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Kuat Reviews

Kuat NV 2.0 Rack & Add-On Review

May 26, 2019

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Kuat NV 2.0 Rack & Add-On Review

Kuat NV 2.0 Platform Hitch Rack & Add-On
4.79

Summary

After using it for more than 18 months, I’ve found the Kuat NV 2.0 withstands regular use exceptionally well, is easy to use, well-made, built from quality materials, versatile for carrying a wide range of bikes, and supported by a great company. Yes, it’s a lot of money, but in this instance you get more than what you pay for.

It’s not perfect, though, since it isn’t light by any measure—especially after installing the Add-On, which expands your carrying capacity to four bikes. It also makes the NV 2.0 awkward to handle, so you might require the help of a second person when installing or removing the platform hitch rack.

  • Ease of Use
  • Carrying Capacity
  • Adjustability
  • Build Quality & Durability
  • Real-World Functionality
  • Customer Support
  • Overall Value

Pros

  • Quick and easy to set up and use
  • Features you won’t find elsewhere, including foot-action pivot lever and Trail-Doc
  • High-quality parts and construction
  • Unique design and color schemes
  • Stellar customer support
  • Great value, despite the steep price

Cons

  • Steep price
  • Heavy: 91 pounds with the NV 2.0 and Add-On attached
  • Competing hitch-mounted racks might deliver greater value, depending on which needs you emphasize
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I’ve used Kuat’s NV 2.0 and Add-On system for more than a year and a half. I’ll discuss my experience and compare it with other platform hitch racks to help you decide if it’s worth the price.


About the Kuat NV 2.0 Hitch Rack & Add-On

The newly redesigned Kuat (pronounced koo-at) NV 2.0 hitch rack features adjustable front tire cradles for a dialed-in fit, a foot-assisted pivot release system, integrated cable locks for added security, burly construction, and a design that stands out from much of the competition.

Combining this with its ability to carry up to four bikes using the optional Add-On rack and a No Worries lifetime warranty, Kuat calls the NV 2.0 the best, most advanced platform rack on the market.

Sure, Kuat packs a lot of seemingly useful features into an immediately noticeable package with the NV 2.0 hitch rack. And based on my extensive experience with it, along with the Add-On rack, I think they deliver a heck of a lot of value—despite the admittedly steep price.

The NV 2.0 isn’t for everyone, though. Here, I’ll briefly discuss my long-term experience with this bike rack system, so you can decide whether or not it’s worth the investment.

How Does the NV 2.0 Rack & Add-On Work?

Available in powder-coated Gray Metallic/Orange or Black Metallic/Gray color schemes and water transfer logos underneath, the patent-pending NV 2.0 hitch rack can accommodate two bikes with wheelbases up to 48”.

Per the website, tires can range in size between 20” and 29”—although you’ll need to purchase wheel adapters for 20 to 24-inch tires—and width between 4.8 inches (note: the user manual indicates up to 5 inches) using Kuat’s optional Phat Bike Kit.

The Kuat NV 2.0 comes with all the features you’d expect from a premium platform hitch rack, including adjustable front wheel hooks and cradles, integrated Trail-Doc work stand, and a foot-or-hand-activated pivot lever.

Bikes can weigh up to 60 lbs each (120 lbs total), with an overall rack weight of 52 lbs. You can double your carrying capacity by installing the NV 2.0 Add-On (40 lbs), which can hold bikes up to 40 lbs but otherwise maintains all the same features.

You’ll have one heck of a time moving the four-bike setup (more soon), though, since the combo’s total weight comes in at a whopping 92 lbs.

Except for its lower weight capacity, the NV 2.0 Add-On comes with all of the same features as the core platform rack, but doubles the number of bikes you can carry.

Either way, your front tires sit inside Kuat’s articulated front cradle system, which features updated ratchet arms for a more intuitive release and a more stable tow,  and offers three positions for fast adjustability.

At the other end, the NV 2.0 features co-molded tire straps that lock around your bike’s rim, as well as longer, more durable, and easier to use integrated cable locks.

Farthest away from your vehicle is Kuat’s handy Trail Doc system, which they say was redesigned from the ground up to deliver a pro level feel.

The NV 2.0 comes from the manufacturer ready to fit standard 1.25” hitches, although it can accommodate 2” hitches with an adapter. A hitch lock is included.

Once in place and ratcheted down using the NV 2.0’s hand-tight hitch cam system, its redesigned foot lever can help you unlock the pivot and place fully upright after bikes have been removed, or to angle toward the ground if you need access to your trunk or rear cargo door.

Kuat advertises it will endure a lifetime of use. Is this what I’ve experienced using the NV 2.0 hitch rack, though? I’ll discuss more next.

My Experience Using Kuat’s NV 2.0 Rack & Add-On System

I purchased my Gray Metallic/Orange NV 2.0 rack in October 2017 from REI and upgraded to the Add-On about six months afterward.

At more than $1,000 for the two, there’s no getting around the fact that this is an expensive platform rack setup.

Overall, though, it’s my opinion that it features distinctive good looks and—overall—delivers excellent value for its premium price tag. It’s not perfect, though. Here’s why:

NV 2.0 & Add-On Assembly

Kuat includes all necessary hardware and easy-to-follow instructions with the NV 2.0—match the letters on each tray arm with their corresponding letters on each center beam. Then, tighten the appropriate bolts and you’re ready to go.

Pro tip: Based on the NV 2.0’s weight and width, it might be a lot easier to build with the assistance of a second person.

When it comes to the Add-On, though, you can almost certainly handle installation by yourself:

  1. Remove the 2.0’s Trail-Doc and endcap using a 6mm hex key.
  2. Align the Add-On’s bolts over the top and fit into place.
  3. Alternately tighten each of the Add-On’s two 8mm hex bolts.
  4. Reattach the Trail-Doc and endcap.
After just a few steps and a couple of minutes (especially once you get the hang of it) you can quickly double your NV 2.0’s carrying capacity—but, you’ll also nearly double it’s weight.

Overall, I found that the NV 2.0 was easy to set up, even compared to purportedly “simpler” upright hitch racks from third-party manufacturers.

Attaching the NV 2.0 to Vehicles

Outside of weight considerations, the NV 2.0—pivoted into the upright position—is easy to mount. Just slide its 1.25” (2” compatibility available with extra adapter) hitch into your vehicle’s receiver, insert the pin, and hand-tighten the support bar by turning the cam clockwise.

The NV 2.0 fits standard 1.25″ hitches (shown here with an optional locking pin), or 2″ versions using Kuat’s additional adapter. Once in place, secure the rack by hand-twisting the cam to remove any play from the support bar.

Pro tip: Based on my experience, you might have to slightly lift and lower the hitch arm as you turn the cam. Otherwise, you could make an otherwise straightforward task a whole lot more labor-intensive than necessary.

For the sake of your sanity—and your back—you’ll need to install the NV 2.0 into your vehicle’s receiver hitch while in the rack’s upright position. Once in place, the rack has a minimal footprint and won’t interfere with your high-mounted rearview camera.
Here’s the NV 2.0 with the Add-On installed, which not only meaningfully increases its footprint but also nearly doubles its weight.

Pivoting the NV 2.0

Once attached to my truck, I appreciate the NV 2.0’s unique pivot lock lever, which I can adjust by pulling the top with my hand, or by pressing the grooved bottom section at the bottom with my foot.

Pro tip: Based on my experience, despite the lever’s deep tread, it becomes quite slippery once wet. My foot has unexpectedly slipped on multiple occasions.

Kuat uses a unique dual-pivot lever on the NV 2.0 that allows you to release it with your hands or feet, although the metal’s coating quickly becomes slick if damp.

When unloaded, the NV 2.0’s platform is easy to lower or raise with a quick push or pull of its lever. It’s not much more difficult with the Add-On installed, except for its additional weight and the extra reach required to access its lever.

When unloaded, moving the NV 2.0 from flat its flat to lowest positions—such as when you need access to your rear cargo door—is similarly easy. But, you likely won’t need to drop it until you have all of your bikes mounted and attached, which is something we’ll discuss in the next section.

Attaching & Carrying Bikes with the NV 2.0

I start the mounting process by extending all of the NV 2.0’s arms, positioning my bike on its tray, and then placing the front wheel in a cradle, which accommodates all the tire widths in our household (from 700 x 38 to 29 x 2.25). It’s adjustable front-to-back as well, which comes in useful for carrying kids’ bikes.

With the proper technique, its ratcheting plastic hook is easy to use one-handed. Don’t try to force it, though, since you’ll make the process more difficult, and potentially cause damage.

Using the NV 2.0’s ratcheting mechanism is as easy as pressing down on the back button with your thumb, pulling its arm outward, putting your front tire into position, and then pushing the plastic hook down and locking it at the junction between the front tire and fork.

Pro tip: You might need to apply a little extra downward force once the hook is in place, though, which will eliminate as much potential movement as possible.

Once the front wheel is secure, and the bike sits upright by itself, I then loop the rear strap over the rim, insert it into the ratcheting mechanism, and pull through until there’s no play remaining.

Kuat designed the NV 2.0’s rear strap so that you can secure everything in place one-handed—once you’ve done it a few times and get the hang of the process.
I typically start the process with the NV 2.0’s arms extended and then put my bikes in place, which allows me to quickly secure front tires before strapping the rear rims into place.

Fully loaded, my NV 2.0 holds 110+ lbs of bikes, plus 20-ish lbs for the platform itself. So, when it comes time to drop the tray to its lowest position, such as accessing a car’s rear cargo door, it’s definitely a two-person job—one to pull the pivot release lever and help support the tray, with a second in the rear to ease the tray’s backside toward the ground.

Installing the NV 2.0’s Add-On is relatively easy, allows me to double the rack’s carrying capacity, and works the same as the base unit. It’s heavy, though, and requires two people to drop into the lowest position when fully loaded.

On and off the road, I’ve found that the NV 2.0 securely keeps everything in place, with no discernable movement. This remains the case even when driving on especially rough terrain, where ruts and washouts can cause some fairly extreme up-and-down motion in the rear of my truck.

Locks: My Biggest NV 2.0 Complaint

To be fair, I’ve found that the NV 2.0’s integrated locks work very well once secured. But, getting everything lined up properly in the tight space between bikes can present a Herculean challenge—made even worse if my bikes are covered in mud, or it’s pouring rain or snow.

The issue is that the male end of the cable fits into the broad side of the lock’s body, while the key fits inside the end. This means that I simultaneously have to hold the lock’s underside with one thumb, grip the cable between my forefinger and middle fingers while pressing down, finagle the key between the cable and my bike’s spokes, and then turn the key to allow the cable’s end inside.

Kuat advertises that the cable end fits into the lock without keys, although I’ve found this only works 20—30% of the time, more so as my rack ages.

The NV 2.0’s integrated cable locks tuck away into each nicely when not in use, although I’ve found that attaching them can present a challenge in tight spaces.

In fact, not too long after purchasing the NV 2.0, a cable fell out soon after leaving a riding area. We drove more than 50 miles across mountainous terrain before realizing what happened, and the lock’s metal had been ground to basically nothing by that point.

On the upside, the silver lining was that I had the opportunity to speak with Kuat’s stellar customer support, who sent me a replacement lock free of charge (removal and re-mounting was super easy).

Is the NV 2.0 Trail-Doc Useful?

Perhaps the NV 2.0’s most unique feature is its integrated Trail-Doc work stand, which unclips and pulls out from the rack’s central support bar.

Then, you rotate the knob counterclockwise until the clamp springs open, put your bike in place—whether at the seatpost or top tube—and then close the clamp and turn the knob clockwise to lock in place.

The NV 2.0’s Trail-Doc is a useful way to work on your bikes when you’re far away from home, without having to lug around a separate work stand.

I’ll admit that the NV 2.0’s Trail-Doc doesn’t feel as sturdy as my Park PCS-10, although I’ve found it can hold its own when I need to make last-minute repairs.

The Kuat NV 2.0 vs. Other Platform Hitch Bike Racks

There is a handful of platform hitch bike racks in the marketplace competing directly with the NV 2.0, all of which also hold bikes primarily by the front wheel, feature adjustable levers that allow the racks to pivot up and down, use latching mechanisms for back wheels, fit 2” receivers, and come with lifetime (or limited lifetime) warranties.

Here are some of the top models, as well as how their core criteria compare:

NV 2.0 vs. Competing Platform Bike Racks
Brand & Model Price Weight Load Limit Dimensions Special Features
Kuat NV 2.0 $649 52 lbs 120 lbs 36” x 23” x 11”   Only option that includes integrated work stand (Trail-Doc), adjustable front wheel trays, integrated cable locks, pivot foot latch, retains access to rear door, available in black/orange and black/silver
Kuat NV 2.0 Add-On $439 40 lbs 80 lbs 36” x 16” x 12”   All the same features, but detachable from NV 2.0
Thule T2 Pro $599 52 lbs 120 lbs 54” x 15” x 43”   Deeper front wheel trays, rear wheel “dishes” w/straps, side-to-side adjustable, integrated cable locks
RockyMounts Backstage Swing Away $599 59 lbs 120 lbs 46” x 22” x 8”   Swings out 180°, tilts down 30°, includes keyed-alike locking hitch pin
1Up 2” Heavy Duty Double $569+ 46 lbs 150 lbs 38” X 14” X 10” Built-in anti-wobble mechanism, all parts anodized or powder coated, available in black or silver, Add-On available for $219+ per tray (1 bike)
Yakima Dr. Tray $649 41 lbs 80 lbs 46” x 64” x 41”   Tool-free tray space adjustment (while bikes are mounted)

Like any other cycling product, no single hitch rack will meet everyone’s needs. So, the right option largely depends on which factors you consider most important.

Although there’s only an $80 difference between these platform hitch racks, if the price is your top consideration, 1Up’s 2” Heavy Duty Double starts the lowest at $569 but can climb considerably higher. At $649, the Kuat NV 2.0 and Yakima Dr. Tray are the most expensive.

However, if you’re looking for the lightest rack, Dr. Tray comes in a svelte 41 lbs, whereas the RockyMounts Backstage Swing Away tops the scale at nearly 20 pounds heavier. At 52 pounds each, the Thule T2 weighs the same as the NV 2.0, but the former also has the largest footprint of the bunch.

How about the most carrying capacity? The Heavy Duty Double’s 150 lb limit earn it the top position by a large margin, followed by the NV 2.0, T2 Pro, and Backstage Swing Away with 120 lbs each.

With an 80 lb capacity, Dr. Tray can carry the least weight. In fact, even though the Kuat Add-On is only an extension, it boasts the same bike weight limit.

The NV 2.0 and 1Up models are the only platform racks that can optionally carry up to four bikes, and they’re competitively priced: the Kuat with Add-On is $1,088, whereas two single extensions for the 1Up will bring your total to $1,007.

But, if having access to an integrated work stand is at the top of your must-haves list, the NV 2.0 is currently the only game in town.

Bottom Line: Is Kuat’s NV 2.0 the “Best, Most Advanced Platform Rack on the Market?”

The bottom line is that terms like “best” and “most advanced” are highly subjective, especially within the cycling industry.

But, with its foot-action pivot lever, adjustable front wheel trays, Add-On for extra bike-carrying capacity, quick setup, easily replaceable parts, and stellar customer support, I can that it’s been a joy using the Kuat NV 2.0 over the past year and a half, including several long-distance road trips.

And based on what other online customers report, it seems most experience much of the same. If you’re in the market, I’d highly recommend checking it out.

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>> Keep rolling: Park Tool PCS-10 Review

Derek is an avid cyclist with more than two decades of experience in the sport, and currently resides in Denver, Colorado. He enjoys all types, including road, MTB, cyclocross/gravel, commuting, and touring. When he's not writing reviews and guides related to bike accessories, parts, and gear for TreadBikely.com, he's riding, talking about cycling, or thinking about bikes he can't afford. #rolloutblissout
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