Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Beta...

Product Review: The Kuat BETA

Before I even start into this product review, I have to give you some background as to why you’d trust or even consider my opinion. First thing, I have owned at least a dozen various types of bicycle racks over about 20 years of transporting bikes. I am a gear guy, and I don’t skimp on getting the best product available, at least that is what I’ve learned over the years through trial and error, recommendations from friends and personal experience.
To be fair, I have been a loyal customer for a better part of said years to one of Kuat’s competitors, Yakima. I cannot say anything bad about Yakima, they make some great products; the best in my opinion for roof racks and roof mounted luggage/bike/boating racks. I also have used/owned products from Thule, another one of Kuat’s competition. I can’t say anything really bad about this company either, except that I prefer Yakima over Thule.
With that said, let’s talk about hitch-mounted bike racks in general. I have owned a few of these mega-lunkers in the past. I’m not going to go into too many details about what I liked with my past rigs, but rather what I didn’t like. First thing is the weight. All of these hitch-mounted carriers worth mentioning are made to last, fabricated of beefy 2” x 2” tube steel or variations thereof. This makes the rig so freaking heavy that it takes Rambo to comfortably slide the thing into your hitch. Even storing the monster is a real pain since none of the versions I used would fold-down completely for storage. Another issue is the cradles that your bike frame rests in. Many of these cradles would be a pain to use, wouldn’t keep the bike from swinging to and fro, and the rubber straps would tend to rot over time and fail, leaving your $3000 titanium bling-machine bouncing down the highway. I also hated the fact that no matter what I did, I could not keep the rack from swaying side-to-side. No company had addressed this issue with any type of success…until now.
May I proudly introduce Kuat…and the BETA Kuat (Koo-at) is based out of Springfield, Missouri. This cycling enthusiast-owned business is run by two fellas, Luke Kuschmeader and Brian Atkinson, who’s partial last names have been combined to form the company name. Talk about a great newer company, I tell ya, these guys have a good thing going. First off the customer service is totally 1980’s. You call and you have to talk directly with a real person, can you believe that crap? Second, they actually ride bicycles, and I’m not talking some Wally-world special to go to and from the liquor store on, but real bikes. I’ve even met Luke in person at a 50 mile endurance race, what a personable guy. Now for my favorite part about Kuat; all they make are hitched mounted racks, it’s all they do, of course they are going to be the BEST at it, period!

Onto the BETA review…Lets start with the specs & random facts- Material – 6061 T6 Aluminum 11 lbs Bike Capacity: 2 bikes (up to 40 lbs) Available in 2” & 1.25” receivers Cinch Tight™ hitch cam system Folds up small for storage, really small Easy to use Stylish Tilts for trunk/hatch access Will not rust Lifetime warranty

I ordered my Beta rack directly from Kuat. Luke was easy to chat with and had my goods in the mail and at my door before we even got off the phone (not really, but the shipping was fast!). I got the 1.25” receiver version to fit my girly-hitch, and noted that the shipping box felt nearly empty (they are that light)! The first thing I noticed is the Beta has an upward-bent, lower arm to keep my bikes well away from the ground - nice thinking since most vehicles with a 1.25” receiver are small cars or wagons that sit too low for hauling bikes. Kuat’s Cinch Tight™ mechanism is an engineering masterpiece. It’s simple in realty, and consists of a large ergonomic wing-nut tightening handle which forces a wedge-type cam between your rack & your hitch, resulting in no side to side swaying of my expensive steeds – awesome! The whole rig is beautifully crafted out of aluminum and hence will never rust or look ghetto like the steel versions made by the ‘other guys’. The cradles on this particular model are very simple, with (2) easy-to-use straps per cradle and anti-sway built-in. The narrow width of the support bars allows for a better chance getting funky full-suspension frames to fit - while it’s a breeze for hard-tails. I never had to grunt or moan to carry the Beta from my garage and mount it on my car. Folding down the rig to access my hatch was no problem either. I opted for the locking hitch pin and the 2” adapter as well. The 2” adapter is ingenious and allows the Cinch Tight cam to still do its job while at the same time does not extend your rack outward like a typical hitch adapter would do. Having the ability to lock the Beta to my car and in turn my bike to the Beta is a great piece-of-mind during errands to and from a race or local trails. No complaints! The only thing I wish they would add to the Beta is a place to hold my post-ride beer…maybe even a built-in bottle opener. Am I asking too much?

To wrap things up, I love my Beta and would recommend one to you, your mother and even little Tim. The guys at Kuat addressed all of my past frustration with hitch-mounted racks and more. Thanks Kuat! To check one out for yourself, or one of the other fine products from Kuat, click HERE.

For MTBR's product review on Kuat's Alpha Rack, click HERE.

And another Beta review at Pink Bike, click HERE.


Brad King said...

Nice review. Unlike you, I'm pretty green on all this gear. Very helpful. Been looking and this one seems pretty sweet - light enough for my wife to set up. I wasn't sure about the "beefiness" of aluminum, but if you're satisfied I think I'll give it a go.

Burnsey said...

Yes, Buy one. I have been very happy with the Beta and actually have a second Kuat rack, the NV on its way for my other car. I still use the beta and think it is a great rack and good looking too! I can't think of any reason not to buy one. best of luck!

davede said...

I know the Alpha comes with locks, but what would you recommend to use to lock the bike to the rack? I'm assuming there's an opening wide enough for a cable lock to fit?

Burnsey said...

I use a cable lock that I girth hitch to the 45' brace at the 'L' of the rack itself, then run the cable thru the critical components of my bike (frame and wheels), then lock the cable back to itself with a padlock. It can easily be done!