmly. My only complaint is that the ends of the cable lock are showing small rust spots. Apart from that, the rack has performed flawlessly. The cam systems are still smooth, nothing has seized, and the paint is still in good shape — although the clear coat is showing a few cracks in places.
Overall, the NV is a top-quality rack on par with any of the bigger names in the biz. It handles abuse of long-range mountain bike trips, and comes back for more every time.