A fter a terrible experience with the Recon Rack (that saga could easily be a whole new post), the 1UP Heavy Duty hitch rack has been like a breath of fresh air.
Within two weeks of getting the rack last year, we set off on an epic voyage to Moab, UT for a week of biking mayhem. The truck was stuffed with five bikes… four on the 1UP hitch rack, and one in the bed of the truck. I was nervous at first about the hitch locking mechanism (and still am, to be honest). The 1UP rack does not use a standard locking hitch pin to secure the rack to the hitch. Instead, it relies upon a bolt that when tightened, forces a ball to wedge against the rack draw bar and the inside of hitch tube. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. The reality is that you stick the rack into the hitch, tighten the security bolt (which has a special hex bolt pin head), and the rack is tight and wobble-free.
- 1UP USA website"
I don’t have a ton of faith in the "security" bolts that 1UP uses. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, but simply because I don’t think it would be that hard for a thief to procure or make the special hex key needed. 1UP does sell a drop-in "Hitch Bar Lock" that prevents access to the bolt head, meaning you can't loosen the rack from the vehicle hitch. However, after seeing how easy it is to break most 1/2" locking hitch pins (videos here and here), I don’t put much faith in the 1/4" shaft of 1UP’s lock. Instead, I now wrap a hardened steel chain and lock from Kryptonite around the bottom bar of the 1UP rack and lock it to one of the steel "ears" on my truck’s hitch (where you would normally attach a trailer's safety chains).
On to the rack itself. It’s made almost entirely of aluminum (with steel hardware), and made in the USA! The base rack holds 2 bikes, and with the Heavy Duty rack, you can attach up to 2 more with the "Quick Rack Add On" racks. In it’s standard configuration, the rack will fit up to 3.25" tires. 1UP also makes a fat bike conversion kit, which I installed on one of my add-on racks, that will allow fitment of 3.1" - 4.9" tires. I’ve had it loaded with a friend’s Surly Wednesday and his 4.5" tires were no big deal. The rack arms open like vertical suicide doors, and clamp down over the top of the tires. Loading and unloading is extremely easy, and you adjust the position of each bike on the rack super easily to avoid bike-to-bike contact. The rack also easily pivots up flat against the vehicle when not in use, and can pivot down low to allow the opening of a rear hatch or door, even with bikes loaded. Though it should be noted that trying to lift the rack back into position with four bikes on it is no easy task and usually requires two people (one to unlock the rack’s position bar, and one to simultaneously lift the bikes/rack).
Moab, the first major maiden voyage with my 1UP (fully loaded with 4 bikes) proved rather uneventful. Over the course of several hundred miles of driving and shuttling, none of the bikes came loose and there were no major complications or issues with the rack. I did obsessively re-tighten the hitch bolt, which did seem to loosen some each day with the four bikes bouncing around on rough roads. The rack never moved or threatened to come out however. I also have to admit it was a bit disconcerting to watch the bikes in the rearview mirror when on rough roads or hitting bumps. Because of the pivot system that allows the rack to move into different positions (up when not in use, down to open a tailgate/rear hatch), there is a tiny bit of play in the pivot lock bar that translates to a bit of free up-down movement of the rack platform. In the rearview — with the movement of the vehicle itself, plus probably some flex in the rack itself, plus that up-down play in the pivot — it looks like a scary amount of bouncing is going back there. Over the months of using this rack, I have learned it’s totally harmless and normal.
This is no fault of 1UP’s, but I will say that I would caution against using a hitch rack of this style on smaller vehicles. Even on my lifted 1/2-ton Ford F-150, I can easily feel the weight of 4 bikes fully loaded on the rack. The suspension definitely wallows a bit more on highway woops and bumps. I have to imagine that despite each bike weighing less than the rated 50lbs maximum, the cumulative rack weight, plus the fact that all that weight is levered out over 4-feet off the back of the hitch, creates a helluva a lot of torque on the rear of the vehicle. Four average 35lbs. bikes (140lbs.), plus the weight of the rack itself (84lbs. including two add-ons) is a substantial 220+ lbs. You’ll see what I mean when you try to lift the lowered rack back into position with bikes loaded. I would advise caution on smaller vehicles that aren’t design to tow, like a Subaru, or short wheelbase vehicles where the center of gravity could shift backward when the rack is fully loaded.