Receiver hitch racks have become a popular way to carry bicycles along for any length road trip. Easy installation, sturdy designs, and maximum versatility make hitch racks an obvious choice for most avid cyclists looking to carry an array of bikes. Plus, you can become the envy of all your friends with the right rack setup. Over the past season we have used the Kuat “NV” rack for numerous trips ranging from quick jaunts up to the high country to a couple long trips to the desert. Since mounting Kuat’s “NV” hitch rack on my truck, I have been approached numerous times about the rack. “Wow, that’s a cool rack! Who makes it?” This turned out to be a regular occurrence during the test period of the “NV”.
Kuat (pronounced koo-at) has been producing hitch style bike racks since 2007. The company is based on one principle, “Rack Love”. Developed by a pair of Avid cyclists, the company was started solely to make a better rack system for people who like to ride bikes. Based in Springfield, MO the company has continued to grow and in doing so has pumped out some pretty cool hitch racks.
There keystone hitch rack appropriately coined “NV” utilizes a similar platform as many other tray style hitch racks while offering some unique features to help set it apart from the competition. Some key features of “NV” (other than carrying bikes) include a built-in repair stand, stowable cable lock, locking hitch pin, and a hand tight cam system (to keep the rack stable inside the receiver hitch). With a 2 bike capacity the rack offers a stable platform with a solid 13” of space between bikes. The only time we found this not quite wide enough was carrying a DH bike with 800mm wide bars and an XC bike; otherwise every other bike combo we tried worked flawlessly.
If the above and beyond features of “The NV” fail to impress you, don’t worry, because Kuat has spent a lot of time developing a solid rack that holds bikes securely and easily. Mounting the bikes is simple, just set the bike in the tray, swing the arm up and over the front wheel and cinch down. This design is great for everything from road bikes to downhill bikes. Trays are wide enough to accommodate large volume tires easily as well as wheel sizes 20-29” (included adapters are needed for diameters smaller than 24”). During the test period we tried just about every combination with stellar results.
Out of the box, the rack required some assembly. But instructions were easy to follow and assembly tools needed were all included with the rack (always a nice touch). At first glance, the rack is stout. But being aluminum, it is still light enough for one person to install it easily. It feels extremely sturdy and is something I would trust any of my bikes on.
Kuat made the NV extremely useful in pretty much any situation with its simple yet functional design. It can be used on long road trips with confidence or for those quick trips to the local pump track. The clamping mechanism secures the front wheel extremely snug in the tray and keeps it there even in the roughest situations. We took “the NV” on a 3-day supported trip around Moab’s famous White Rim trail. With the rack mounted on our support vehicle, it allowed us the ability to carry 2 extra bikes along the way while still being able to confidently navigate over the roughest parts of the trail. There was only one steep pitch on the 104-mile trail where we were close to hitting the rack on the ground.
It is obvious that Kuat did their research when it came to the NV; it is purposefully built and can be used to take you and your bike anywhere your vehicle can take you. The hand-tightened cam system keeps the rack snug within the receiver even on the bumpiest terrain.
We did notice a few small issues at first with the NV, but they all seemed minor in comparison to the benefits the rack provided. First, we had some trouble with the internal ratchet system on the front wheel clamp arms, they seemed to have problems releasing in order to remove the bike from the rack. Kuat has since fixed this problem and has sent us updated arms, which are performing much better than the previous ones. Another issue we found was with the integrated cable lock was just a tad short to make locking bikes quick and easy. It takes a few tries to fish the cable through the right spot on both bikes before the two cables will meet, but it is still an extremely useful feature for those short periods of time when you want to lock your bikes to the rack.
Overall, the Kuat NV is a great hitch rack that makes carrying bicycles easy and efficient. The small touches found on the NV such as the built in repair stand, locking hitch pin, and cable lock, make it a great rack right out of the box. Some consumers we talked to about the NV feel the price is a touch high. But as an investment, the NV will last for many years while giving you confidence that your bike wont wind up bouncing down the highway on your next trip.
Kuat NV rack features: - Two bike capacity - Built-in repair stand - Quick release fold up and tilt down - Hand tightening cam system - Integrated cable lock - 2 inch and 1.25 inch hitch options - Two bike add on, for 2 model only - Fits 20 – 29” inch wheels - Lifetime warranty - MSRP $495 USD