Tailgate Access / Theft Prevention
Access to the tailgate of my truck was easy. I could drop the tailgate without even utilizing the tilt-down feature when the rack was empty. I do use the feature often, though, when the rack is loaded with bikes. A pivot lever unlocks the rack, allowing it to tilt back into three positions: 90 degrees upright; flat for carrying bikes; and 45 degrees downward, which allowed access to the tailgate. I also mounted the rack to my wife’s 4Runner, and access to the rear hatch was as easy as could be expected with a hitch-rack present. It wasn’t totally unobstructed access, but you could work around it in most applications.
The NV is equipped with a cleverly built-in lock, which slides out of each rear-wheel tray. While a nice thought, I found the lock to be a little light on security potential. It was on the thinner end of the cable locks I’ve seen, too short to lock two 6″ travel mountain bikes over the bottom bracket, and nowhere near long enough to route through the wheels.
It is also a little awkward to slide in and out of its home in the trays, as it often gets hung up in its routing. My wife and I ended up using one of our longer, beefier locks, which didn’t bother us a bit. I appreciate the thought, but this feature could be executed a little better, in my opinion, in regards to operation, especially if the routing worked more smoothly. Plus, the skilled bike thieves in cycling-happy cities could likely cut through the small-diameter cable before you get your first round of post-ride beers ordered.
Perhaps the most novel and eye-catching feature of the NV is the built-in “Trail Doc” stand. With the rack in the upright, stowed position, simply loosen the quick-release and extend out an impressive trailhead repair stand. On camping trips especially, but occasionally at the trailhead, this was a very nice feature for quick tune-ups. It’s really a very nice touch that, in my opinion, sets the NV apart from competitors and shows that this product was designed by people who actually ride bikes.
The repair stand appears to be the main difference in price between the NV and the Thule T2 and the Yakima Holdup, a little more than $100. ($549 for the NV vs. $439 and $419 for the Thule and Yakima, respectively.) Without the stand, the NV rack is marketed by Küat as the NV Core Model, which retails for $439. In my opinion, the convenience of the repair stand makes the added cost worthwhile.
Durability-wise, I see very little need for concern. The NV is stoutly built (as evidenced by its weight: 49 pounds, assembled), and appears to be a top contender for owners of heavier Freeride and Downhill bikes, or for those travelling on rough roads. I left the rack on my vehicle for most of the testing period to see how it did with the elements, and it continues to come back to a shine with every wash.
What little plastic is present (the front wheel hooks; rear wheel ladders and latch mechanisms; and cam-tensioner dial) have held up to life in the sun at 9,000 feet all summer long, without fading or becoming brittle thus far. The paint hasn’t scratched a bit, but there is a little wear of the anodized coating on the front wheel brackets, which I don’t find to be unreasonable. Truth be told, I attribute it to my own over-tensioning.
Working parts are seeing the need for lubrication, and, again, I find this to be perfectly reasonable and tolerable. The pivot-lever and lock are the main offenders with operation, becoming a bit sticky, but a quick hit with some bike lube has them ready to rock again without causing a greasy mess to tangle your work clothes in.
From what I have seen, the Küat NV is a solid contender in the hitch-mounted tray-rack market among long-time stalwarts from Thule and Yakima. While the NV is a little more expensive, I think it’s worth it for the addition of the repair stand. Users who are apt to carry heavier downhill or All-Mountain bikes, and/or travel over rough roads will appreciate the sturdiness and
firm hold on the bikes that the NV offers. In my mind, the Küat NV is set apart from the others by its unique good looks, clever features, and durability. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for hitch-mount bike rack.