While the tried-and-true roof rack may look the coolest, I'm not sure it's the most practical for larger SUVs and minivans. For one, the roof height on these larger vehicles can make it somewhat challenging for anybody under 6-foot tall to comfortably place their bicycle on the roof.
And with gasoline prices still climbing, who wants to waste any more fuel by placing more wind drag on top of their vehicle?
It's with these thoughts in mind that we decided to take a look at Yakima's Hookup, an aptly named hitch-mounted rack that can get you "hooked up" within seconds of deciding to tote your two-wheeled accessories.
What I truly liked about the hookup is its ease of installation. I don't know about you, but I can't stand being forced to read a complex set of directions to do anything. Give me the product and if I can figure out the assembly without having to read a 30-minute manual, I'm a happy camper.
With the hookup, I quickly scanned the completed diagram and it was so obvious how to put this puppy together that I quickly bolted the two bicycle rails to the main hitch unit and had the whole thing ready to accept my first bike in less than 10 minutes from opening the box.
Now that's what I call convenience.
Loading bikes was a snap
Loading two bicycles was truly a snap. There's no need to take any wheels off your bike. You only need to have adequate tire pressure in each tire, especially the front one since that's where the arm will hold your bicycle. Amazingly, no piece of this rack touches any part of your frame or fork.
To secure your bike, simply rest the bike onto the rail, lift the hookup arm over the front tire and push the locking unit onto the front tire so it rests about an inch in front of the front brake. Then you just push the sliding locking mechanism onto the tire till the bike is held tightly. Best part is you can push down on the arm and hear it click into place each time you push it further so you can get more micro-adjustments of tightness.
Once your front wheel is secure, you'll find the bike won't move but you'll still want to secure it completely by hooking the rear strap over the rim of your back wheel which secures the entire bicycle very well. These are the same kinds of straps you find on standard roof racks to hold the rear wheel down after securing front forks. It also bears noting that, with all these straps, one must be careful to thread the strap into the narrow receiving slot. I accidentally just pushed the strap in once, missing the correct slot and found that, while the strap would tighten this way, it was a bear to get undone.
I also found, quite to my surprise, that I didn't need to wrestle with holding the bicycle in place before I got the locking arm onto the front tire. It would just rest there, held by the grooves around both tires. Very nice.
To release the bike, just squeeze the red release button on the arm and the locking mechanism is free to slide up and release the front wheel. Undo the rear strap and your bike is off the rack in less than 10 seconds, literally. Actually, I bet I could do it in five seconds if somebody challenged me.
And putting the bicycle back on the Hookup is just as quick and easy.
No outward swing
Since I have a Honda Odyssey minivan, the Hookup sits behind my rear tailgate that swings upward. I've used hitch-mounted racks before and I especially like the ones that can swing out of the way when you need to open a tailgate.
Unfortunately, once you've loaded your Hookup, you can't swing it out of the way if you need to open the tailgate for any reason.
I realized quickly that I'd have to have everything loaded in the back of the minivan before loading the bikes because the only way to move the Hookup, once it's mounted into the 2" hitch receiver, is to fold it up and lock it into position with the large locking pin.
But the fold-up position only works when you have no bikes mounted. The reality is that I'd never keep the hookup mounted to my Odyssey because in the folded-up position, I can't get the tailgate open. This fold-up position is ideal for SUV owners that have a separate fold-up tailgate window that allows access to rear vehicle storage.
No locking mechanism
The other drawback to the Hookup is that it currently doesn't come with a locking mechanism such as the locking cores you get with most other Yakima rack systems.
Your only option is to cable lock the bicycle and wheels to the hitch mount, where you'll typically find large openings perfect for wrapping a cable around.
So there you have the tradeoffs, rocket-fast mounting and removing of your bicycles but no way to swing mounted bikes out of the way if you have a tailgate. Of course, since it's so easy to mount and remove bikes, you can simply remove and replace the bikes each time you want access to the rear tailgate. But that seems more hassle than it's worth for me, especially if you've got a cable and lock threaded through the wheels and frames.
Of course, you can also drive around with the Hookup locked into the down position, even when it's not carrying bikes, but you'll be hard-pressed to fit your vehicle inside a standard garage and backing up in tight parking lots will always prove problematic as you worry about ramming a parked vehicle with your Hookup.
There's also an add-on extension that allows you to increase your Hookup carrying capacity to four bikes.
If you're the type that just wants a way to carry your bikes on vacation, and rarely totes your bike around, then the Hookup is an awesome solution. When you're not using it, just slide it out of the 2" hitch receiver and stow it away. Come vacation time, you'll be confident you have the easiest and most painless way to transport your beloved two-wheeled buddies anywhere.
The Hookup will set you back a reasonable $349 suggested retail, complete with everything you need. For complete details, visit www.yakima.com or call