Tuesday, August 7, 2018

First Impression: Saris SuperClamp EX Hitch Rack

Despite our mutual appreciation for bicycles, David Byrne and I don't have very much in common.  For example, he's had a long and successful music career, whereas my own was short-lived, comprised entirely of my disastrous audition to become Metallica's bass player after the departure of Jason Newsted:

I totally nailed the intro to "Peace Sells," but unfortunately it turns out it's not one of their songs.

Another thing we don't have in common is that David Byrne does not own a car, whereas I do.  Oh sure, I don't really own the car until I finish paying the bank back for it, but for practical purposes I might as well.  Still, for the purposes of clarification, I should probably be sporting this sticker on the rear windshield:

Ironically, the reason I've had a car for most of my adult life is because of bikes.  For many years the car was almost entirely a cycling accessory for me.  I never wanted to have to scrounge for a ride in order to do an out-of-town bike race or go mountain biking, and if I was going away for the weekend I always wanted to be able to bring a bike along with me without disassembling it and stuffing it into the trunk of a rental or pore over the MTA's sometimes bewildering bike policy.  (I have been thrown off a Long Island Railroad train for bringing a bike onto a no-bikes train.)

Sure, New York City is a lousy place to keep a car, but since I've never depended on it for day-to-day travel it's never been terribly onerous.  The main problem is that after over a decade of blogging I have come to understand how brainwashed I've been and how shitty cars are, and in recent years I've really, really come to hate them.  Yet when my previous car succumbed to a rust condition and had to be retired back in 2014 I went and indentured myself all over again, which either makes me a victim of an auto-centric culture or a massive hypocrite, depending on how you look at it.  (I'd say 20% victim and 80% hypocrite, but ultimately it's all subjective.)

But let's set aside the angst for a moment and consider that as a cyclist and driver I do want to be able to take my bicycles places.  Granted, this desire is less pressing for me now than it used to be, for two reasons:

1) I haven't been racing cyclocross, which in the past probably accounted for like 50% of my motor vehicular mileage;

2) In 2012 I moved from Brooklyn to the Bronx, which put me within easy riding distance of good mountain bike trails.

Still, every so often I want to carry a bike over a long distance in order to ride it.  Furthermore, as a confirmed bike weenie, I want to be able to carry all my bikes.  (Not all at the same time, but you know what I mean.)  And bikes are changing.

There was a time when I could easily carry all my bikes with a roof rack.  For a city-dweller, roof racks are convenient for a number of reasons: you can parallel park with them, you can load bikes onto them even if someone else is parked three inches behind your rear bumper, and when you don't have a house with a garage you don't have to worry as much about forgetting that the bikes are up there and driving them into the wall.

Now though axles are getting fatter and wider, and with a 150x15mm front thru-axle on the Jones there's no adapter currently existing that's going to get this thing on my fork mount roof rack (edit: there actually is):

As a plus-sized tire enthusiast I really like the idea of simply hoisting a bike onto a rack, and I'd also like to be able to carry non-sporting bicycles such as our family's WorkCycles if need be, so I've been gradually coming to terms with the fact that it's hitch rack time.  Indeed I mentioned as much in a recent post, and wouldn't you know it, Saris tracked me down and offered to let me try their SuperClamp EX:


I'd already ducked into a large retailer of outdoorsy supplies that happens to be adjacent to my regular mountain bike spot and checked out the comparable offerings from Thule and Yakima, so I knew the Saris compared favorably to both in terms of price and features.  (Carries two bikes, comes with both locking hitch pin and bike locks, compatible with 1 1/4" and 2" hitches, accommodates 3" tires...)  Also attractive was the simple single-bar design, since I live in an apartment building and storage space is at a premium.  Of course I also knew about Küat, the Rapha of hitch racks, but the comparable higher-end model was considerably more expensive than the others, whereas the lower-priced one didn't have as many features as the competition.  (You've got to buy locks separately, as well as certain extras if you want to carry a bike with chubby tires such as the Jones.)

Plus, the Saris is made in Wisconsin for added smugness points, though since we're talking about a car rack those smugness points are not redeemable with certain people:

All of this is to say that I responded to Saris's timely offer with an enthusiastic "Fuck yes!"

Of course using a hitch rack requires a receiver, and I recently ordered one from a popular online retailer and had it installed by a mechanic.  Maybe if I had a driveway and a garage I'd have taken a crack at doing it myself, but it's probably a good thing I didn't.  Nevertheless, I look forward to the Hitch Freds telling me why I chose the wrong one.

As for the Saris itself, assembling it was very straightforward thanks to the video, and if you're able to change a lightbulb or erect a beach umbrella you should be able to have this thing together and sticking out the back of your car in about 15 minutes:

Just slide it in (leave the adapter on for a 2" hitch), thread in the pin with a ratchet, and lock it up.  Here's what the pin/lock combo looks like:

Once I'd installed the rack I took it out for a trial run by making a gratuitous trip up to Westchester:

(I apologize for the make and model of my car, but it's what I'm legally mandated to drive owing to my age and demographic.  I look forward to the Car Freds telling me why I chose the wrong one.)

Racking the bike was a ten-second operation, and it probably would have taken half that without the ratcheting wheel straps.  (I'm fairly certain you don't even need the ratcheting wheel straps unless you're carrying a bike over a certain weight or one with fenders, but they were on there already and I figured what the hell.)  Heres' how much space there is between the bike and the car if that sort of thing matters to you:

And with a simple pull of a lever it tilts down allowing you to access your supplies:

In this case I didn't bring any supplies, and instead simply rode in my jorts and t-shirt, which were promptly soaked owing to the fact it was like 90 degrees and humid.

After the ride, removing the rack again was a simple matter of unlocking it and undoing the bolt with the ratchet, and I had it off the car and into the bike room in no time.

In any case, my first impression is quite favorable: easy to set up, easy to load, and best of all my bike was still there when I arrived at my destination.  I'll let you know as soon as the family and I hit the road with multiple bikes.  Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go apply by "One Less Car*" sticker.


Anonymous said...

Just went through the same process myself. Went for a RockyMounts Monorail Platform.

1) Its so damn nice not to have to remove a wheel and hoist the bike atop the car each time.

2) The car gets easily 10% better mileage with highway driving and the bike on the back compared to on top.

Anonymous said...

First to say...that bike is bigger than that car.

Colin Wilson said...

Way to obscure your license plate Snobby. I wanted to look up how many school zone speeding tickets you had

cdinvb said...

Still on vacation. I'll let you know when I get back.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Colin Wilson,

You actually would have found one. A year or so ago someone using our car (with our permission) got one. There's also one for an expired Muni Meter.

--Tan Tenovo

Serial Retrogrouch said...

...You need trunk nutz.

FR8 said...

I'd be interested in how the Work Cycles would work given it's weight and maybe length. Tried it on a portable rack once: bad mistake!

pbateman erects umbrellas said...

Very sultry post today:

-fuck yes
-slide it in
-lock it up
-promptly soaked

and no need to apologize for an outback. they are good. very good actually.

here is a question: why can't you just take a wheel off and load the bike in?

i guess likely has something to do with having one car with all that crap that kids and family seem to require? i guess i'm spoiled being a single fellow with a large car i keep cleared out and ready to receive all shapes and sizes of bike stuff.

Chazu said...

I needed a four-bike hitch mount rack earlier this year, and ultimately (after much over-analysis) went with a four-bike Hollywood rack. I wanted to keep it under 500 bucks, therefore many other brands were out of my range. The Hollywood rack is solid on multi-hundred mile highway segments. Would I prefer the four-bike Saris? Yes.

Fighter jets over a wasted U.N. HQ compound. I hope the rest of NYC fared better after the last Megadeth show.

Grump said...

It's a little known fact that David Byrne drives around NYC in a rusty 1987 Hyundai Excel while wearing a wig and dark glasses.

BamaPhred said...

Nice rack!

Anonymous said...


BikeSnobNYC said...


It's pretty rare that I'm driving the bike somewhere solo; if I'm carrying a bike the car's probably also full of people and stuff. (Though even going solo in an empty car it would be a hassle getting a plus bike in there.)

--Tan Tenovo

JLRB said...

Oddly, I have the nearly identical Subaru vehicle I share ownership of with Subaru finance. But yours is set up all wrong - the driver's seat is too far back and needs to be moved up, etc.

I like the Saris design. I have one of the more barbaric four bike racks with the bike top tube resting on cradles. Not nice for the paint, but my bikes are not museum pieces. My current one is Yakima, former one was Thule. Both weigh a metric fukton, so hauling into a bike room would suck. The Saris looks more manageable.

I once had a Saris bones trunk rack - I really liked it - very elegant design - unfortunately it was attached to our car when it got totaled in an oopsie.

Al said...

Whenever I get buzzed by a Freedom Machine with a bike rack attached with or without a bike, I think, “Et tu, Brutus”.

JLRB said...

ps - If your next post says you would like to get a pony, or a supermodel, and they show up, you are really on to something.

Seattle lone wolf said...

"Love. It's what makes a Subaru." Groan. I miss the days when the ad told me something about the vehicle.

Josette said...

The hardest part for a family of four is fitting the pedals and handlebars in such a way that all four bikes can go on the rack. We have a four-bike Yakima hitch rack and can actually only get three bikes on there and it takes FOREVER. Does the Saris do better with four bikes?

hermit crab said...

hey JLRB, fellow barbarian, do you think there's a trick to tying bikes to such a rack that makes them get less scratched up? I feel like there should be one, but I sort of gave up trying a while ago.

Just wondering out loud said...

Used to be that the tag line for Subaru ads was: "Subaru - inexpensive, and built to stay that way."

Question for all: Is that still the case?

HDEB said...

Must be cramped in an Outback with seventeen kids. Thank Jah you have AWD, without it you'd have died long ago. Lousy cyclists destroy our roads by unfairly not paying gasoline taxes!

BikeSnobNYC said...


Don't know, this is the 2-bike model. If I need to carry four then two will have to go on the roof.

--Tan Tenovo

Billinrockhill said...

From the gratuituous advice department: I don't care what system there is for attaching your bike(s) to your rack(s). After using that system, BACK UP THE ATTACHMENT POINT(s) with a length or two of spare inner tube. This is something (a) you already have handy; (b) which is easy to apply and remove; and (c) will help prevent any inadvertent dislodgement of the bike(s). You will be glad you did. That is, you will avoid the unpleasant learning experience I once had when I didn't do this.

Ki Ho'Alu said...

FRED. Period. Fred car....well more like Fredericka's car. More akin to Fred was Fredericka once. FRED rack. Pleeeeez. "It'll never fit on the album cover". I almost lost faith, until the hint of CX.

BikeSnobNYC said...


Don't the wheel straps already provide redundancy? Can't see how the spare inner tube would help. Not doubting you at all, just not sure I understand what you mean.

--Tan Tenovo

DR said...

For those interested, I have the same rack. The jones LWB size medium fits on it, barely. Mine rack was pre plus size renaissance though and the straps don’t fit over the tires/rims. I use a bungee cord.

Anonymous said...

And that's the SHORT WHEELBASE version!

Chazu said...

Hanging hitch mount rackers,

- Cut t-shirt into long strips.
- Wrap strips around top tube.
- Place top tube in rack.

Bikes swaying and slapping into one another?

- Bungee cord bikes together
- Bungee cord or tie bikes to hitch. (the eyes where the chains would go if you were pulling a trailer)

Concerned about paint?

- Home Depot and Lowes sell durable foam pipe insulation in various sizes.
- Purchase a size to accommodate your frame tube set (you'll get 6' length for a couple bucks, regardless of tube diameter)
- Cut to fit, and install on frames.

Consider getting a platform rack next time.

Bilinrockhill said...

Tan T at 3:14
I don't know about wheel straps. Many rack systems (including trunk mounted) suspend the bike(s) from the frames, with the wheels dangling in the air. Of course straps which attach the bike frame(s) are included with the rack. These are sometimes not sufficient, I have learned through experience.

wishiwasmerckx said...

Eben, you are fooling nobody. We all know that the Subaru is your wife's car, and that you drive a late-model Porsche 911.

Anonymous said...

"...there's no adapter currently existing that's going to get this thing on my fork mount roof rack"

Actually there IS an adapter to get your 150x15mm fork on your fork mount roof rack:

Anonymous said...

Consumer reports approves of your wife's outback. It is huge though.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 7:38pm,

The car is definitely too big. I preferred the body style that preceded it.

--Tan Tenovo

FDB said...

*one car fewer

Steve Barner said...

Totally with you on the body style change. The 2009 was the last of the Outback station wagons before they became a small SUV and got a totally screwed up roof rack at the same time, to the annoyance of kayakers and tandem owners, everywhere. That "Love" slogan should win an award for the most annoyingly frivolous marketing campaign in the history of auto advertising. If you love your car, then there's something wrong with you. Perhaps your misplaced affection for oil leaks, expensive exhaust systems, and P0420 engine codes also leads you to murmur "Hurt me, beat me, make me write bad checks" to your human love interest. It's just a manufactured appliance, for Lob's sake!

It's probably a case of photographic parallax error, but if the bike really sticks out that far on either side of the car, you'd better hope the cops don't learn how to read their own regulations and start ticketing drivers with bikes that extend beyond the width of their vehicles' mirrors.

Drock said...

When traveling with bikes I put them in the back of the outback using blankets and such. My kids gets strapped to the attachment on the hitch, they love it. My evo says it’s like riding a boring roller coaster plus she likes all the frightened looks she gets riding on the outside of the car. I do make them wear helmets.

dop said...

Subaru is A Japanese word that roughly translates as ‘Volvo’.

Unknown said...

I'm a fan of these guys for racks. Seem to be a nice mom and pop type operation up in Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

You can get more irony with steel bikes.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that Jones bike is looong! If the bike sticks out so much on the sides of the car, I doubt it would be legal to carry it in a rack in Europe. That's a good 20cm on either side...!

Coleminator said...

I also recently acquired the same hitch rack from Saris, although sadly not in recognition of my blogging abilities. For the most part I like it a lot, it's very easy to use and holds most bikes securely. However, it does have a few flaws I've found thus far. The first being that since the clamps cinch on the tires, a full-fender bike can't be secured by this rack. Secondly, since the clamps don't move side to side independently, carrying two bikes of different wheelbases can be difficult depending on the amount of difference between them. Lastly, the smallest wheel diameter that works with this rack is 24", so the bmx bikes still have to go in the trunk.

huskerdont said...

Have a Thule dangler hitch rack and pretty much love it, but am planning to get something along these lines so that the bikes don't hit speed bumps or the road when pulling into our fake driveway. So a good review, though we need the more expensive one that carries four.

For danglers, a strap run through both wheels and around the rack prevents swaying, knocking, and annoying gratuitous wheel spinning.

I have the Subaru Crosstrek, because I too felt the Outback was just too big. However, the girl is considering a Forester because she thinks mine is too small. But she thinks that about everything.

Anonymous said...

Bumper rack, hitch rack they're all the same when some NY a-hole rear-ends the car, then claims "NFW bikes cost that much! You're ripping me (or my insurance company) off man!" At least when/if you wreck the bikes by driving under something with them on a roof rack, it's on you and nobody else.

huskerdont said...

OMFG the four-bike rack is $879! That's quite a price jump from 2 to 4. Back to square one; do not pass go, do not collect $200.

JLRB said...

Hermit Crab @2:38 - Chazu @ 4:36 covers most of the attempts I've made. I have not tried the t-shirt strips, but the plumbing insulation is a good way to keep the stays from getting dinged by pedals, etc. I have not tried it on the top tube contact points - not sure that I will bother.

I also use a long cinche strap that run through all the front wheels, behind the rack and through the rear wheels to limit sway and stop the spinning wheels (which once cost me a pedal somehow).


CrashAB said...

@scott Maurer X2 on those 1up racks, they put all other racks to shame. Of course, so does their price, but cry once! Can't recommend them enough.

Anonymous said...

#whatpressureyourunning on your Outback?

Anonymous said...


My sincere condolences. At least you aren't driving a GMC Yukon XL to compensate for all the things she thinks are too small.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Jones seems like the type of guy to use organic beeswax on his cotton bar tape and shellac on his facial hair.

Why the fuck does that bike have a 150mm FRONT wheel?

Pist Off said...

Subaru, sweaty jorts, plus bike with Jones bars on a Saris hitch rack- I hope I don’t seem like a copycat. Subarus are good, as cars go, but still have their issues. Colorado and the Northeast are their traditional habitats probably due to the AWD and dirtbag heritage. Saab is a closer Euro analog than Volvo. The flat four is a decent motor that can run for 250,000 miles but apparently reliable head gaskets are a Quixotic goal for Fuji Heavy Industries. The H6 is a bulletproof engine though, in fact I just bought one. “Not very inexpensive and it depends if they stay that way” is probably the honest Subaru slogan. Saris racks are good value, and 1Up is the market leader for quality. Kuat is flashy Audi jewelry that’s usually empty from what I see.

leroy said...

Dear Mr. BSNYC -

My dog informs me that you and Mr. Byrne are both bike hitching aficionados but he wonders if you too hate people when they're not polite.

(My dog also wonders if this blog is a bad influence on me. I was in a Brooklyn restaurant a couple of years ago when Mr. Byrne walked in. We smiled and nodded at one another and I turned to my companions and told them "you know, he doesn't own a car.")

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 11:40am,

3psi and five pints of Stans per wheel.

--Tan Tenovo

wisco said...

WTF - no Hyundai? What's next, you really don't have 17 kids?

herment carb said...

Thanks @JLRB and @Chazu, we do the cinch strap thing and the bungee thing, never tried the T shirt strips or pipe insulation but those are worth a try. Yes we too have a Sube with a beat up Thule hanging rack semi permanently attached, which gets lots of use in the summer to pick up offspring when they have ridden somewhere and can't or won't ride back, and family beach trips and such.

cyclejerk said...

just slide it in, and lock it up...that's what she said...