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February 08, 2022
At Thread and Spoke, we understand the lengths your riding can take you. There is no better feeling than getting off the grid and into those picturesque locations that make for an unforgettable ride. By default, having the right equipment to transport your bikes and gear is essential to the experience.
As a result, and with the rise of upright/vertical hitch bike racks in popularity, we felt it necessary to highlight some of our favorites, tried and tested by our team. With several available options on the market, we compiled a list of pros and cons to make your buying decision an easy one. While none of the following racks are bad options, making yourself aware of the unique perks and design specifics based on your lifestyle and interests is crucial in making the right decision.
Generally speaking, some of the most common pros and cons to owning a hitch vertical bike rack, no matter the brand, are:
The simple design of the Yakima Hangover is one of the reasons it is a favorite for many. This simple build only takes 30 minutes or less to assemble, making it super user-friendly and easy to install. The hangover is one of the heavier vertical hitch racks on the market that we tested, coming in at 70-85 lbs depending on the model. While it might take a few minutes to assemble you might need a friend to help you dock the rack into your hitch.
When it comes to loading bikes, the Hangover may require a small learning curve at the beginning to get the hang of it, quickly becoming second nature after a few loads.
The fully loaded rack does tend to sway and shake a bit in transit, which is normal. That said, a tight and secure lock pin does take away most of the added vibration. If you forget to strap the front wheels after mounting, they will likely spin for the duration of your drive. For some, it's normal to see the tires spin, however, be aware it does wear on your hub and bearings.
A few nice perks of the Hangover is that it does include a strong lock weld at the top that can be used to lock your bikes up when you are away or in a restaurant refueling. The updated Hangover also includes a double latching system to go over your fork. A less well-known perk is the bottle opener built right into the rack. Who doesn't enjoy a beer after a nice ride?
The Yakima Hangover comes in two models, a 4-spot version and a 6-spot version. That said, keep in mind the Hangover rack only works with single crown mountain bikes. If you're looking for an upright rack to transport your downhill or road bike, this might not be the option for you. The maximum bike weight for this rack is 37.5 lbs, so if you want to transport a load of e-bikes, the Hangover won't support the weight. While there are some limitations, the two mounting option systems mean this rack will work on just about any car. That said, don't forget when the rack is lowered, it decreases the clearance for off-roading.
We have two team members who personally purchased the Yakima Hangover. We own a 6-spot and a 4-spot, both of which have held up to a few years of daily use. Where Yakima lost us was their customer service and warranty program. Replacing something as simple as a "hitch bolt" that wore out over time has taken Yakima 3+ months to produce with little to no help from customer service. You would think that investing $800 into a 6-spot rack would come with some level of attentive customer assistance, especially from such a large brand. Another issue is that you can only transport single crown mountain bikes. No road, kids, or dual crown bikes, so if you need that flexibility, we recommend looking elsewhere. Nonetheless, the Yakima Hangover is a great product.
The new VelociRAX is similar to others but incorporates some elements in an upright rack system. Based in Utah but made in China, Velocirax has a wide variety of verticle rack options from a 3, 4, 5, 6, and even a 7 bike model. Velocirax has a unique racking tray system that allows you simply roll your bike onto the rack (similar feel to loading your bike onto a bike park tray.) One of the most original and inventive perks that distinguish VelociRAX from other verticle rack competitors is the hinge assist dampener. The dampener allows you to easily lower the rack and lift fully loaded, which can be extremely useful when packed with bikes.
The Veloirax assembly is simple, requiring the fastening of a few bolts and washers. They also have a detailed YouTube video on how to assemble this rack, found on their website. If you're in the Utah area, you can take advantage and pay $50 for a personal installation and assembly. This rack was the heaviest out of the lot, coming in at a hefty 85 lbs. That said, these racks can back it up and adequately handle the heaviest bikes and e-bikes, with a 55lb per bike weight limit.
As a result, the most notable perk of the new VelociRAX is that it can adequately transport all types and sizes of bikes. This freedom means you can travel wherever you want with anything. Whether it be single crown mountain bikes, downhill bikes, fat bikes, or even road and gravel bikes, the VelociRAX can accommodate everything.
All this, paired with a "roll in" load approach, makes it easy to maneuver and unload bikes wherever. Simply grab the handlebars, lift the front wheel, and walk it into the desired tray. Then secure the rear wheel by strapping it down onto the rack. We have yet to encounter any issues with this securing system like run-away bikes or bikes that shift during transport, which is a huge plus. Also, during the off-season, you can easily take the rack off and add the garage mount to store your bikes in a compact indoor space. For $849, the 6-spot rack seems fair, especially given the versatility and supply of features.
Our main takeaway from the VelociRAX is that could very well be the most affordable, feature-packed, and transportable vertical hitch bike rack on the market. The hinge assist damper, garage storage mount, and 3-7 bike transporting options make it easy to take whatever you need wherever you want.
Our only criticism is that dampener can be a bit counter-productive at times, occasionally making it harder to return the rack into the upright position. Also, the rack is exclusively available in red, so we hope to see a few more color options (including an all-black) in the future.
The NSR-6 is a unique upright bike rack system made in Vancouver, BC. Since the early 2000s, the North Shore team has evolved the mountain bike transportation market. This specific rack comes in at $799 for the six bike version, with a 2, and 4 spot version also available for purchase.
The NSR-6 comes completely unassembled, and although the rack is easy to build, it does take some time, given the number of total components. When it comes to weight, the NSR rack is on the heavier side at 73 lbs, which might mean taking your buddy along to help spot and dock your rack.
Loading bikes onto the NSR-6 can feel awkward at first but is similar to the Hangover. After a few loads, it begins to feel like second nature. The NSR uses a similar prong system to the Hangover, where the crown sits in a four-prong system that keeps the bike in place even while off-road. Finally, the last step in loading your bike requires securing the rear wheel by looping a piece of cord through and around. North Shore went with a rope because they claim "it doesn't stretch, which helps keep the bikes from popping out the top of the rack if hit from below". The catch here though is that it doesn't come with a way to secure the crown to the prong. While we are yet to experience any issues with that, having the peace of mind that the bike will never move via voile strap would be nice.
The NSR-6 has several impressive qualities. Some of our favorites include an ability to fold while dormant, a massive 60lb individual bike weight capacity, and the power to adjust the angle of the bike rack to suit most vehicles. The NSR is a great option for someone who carries heavier mountain bikes and values durability and versatility.
A few downsides of this rack are that it only carries mountain bikes and has less security and strapping than its competitors. Given its competitive price, you would think it would include more than a rope. The straps that come with the rack aren't great, leaving no real option to use your own straps, secure the crown safely to the system, or stop the wheel from spinning during transport.
Now it's time for our personal favorite (drum roll please....) The Alta Rack! Based and made in Utah, the Alta Rack rack comes in 3, 4, 5, and 6 spot variations. This rack may be the most versatile in our lineup, with the ability to transport road bikes, fat bikes, kid's bikes, mountain bikes, dual crown bikes, and more.
Ali, from Alta Racks, has years of working in military-grade equipment design and rugged system design work. This comes out in the amount of abuse this rack can take. I run this rack on my rig year-round, taking on some serious miles off-roading and through snow/salt while holding on strong. It also has a unique angled upright hitch mount feature that reduces the amount of contact with obstacles while driving and gives you extra inches of clearance while off-roading. This pushes the rack further away from your vehicle and ensures no vehicle contact while driving, making this perfect for van travelers van. Alta Racks are also RV-friendly.
The Alta Rack tray system is a genius solution to transporting different styles of bikes, offering different tray sizes to ensure you are getting the right fit for your front tire. This means no touching and no rubbing on your bike, with each basket rated to hold up to 50 pounds.
Alta Racks uses generic hardware that you can buy at just about any hardware store, making repairs easy and carefree. This eliminates any waiting for backstock items to come in the mail if you lose a pin. They also offer a lifetime manufacturer warranty. Their website also offers a wide array of accessories, including a table, hammock, and even a bike stand. Our only piece of constructive feedback would be to offer voile tire straps with purchase.
Of course, this is just our personal experience, and we encourage you to take these reviews with a grain of salt. We tested our racks on a Toyota Tacoma, Subaru Outback, and a Sprinter Van. There will always be a rack that best fits your vehicle, so we recommend using this review to help you know which ones best fit your lifestyle and vehicle.
For more riding or cycling gear tips, head to the Thread + Spoke Blog to learn more.
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