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…



  1. Couple things regarding roof vs rear bike racks….there definitely are advantages with rear mount rack but roof rack system have advantaged too. If you have bikes on your roof rack and you do or don’t run into a garage it’s something that is within your control. If someone rear ends you in traffic, that’s completely out of your control. Regarding aerodynamics, yes, bikes tucked behind a large SUV is more aerodynamic than bikes on a roof rack, however, bikes turned broadside on a hitch rack behind any vehicle that directs air into the bikes can create drag approaching or surpassing that of a roof rack system. Additionally, roof racks are versatile and multi-purpose, a roof rack can transport, skis, snowboards, surfboards, paddleboards, kayaks, a canoe, cargo boxes, lumber, ladders, etc. Just some things to consider.

  2. BTW, a sunroof is rarely an issue when mounting a roof rack, actually, it’s nice to have a sunroof since you can look up and see your gear.

  3. I have a Toyota Carolla with both a roof rack and a hitch. I put the hitch on promptly after my lovely wife drove into a covered parking space with my bike on the roof. Damage was minimal as it was just an inexpensive commuter bike, but either of my other bikes and it would have been a disaster to the bikes, the rack, and the car. Yes, driving into something is something that could be controlled, but it happens all too often. Now my roof rack only gets used when I have three or more bikes on the car, also, my mileage is better with the bikes behind my carolla rather than on top. My other complaints against roof racks are, pain to load, especially for smaller riders, bikes covered in bug guts, and flying road debris.

  4. Loren,
    Just don’t go telling everyone how good the riding is- I like my livin’ cheap! Fat Tire is an institution- gotta love the McCampbells…

    As far as sunroofs go, my experience has been that roof racks make them horrifically loud, kind of defeating the point of having one. While driving your bikes into the garage may be under your control, that hardly makes it better 🙁 And it’s far more frequent than rear-end collisions. But, to each his or her own.

    David & Kristi,


  5. RE: roof vs hitch. I love hitch but on a wagon that is designed to be very “aero” the sideways mounted 29er seems to “grab” quite a bike of air because it’s wider than the car tail and taller even though it’s a wagon.

    However, behind the suv, I find it awesome. I wouldn’t ever put bikes on the roof of this tall land rover anyway but I usually would put them inside or on a swing away style rack. Some bikes just don’t play well with the two-bar style hanger racks though so the wheel tray stand up style is very nice. A swing away version would be heavy but awesome.

  6. While I love the looks of their NV rack, I can’t get myself to purchase it while I know I can purchase a Saris Cycle on Pro rack that built here in the States by American workers. I wish they produced their racks in Springfield like they do their designs

  7. Girlfriend and I have an NV on both our suvs. Going on over a year of constant use- rough off road driving, mud, sand, snow, salt, and over 20k highway miles. Flawless operation and still shine when cleaned up. Adding +2 extension to mine for summer trip with mtn and road bikes.

  8. Paul C,
    FYI, All of Thule’s hitch rack are made in the USA, Thule assembles and manufactures 80% of their US product line in the US and employs 1000 US workers (1/3 of their global work force).

  9. @PaulC

    I’m from the Springfield area, and from what I’ve heard from some of the bike shop guys is that they reassemble each of the bike racks after they’ve been made overseas. They do this to insure parts quality and proper torque.

    I’ve been using the four bike NV and it works like a charm. Plus, I always get compliments on it.

  10. Marc – Suppose you mount two 29er xc racing bikes and one bike’s handlebars have interference with the other bikes saddle and vice versa. My Thule rack has ability to adjust each bike’s tray left/right at least an inch or two. My Yakima HoldUp (and Saris CycleOn Pro, and friends Yakima HookUp) had this problem and didn’t have any ability to adjust so I got rid of it. Does the Kuat have any provision for bikes’ saddle/bar interference?? This seems to be a true problem considering bikes without qr seatclamps and/or with wider (700+mm bars). Thanks in advance!!!

  11. someslowguy- we have run multiple combos of FS-26 and 29er hard tails with no clearance issues. Also mixed up with road bikes and no problem. Our bikes are 15-17″ mtn and 47-52 on the skinny tires. I don’t think you would have any issues with bigger frames. There is no adjustment really for spacing, probably because none is needed.

  12. Someslowguy,
    I haven’t run into any issues mixing bikes or styles either. There’s always *something* that wouldn’t work- but I haven’t come across it.


  13. I don’t know about the Core line, because I bought an NV, but my comments apply to customer service.

    After seeing one at my local trailhead, I purchased a Kuat NV because of the build quality. It was obviously VERY well built, but I knew nothing of the company. I trust my LBS though and they spoke highly of them.

    After paying about $100 more than the nearest competitor, I took my new Kuat home. About three weeks later, I noticed the orange anodizing on one of the wheel trays was fading badly. I figured it was a bad run of trays, because the other parts still looked shiny new. I contacted Kuat and, the next day, received an email from Bill Kaufmann. He requested an image, I sent it and, three days later, had a shiny new replacement wheel tray.

    That kind of customer service is rare and makes me feel even better about my purchase.

    The rack works fantastically well and I am thrilled with my purchase. I have owned Yakima and Thule products, roof and hitch mount. Kuat blows them away, especially on build quality, operation and “feel”.

    I called to pass on my compliments for Bill and asked the person who answered the phone who I needed to talk to about Bill. He replied, “me”. My conversation clearly demonstrated that I was NOT talking to a receptionist or minimum wage phone person.

    Their customer service cannot be topped. I wish I had employees like Bill Kaufmann.

  14. One more thing, the “candy” included is great…LOTS of keys (5 or 7 I think), bottle opener, tools, wheel adapters… also love that the bike locks and locking hitch pin are included, not extra cost.

What do you think?