Küat NV rack – The king of racks?

Allow me to introduce you to the Küat Racks NV hitch-mount bike rack. For the past week or so it’s been installed on the back of my trusty Toyota truck. I’ll be using and testing the NV this season on trips to nearby trailheads, and destinations farther away from MTBVT’s HQ including the idyllic Kingdom Trails and adrenaline pumping Highland Mtn Bike Park.

Don’t recognize the name Küat? The midwestern brand based in Missouri is a team of designers and engineers (who ride a ton) with the goal of developing hassle free products. Since 2005 they’ve been innovating, listening to riders, and building a better bike rack. Any company that nerds out on their gear as much as we do is cool in MTBVT’s books. Read on to learn about my experience so far.

Kuat Racks NV

bikes on rack

The NV has already seen a hefty amount of travel, and hasn’t once broken a “mechanical sweat” even when laden with my slightly piggish downhill bike for 266 miles to and returning from Highland at highway speeds. In the same way that a high-end bike disappears beneath you as you become one with flowing singletrack, the NV exudes a feeling of sturdy thought-out design and robust construction that enables completely worry free use. It just works, and works well. Can a bike be one with its rack? I don’t know, but if my bikes could talk they would be thanking Küat for building a rack worthy of hauling them around, and me for strapping them into one!

Specs & Features

  • Carries two bikes (add-on available to expand to 4 bikes with the 2″ receiver model)
  • 2″ or 1.25″ receiver hitch options
  • Carrying capacity of 120lbs
  • Fits 20″ – 29″ wheels (includes adapters for wheels smaller than 26″)
  • Fits up to 3″ tires
  • Bikes are carried a generous 13″ apart
  • Integrated cable locking system, and includes locking hitch-pin
  • Ratcheting arms secure wheels
  • Hand-tightened knob nearly eliminates rack wobble in the receiver hitch
  • Ano-orange aluminum components
  • MSRP: $549

Unboxing and installation
Assembling a rack is often an arduous process, as directions are typically printed in 6pt font side-by-side in 18 different languages, and the diagrams always seem to be too small to identify which of the 6 types of bolts I should be fumbling with. I was quite happy to follow the directions printed in text large enough to be read while enjoying one of Vermont’s many craft beers. The accompanying visual diagram serves as a handy reference during assembly. The whole process, including unboxing and unwrapping, assembling, and installing on the back of my truck took about one hour and miraculously involved almost no cursing.

Unboxing and assembly instructions

The rack’s arms, on which your bike’s wheels rest, attach to the base via 10mm bolts. The bolts extend from one arm, through the base, and into the opposite arm. I like this design because it does not allow the arms to move even when bouncing along Vermont’s washboard filled backroads. At 49lbs, the NV is lighter than the competition but still retains that feeling of heavy but smooth and easy operation; like the doors on a luxury car. Once slid into place I inserted the locking hitchpin that Küat includes (along with several keys so you can stash one in your car, house, keychain, and hydration pack- I like this a lot…) and twisted the knob at the base of the rack. This magical knob slowly extends a medium sized metal ball from the corner of the 2″ diameter insert and nearly eliminates dreaded “rack wobble”. After a few hundred miles I’ve barely had to tighten it, and it still maintains a nice snug fit.

clearance
Standout feature

The NV’s built-in work stand is one of the reasons I initially wanted to learn more about it. The stand is a nice value-added feature that I can see myself using when far from home or a shop. The stand’s tube attaches via quick release lever and clamps it into place at your preferred height. It even has a plastic sleeve inside it to allow for stiction free up and down operation. Just like your workstand at home the head can rotate by lifting the release lever on the back side, and clamps down on your seat tube with a twisting handle. I hope to never have to use the stand for much more than minor maintenance, but I could- and given the amount of clearance between the bike and the ground as well as how securely it attaches, it would likely be a hassle free job.

workstand
Photos: Ryan Thibault

My favorite features

  • Rack wobble reducing knob. Adjustable by hand on the base of the rack where it extends into your vehicle’s trailer hitch.
  • The ratcheting loops for your bike’s rear wheel have a hole in the end for you to grab onto. No fumbling and slipping to get that one more ratchet for the perfect fit.
  • Wheel hooks have a very positive and smooth feeling ratchet system. Just like a SRAM shifter, a click always means a shift, or in this case another ratchet.
  • Non-abrasive rubber material on the inside of the wheel hooks. It’s soft like a 42a durometer Maxxis Minion Super Tacky DH tire. I haven’t noticed any scratching yet on my fork. Amazingly, the arm of the wheel hook doesn’t even contact the massive lowers of a Fox 40. As someone who doesn’t like to scratch their bike unless it’s on-trail (on-trail wear ‘n tear is A OK), I appreciated the lack of contact.
  • The rack’s arms cannot slide or move, with 10mm bolts that thread into the opposite side’s hex nuts. A huge toolbox-worthy hex wrench is included for installation.
  • Hardware for the rack is neatly organized in the box, has a parts & assembly diagram, step by step instructions, and comes with an ano-orange Küat bottle opener.
  • The integrated cable lock slides stealthily into the ends of the rack’s arms when not in use, and is wrapped in rubber so it won’t scratch your ride.


Photos: Ryan Thibault

What I might improve
One feature I’d like to see improved is the length of the cable lock. With two bikes on the rack it’s long enough to easily lock them together through the wheels, but try to snake it higher up through the frames and it’s stretched to the max. I understand that cable locks are really just a mild deterrent to determined thieves, but it would still be nice to have a little more cable to work with.

First impression
After using the rack for a little more than a week, I’m confident saying that there is a worthy “King of Racks” in the mountain bike world. Küat has taken the time to get the little things right, and build a rack that’s every bit as high-end as the bikes we ride these days. The pricetag reflects this as it is a bit more expensive than the competition. However when one considers the premium quality and design, included locking hitch-pin, integrated cable lock, and integrated workstand, the price seems positioned appropriately.

Overall 9.75/10
Innovation 2/2
Function 2/2
Aesthetics 2/2
Features 1.75/2
Quality & Price 2/2

Check-in again later in the season to see if I’m still in love with the NV or if any long-term durability or usage issues have presented themselves. If you’re in the market for a new rack and want to pull the trigger on this bad boy, visit your local bike shop who can order it from their distributor. We’ve got a handy dandy directory of Vermont’s bike shops here >>

www.KuatRacks.com

bikes on rack
Click image to enlarge
Photo: Ryan Thibault

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