From the moment they hit the market back in 2008, Kuat’s racks have attracted a lot of attention for their looks alone. The original NV, with its aluminum construction, anodized copper accents, expanding receiver hitch wedge, and slick integrated work stand was certainly attractive- but not everyone was willing to spend $550 on what could be considered a premium hitch rack. Going without the work stand and integrated cable lock and replacing the expanding wedge with a threaded hitch pin lets Kuat’s new NV Core come in $100 cheaper. Let’s have a look…
Coming in a surprisingly dense and well thought-out package, the NV Core is an impressive piece of design and assembly takes well under 15 minutes. Wheel holding arms are bolted to a large central boom, which tilts up to keep things compact and down to allow for easy trunk access. Anyone who is familiar with Sportworks’ bus racks or Thule’s recent models will be familiar with the way in which bikes are mounted: The front wheel is pulled into a pair of cradles by a ratcheting hook that wedges itself between the top of the tire and bike’s front brake (road) or fork (mountain). The rear wheel is held to the broad tray arm by a ratcheting strap.
For anyone who owns a garage, has a sunroof, or buys gas, the advantages of hitch racks over roof racks are clear. Even when the cost of a receiver hitch is factored in, hitch racks can be cost-competitive with a la carte roof racks. That’s before replacing several thousand dollars worth of bikes that you ‘forgot’ were on the car after a ride.
Though I was initially concerned about how the wheel hook would play with reverse arch DT Swiss forks, the padded underside of the hook rests against the fork lowers rather than the stantions. In order to keep scuffing to a minimum, I’ve been good about wiping dust away from fork crowns when mounting and nothing’s been scarred even after a couple of 5 hour drives. I am sure, though, that the day will come when I forget after a muddy ride and my and my passenger’s forks will suffer as a result.
The NV Core’s bolt-in hitch pin, with included lock, does a surprisingly good job at keeping the rack stable and quiet. It also means that, with the provided adapter, the NV Core works for both 1 1/4in and 2in recievers- handy for 2-car households. The included box end wrench, while a nice thought, was the wrong size, so be sure to have an extra adjustable or 19mm wrench handy for installation and removal.
Overall, the Kuat is a handsome rack that has been a breeze to use. At 41lb, it’s surprisingly light for its size and reasonably easy to handle. The lack of an integrated cable lock means that the ugly cable shown now lives on the rack- but that’s a small complaint. The tilt mechanism (which was preassembled) did come loose within the first week- but was easy enough to snug up and has stayed firm since. Watch this space for a comparison with the fully-featured NV…