I first came across the unique verticle Northshore hitch-style rack out in Long Beach, Washington back in the autumn of 2015. I rented a Salsa Mukluk from Northwest Bicycle Improvement out of Roslyn Washington and they had one of these kick-ass racks on the back of the shop van. (photo below)
Since then we’ve tested and highlighted a number of other racks focussed on their ability to accommodate 4-5 inch tires. I always kept in the back of my mind this image of the Northshore hitch rack that could carry six fat-bikes on the back of a vehicle. Most of the racks that we’ve tested have had a two bike capacity. We’ve never seen Northshore at the big bike tradeshows, so we never developed a contact there. I tried to email them about a rack test and we never heard a peep back.
Then last fall, one of my amigos bought a Northshore NSR-4 and took it out to Moab and used it all last winter. He replaced a Thule T2 with the fat bike adapter kit that had rusted out. Over this past winter, I saw my first Northshore rack in Wisconsin at the Sweaty Yeti race. I asked the group of riders standing behind their car with the rack if it was their rack and all one of them said was ‘nope’. (Awkward!)
I sent another email to Northshore….and once again…they did not respond. I started to think that there was some sort of ‘code of silence’ about these racks. Undeterred, in Spring, mi amigo and I worked out a deal, where I’d get to test his 4 bike capacity Northshore and he’d get to try out my 1 Up USA 2 bike capacity hitch rack. Sort of a surreptitious pathway in the search for the best fat-bike hitch rack in the universe! (Spoiler Alert – this might be the only Fat-Bike Hitch Rack with up to a six bike capacity)
To understand how the NSR-4 works, we ‘borrowed’ their youtube video (above) that explains how the fork crown and back wheel are attached to the rack. We also should explain that the Northshore Rack is a rack designed by mountain bikers for mountain bikes. Their racks aren’t going to hold a road or cross bikes. If you have a suspension fork on your bike, the NSR-4 will hold it with ease.
So I’ve been testing a borrowed NSR rack for the last six weeks on the back of my SUV. The rack mounts into a 2″ receiver with a threaded anti-sway pin. The rack has two pivot points that allow the whole rack to drop out of the way of the rear door of the truck or fold in half and tuck behind the bumper for trips without bikes attached. The two pivot points are secured with cotter pins and add to the NSR-4’s practicality for full time, everyday use. The rack we tested was six months old. The effects of one Wisconsin winter were evident. Powder-coated steel and steel hardware are what most rack companies use and Northshore like Thule or Yakima make good racks, but they could be better if they included all stainless steel hardware…because rust never sleeps.
One of the things that I ran into was the fork crown on my Fatback Corvus was too large to fit all the way into the cradles on the rack (below)
I talked to Joe Warawa at Northshore and he said that they had run into that situation before with Specialized Fatboy carbon forks. He shared that the cradles could be modified to accommodate larger carbon fat-bike forks. The cradles are mild steel so cold forging (bending) them open just a bit would make for a better fit.
A Carver Carbon Fork fits into the standard cradle, and you can see the Corvus fork for comparison. One of the other things that I had to get used to (during the test) was to remember to run a bungee cord through the front wheels to keep them from spinning in the wind while driving. But after a few times, it became part of my NSR-4 SOP.
My wife, Bethany, loves this rack…because she’s a petite 5’2″ tall, I’ve become her personal bicycle butler (when it comes to taking bikes on and off of the truck). That’s something to consider if you have a tall vehicle and are not very tall yourself. The NSR-4 did a great job in the six weeks that we tested it out. The bikes mount and come off and are secured quickly and easily. On my truck, the bikes are completely in the slipstream of the vehicle and take up far less room than a more traditional horizontal fat-bike hitch rack with a 4 bike capacity. The NSR-4 has more rack capacity than I need. I only keep two seats in my truck, so a two bike capacity rack suits my needs, but if you’re looking for the best way to carry 4-6 mountain bikes of any wheel diameter or width; and any frame or suspension configuration…this might be the best hitch rack solution that I’ve ever seen. MSRP on the NSR-4 is $599 and the NSR-6 is $799.
For more information about Northshore Racks visit – http://www.northshoreracks.com/