As much as living a car-free life is the state of nirvana many of us dedicated cyclists aim towards, in nearly three decades that hasn’t come anywhere near approaching reality for me. Indeed, sometimes the car is absolutely essential to getting a great (or sometimes any) ride in. Most of you know what I’m talking about from having negotiated riding partway out to some family event and having the family pick you up en route.
In my case, I live in a fabulous cycling area with quiet rural roads right outside my front door and good trails within riding distance for me. However, with my two boys getting into trail riding with me but not strong enough yet to ride to the trailhead and back, the car has become an essential cycling accessory. Have any of you tried fitting one kid’s bike, let alone two plus your own, into any car smaller than a cargo van?
So with those plus your typical riding and racing needs, I’ve been on the lookout for a versatile and easy-to-use rack. Luckily, Saris has been thinking of people like me in designing their multiple models of rear-end racks, and sent along their Bones RS.
Off the Back
There are tons of great options for roof racks out there, but Saris has opted to focus their energies on designing racks for the rear of the car. Apart from carving out a distinct niche, there are several practical benefits:
1. Fuel savings. Roof racks are terrific, but the aerodynamic drag of a roof rack and bikes on top of the car can be huge. Recently, my friend Geoff and I drove 600 km to Ottawa for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour with our two road bikes on his roof rack, a trip that he can usually just manage, without roof rack or bikes, on a single full tank of gas. No such luck this time, with our making about 500 km. Having the bike in the slipstream behind the car should reduce the aero drag, and what cyclist wouldn’t love to lower their drag numbers?
2. With some cars getting absurdly big and tall, rear racks can make it much easier to load bikes than a roof rack.
3. Two words: Parking Garage!
No Hitch, No Hassle
Saris makes some excellent hitch rack options, but that doesn’t help those of us who don’t have or don’t want hitches on their cars. The Bones RS is a jack-of-all-trades rack that is designed for maximal versatility in being able to be mounted on most cars, whether they be sedans, hatchbacks, or vans.
The rack height adjusts simply (see the notches) to adapt to different vehicles, and the rubber feet adjusts to different surfaces and provide a soft yet solid grip to the Bones.
The big advance with the Bones RS over the traditional Bones is the lack of six webbed straps hooking onto multiple sites along the car, each of which needing to be adjusted each time and each a potential site of rubbing and abrasion against the car.
Instead, only two very tough and fully padded straps hook onto the top of your rear trunk or window, along with two other padded hooks for the bottom of the trunk or window. The connection is solid enough that side straps are simply not necessary.
Seriously simple. The world record time for solving a Rubik’s cube blindfolded is 25 s, and that’s about the time it should take to install the Bones RS on your car after the first adjustment.
In my case, it was pretty brainless installing onto my sedan, even with the little spoiler sticking up. However, if you’re driving this car, you’re probably out of luck with ANY rack.
The simple lock design flips a solid nub and secures your rack to the car, adding to peace of mind. Make sure to lock your bike to the rack though!
Solid Bike Grip
The rack-to-car connection is one half of the equation, the other half is how well the rack holds your bikes. Saris splits their bike-holding philosophy into two designs. One is the “hold the bike by the wheels” design like their Gran Fondo and Thelma racks. These work great because it won’t have any chance of scuffing your frame, and can accommodate all sorts of funky mountain bike designs.
For simplicity of design, the Bones RS goes with a “hold the bike” design, specifically two arms for the top tube to rest on. That, coupled with a third strap wrapping around the down tube, does a good job of keeping the bike stable even while driving at speed.
While things are fairly secure as is, it always would be better to put some padding between bikes on the Bones RS to prevent any frame rub.
If you’re riding really deep carbon wheels, you might want to take one or both wheels off, as the wind can really take hold of that extra surface area.
Protecting the Bike
When it comes to protecting their bikes on racks, some are more fastidious than others. Yes you can wrap up all the bike tubes and spots in contact with the rack with foam or bubble wrap insulation and it’s highly admirable, but it’s nice to know that Saris has us covered even if we forget such niceties.
The straps are easy clicking ones that are simple to wrap around your bike, adjust, and release. The insides (light grey) are padded with a tough plastic with some give to avoid abrasions.
Bare Bones but Versatile
Road bikes are pretty easy to accommodate with the Bones RS’s “hold the bike” design, as the traditional diamond shape design is king. But like I wrote at the top, one of the things I really wanted the rack for was to take my kids out to the trails with me.
No problems with three road bikes.
With a bit of planning, there’s no issue with putting an adult mountain bike, a youth-sized mountain bike, and a kid’s bike on the Bones RS, and all very solid and stable.
Here’s a handy pice of video featuring Sarah form Saris explaining the Bones RS:
The biggest design advantage of the Bones RS is its simplicity and versatility. Chances are that it can fit most any car and also cradle any bike, from high-end road bike through to mountain bike and kid’s bikes. The rack’s other big advantage is its ease of installation, such that it can be thrown into the trunk or a spare seat and installed in half a minute or less. So if you have multiple cars, this is likely the one and only rack that you would need for most every purpose, and priced at US $299.99 it’s a great value.
For more information on the Bones RS and other rear-rack options, check out www.saris.com.