Friday, June 29, 2007

Review of Swagman 2+2 Hitch Rack

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Problem Statement:

Find a bike rack that will fit the following criteria
-Fit 4 bikes
-Ranging in size from kids 12" bike to adult 700c roadbikes
-Including funky shaped full suspension bikes
-Ideally be able to open the tailgate with the rack on (bikes off)
-stable configuration w/o bikes flapping in the wind
-easy on/off w/o having to puzzle bikes on every time

Options
Typical Hitch racks
-Cons: too difficult to fanagle bikes w/funky top tubes such as Trek kids's bikes.
-requires FS bikes to use one of those artificial top tubes. One more thing to break, lose, run over.
-If I was going to get one I'd get the Soft Ride one

Thule (sportworks)
-Great option but pricey as heck

Swagman / Performance Xport Style
-Meets all the above criteria, and much cheaper than Thule.

We opted for the swagman. I quite like it so far. Simple design. The bike tires fit into metal hoops, so no need to take the front wheels off. Hooks are used to press down on the frame to keep the bike in place. This type of system works for almost all bikes ranging from kids bikes with funky frames like Treks all the way to full suspension bikes and road bikes.

The swagman comes in two flavors. A complete 4 bike unit or you can get the 2+ 2bike add on. We opted for the 2+2 for two reasons. One, my wife would be using it on a daily basis so we didn't want the 4 bike one sticking way out all day every day. And two, I thought it would be easier for carrying/storing purposes to have the ability to split it up into two sections.

The 2+2 is really 2 identical rack units but with a special cross bar for 4 bikes. When using it in 2 bike mode you use a much shorter cross bar at the hitch.

I love how the unit is put together. All the arms can fold up/down by pulling a pin.

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To access the lift gate with the rack on you can fold down the center bar. To get it open you have to have all the bikes off except the most outside one.
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It does take some inital setup to figure out how to line the bikes ups right. There are lots of variables including differences in handlebar height, cranks, pedals, etc. that make this step take a while. You can alternate directions or face them the same way. But the good thing is that once done you shouldn't have to do it again just place the bikes in the same orientation.

The pictured configuration probably isn't the best but I just wanted to be done. It works but I think it could be set up a little easier.

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Some setup tips:
The two hooks are actually different sizes

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If you are going to be putting two bikes of similar sizes next to each other you will need to put the taller hook on first. I didn't figure this out when racking two adult bikes and it took me a while to figure out what was going on.

The hooks work on a spring loaded ratched that click into notches on the center bar. You can press them down pretty tight. But when removing them you need to take some of the tension off the red lever. Do this by pressing down just a hair on the hook and it will remove some tension and the lever will open easier.

Be careful to not pinch your skin in between the center bar.

The cross bar fits into your hitch via a large pin and cotter pin.
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There is some side to side sway of the cross bar in the hitch. But honestly, when driving I didn't see the bikes moving at all. I'd ordered this Hitch stabilizer a few weeks before trying the rack and just got it.
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It does cut down on the side to side movement, but honestly, had I known how rock solid the thing was when driving I wouldn't have ordered it.

In use:
It is pretty fast to take the bikes on and off. It can get a little tricky when fitting 4 bikes on there with all the pedals, bars getting in the way. Sometimes I'll lower the center bar and put a bike in and then raise the bar back..

But for the most part it is easy on, few seconds and lock it in place.

This thing is solid. On the highway it doesn't move at all. The bikes are on secure.

It folds up easy for storage. Goes together easy and was very affordable.

Note
The performance Xsport is made by swagman and looks of similar quality. but it only comes in a 2 unit or a 4 unit. Swagman also makes a only 4 unit. The 4 units only work on 2" hitches while the 2 unit will work on a 1 1/4" hitch.

**NOTE
There is potential for the exhaust pipe to melt and explode your tires. This is dependent on your vehicle and where the exhaust pipe is. But my one friend blew his tire out on a trip to the beach. On the return trip he put on of the kids bike first and was able to move the wheel holders to that the kid's bike was away from the exhaust.

On that note the Performance Xsport 4 bike rack seems to be angled up a tad bit more which might provide more clearance from an exhaust pipe.

3 Comments:

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Alicia said...

Does the super sized bike rack mean the boys are starting to become serious cyclists?

Hope you are enjoying cable for the tour and that the family is well.

Alicia (babysitter!)

 
At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Scott McGovern said...

Maybe you can help me. I think I have decided on either the XC2+2 like you or the new XC4, with the slight rise on the main bar.
Did you do any research on the differences between the two versions?
I like the idea of being able to change it into a 2 bike only version, but am I giving up a lot of durability by doing so? I also don't like the idea of having to buy a second locking hitch pin to secure the two sections together.
Also, is it possible to reverse the 2 sections so effectively, all of the bikes have better ground clearance?

Thanks!
Scott

 
At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

THanks for the tips and photos! We're looking for a bike rack for the same purposes and this is the best review we've found.

Travis
Atlanta, Ga

 

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