Hitch racks are great. They get the bikes out of the wind. They’re easy to load (especially with the tray style). And they are available in styles to fit a huge range of bikes. The one thing they’re not good for? Access to the trunk.
For years, this has been addressed with racks like the Yakima Full Swing, which allow the rack to swing away from the vehicle. However, they’ve almost always been limited to the traditional two-arm style rack – not all that convenient for modern mountain bikes, or bikes you don’t want banging into each other.
Because of that, 2017 must have been the year of the swing away platform rack as a few different brands launched new options. Among them – the new Kuat Pivot hitch adapter, and the Rocky Mounts Backstage.
Starting with the Kuat Pivot, this piece of hardware is obviously an adapter and not a complete rack. That gives you options when it comes to what you want to do with it. Partnering with RakAttach for the design, the Pivot is essentially a mass produced version of their medium RakAttach. That means it measures 30″ long, 8″ tall, and 15″ deep (measuring just the metal structure). Priced at $295, the Pivot includes a locking hitch pin, but you’ll still need to supply the bike rack.
As a friend pointed out, the Pivot is a substantial piece of hardware. The steel construction of the 2″ only adapter results in a 47lb weight (46lb claimed). Remember that this is just for the adapter. Add in a two bike hitch rack like the Kuat NV 2.0 (which weighs 53.8lbs) and you’re looking at 100lbs before you add bikes. The good news is that the Pivot has a 250lb weight limit thanks to its burly construction so a four bike rack plus four reasonable bikes shouldn’t be a problem. And since the adapter is separate from the rack, you can take them apart to make it easier to move around the garage.
With all that weight, the Pivot needs to be stout to swing freely – and it is. Two thermoplastic skid plates are built into the bottom portion of the rack to support the upper structure and allow it to glide smoothly, and the pivot features massive hardware that’s up to the task.
Equipped with a simple mechanical lock, the rack has an additional fail safe with the safety pin. To open the Pivot, flip the latch down, remove the pin, swing away, and install the pin in the corner hole to keep the rack in place. All of this can be done with the rack fully loaded for quick and easy access to the back of the vehicle.
As you might expect, once you mount the Pivot to the vehicle and then the rack to the Pivot, it does stick out quite a bit from the bumper. Depending on the rack that you’re using, you can choose one of two different mounting holes on the Pivot (shown above with the NV 2.0 in the hole closest to the vehicle.
Ironically, it sticks out far enough that I can open the tailgate on my Honda Element completely without needing to swing the rack away (with the rack empty).
And if you’re carrying road bikes, you might even be able to access the trunk without swinging the rack away when loaded as well. Mountain bike handlebars are wide enough that they prevent the upper hatch from clearing the handlebars, though.
This is what you’re really after though – completely unfettered access to the trunk. Whether you’re car camping, using the tailgate as a bench, or just trying to get big items in or out, this makes it all worth it. With or without bikes, the whole process takes seconds and very little strength.
Unfortunately, it’s not all roses – at least for me. As I discovered on the Rocky Mounts Backstage as well, swing away racks can be a problem when it comes to exhaust pipe placement. On my Element (SC model, 2″ hitch), the Pivot sits directly in front of the exhaust pipe.
The hitch itself has two mounting holes, but the Pivot requires the hole closest to the vehicle which makes the adapter sit closer to the bumper. That’s because the Pivot uses a hitch pin with a larger thread than most racks. On my hitch, only the first hole was big enough for the bolt to pass through it, so I’m forced to use that location. It also required removing some excess metal from the hitch (that’s utilized for mounting to a different vehicle) and cutting away some of the plastic to get the wrench in place. Fortunately, Kuat includes an 8mm allen fitting in the middle of the bolt so you don’t have to use the 24mm wrench.
As I found out on the Rocky Mounts Backstage (review to follow right after this one in part 2), the proximity of the rack to the exhaust can cause issues – like melted plastic pieces. On long drives, it also seems to cause exhaust soot to blow back onto the car, leaving the back end and the bikes coated in a fine dust (the photos above show the car covered in road salt, not exhaust soot).
It was suggested that I try a different exhaust tip that pointed the exhaust gasses downward, away from the rack, but so far I haven’t found the right solution. I didn’t want to permanently alter the exhaust so I’ve been looking for a bolt-on tip in the right diameter, and the closest thing I’ve found so far doesn’t quite miss the rack. So far, nothing has melted on the Pivot, but it does get pretty hot after a short drive (the Rocky Mounts sits another 6″ away from the tail pipe and still reaches temperatures upwards of 130°f on a short drive). Fortunately there is a lot of metal to act as a heat sink, and if the skid plates don’t melt, there’s little plastic on the Pivot to worry about.
According to rack manufactures, the reason the adapters all sit to the right is so that the rack doesn’t swing into oncoming traffic if you’re parked on the street – which makes sense. Realistically, this will be a vehicle specific issue that may or may not actually be a problem. I’ll come back to this if I find a better answer for the exhaust issue short of replacing the entire tail pipe.
Overall, the Pivot seems to be an extremely well built piece of kit that provides a much needed feature to any 2″ bike rack. It is on the heavy side, but hopefully that’s an indication of durability down the road. If it wasn’t for the exhaust issue, I would recommend the Pivot in an instant. If your vehicle has the exhaust pipe on the left hand side or if it’s aimed in a way that that isn’t directly pointed at the rack, then absolutely. Otherwise, you may need to modify your exhaust to guarantee that there aren’t any issues. For now, I’ll keep using the Pivot to see if the exhaust will adversely affect the rack – or if it just gets dirty.
Want a specific swing away rack that’s lighter? We’ve got the Rocky Mounts Backstage review coming up next.