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.
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.
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.
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.