I got a new X-Trail and we named her Alex! With her comes the challenge of finding a good and secure way to transport my bikes. (Notice the "s"? Naks! Plural na!)
The cheapest would be to just fold the rear seats and just toss the bike in. It's secure and there's no additional cost. Of course when the bike is all wet and muddy, then that translates to a wet and muddy interior as well. Not a good thing.
Next option is to go with the roof-mounted bike rack. With some luck, the Thule crossbar and bike racks from the Civic might still fit. But because this is a compact SUV, it's just too high to put a bike on the roof. I also run the risk of getting my bike snagged in tree branches, electric wires, and banderitas.
I thought of getting a trunk-mounted bike rack, but I found it flimsy. Accessing the trunk after it's installed is hard, and from my experience years ago with my first rack, it leaves scratches and marks on the trunk. Nope. Next.
I saw Edmund's Sea Suckers when we biked in La Mesa a few months back. I thought about it. Once properly set-up, it was solid. It's only downside is security. Because it doesn't lock the bike to the vehicle in some way, I feel I cannot leave my car unattended in an SLEX gas station to do a quick weewee break.
This is why I chose to go for the hitch. But I have to tell you, it's so damn expensive. Alex doesn't come with a hitch receiver, so I had to have that installed first before I went shopping for a hitch-mounted bike rack.
As much as possible, I was looking for a hitch that's bolted on. I don't want one that required cutting or welding. This is precisely what the guys from OGP Hitch offered.
I have to be honest. I only found them online through Sulit, so I was hesitant to have my brand new baby handled by someone who doesn't have a brick and mortar operation. Only after reading their customers' reviews and a having a few text exchanges with Grace, the owner, warmed me up to the concept, which eventually convinced me to go for them.
My hitch costs P11,000 including the installation. They required a P2,000-deposit, which can be deposited to their BPI or Security Bank accounts. After that, we agreed on a date for the installation.
Talk about hands-on. That's Phil, Grace's husband, getting down and dirty, installing my hitch receiver.
There's the finished product. Clean. No cutting. No welding. That's a nice installation.
The day after I got "hitched" (I'm sorry, I just had to say it), I went looking for a bike rack. Actually it's a temporary one while I wait for the Thule EuroClassic that I ordered from Extreme Bike Shop. This is when I stumbled upon Buzzrack's Buzzrunner Hitch.
In fairness, medyo tumu-Thule with the dynamic bike frame holders. It can carry up to three bikes, with a maximum of 33 pounds per bike. It can also tilt even with the bikes secured to give access to the trunk. Price is P10,000.
Here's the rack all folded up. There's no tilt functionality when it's in this state. You will have to unscrew the pin and pull down the tray to do that.
Here's a shot from the side of the car. See that little tube protruding from the bottom of the car? That's the only thing holding your bike. Scary.
Here's a shot from the back of the car.
Patience is required when one sets this up for the first time. I was sweating like a pig as I figure out how to fit my bike securely on this contraption. When that's done, loading bikes will just take a few seconds.
With the rack installed, I had to give it a go. And that's just what we did last Sunday. Rommel and I did a short road trip to Batangas City for a "newbie" ride. We loaded my 29-pound Tracer and his 23-pound Anthem for a mountain bike ride.
The Buzzrack Buzzrunner Hitch was well-behaved. From the rearview mirror I saw the bikes were bouncing up and down when the road was less than ideal, but the play isn't excessive. It was able to live up to its promise and bring our bikes in one piece.
The rack also came with locks: one for securing it to the hitch receiver, and the others for securing the bikes. This is quite convenient. Unlike other hitch racks, I don't need to use a cable lock to secure the bike. I can do a roadside gas station weewee break in peace.
I only noticed a few drawbacks. First, it renders my rear sensor worthless. Second, visibility may be compromised. It's great that the X-Trail have lights on the pillars, but that's not the case for all vehicles. Integrated lights that attaches to the car would be ideal. Lastly, compared to a roof rack, my bike gets dirtier when I drive in the rain.
Overall, I'd say the Buzzrack Buzzrunner Hitch is still pretty good deal. For less than a price of a Thule, you get stable and secure rack that can load up to three bikes. It's good enough to make me consider if this is just a transition bike rack. Of course this is just my first test. Succeeding road trips will reveal more of its secrets.
This is a side view of the bike rack with the Tracer and the Anthem loaded. With two bikes, it looks pretty spacious, but it seems tight with three.
Here's a view of the rack from the right side. Notice how it obstructs the view of the vehicle's plate number.