I prefer tray-style hitch racks over roof racks for several reasons. Most roof racks–especially the tray-style ones that don’t require wheels to come off–are very bulky, create a ton of wind noise, and reduce fuel economy. And that’s before even putting a bike on them. Then there’s the lifting part. If you’ve got anything with a higher roof than a normal sedan, you’ve got to be pretty tall, or stand on your door sill to hoist bikes up there. Not ideal.
But what if you do have a regular car? Get a 1 1/4-inch hitch installed (they can fit on almost any car) and buy a Saris Freedom Superclamp; it’s worth the $430 price tag. I have a 1999 Audi A4 wagon with the ground clearance of a dachshund, and this rack seems like it was designed specifically with low hitches in mind (mine is just 8 inches off the ground). The main support comes out of the hitch and angles up almost immediately, creating extra clearance. I still have to drive carefully through steep curb-cuts, and I do still drag it occasionally, but less frequently than with other hitch racks I’ve tried. Thankfully, there are no delicate components in the line of fire.
I know, if I’d just followed the SoCal model when I moved here, and gotten a lifted truck with black rims and horrible fuel economy (and never drove it off road), ground clearance wouldn’t be an issue in the first place. Fair enough, but ground clearance is just one thing that makes the Freedom Superclamp 2-Bike awesome. It may seem like the fact that it doesn’t stow up or tilt down for trunk clearance is a negative, but this simplicity makes the rack super stable. There’s no pivot anywhere, and thus also virtually no wobble. There’s no knob or lever to get caught up, and nothing to fail. I once had a hitch rack tilt down while doing 80 miles per hour on the highway. Aside from the spark show that ensued, it wasn’t the coolest experience. Of course, the inability to fold up and out of the way when bikes aren’t on does sometimes have me missing the spots I used to be able to parallel park in.
Unlike other racks that have a wheel hook for the front wheel and a strap for the rear, the Freedom Superclamp has hooks for front and rear. Each of the two solidly-constructed upright arms have a hook on either side. Simply unfold the arms, place bikes in the adjustable trays, angle the arm anywhere over the tire and push the hook down. The pivots on the main arms allow them to swing easily, with virtually zero side-to-side play. It’s by far the fastest rack I’ve used, and it holds bikes very solidly. Bikes won’t wobble around, shift, or bang into each other.
The built-in lock slides out from either end of the horizontal support and will dissuade opportunistic nabbers, but doesn’t stand a chance against bike thieves with basements full of stolen smiles. A couple passes with a set of handheld cable snips will sever the cable, so I’d recommend enhanced security for anything longer than a six-pack stop. And, while I’d like to see something more substantial, there’s not a bike rack out there that offers actual security, so I can’t really fault Saris here. The Freedom Superclamp also comes with a lockable hitch pin, keyed to match the cable lock.
I’ve had the Freedom Superclamp on my car for six months now, and it’s holding up perfectly. Though I’m not a huge fan of the aesthetics of the yellow accents, I’ll gladly ignore that minor rub for the rack’s stability and ease of use.