Kuat Transfer 3 Bike Rack
Kuat Transfer 3 Bike Rack
A review of the Kuat Transfer 3 Bike Rack
When I review something, I strive to make sure it has context. I look for threads and stories and try to follow them, even across the years I’ve been writing these reviews. The last time I reviewed a bike rack, it was the Yakima TwoTimer way back in 2015, and the core of that story was essentially that the Yakima TwoTimer was the best value available for a hitch mount tray style rack. So how would the Kuat Transfer 3 Bike Rack fare?
I covered some of the reasons why hitch mount was a good choice, and why I would recommend sticking to a tray mount. Bottom line, a hitch is easy to add, easy to load, and a tray style won’t scratch your bikes. Looking back at that review, I thought a good way to follow the same line of thinking would be to look at the best of the best when it comes to tray style hitch racks. Of course, the best is subjective, but one brand that immediately jumped to mind was Kuat.
The Kuat NV 2.0 is a premium option that might be the best on the market. When I started talking to Kuat something else emerged, though. A more interesting story came to the forefront, and that story revolved around the Kuat Transfer. It’s a budget model in the lineup, but it retains the quality build Kuat is known for while at the same time, bringing a very unique feature to the table.
So, what’s the big story, the unique selling point, and the thing that has me so excited about this rack? The Kuat Transfer is available for one, two, or three bikes, and the Kuat Transfer 3-bike rack stands alone among Thule, Yakima, Saris, Swagman, and Rockymounts as the only 3-bike capable rack that will fit a 1.25” receiver hitch. That’s huge. But it turns out there’s more to the story.
There’s a bit of small print that I didn’t immediately see, and I’ve struggled with how to report on. If you look closely, Kuat states that the 3-bike version of the Transfer should only be used on a class 2 hitch. Before I get into the details of what that means, I have to say that I tested the rack on my 2012 Kia Soul and class 1 hitch by driving an hour and a half, each direction, in a ridiculous storm to compete in a gravel race. I don’t want to advise that you ignore the recommendations of Kuat, but their recommendation is odd, and that’s why I’ve struggled with how to report on this.
A class 1 hitch and a class 2 hitch are pretty similar. These are the hitches you’ll find available for cars and smaller sport utility vehicles. They both use a 1.25” receiver, but a class 1 hitch has a 200lb max tongue weight, vs 300lb for class 2, and a 2000lb gross trailer weight, vs 3500lb for a class 2 hitch. Generally speaking, you aren’t going to be able to buy a hitch for your vehicle that’s widely out of proportion to your towing capacity. A Kia Soul can’t manage to pull much, so there’s only a class 1 hitch available.
What makes the Kuat recommendation odd to me is the weight of the Transfer 3-Bike rack is 52lbs and the max weight for each bike is 40lbs. That means that even with bike weights maxed out, the overall weight will be a good amount less than the max tongue capacity that a class 1 hitch is rated for.
When I asked Kuat about this, I didn’t get a clear answer. The first person I spoke with said that it’s possible that the bar connecting the rack to the hitch might bend. The moment I hung up, though, I immediately realised that did not make sense since nothing changes about the rack if you connect it to a class 1 vs a class 2 hitch. When I spoke to them again, there were no specific reasons given just that Kuat cares about your bike, and they want to make sure it stays safe. I’m not sure where to go with that, so I’m just reporting all the details, and you can make your own decision.
I think there are a likely a couple of reasons they are being cautious. One real issue is that when you press the foot bar that releases the rack, allowing access to the rear of your car without taking the bikes off the rack, the end of the rack rests on the ground. I don’t know every vehicle that has a class 2 hitch available, but I would bet that most of them have more ground clearance, and with more ground clearance, the rack would be less likely to touch the ground.
The other issue is less concrete but might be worth considering. Although the rack and bikes are well under the recommendations for a class 1 hitch, the 3-bike Transfer does extend quite a ways out from the hitch and that, obviously, creates greater leverage. It’s impossible to know if that’s a factor, though, and even if it were an issue, is the difference between the 2-bike and the 3-bike really that significant?
As I said early on, the story in my eyes of the Kuat Transfer 3-bike rack is the fact that it will fit a 1.25” hitch, but despite the generous space I’ve given to running through the details of that, there is more to the rack than just hitch compatibility. When you unbox the rack the first time, there’s a pretty solid assembly in front of you.
As many parents will undoubtedly understand, I had to split this into a couple of sessions, but overall assembly took about an hour and a half and was straight forward. Kuat provides good instructions and even a very substantial wrench to make the whole process easier. My one point of caution is that the tire trays have a nut embedded in them and as you tighten the bolt into that nut, it will pull out of the plastic and snug up against the rail. It’s actually pretty genius, but if you put the wrong piece on and tighten it down, it can be really difficult to back it off again. Just make sure you’ve got the right piece before you tighten it down. This is the standard measure twice/cut once recommendation.
Once you’ve got the Kuat Transfer 3-bike rack assembled, using it is as simple as could be. As mentioned above, the rack weighs in at 52lbs, so moving it around isn’t something I love doing, but for a three bike rack, the weight makes sense. Unlike the Yakima rack which comes standard with a lock, preventing removal of the rack from the hitch, the $398 retail price for the Kuat Transfer 3-bike rack does not include any locks. If you’d like a lock, it’s sold separately for $49.99 and also includes a cable lock for the bikes as well.
You’ll also have to check the accessories section if you need to accommodate phat bike tires, although the $10 it will cost you only buys extensions for the tire straps as the actual trays are wide enough already. At the other extreme, I have tested a 20” wheel bike and found that it does work, although the length of the full bike means it’s not long enough to sit in the trays without the front tire being secured.
One big feature of this rack, which does not require any accessory, is the ability to tilt. Reaching the tilt release can be a bit of a challenge with three bikes loaded up, but once you do reach it, you can tilt the whole rack away from the car enough to allow access to the rear.
The bottom line is that the Kuat Transfer 3-bike rack is incredibly well made and totally unique in the market. I ran through a lot of detail about class 1 vs class 2 hitches, but whatever you decide you feel comfortable with, there is no other 3 bike rack that will fit a 1.25” receiver hitch. That opens up family biking options for a lot of people who otherwise might not be able to transport three bikes. It’s price of $398 is incredibly competitive, and none of the quality Kuat is known for gets lost.