North Shore Racks NSR 4-Bike Rack

On The Road

When driving with bikes on the rack, I secure the bikes’ front wheels to prevent them from spinning and putting unnecessary wear and tear on the hub bearings, and because having wheels spinning in your rearview mirror is annoying. A piece of rope or dog leash works well for this.

Once the bikes are loaded and the back tires locked down, they stay put—they don’t sway or bounce, even on a bumpy road. Aside from some occasional mud splatter, the NSR rack keeps the bikes behind the vehicle and protected from bugs, which I’ve found to be a problem with bikes on the roof.

Marti Bruce reviews the North Shore Racks NSR 4 Bike Rack for Blister Gear Review.
Marti Bruce using the NSR 4 Bike Rack.

The difference in gas mileage with the rack on the car—even with the rack fully loaded—is negligible. Also, because of how the North Shore fits on the back of the car, there isn’t any wind noise—even with bikes loaded up on the rack.

Trunk Access

The rack has an easy-to-use layback feature that adjusts clearance between the front tires of the bikes and the car. Because of this layback adjustment, you can access the trunk with the North Shore rack still on your vehicle by simply pulling the pin then lowering the rack. I’ve attempted to access the trunk with a fully loaded rack. It worked (with some assistance) but lifting the rack back up with over 100 lbs. of bicycles was tough and is not something I’d attempt regularly.


The rack comes with the aforementioned lockable hitch pin to keep the rack secured to your vehicle. However, the NSR doesn’t come with a dedicated bike lock, so I just use a chain lock. There’s isn’t a specific place to lock bikes on the rack, but because of the North Shore’s design, there are plenty of loops for a lock to go through.


My rack has seen a fair bit of use. In the spring, summer, and fall it lives on a Toyota RAV 4, and is subjected to the mud, dirt, and dust that come with living in Montana.

Initially, I was skeptical about the durability of the knotted ropes that the North Shore Rack uses for securing the back tire. However, after two years of use, the ropes show minimal signs of wear: just a slight bit of fraying.

Overall, the rack is still in excellent condition, with no rust and no broken or worn-out parts. I’ve scratched the bottom of the rack on a few curbs, but these scratches haven’t affected the rack’s performance in any way. Ultimately, the damage to the NSR was only cosmetic, and you have to look hard to notice it.


I currently have a Kuat NV tray rack mounted on my Toyota Corolla, and it’s set up to carry two bikes. I haven’t tried the more comparable 4-bike version of the Kuat, but this option has always seemed bulky to me and sketchy in terms of clearance when travelling over rough roads.

It’s difficult to compare the ground clearance of the Kuat NV and the North Shore; the NV is a bit higher, but it sticks out further. Ultimately, I’ve found that the height of my vehicle’s hitch is the biggest variable affecting the rack’s clearance. I’ve scraped curbs a few times with both racks (mostly a result of my bad angling skills when it comes to exiting parking lots). With both racks, the bikes weren’t in any way affected, but the racks did get scraped.

Compared to the North Shore, the NV is a bit easier to load and it comes with a built-in bike lock, albeit a fairly flimsy one. On the other hand, the North Shore allows you to carry more bikes on a fairly compact rack, and it’s durable enough to trust with four heavy downhill bikes.

This comparison between the NV and the North Shore applies to other tray-style racks I’ve used as well. The North Shore rack feels more sturdy, and is more compact than most tray-style hitch racks.

For me, the inconvenience of removing my front tire and securing my bike on the roof—a higher reach than the NSR—makes a roof rack the least desirable option, in addition to a roof rack’s negative effect on gas mileage.

Bottom Line

The real selling point of the North Shore NSR 4-Bike Rack is its compact design. To be able to carry four bikes in about the same amount of space as a 2-bike, tray-style rack is very convenient.

If you don’t need a 4-bike rack, or lifting 40 pounds relatively high is a challenge, you might be better off with a tray-style rack. But if you’re planning on shuttling with friends or road tripping with three or more mountain bikes, the NSR 4-Bike Rack (or, if needed, the 6-bike version) is a great choice. It’s a simple, easy-to-use design, which in my opinion, contributes to its durability.

11 comments on “North Shore Racks NSR 4-Bike Rack”

  1. I have the 2 bike one on a subaru brz. Works great, I think I will drill another hole into the hitch tube so the entire assembly can sit a bit closer to the car. I noticed that ground clearance can be improved if that hitch tube is cut down a bit, but even I haven’t really had a problem, unless the trailhead is the side ditch off a highway. For my car I’ve had to install the vertical section as high as it can go to maintain smooth departure angle, but that lifts the front wheel pretty high above the room. I definitely see a drop in gas milage, but still better than a roof rack would do.

  2. Were you able to get the Rav4 side swing door open with the tray folded down? there are almost no bike racks that play will with the Rav.

    • With the rack fully down you can get the door about 2/3 open. So you can’t get it all the way open but it’s pretty easy to grab stuff out of the car.

  3. Obviously wasn’t a problem for the reviewer due to location or usage, but North Shore racks are subject to extremely fast and aggressive rusting due to poor coating quality on all components (powder coat, fasteners). There are lots of links to reviews if you search for them. Our rack rusted so badly in one winter in the Vancouver-Whistler corridor that it looked as bad as my previous Sportrack (cheap, made in China) did after 6 years use under the same conditions. Buyer beware if you live in an area where they salt the roads and you continue to use the rack through the winter. We also found that modern DH bikes with tapered steerers fit poorly.

    • I actually did notice too that DH bikes and carbon framed bikes have problems with headtube rub. I haven’t noticed any rust issues as of right now, the powder coating seems okay (not excellent but good enough)

  4. I have the NSR – 2 for my 2011 Impreza and in the last 3 years have traveled all over BC with it, no issues. Without bikes and the rack folded, I can open the hatchback without issue. I carry mtb bikes as well as road bikes (I hook the road bike backwards by handle bar, stem, not ideal, but it works).
    I do take the rack off the car when I’m not using it to avoid rust and I do agree that the Powder Coat isn’t great. I have since cleaned and used a Plasti Dip coating to cover the areas that are exposed to the elements. With care, I’m pretty sure it will outlast my car.

  5. Our 20″ and 16″ kids bike fit on the rack. We’ve even out a trailer bike on it, but it took up a couple spots and needed a couple bike tubes to secure.

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