G: Product Evaluation – Curt Clamp-On Bike Rack

Having a bike is a necessity for me for many reasons. One is the ease of just grabbing the bike for a tour of a new area when I settle for a while. Something to quickly go shopping with. Then there is the health aspect. Getting out and riding the bike several times per day is very good for me. Both for the heart and the joints. But I had my last bike stolen while staying at a fancy RV resort likely because I only had a thin steel cable lock tying the bike to a picnic table and I left the seat on overnight. The thief carried a cutting tool and snipped the cable in one go. Why s/he didn’t just take one of the other unlocked nearby bikes is a mystery. Maybe because mine was dual suspension? And had a nice comfy seat?

Well, anyway, that was a year ago and in June ’17, found a bike at a thrift shop in Lake Tahoe.  It’s a used 26″ Next PX-6.0, dual suspension. Came with plastic pedals but had the guy change them to metal for me for an extra $8. Only cost $78, it’s in very good condition, and the seat’s even good enough to carry my bulk in comfort. Also found a new 1/2″ steel cable with combo lock on sale at a KMart. I already have a bike style U lock but it’s big and bulky, heavy, hard to use, so I seldom carry it on the bike with me so the heavy cable lock is my everyday lock. And here’s how it looks. Note the design makes it a bit difficult to carry on the standard spacing bike rack.

It’s only discrepancy from what I was looking for all those months without a bike is that it doesn’t have a disk brake. Had one on the front on my last bike and I became a fan. The caliper brakes will do fine though. I’ll have go find some fenders because I don’t mind riding in inclement weather but I like having dry clothes.

Finding that bike meant I needed to do something about carrying it around with me when I travel. When I owned the Bounder RV I never towed a car so I used a bike rack that is inserted into the 2″ receiver on the back of the RV. Now in my Journey, the receiver is used for the Blue Ox tow bar to pull my car so I needed some other way of carrying the bike. Meanwhile, after I left Lake Tahoe, I was carrying it in the back seat of my car whenever I moved the RV, and for a couple months I did that but as you are probably aware, that’s not very satisfactory.

Here was my thought process on deciding what type of bike rack I could live with. I wanted to find a bike rack that I could use in such a way so that the bike would not be in my way most of the time. Something that fits my lifestyle. But also accessable. I wanted to be able to quickly mount or unmount the bike when I arrived or left a RV park, without have to lift it to high. Something that I’d not have to worry about wear marks on my vehicles. With an acceptable lifespan so I wouldn’t be fixing it all the time. Secondarily, I wanted to be able to remove and store it quickly if it was in the way of some project or other, and I wanted to be able to adapt it by adding straps, locks, or repair it easily.

I looked at roof bike racks for the car, but I do not want to hoist a bike up onto the roof when I’m trying to travel. I didn’t want a bike rack on the back of the car attached to the trunk either because most that I’ve seen, that are relatively inexpensive, are also cheaply made, and some reviewers noted that the straps scuffed paint surfaces. Not to mention it being in the way when I need to put groceries in the car’s truck, so I’d have to remove the rack and store it somewhere whenever I stopped at another RV park. I didn’t want the added expense of having a hitch receiver welded to the car’s rear end.

And so all that meant I’d need to find a bike rack I could mount to the back of the RV somehow. Here is one common way to do it. This is available from Amazon for around $30:

Dual 2″ Hitch Bicycle Receiver Adapter Extender Extension 4000lb

The problem with this is that it adds length and weight to the hitch assembly making it difficult to mess with when you need too. I’d need to buy another hitch lock (around $13). The added height would mean I’d have to lift the bike higher. The added length would require I move the 7-Way connector from the back of the RV and mount it onto this adaptor so my electrical cable connecting the RV to the car would still be long enough to avoid straining it while driving. I thought about using this style of extension to hold a bike mount and the bike, but really, didn’t want to do that much work.

If I bought that adaptor, I’d also need to buy something that slips into the receiver and holds the bike, like this:

This is close to what I had before with my Bounder. But it had its problems. Trying to tighten the bike so it wouldn’t bounce around eventually broke one of the welds and the rack and bike both scraped on the ground. Bike was a total loss. Also, I found that a slow leak in a tire loosens the bike and it eventually bounces out and again, scrapes on the ground. Ruining at least the bikes wheel. Plus it’s $130. I didn’t want that style of bike rack again, I wanted to try the type where the bike hangs from the rack. My old one I had noticed at an autoparts store tool bin, new, the store manager wanted to get rid of it and asked me how much it was worth to me, I said $17, he let me have it at that.

There’s this next style, and I liked that it only stored 2 bikes, making it more compact. The bike hangs from the horizontal bars. The reviews about quality are good. Also, you can find them or copies for around $40 on eBay:

But since I would be spending $60 or more anyway, I tried to find something that might work better for me and I stumbled onto this from Amazon:

Now this looked like it would do the job for me. I could clamp it onto the 2″ Blue Ox tow bar, it’s lower profile so once in position I wouldn’t have to lift the bike too high, it’s made for 3 bikes and I could easily cut off excessive tubing if I wanted if that proved to be in the way. I wouldn’t have to remove the tow bar at all to install or uninstall the rack, should that become necessary. Plus it has a quick style removal setup so if I’m on the road and have to quickly get it out of the way of the back of the RV, not a big deal.  It folds and collapses into a nice, compact form if I have to put it away for any reason. And finally, it’s only $70 with nothing else to buy. What I didn’t care for was the rubber straps used for holding the bike. Not as reliable as Velcro straps in my expirience. Plus in the back of this RV, there’s a lot of heat generated by the engine that would stream over the rack, aging the components. Something I’ll have to watch carefully. The thick rubber cradles that hold the bike seem to be good enough that I won’t ever need to replace them though.

But overall it seemed to fit the bill, covering all my ‘wants’, so ordered it and just today got to installing. This was my first attempt and I attached those nylon stability straps so they wrap around bumper and grill all the way around the edges of the RV. That did work, but I found a closer connection just behind the lower grill.

And here’s how it’s strapped in now. I like this arrangement better. The black nylon straps aren’t extended so far that I need worry about them stretching and disconnecting, plus the excess strap lengths are good for trying them off.

And here is a pic of it mounted to the tow bar. That black plastic pull handle is necessary to give leverage if you need to remove the rack. Pull ‘up’ on it and the wedge bar in the middle of the rack snaps up with force, releasing the grip on the tow bar, so that handle has a spring inside to absorb some of that force, to help prevent breaking your hand. There is a lot of tension and wearing gloves is necessary. That tightness assures it won’t move much while traveling, over the long run and various qualities of road surfaces I hope. Plus with the nylon straps holding it to a solid part of the grill behind it, the bike should not bounce around too much at all. I don’t expect to have to remove it very often but if I do, I’ll use a wooden lever to disconnect the rack. And here’s how it looks with the bike situated. Note that I have two places I can cradle the bike on the rack so even though the bike doesn’t have a horizontal bar (this bike design is called an easy straddle), there’s still two good places to strap the bike to the rack. And it’s a happy accident that that makes the bike horizontal and the tires a reasonable distance from the ground. Here’s a picture of it loaded, with the 1/2″ steel cable lashing it to the rack. I can make it less desirable to thieves when I’m traveling by pulling off the seat. Just a shot to show the height off the ground and that the bike is out of the way of the tow bar. I’ll have to wait until my next trip to inspect how close the nose of the car gets to the bike during sharp turns…but I tend to avoid those generally. Even if the nose of the car does nudge the bike, it should swing out of the way easily without damage. Still have the room to move the bike closer to the back of the RV if it’s necessary.

I’m hoping engine heat doesn’t age the components, the rubber or straps too rapidly on this rack. Here’s how it’ll look most of the time. Whenever I stop at a RV park, the second I’m all settled, the bike can easily come off, even if the car is still attached. I haven’t the inclination to test it with the car attached just now but whatever might happen later on to be an unintended consequence I’m confident I can adapted.

Conclusion:

I don’t have any travel time on this rack yet, but if looks like it will be all that I hoped in this type of RV’ers product. Even if there turns out to be a glitch or two on the road, it appears at this point that the benefits will still outweigh the potential deficiencies. In another month, I’ll have gotten some road time on this rack and I’ll be better able to evaluate it’s traveling stature so check back here for additions in a month or two.

Edit – After first road trip:

The left strap into the engine grill has loosened up a bit. I’ll have to take another shot at tightening that up again. There wasn’t any soot from the diesel exhaust accumulation on the rack or bike, so I’m happy about that. I did have to check oil and found I was a quart or two low with the rack and car are both attached. The bike hadn’t been mounted yet. The rack didn’t interfere with adding oil. It would have been a slight bit easier if I’d undone the straps and rotated the arm up and out of the way, but it’s such a minor issue I didn’t bother.

I had to strap and unstrap the rubber Tie-down straps on the bike cradles and it’s pretty obvious they are not going to last so I spent some time trying to find replacements to have on hand with the inevitable happens and a strap breaks. Different manufacturer.

http://allensportsusa.com/products/parts/tie-down-cradle

4 Responses to G: Product Evaluation – Curt Clamp-On Bike Rack

  1. SAMG says:

    Different rack. Thanks for the reviews and posting.

    Yes, it isn’t a common design. I read several reviews and it isn’t perfect, but I believe the designs numerous benefits outweigh the risks. I’m looking forward to driving with it loaded and checking it while on the road. I’m hoping that it’ll work fine for many years. And you are welcome, thanks for reading!

  2. Hafcanadian says:

    My Wayerhaueser millwright brother-in-law made a simple, painted blue rack for his class C 30 years ago that worked great, and then made one free for us. A “pass-thru” hitch insert with a single square tubular upright welded to it, a horizontal crosspiece at the top, and two horizontal rods extending back on the crosspiece ends, with a couple holes in their ends and 2 rings welded on the upright for configuring pins, cables, and locks as needed. Red heater hose slipped over the rods to cushion bike frames. We just used bungies as needed for stabilizing the bikes.

    The only thing was my wife had trouble lifting our heavy mtn. bikes off, so when I saw a rack at GI Joe’s that had a swing-down design, I got it so we could mount and dismount the bikes at ground level. It worked great, but the rubber straps, that loop over the bike frame to hold it down on top of the rack’s arms, deteriorated too easily and would tear. Rubber straps just don’t hold up, cracking and splitting under strain and sun, as most of us know from black bungee straps, so if you can buy spares from the company just in case.

    I kinda wish we still had the old blue one… for its simplicity. But it’s heavy gauge steel toughness was heavy to work in and out of a hitch. I still have the folding one, with all its myriad components (it could hold 4 bikes, ours and grandkids’) and locks and such, but there’s not room for it on our Beaver’s current tow setup. It would have to go on the toad’s hitch.

    That’s good because it will fold down out of the way of the Explorer’s swing-up tailgate, and wouldn’t have to ever be moved from coach to toad if we wanted to drive away from camp for a day on some distant bike trails or town. But it’s not so good because I prefer a bike rack cover on the road to keep dust, rain, and rocks from terrorizing the otherwise exposed bikes; our first trip without a cover taught me that… bad news for bike paint, brakes, and gears. You can’t put a cover over a rack of bikes on a car because, as I found out the first time I tried it and had a “duh” moment, it covers the tail lights – obviously illegal and unsafe. A cover on a motorhome’s rack won’t block its lights. Things to ponder, Jim.

    At 79, the wife can’t swing a leg over her mtn. bike’s upper bar anymore, so we don’t haul or use the bikes, though I’d sure like to reprise old times. Reckon I need to sell the rack and get it out of the garage, but it represents good memories. Enjoy the versatility you’ll now have.

    Wow, Joel, great info. You should send me some pics of that homemade bike rack, I’d really be interested in seeing that if you have the time. Sorry your wife doesn’t ride anymore…but, the same thing will happen to me soon enough I’m sure.

  3. Hafcanadian says:

    You know I don’t know that I ever took any pix of that old rack. But on hindsight back between 1985 and 1997 when we used it on the old Pace Arrow, it didn’t have a pass-thru hitch. He’d welded the upright square tube (2 1/2″ ?) directly to a somewhat elongated hitch insert with a 1 and 7/8″ ball. Our old Duncan towbar had a regular ball clasp end and folded to store against the toad front, not the coach back.

    I’ll have to peruse old pix of our pre-millennium travels for one of that rack. It didn’t fold or collapse, nor did it have bike clamping devices aside from bungies or such. And it was a little heavy. But it was ridiculously simple and effective.

    Ahh, too bad. I was hoping you still had a picture. A pass through tube would work for many RV’ers (like me) who use a Blue Ox Tow Bar with it’s elongated tongue that’s slipped inside the receiver on the back of the RV. Mine has an exposure of 6″ and a pass through would work. Only issue I can think of would be ease of disconnecting it quickly for access to the back of the engine. But that could be accomplished with a bolt and nut. And a hinge maybe. Hmmm. Something to think about. Today (Aug. 7th, ’17) is the first time I’ll travel with my new bike rack. It’s only a two hour trip with multiple stops so I’ll have many opportunities to check how it’s holding onto the back.

    • hafcanadian says:

      A fold-down rack like our current one, now just taking up space in the garage since we don’t use our bikes anymore and as a non-passthrough couldn’t tow with it anyway, would just kick down – bikes and all – out of the way of opening the engine hatch. On the back of our toad it was okay to fold down and open the Explorer’s rear hatch. I know they are out there… racks that fold down and are pass-through.

      I looked at tens of bike rack designs upon which I’d set all sorts of conditions…and think I found the one that’s just right for me. And after traveling with it for a couple hundred miles now, I like it. I had to add oil to my Cat engine with the rack mounted along with the car being attached at the time and it was a breeze. Just what I was looking for. It’s not in the way like my platform rack was. And the bike mounts and unmounts easily.

      Even if the wife doesn’t ride, I sure could use a bike to boogy myself out of Allingham or Smiling River up and down the road along the Metolius, to any fishing spot I’d like without having to hike in waders. I’d have shopped more for such a device, but we’ve already got a hitch bar that’s clogged with a Roadmaster rack to store the car’s big rock guard, and an Roadmaster anti-rattle device.

      Getting in some bike riding every day or every few days is good for all the joints. It’s also a great way to move from one fishing spot to the next, so, yeah, you should do that.

      Perhaps removing your side-to-side mud flap you have under the RV, than selling the big rock guard will give you the additional room you need for a bike?

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