What It Is
Kuat’s NV 2.0 is the most solid, simple-to-understand (and operate) hitch-mounted rack on the market for carrying multiple bikes (and multiple types of bikes). You should read that as meaning: This rack is set up to immediately carry both skinny-tired road bikes and bulky e-bikes with fatter tires. Beyond the ease of use, when it comes to carrying confidence of heavier (and often pricey) electric bikes, there’s also some added security assurance with the NV 2.0’s clever integrated cable locks.
Why We Like It
The base system is designed for two bikes. Purchasing separate Add-On mounts allows you to attach an additional single, or double tray, for either one or two more bikes. Loading is simple: Lift bike onto tray; place front wheel in the adjustable tire cradle; swing up the arm, and ratchet it down to hold front tire; then lash rear tire to tray with ratcheting rear strap.
It seemed a little too simple, so I tested out the setup taking a small fleet of three e-bikes on a West Coast national park road trip. The weight slightly exceeded the manufacturer’s recommended max bike weight of 40 pounds per tray using the two-bike Add-On (it’s 60 lbs for the two-bike base system), and loading the hefty e-sleds had me wondering about the single-arm hold-down at highway speeds. Arriving in Sequoia National Park sliding through some unseasonal snow, and more than our share of bumps along the way, the overweighted load didn’t budge or bounce to give me a second thought.
I added a secondary lock around the bike bundle, largely as an additional visual deterrent to any passersby during pitstops. The more use out of the NV 2.0 system, however, the more I’ve come to appreciate (and rely solely on) the simplicity of the locking system. The cable nests inside of the tray, halved on the locking mechanism. You separate the two lengths of the cable upon pulling it out, with enough length to run through frame and back to the locking mechanism (see below), which pops back open using the same keys that lock the rack to your 2-inch hitch receiver. (Kuat also makes a 1.25” receiver version that works with the base system, but not with the Add-Ons).
After some off-road ventures with the questionable load, I was sold on the system by the time we hit the Yosemite Valley floor, bikes ready to cruise past any park crowds. With that fully loaded rig and ride, the other added bonus of the rack system was the foot-assisted pivot lever, which made it possible to lower the full rack+bike setup to access my rear hatch. Unloaded, that lever also allows you to flip up and down the rack with one hand.
We mentioned the solid part first, right? The base system is as manageable as any regular e-bike at 52 pounds. Add the two-bike Add-On and you’re looking at 91 lbs. Assembly requires a little grunt work accordingly. Then it’s a shin-bumping waddle and wiggle to schlep, lift, and put on alone. But so is using and lugging an e-bike. So, load it up already and quit complaining.
For wider off-road tires, the base system holds fatties (up to 4.8 inches wide). Though pushing to that max width, with lower air pressure you need a little oompf to squeeze down the back tire to the last ratchet of the strap. Kuat offers a strap extender as a better solution. And there’s plenty of other problem-solving accessory add-ons from this Missouri-based, made-in-the-U.S. brand, like a bike ramp for those heavier rides mentioned, a swing-arm that allows you to move the whole loaded rack system away from your vehicle hatch or tailgate, and a dock to store the system off your vehicle.
Once it’s on, I’ve found it better to leave on. The overall ease in fold-out yields a handy extra platform: impromptu extra camp table, surfboard holder when doing parking lot shuffle, even climbing gym for overactive kids. However you use a system backed by a lifetime warranty, the overall versatility fits users well with a bevy of different bike types needing secure transport.
[$749; $339 for one-bike Add-On, $539 for two-bike Add-On; kuatracks.com]