Hollywood Racks: Sport Rider 2- by Grannygear
Most of my rides begin from home and if I do travel, I tend to stuff the one bike into the hatchback. So most of the time I do not need a bike rack of any kind. But sometimes you need to carry multiple bikes or even just one bike outside the car, not inside. On those days, a good bike rack is nice to have. I have two Yakima set-ups from ‘back in the day’, but those are dedicated roof racks. I am not so crazy about roof racks anymore what with lifting a bike up there to begin with, the variety of front axle formats to match to the rack, and the decreased gas mileage with those sails up high above the car.
But Mrs. Grannygear tends to haul her bike more than I, as she often has the dog on trail, and she likes to avoid riding in traffic with the pooch. When we got a new Mazda 5 for her, we needed to get set up with a new bike rack. Yes, the bike will fit into the mini-mini van format of the Mazda 5, but then add a dog and subtract the need to remove a front wheel all the time and a rack was required to keep her happy and traveling smoothly.
I had some hot buttons to push in regards to the new rack:
- It needed to be light enough for the wife to install by herself if need be.
- It needed to tuck away decently if she wanted to keep it mounted on the 5 all the time.
- It needed to carry two bikes.
- It cannot require that the front wheel be removed for transport. Mrs. Grannygear is afraid she will squeeze the front brake lever and have to deal with the displaced brake pads. Bad juju.
- It needed to not cost a fortune.
- It needed to fit a 1 1/4″ hitch (the only one a Mazda 5 will accept).
At first I was considering a hanging rack. They are light, simple, and good for one bike, just OK for two as keeping them apart is always a concern. A friend had a decent looking 2 bike hang-up model made by Hollywood Racks. Many years ago I had a trunk mounted Hollywood rack that was cheap and simple, but still hauled three bikes to Colorado and back. Maybe that Hollywood brand was a good place to begin looking? I called them up and talked to Sam in sales, let him know what I was looking for and what I wanted it to do and not do.
He suggested I stay away from a hanging rack as the way I tend to get multiple 29″ers for review and the new frame designs they have can make fitment on a hanging rack difficult. He suggested a platform rack. His wife uses one on the Mazda they have and she is able to install it herself. He suggested the Sport Rider 2, a moderately priced two bike, 1 1/4″ or 2″ capable platform rack that weighs in around 45 lbs and, of course, does not require the front wheel to be removed off the bike. It accommodates big wheels and wide tires, so 29″ers are good to go and of course it does not really care about frame design issues with the way it clamps down. So we were off to the races, so to speak, and I self installed a 1 1/4″ hitch onto the Mazda 5 and set to fitting the Hollywood Racks Sport Rider 2.
Where the rack inserts into the receiver is threaded on the ‘left’ side so that the bolt/pin that holds it into the hitch receiver grabs that and captures it to the inner wall of the receiver, keeping the rack from wiggling around in there. There is also an optional locking version of that bolt/pin that will help keep your rack from walking away. As well, there is an optional cable lock that is keyed alike to the locking bolt/pin thing. Yeah, technical term there. Sorry.
Here is the rack installed on the Mazda 5. It folds up into a pretty decently compact affair. Here it is with some detail shots of it folded up and with two bikes in place. You can see how the sliding clamps padded hooks set over the top tubes and the wheels rest into the wheel holders. The wheel holders adjust in-out along the rails and the two clamps for the top tubes have different length ‘crooks’ to allow for the clamps to not interfere with each other on the upright.
Ok then, lets go through the steps of getting a bike onto the rack and then we will go over our experiences so far. The first pic here shows the center section of the rack with the outriggers in place and the pins in the correct slots. When you begin from folded position, the arms will be upright parallel to the center mast and the pins will be in the upper holes. So release the pins for the arms, drop them both and insert the pins as in the first pic. The wheel holders can be slid in and out as needed and to get the handlebars of the two bikes from hitting anything on the other bike and to adjust for wheelbase differences. The center mast will fold away to allow for access into the trunk/hatch but the outrigger arms HAVE to be down for this to happen. There is a third pin for this and a thumb-screw that holds additional tension (like a snubber) on the upright to keep it from wiggling. The sliding top tube clamps have a small thumb lever that lets the ‘clutch’ loose and allows the clamp to slide up and down. They can also be slid clear off the mast if needed. They should be clamped over the bike on the lowest section of the top tube. The wheels are held in place by Velcro straps…easy to replace if they wear out and simple to use
So how has it worked out? Very well indeed. Mrs. GG is happy. So far the Sport Rider 2 has met all our expectations. It carries two bikes well and is quite stable. There is some twist rotationally when loaded but it comes not from any poor fit of the different parts, but simply within the steel material itself. The answer to that would be to make the rack beefier (and Hollywood Racks does make heavier duty racks that are 2″ receiver versions only) but that would increase the bare rack weight as well as the size of it. When actually hauling things down the road, the bikes do not waggle or twist about much at all. Still, if I regularly used a rack like this on rugged roads or cross country, I would perhaps look at a heavier duty version. It holds things very well for most peoples needs in my opinion. The ‘crook’ system and the clutch system is quite good so far. They are easy to manipulate with one hand as you hold the bike during mounting and the different lengths of the crooks make it possible to accommodate different height/shape bikes.
If the wheel holders are not clamped down tight they will migrate when stored in the upright position so watch that. No biggy except the bike will not fit the next time you try to mount it which will seem like a little mystery. “Did my bike get longer?” Hmmm. Is there anything we do not like? One thing…well 1.5 things. You cannot fold the rack down to get into the hatch/trunk of the car without dropping the outrigger arms. That is a bummer. When you are loading bikes, the arms will be down and then dropping the upright mast is easy for access. In fact, the trick way to get the ‘inner’ bike on there is to drop the center mast out and then place the inner bike on the wheel holders, raise the upright with the other hand, and set the crook in place. Then get the outer bike on there. But it would be nice to have that thing drop out of the way for groceries, etc,when it is folded up, especially if you keep it mounted all the time like she does.
One other small thing would be to add a welded loop on the rack somewhere that you could loop the locking cable through. As it is, there is nothing but the wheel holders for the cable to go though to keep the bike from being removed from the rack.
Other than those two things, it has been ideal. The Sport Rider 2 retails for $239.95 and parts are available for anything that wears out or gets lost, etc. and they offer a limited lifetime warranty. Call them at (310) 516-8600 or (800) 747-4085 for any questions you have or check with your local bike shop.
I also asked some questions to the folks at Hollywood racks to get to know them bit better, so here is that dialog.
TNI: So tell me a bit about the history of Hollywood Racks. I understand it sprung from a desire of a bike shop owner to fill a basic need of a better bike rack.
Hollywood Rack: In 1973 Henry Nusbaum, owner of Hollywood Schwinn, decided that after consumers purchased a bike from his store, there had to be a better way for them to transport bicycles home on their car. He developed our first rack …The Hollywood Fold-A-Rack. Hollywood Racks is a family owned business – Neil, Henry’s son, is currently at the helm.
TNI: What defines Hollywood racks? What sets it apart from the competition? Is there a certain focus or?
HR: Our slogan is indicative of how we really feel about our products: Simple. Strong. Secure. The consumer views our racks as a great value! We have an extensive selection of racks to carry almost any style of bike.
TNI: Tell us about the scope of your product line. Are we looking at a ski rack or kayak rack or whatever when we shop Hollywood? Is it limited to price points or?
HR: We focus on the Bike Industry, both trunk and hitch mounted systems. We carry a wide range of racks to carry almost all cycles, including: Road, Mountain, Cruisers, Kid’s, Recumbent, Trikes and Electric Bikes. Price points are important, but must be met without compromising quality or features.
TNI: I was first looking at a simple hanging rack for one or two bikes, but you suggested, and rightly so, a platform rack. Is that the direction the industry is going? What happened to roof racks?
HR: In the hitch mounted category we feel platform systems are the most rapidly growing segment. With our Sport Rider series, we believe if you can pedal it, we can carry it! We see several reasons to use a rear rack over roof mounted systems: ease of loading, less negative impact on gas mileage, lower purchase price, etc.
TNI: How does one properly shop for a bike rack? What are the key things to consider? I know I had certain goals/targets in mind as I mentioned in the article and you helped me meet those goals.
HR: Determine your needs based on number and types of bicycles you plan to carry, your budget and whether or not to consider a hitch mounted system. Consulting a good bicycle rack dealer can be a great first step.
TNI: How should I care for my rack in a harsh outdoor environment? They are quite an investment.
HR: Routinely inspect the condition of all straps, knobs and hardware to insure safely transporting your bike. Periodic lubing of hardware and waxing the appropriate areas of the rack helps too!
TNI: Can I get spare parts for a Hollywood rack? How does that work as well as warranty issues?
HR: We have an extensive inventory of replacement parts and will gladly assist you in maintaining your rack through the years. Our limited lifetime warranty is available on all current rack models. Customer service is available Monday thru Friday from 7AM-3PM, PST at 800-747-4085.
Note: Hollywood Racks sent the Sport Rider 2 rack over to Twenty Nine Inches at no charge. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.