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Küat NV car rack

Eye-catching rack

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Bikes are quick to load and are held securely in place, though the sloppy main pivot still allows the whole upper assembly a troubling amount of movement when driving down the road

Bikes are quick to load and are held securely in place, though the sloppy main pivot still allows the whole upper assembly a troubling amount of movement when driving down the road (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The built-in locating pin has an integrated lock for security

The built-in locating pin has an integrated lock for security (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Closing the Lynx's quick-release lever wedges these two pins outwards against the inside of the receiver hitch for wiggle-free mounting

Closing the Lynx's quick-release lever wedges these two pins outwards against the inside of the receiver hitch for wiggle-free mounting (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Küat's new Lynx base promises even faster and more stable mounting of its racks to your vehicle's receiver hitch

Küat's new Lynx base promises even faster and more stable mounting of its racks to your vehicle's receiver hitch (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The simple ratcheting straps work well enough and have a wide range of adjustment

The simple ratcheting straps work well enough and have a wide range of adjustment (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Locking cables are cleverly tucked into the trays but they're shorter than we'd like, just barely reaching through a pair of bike frames

Locking cables are cleverly tucked into the trays but they're shorter than we'd like, just barely reaching through a pair of bike frames (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Küat says it intentionally left the tolerances on the plastic liner for the telescoping repair stand mast on the loose side for freer movement. But it's so loose that it can be difficult to lock things down without distorting the clamp. Newer versions now have a locking spring-loaded pin but that restricts height adjustment

Küat says it intentionally left the tolerances on the plastic liner for the telescoping repair stand mast on the loose side for freer movement. But it's so loose that it can be difficult to lock things down without distorting the clamp. Newer versions now have a locking spring-loaded pin but that restricts height adjustment (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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We found the Küat NV's repair stand handy for quick trailhead tweaks but that's about it. Heavier bikes, in particular, pose a challenge to the somewhat underfed design

We found the Küat NV's repair stand handy for quick trailhead tweaks but that's about it. Heavier bikes, in particular, pose a challenge to the somewhat underfed design (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The repair stand head is lined with soft rubber and accommodates a wide range of tube sizes but the jaws are too narrow to provide a truly firm grip

The repair stand head is lined with soft rubber and accommodates a wide range of tube sizes but the jaws are too narrow to provide a truly firm grip (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The built-in repair stand is a definite plus for quick fixes at the trailhead

The built-in repair stand is a definite plus for quick fixes at the trailhead (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The alloy and plastic front wheel cradles handle both downhill and road-width tires equally well. Don't get too attached to the fancy anodized finish, though - ours faded badly after just a few months of use

The alloy and plastic front wheel cradles handle both downhill and road-width tires equally well. Don't get too attached to the fancy anodized finish, though - ours faded badly after just a few months of use (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The single-axis main pivot is easy to operate but too sloppy for our taste. Küat says it tightened up the tolerances on later production runs but the design still strikes us as prone to wear over time

The single-axis main pivot is easy to operate but too sloppy for our taste. Küat says it tightened up the tolerances on later production runs but the design still strikes us as prone to wear over time (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Küat has beefed up the main assembly on its latest round of production

Küat has beefed up the main assembly on its latest round of production (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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We were worried at first about the tire hook's plastic construction but it never became an issue during testing and is impressively solid. The grippy interior edge provides a notably secure grip, too

We were worried at first about the tire hook's plastic construction but it never became an issue during testing and is impressively solid. The grippy interior edge provides a notably secure grip, too (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The stout aluminum arm easily swallows even wide 29er tires and is a cinch to operate

The stout aluminum arm easily swallows even wide 29er tires and is a cinch to operate (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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When not in use, the Küat NV tucks neatly up against the back of the vehicle with its notably upscale look

When not in use, the Küat NV tucks neatly up against the back of the vehicle with its notably upscale look (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The tilt-down feature allows quick access to the rear hatch

The tilt-down feature allows quick access to the rear hatch (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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In stock form the Küat NV will hold two bikes of virtually any size or type. Add-on kits are available if your hitch size allows, too

In stock form the Küat NV will hold two bikes of virtually any size or type. Add-on kits are available if your hitch size allows, too (Image credit: Jonny Irick)

In contrast to many other hitch-mounted racks, with their decidedly industrial 'function over form' designs, Küat's NV is a visual treat. Its elegant lines, fetching grey metallic paint, golden-orange anodizing and extruded aluminum construction wouldn’t look out of place on any number of high-end vehicles.

Thankfully, it does a pretty good job of holding and transporting bikes, too, though a few details belie the company's relative newcomer status. Loading couldn't be easier: simply lift your bike onto the tray, lock the front wheel into the deep aluminum and plastic cradle with the ratcheting main arm, secure the rear wheel strap and off you go. 

In total, loading a pair of bikes – even often awkward downhill machines – takes less than a minute, with no bike disassembly required. The padded main hooks grip securely with a very positive ratchet action, giant 29in tires are easily swallowed, and the sliding rear wheel straps have an enormous adjustment range.

We were at first disappointed that the tray spacing isn't similarly adjustable but eventually realized that it simply isn’t necessary. Küat include an ample 33cm (13in) in between the trays and also rotate them slightly away from each other. As a result, we never got any saddle-handlebar interference, no matter what combination of bikes we tried – well done, Küat. 

Keep in mind, though, that the optional two-bike add-on kit will tighten that spacing up considerably. In case your trip involves a short stop along the way, there's an integrated cable lock tucked inside the aluminum trays, and the entire rack easily pivots down and out of the way to provide access to your vehicle's rear hatch.

Once at your destination, unloading the bikes is just as easy, and in case you need to do a bit of last-minute maintenance (shame on you; your buddies are all waiting and you should have taken care of that at home!), Küat have included their trick Trail Doc repair stand with its rotating rubber-lined head and telescoping main mast. Even installation into your vehicle's receiver hitch is a breeze, with the integrated wedge mechanism effectively eliminating play at that interface and an included locking pin to ward off thieves.

So what's not to like? Ah, details, details. Unlike powerhouse rack makers such as Thule, Yakima and Saris, Küat are still pretty new on the scene and several spots betray the company's relative lack of experience.

For one, the poorly engineered main pivot quickly developed enough play that bikes rocked up and down in the rear view mirror a disturbing amount while driving on even relatively smooth highways. This was actually an improvement over our first generation tester, whose laughably primitive design we'd have deemed utterly unacceptable.

Küat tell us the tolerances have been tightened up further since our tester's production run but even so, a lack of proper bushings or dedicated wear surfaces means the issue will undoubtedly creep up again over time. To be fair, we never feared for losing a bike off the rack at speed but the NV's excessive movement is disconcerting nonetheless. For comparison's sake, our heavily abused, four-year-old Thule T2 is still as slop-free as when it was new.

Other particulars are similarly disappointing. Though convenient and functional, the repair stand head's jaws are too narrow to provide a truly secure grip and its telescoping main mast is secured by an underengineered clamp, the once-striking color anodizing was badly faded and tired-looking after just a few weeks of service, and the integrated cable lock is only barely long enough to reach through a pair of bike frames and rear wheels if you're careful, leaving the front wheels unprotected.

Moreover, the cable lock and locking hitch pin curiously use entirely different cores so you've got two extra keys to carry around instead of just one and despite what the aluminum upper construction (the base is still steel) would suggest, the full NV rack still weighs 20.4kg (45lb) – a far cry from the 11.3kg (25lb) claimed figure of 1up USA's all-aluminum Quik-Rack.

Do we like the NV? Overall, yes, shortcomings and all. While a bit sloppy (literally) it's easily the best looking rack of this type we've encountered – and depending on your priorities, aesthetics are important. Functionally it gets the job done, with some neat features tossed in for good measure, and recently added changes (such as the slick quick-release Lynx hitch base) we saw at September's Interbike show look to improve it further still. However, the NV still has a ways to go before we can say its function matches the promise of its appearance. Almost there, guys, almost there.