Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kuat NV Review...

First things first. Thanks for checking out my blog and for reading this review on one of the many fine products from Kuat.

A little background qualifications* on me; I've been lugging bikes and all sorts of other gear around on the outside of my many automobiles for the last 20+ years. I have used, owned, sold, bought, destroyed and meticulously inspected all of the higher-end rack company's gear during that time. I know a fair bit about roof and hitch mounted racks from these years of experience. With that said...let get on to the dirt.

Enter the Kuat NV.

Lets start with 'from the box'. There is some assembly required. I feel the assembly of the rack is very straightforward and basic. All tools required to do the work is provided as well as printed instructions. The build can be done by one person with ease. I won't get too deep into the assembly because Kuat has a video of it HERE.
At first sight I thought "Man, this rack is really going to make my car look like crap"...meaning the rack is beautiful. The best looking rack available for sure with it's extruded aluminum arms (which are painted metallic gunmetal) and finished off with orange anodized accents. Very sexy.

Installing the rack on my hitch was E-Z. The Aluminum NV weighed in at easily half the weight of other hitch mounted racks. It was not the two person tug-a-thon that I had experienced in the past with heavy steel systems. Once inserted into the receiver hitch, slide the pin in place and tighten the cam knob and the NV locks into place. This 'cam' expands into your receiver hitch body and makes a super solid bond, keeping your rack, and more importantly your high dollar bike(s) from flopping all over the place as you drive to the trail head - be it on paved roads, gravel or a dirt 4x4 road full of ruts and holes. Bikes stay solid as if welded directly to your auto. I'll go ahead and say it...'Peace of mind'.
Next on the list is getting your bike on the rack. This too is a piece-of-cake. You simply set your tire in place in the custom molded cradle, fold the arm to the sweet spot (top of front tire and fork apex) and click the ratcheting mechanism down into place. This firmly holds the bike in the cradle. Next, step to the back wheel and simply run the ratcheting-strap around the rim/tire and snug it down. Done, ready to roll! You can view another Kuat video to help you understand the installation and use of the NV HERE.
The NV comes standard as a (2) bike carrier. You can also add an additional (2) bike add-on (to the 2" receiver version only). This might be a deciding factor when choosing what version to purchase, or if you are still looking into what sized receiver to put on your auto. I went with the 2" so I could, in the future, make the upgrade to haul (4) bikes.

Another fine feature of the NV is the Trail Doc. The Trail Doc is a neat little arm and clamp that allows you too use your Kuat NV as an on-the-go bike stand, repair stand, show-off-your-sweet-bike stand, etc. Simple and effective in design, the Trail Doc slides up and down to different heights, is safe to use clamped around your seat post (vertically) or around any frame material (horizontally), even carbon frames. I was not sure at first if [this] was a feature I indeed needed, but at a race after receiving my NV, I had to do some last minute pit changes to my bike and the Trail Doc saved my a$$. Since then I use ol' Doc around the house to do regular maintenance on my bikes and have since used it at almost every race. I also found that you can use the Trail Doc when the NV is off of your car and sitting on the ground. Now I use it in the garage or driveway as my go-to repair stand for all occasions.If you already own a tray-style hitch-mounted rack, Kuat offers the Trail Doc as an add-on. Don't miss out!
I ride often enough that I just leave the NV on my van year-round. When I had done this in the past with other hitch racks, they would get ugly and rust. The Aluminum construction of the NV stays looking pretty all year long. I will say that with salt on the roads during winter months, I did have to keep the integrated cable lock-core maintained (simple WD-40 spray) or it would get sticky. The cable lock and locking hitch-pin, both keyed, are nice features that allow you some confidence during those last minute liquor store runs. The NV was a sure bet for all season use.

I was also concerned with how well the NV would tilt out-of-the-way of my rear hatch. I drive a VW Eurovan and the rear door is huge, a monster. The NV easily tilts down and out of the way with the flip of an innovative and easy to use spring-loaded lever. It also folds up and into a vertical position to be stowed for driving w/o bikes. Nice!
The NV works flawlessly with 700c, 29er and 26ers alike, as well as 20" (with supplied adapter). Frame type does not matter because the NV uses your bike's wheels to do the holding, so an awkward shaped suspension frame or women's specific frame is no trouble at all.

Last but not least I want to add that the crew at Kuat headquarters are all top-notch folks. They promote cycling events locally, donate prizes to events all over the globe and are generally just nice to deal with. Warranty issues are never a problem as Kuat wants you happy and out there riding (they are riders too).
If I were to buy a new hitch rack today, it would still be the Kuat NV. An exceptionally functional piece of innovative art that will get your bike to the trail in style; your friends will wish they were you. Do it
My overall rating for the Kuat NV is...
Other resources and information on the NV:
MTBR Review

NV MSRP $549

2-bike add-on MSRP $349
Trail Doc (as an add-on with adapter) MSRP $89

Check out my Kuat Beta Review HERE!

Kuat Innovations LLC,
Springfield, MO.

Toll Free: 1(877)822-5828
Email: info (at) kuatinnovations (dot) com


Zoolander said...

Echo this review. Have had one (same model) for a year now and absolutely love it.

Joel said...

Thanks for the detailed review. I just bought a 93 Eurovan weekender. We just had a thule apex fail. When tightening the hitch down the knob stripped and that was all she wrote. I've moved on. I'm looking at the Kuat here but I'm worried about ground clearance. We live in Park City, UT and have a steep driveway. I'm concerned that the bottom of the rack will bang the ground when backing out. Any problems for you in this department? The Yakima hitch version seems to do a much better job here. I'm going to call Kuat tomorrow and ask about dimensions and then try to "prototype" what will happen when we back out.

Burnsey said...

send me an email and I will respond to your inquiry about the Kuat NV and it's fit on a Eurovan. I love mine...