a Cross Country Rider
from Oak Ridge
Date Reviewed: May 22, 2008
Strengths: Inexpensive, well built, well designed, sway free, cheap shipping, great customer service
Weaknesses: Heavy, Poor Assembly Instructions
We needed a four bike hitch rack for a cross-country trip, didn't want the bikes getting banged up, didn't want to struggle with roof racks. We looked at Yakster, Thule, Yakima, Sportrack, etc... Swagman and Sportrack were the only racks under five hudred dollars! We choose the Swagman because it had the nicest finish and was a little less expensive that the Sportrack brand
The Swagman is a great rack for the money, bar none! Inexpensive, durable, excellent fit and finish, highly functional. Why pay more for a name, Yakima and Thule need to get their prices, down, Swagman has them beat at less than half the price. Imagine spending $600 for a Yakster or other big name rack! I got a killer rack for $250 delivered! They even sent me a free hitch lock!!
See these folks for purchasing, great customer service: http://www.swagmanbikeracks.com/shopnew/product.php?productid=16164&cat=24&page=1
Similar Products Used: Yakima, Thule, etc... lots of junk
Bike Setup: Mostly Hardtails and SS
a Weekend Warrior
from Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Date Reviewed: July 22, 2003
Strengths: Simple attachment and detachment from vehicle using a 2" hitch receiver mount; good quality bike clamps with built-in rubber protectors for the frame; clamps can be rotated to support non-horizontal top tubes without requiring an adapter; screw-down clamps can be key-locked for additional security (only one clamp supplied standard with key-lock).
Weaknesses: Rack needed modifying for the tilt-down design to work correctly; still need additional strapping to tie-down the bike (or worry that you are going to crush your frame); may not work with all 2" hitch receivers; no provision for mounting a bicycle number plate (mandatory in Victoria, Australia); small frames may have trouble clearing the clamp bodies.
The model I'm referring to is the 64960 XP 4-bike carrier with tilt-down capability. In Australia, this is one of the more expensive bike carriers on the market, but it does come with features that make it worth it (rotating frame clamps and good rubber padding). We wanted a bike carrier that was very easy to attach/detach (this certainly fits the bill), and we needed to be able to carry 4 bikes.
After putting the unit together I found that the tilt-down capability would not work. In reality I don't think it is a particularly useful feature but the principal was that the rack should work as stated. 4 bikes on a rack would weigh about 50-60 kgs (110-130 lbs) so tilting the rack with that much weight on it seems a little unlikely. It might be okay with 1 or 2 bikes on it, however. The other point is that when the rack is tilted, and assuming the bikes don't twist in their cradles (ie. to return to a vertical position owing to gravity) then I wonder if tilting the rack puts an unnatural twisting force on the top tube of the frame.
The reason the tilt-down feature didn't work is that there is an elongated hole (or slot) in which a bolt needs to be able to slide smoothly. On my build, this slot was simply too tight for the bolt to slide, and hence no tilt-action. It was obviously a manufacturing defect of some kind. My first thought was to return this rack, because at this price you expect it to behave as advertised, but that seemed like a hassle so I just used a file to enlarge the slot instead. All was OK after that.
The next drama was not the fault of the rack, but my towbar. I drive a GM Holden Commodore and just had a 1600kg (3500lbs) hitch towbar fitted. It turns out that the hole for the locking pin in this towbar is not centred to the centerline of the receiver. I can only imagine this has been done to prevent the tongue (the part that holds your towball) from being locked in place upside down. Sure enough, there was no way I could get a pin through the receiver and through the centred hole in the rack.
After contemplating what to do, such as manufacturing a new hitch tube for the rack, with an offset hole, I simply ended up drilling a new offset-hole into the existing hitch tube. This proved to be worthwhile anyway as it allowed me to position the bike rack closer to the car than the standard holes permit.
The instructions say to be wary about tightening the clamps too much, as they can crush the frame. This has caused me some grief, because I don't want to overtighten the clamps for fear of destroying my frame, but I find that even with good clamping force, the bikes will tend to start leaning (due to the pressure of the wind upon them) if travelling at 70-80 km/h or more. So instead of the bikes sitting vertically they start leaning over, which is very disconcerting. To combat this means we still end up tying the bikes to the vertical pole by means of old inner tubes, which keeps them in place.
I have successfully managed to load 4 bikes onto the rack but haven't actually tried driving the car with that many. My wife's previous bike (before her Giant Iguana) had the twin sloping down-tubes, and to fit this to the rack required that her water bottle cages be removed. The new Iguana (17") fits OK with the water bottle cage attached.
Most bike racks of these types will be quite loose in the receiver (thereby having a tendency to move around a bit) unless you use Swagman'sr locking mechanism or the receiver itself has a locking mechanism (ours simply has a bolt and locking nut that one can tighten to lock the hitch in place).
Despite the issue with the bikes tilting in the rack, we still consider this a very good rack and it seems solid when we're driving with the bikes on it.
The whole security/locking issue for the bikes is a little pointless in my opinion. Sure the locking knobs will prevent a casual thief from making off with the bike, but the fact of the matter is that the entire rack connects to its base section with two bolts, and anyone determined and armed with a spanner or ratchet could make off with a locked rack (and all the bikes on it) in less than a minute or so. So having locking knobs and locking hitch pins is fine, but the bolts themselves become the weakest link. I suppose you could put some Loctite or something on the threads.
The one final disappointment is that a rack of this quality does not come with any means of securing a bicycle rack registration plate to it. In Victoria this is a legal requirement if the bikes obscure the vehicle's registration plate (the bicycle rack registration plate is a smaller replica of your car's registration plate).
from New York
Date Reviewed: July 28, 2002
Strengths: Everything in a bike rack! This is a great product, searched EVERYWHERE to find not only a fold down four (4) bike rack of this quality, but for the best deal on it. Very strong, takes a beating, excellent construction.
If quality, service and ease of use are important, I would highly suggest a Swagman Bike Rack. I have been very impressed. Best place to purchase, including free shipping, is http://www.swagmanbikeracks.com