- The Kuat hitch is more stylish but also more expensive
- The 1up is built inside the USA
- These two bike racks are both rear hitch-mounted units.
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For cyclists wanting to explore new roads, getting their bicycle to the destination often means using a bike rack, but which kind is better, a Kuat or 1up rack?
The Kuat and 1up are hitch-mounted racks designed for transporting bikes efficiently. The Kuat is more expensive but more aesthetically pleasing and has an increased weight limit. The 1up is a more straightforward design but is affordable. Both racks carry two bikes on their standard model.
Getting your bike on and off the rack shouldn’t mean you have to climb on top of your car just to reach your bike. Several companies offer hitch-mounted racks that make accessing your bike simple and easy. Two of the best are the Kuat NV 2.0 and the 1up rack. Even though there are similarities between the two, there are also differences. Each rack works well by providing a convenient way to transport multiple bicycles without worrying about scraping paint on your car or straining yourself, lifting your bike to a hanging or roof rack.
How Do the Kuat and 1up Bike Racks Work?
Both racks attach to the vehicle by a Class 1 trailer hitch and use a tray system to rest each bike, with ratchet swing arms to hold the bike in place. There are differences in design, but the operation of both is pretty straightforward.
Attach the Rack to the Hitch
The 1up and the Kuat NV 2.0 rack are placed in the receiver hitch (Class 1) until the two lock pin holes line up. Then, insert the locking pin through the holes and secure it with the locking mechanism. (1 up supplies a crank-like tool to tighten the rack to the hitch, while the Kuat simply has you rotate the knob on the end).
Set the Bike on the Mounting Tray
The placement of the bikes onto the trays is easy. There is no need to lift the bike high like other rear-mounted or roof-styled bike racks. Simply place the bike onto the tray and move the swing arms into place.
Place the Swing Arms over the Tire
Both racks use a swing bar or bars to lock over the wheels once a bike is placed on the tray. The 1 up has two bars (one for the front tire and one for the rear), while the Kuat has one for the front tire. The levers on both bikes are ratched-based, which means that when you push them up over the tire, they will ratchet into place, keeping the bike secure and snug. (The owner of the 1up can then further secure the bike with an antitheft cable that they will need to supply).
The Kuat has a slightly different design in that it uses one spring lever for the front tire (the swing arm goes over the tire and rests near the top of the front fork. The rear tire is held in place by a strap, and for added security, two locking cables built into the base of the tray can be run through the spokes and frame to keep the bike securely situated (also prevents theft). I loved the feature of the locking cables because then I don’t have to worry about someone messing with my bike while I am in paying for my fountain drink at the convenience store.
What are the Racks' Other Similarities?
Both units pivot out of the way so that the owner can access the trunk of their vehicle even with both bikes loaded. While the Kuat angles the rack about forty degrees from the trunk, the 1 Up rack rotates the bikes to the side, allowing more room to exit and enter the rear of the vehicle. (I love this feature because it allows me to sleep in the back of my SUV without removing the bikes from their rack or climbing through the split in the front seats just to reach the sleeping area).
The racks carry two bikes, with an add-on option for two more. The Kuat has a weight advantage on its standard unit (it can handle two 60 lb bikes, whereas the 1Up handles about 50 pounds each). The racks do not ride against the back of the car or touch the trunk area, so there is no worry about paint scrapes when your bike rubs against the car’s surface.
Both bike racks are spaced nicely, so the bikes don’t rub against one another. If you're a stickler about the condition of your bike, like I am, then you know how frustrating some bike racks can be.
Each company offers a lifetime warranty on the bike rack that they manufacture, and their customer service seems intent on helping people with questions or issues.
For more information on the Kuat line of bike racks, please see the manufacturers website for pricing and availability.
For more information on the 1up series of bike racks, please see the manufacturers website.
What are the Differences Between the Kuat NV 2.0 and the 1up?
Even though they share many similarities in function, there are some differences between the two.
The 1up looks plain and simple, with bolts showing and no genuine attempt to spruce the rack up. There is a definite function-over-form vibe going on here. The rack reminds me of something my college professor father would have made - a strong, reliable, kick-in-the-butt rack, but no real attention to how it looks as long as it gets the job done.
The Kuat NV (and its little brother, the Sherpa) is sleeker. (The athletic appearance is pronounced when the rack is folded up and not in use). While looks are a matter of personal preference, with the Kuat, everything goes together with great forethought.
The Sherpa is all aluminum which cuts down on the weight of the bike rack itself and makes getting it on and off the car a breeze. The whole installation process takes about thirty seconds to complete. While the Sherpa is more fundamental and has fewer bells and whistles, it is climbing the review sites like nobody’s business.
The 1up has a cult-like following and retails for around $650 for a double rack (they also offer a single rack for a lot less).
The website offers no apologies for the 1up being a simple, rugged, reliable bike rack. You can purchase the rack in silver or black finish (although the black paint will cost about $50 more). The silver paint reminded me of just an ordinary metal rack, functional, just not very pretty.
The Kuat Base NV 2.0 is listed on their website for $749 plus shipping (but the Sherpa is $650). The base has a black-on-black finish which is pretty badass. If you decide to get the regular NV 2.0, it has orange accents on the swing arms, making the rack pop with color. (Of course, you will pay more to add a little color to your life).
Lock and Security
The 1up assumes that the bike owner has some kind of antitheft cable or ulock system that can be threaded through the frame and wheels to keep the bike from being stolen. This rack is a BYOL (Bring Your Own Lock) system, which I have, but I would have preferred something a bit more high-tech, like the cable system the Kuat uses.
As I mentioned earlier, the Kuat has two integrated, retractable cables on each end of the tray. Simply pull them out, thread them through the wheels/frame, and lock the ends together. It is very simple and offers an excellent deterrent for those of us who don’t like having our expensive bikes stolen.
Place of Manufacture
You guess it. The Kuat racks are made in China or Taiwan and shipped to the states. While almost everything bicycle is made overseas, the company can take advantage of lower labor costs while keeping the quality of the product high. Kuat has been making racks for about ten years, and they have a wide variety of bike and cargo racks on their website.
The company has been expanding into the European markets and enjoying success with its development of the Sherpa model (many reviewers have absolutely loved it, and it is priced at almost the same price point as the 1up Heavy Duty).
1up makes their bike racks in the United States. The company has a manufacturing plant in the farthest corner of southwest Wisconsin, and even though they have less than a hundred employees, they are supporting the local economy. (That’s a big plus in my book).
This little company from Wisconsin has been in business since 2001 and was an innovator in the design of rear-mounted bike racks. Today, they offer simple, quality bike racks to over 50 countries worldwide.
Are There Accessories to Add To the Bike Rack
Yes, there are. In addition to the added two bike trays (so you can haul four bikes), Kuat offers a pivot arm and a ramp to roll your heavy e-bike onto the tray before you lock it into position. In addition, they sell a Rackdock, (which is a small steel box that can be bolted to the wall of your garage. The bike rack hitch fits it, so you have an easy place to store the rack when it is not in use. (1up offers a similar product called Rackstash).
1up has an extensive accessory list with trailer hitch adapters to even a colorize kit to make your bike rack pop with color. There is a ramp, a fat tire spacer, and an LED light to hook to the rack so that the bike rack doesn’t interfere with the tail lights on your vehicle.
A Word To the Wise
If your car is equipped with a rear backup camera, you should expect your camera to be blocked by the presence of the bike rack when it is on the vehicle. In addition, if your car has a warning tone (obstruction alert), you can expect to hear the shrill tone every time you put your car to reverse. The rack may also interfere with cross-traffic alerts and other rear parking systems. Refrain from attempting to allow the car to parallel park itself with the rack on the rear of your car. (Unless you like paying for other people's body damage).