Review: Saris Gran Fondo bike rack
As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, when it comes to researching bicycle related products I’m nothing short of thorough and being one of those irritating people who can’t make up their mind without considering absolutely every possibility as though it’s the last decision I’ll make in life, choosing a car bike rack took an extremely long time.
After scrapping the third second hand car I’d bought in as many years, Dave and I backtracked on what we’d previously said about buying a new one and went for the teeniest, cheapest little car we could find, a Vauxhall Corsa, and so rather than chucking all our bikes in the back of an estate like we’d previously done, we were left wondering how to best transport our bicycles.
As we live down Devon’s extremely narrow lanes, we ruled out a regular rear mounted bike rack as our beloved cycles would stick out wider than the back of the car. The other option was a roof mounted bike rack but even though I’m reasonably strong, I figured lifting a bike up and onto a car was not exactly going to be easy. Plus I’d need a bloody ladder!
The Saris Gran Fondo from Paligap seemed to be the perfect solution as it hangs the bikes vertically on the back of the car, it works for multiple wheels sizes and eliminates the need to clamp any part of the frame. It also means your number plate remains visible so you don’t need to buy a new one to hang. According to the manufacturers it fits multiple car sizes, and certainly we had no problems on our little vehicle. There is a weight limit of 35lbs per bike, so if you ride DH make sure you check your bike is within the limit before transporting it.
Initial assembly had me briefly confused, though actually ended up not taking too long. Attaching the rack to the car was very straightforward though fairly nerve-racking as we had to hook various pieces of metal onto our brand new car, and even though the hooks were rubberized they were very hard so I slipped some inner tube over them for additional protection. Four large rubber feet spread the load across the bodywork and rear windscreen, then you’ve got long ratchet straps to ensure nothing wiggles about.
The bikes are attached by lifting the front wheel into the top ‘cup’ whilst resting the rear wheel on the lower cup. The size of the top cup is easily changed to accommodate 26inch, 700c wheels and 29ers and you can move the rear wheel cup up and down to fit longer or shorter bikes. Other wheel sizes are not officially catered for, but we put two BMXs on there and didn’t encounter any problems.
A plastic ratchet strap secures the wheels in place. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to leave your bikes on the car whilst you go anywhere as a thief could just undo the straps or cut the webbing and remove the whole rack, but I never used to leave my bikes inside my old car so it doesn’t make a difference to me.
I have to admit, Dave and I were pretty scared that the whole thing was going to end in disaster with bikes falling off and smashing the rear windscreen – quite why we thought someone would manufacture, market and sell something that didn’t work I don’t know! Somewhat nervously, we drove all the way to Sheffield for our maiden voyage and I’m happy to say that the rack turned out to be secure and reliable. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever be 100% comfortable seeing my bikes bounce up and down as we go over speed bumps, but that’s more to do with my own neuroses than anything to do with the rack. Certainly, it’s been great so far!
After several hundred miles we had to tighten the straps to stop the rack moving slightly, but that’s to be expected and I’d encourage anyone using a bike rack to check it regularly anyhow.
In conclusion, the Saris Gran Fondo is a great rear mounted bike rack for those wanting to transport two bikes very easily, without the fear of oncoming drivers smashing into wheels sticking out on either side of your car. It’s a hell of a lot easier to attach your bike than the other alternative; a roof mounted rack, though if you’re weak or short I guess you could struggle to heave your front wheel up onto the top cup. Lightweight, rust free aluminium means it should last a long time, and the fact you don’t have to clamp your frame is a real bonus. At £200, it’s not cheap, but it performs well and looks good. Recommended.