Review // Kuat Sherpa 2-Bike Rack

Kuat Sherpa 1 w BikesA bike rack system for your car is a must if you enjoy traveling with your bike, take your bike to the local shop often, or do group rides every week that are a little too far to just ride to. Over the years I’ve used several different trunk racks on my Hyundai Sonata. First was the cheapo “Allen Sports” brand of racks. I quickly upgraded to the Saris Bones 2-bike rack, which is probably the best-selling trunk rack out there. Eventually I moved on up to the Saris Bones 3-bike rack, just because I found a great deal on Craigslist and appreciated the versatility of being able to bring one more friend to ride with.

These racks are great for road bikes (especially classic steel frames), as they carry the bike by the top tube of the frame. Once I got my Roubaix (carbon fiber frame) though, I would always wrap that in small pieces of foam insulation around all the contact points so that no paint could get damaged. This added a couple minutes of loading and unloading time, but was nothing unbearable.

But once I got my mountain bike, the game changed. First, the top tube of its frame is sloped, creating a small main triangle of the frame. This made it difficult to fit the arms of the Saris rack through the frame, and even when I did get it through, the bike would be resting at a crazy angle with the rear wheel up in the air. After 2-3 trips across town like this, enough was enough, and I was set on getting a platform-style hitch rack (and a receiver hitch installed).

There are several advantages of platform-style hitch racks:

    • Ease of use: each bike takes ~15 seconds max to load.
    • No frame contact: bikes are secured by the wheels. Also means frame shape doesn’t matter!
    • Access to trunk, even with bikes loaded.
    • Much harder to steal the rack off the car, especially if it’s properly locked.
    • Can protect your car (to a limit) if you get rear-ended!
    • Sturdy.
    • Some have a 2-bike add-on to increase capacity to 4 bikes.

There are also a few general disadvantages of these racks:

    • Requires a hitch receiver. Many SUVs and trucks come with them, but small cars typically don’t. Adds $100-200 to total cost if you don’t have one.
    • A 2-bike rack weighs 45-50 lbs on average. Not easy to take off/on often.
    • Expensive. Average is about $450 for a 2-bike version.
    • Add-ons to carry 4 total bikes is another $400+ typically, and another 50 lbs. Only works on 2″ receivers.
    • Adds 12″-16″ to the length of your car when folded up. Be mindful when parallel parking or reversing.

While I listed almost as many disadvantages as advantages, the pros of the platform style easily outweigh the cons. Price is the most common barrier for people, and that’s totally understandable.

So let’s start talking specifically about the Kuat Sherpa!

The Facts:
The Sherpa is $449 (MSRP). It weighs a scant 29 lbs, and in the world of platform hitch racks (remember, they average 45-50 lbs), that is truly lightweight! It carries up to two bikes, with no option for add-ons. The rack uses a 1.25″ hitch, with a 2″ adapter pre-installed. Assembly is required out of the box (all required tools included except Philips head screwdriver), and that takes roughly 30-45 minutes. It comes with a locking hitch pin and cable lock.

Ok, I could go into great, wordy detail about how the rack functions, but there are already many great reviews and videos out there that do that. I mainly want to give you my personal experiences, both good and bad. I’ll throw in some pictures of it in action as well. I think this is how I want to do my reviews!

I’ve had the Sherpa for roughly 3 months now and leave it on my car all the time. I stashed it in my trunk one time when I went downtown, knowing I’d might have to parallel park. While yes it is light for a hitch rack, it’s still not as easy to store as say the Saris Bones. The ease of storage in your car trunk will depend on the shape of the trunk’s opening and how much junk you have in there. I’ll only take it off if truly necessary now.

My MTB has seen the most usage on the rack, but I’ve carried both the MTB and a road bike together on a road trip between Houston-Austin with no problems. The rack will shake and rock a little, but that’s really expected of any 1.25″ rack. Nothing to worry about.

The included cable lock has two looped ends. Their intention was for you to loop it through the frame(s) and thread itself through one of the loops, then connect the open loop to the hitch pin lock. THIS SUCKS! First, the cable isn’t long enough to handle the frames AND wheels. Second, it’s a pain the butt to reach/crawl underneath the rack to access the hitch pin lock. My solution? Keep my U-lock in the trunk, loop the cable through the bikes and U-lock, and lock the U-lock around the rack itself.

While the durability of the platform is not doubted, I have an issue with the ratchet arms that secure the front wheels, specifically the soft rubber. The ratchet arms are to sit on top of the front wheel, next to the front fork. My issue is that the disc brake hose guide rubs the rubber when the car is moving and the bike is ultimately shaking a bit on bumps/rough roads. In about 1.5 months, the rubber wore all the way through. Here’s a couple pictures of the issue:

Kuat Sherpa arm on wheel Kuat Sherpa arm dmgThis happens even though I’ve tightened down the ratchet as tight as I could. What I did notice today while playing around with it is that if the front tire pressure is too low, the bike can rock back and forth more because the tire is really squishy. Next time I will try two things: Increased air pressure (I run tubeless, so I’m usually low) for travel, and keep the arm a little more forward.

Through this issue, I had a chance to deal with their warranty service. To put it briefly: Service was excellent and fast! I just called them and explained the problem, and they had a new arm shipped to the store within a couple business days. Honestly though, I will just hold on to that for now and wrap an old tube around the worn section on my current arm.

My last issue with the rack is that it doesn’t sit level. It’s most noticeable with stored in the up position. I found someone on YouTube that had the same issue. He was told to loosen/remove several bolts and reinstall–apparently it worked for him. I tried the same thing to no avail, and could see where the problem lies (but too hard for me to explain with here) when I took it apart. When talking to the service rep, he said that’s what they would have recommended me to do as well, since I didn’t want to pay to have it shipped to them for inspection.

It doesn’t affect its function or clearances at all, but details like that tend to bug me. For a $450 bike/car accessory, I would expect perfect alignment!

Kuat Sherpa feature img
It leans to the left. You can see it’s not parallel with the horizontal plane of the car.

I considered two other racks, the 1up USA Quik Rack and the Yakima Hold Up, cost beat out 1upUSA (they are an independent dealer, thus I get no employee pricing) and weight beat out the Yakima (50 pounder)! Both are solid racks though and should be considered, as well as Kuat’s premier rack, the NV.

Now here are a bunch of pictures of it in action that I was originally going to include throughout the review before I realized how boringly long this could get:

Anodized orange lever allows you to change positions of the rack. Horizontal black lever behind it tightens the rack in the receiver. Lastly you can see the hitch pin lock, with a cover over the keyhole.
Anodized orange lever allows you to change positions of the rack. Horizontal black lever behind it tightens the rack in the receiver. Lastly you can see the hitch pin lock, with a cover over the keyhole.
Front wheel ratcheting clamp.
Front wheel ratcheting clamp.
Pivoting rear wheel strap.
Pivoting rear wheel strap.
Bikes loaded, side view.
Bikes loaded, side view.
Bikes loaded, rack tilted for trunk access.
Bikes loaded, rack tilted for trunk access.
My MTB's brake lever touches the seat, but they're wide levers and that just happens to be my seatpost height. No signs of wear, but I haven't driven this combo much.
My MTB’s brake lever touches the seat, but they’re wide levers and that just happens to be my seatpost height. No signs of wear, but I haven’t driven this combo much.
Wider pedals may have bumper clearance issues, especially platform pedals. Most likely varies car-to-car though.
Wider pedals may have bumper clearance issues, especially platform pedals. Most likely varies car-to-car though.
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