On March 1st, 2021, I filled my car with all of my belongings and set out on a 3,266-mile route from Richmond, Virginia to Bellingham, Washington. At the time I had been using the Kuat NV 2.0 for a year without any complaints. With a combined payload of 70+ lbs, I was sure I was putting the rack to the ultimate stress test. It wasn’t until somewhere around the border of West Virginia that I stopped glancing in my rearview mirror to ensure my bikes were safe. For every one of those 3,266 miles, the NV 2.0 dutifully carried both my enduro and downhill bike. To my relief, I arrived in Bellingham nine days later with the same number of bikes that I left the East Coast with.
In hindsight, I was naive to think the NV 2.0 might fail. With the two-bike version having a 60lb rating per tray, this is one of Kuat’s most capable bike racks. I would have been able to drive the same distance with two E-Bikes, let alone my enduro and downhill bike.
Available in 1.25” and 2.0” hitch sizes, and compatible with wheelbases up to 50”, the NV 2.0 covers a vast range of car/bike combinations. The NV 2.0 is available in a two-bike base configuration with the ability to expand the 2.0” hitch version via one or two-bike add-on trays, increasing its capacity to a maximum of four bikes. As carrying capacity is increased the weight limit drops from 60 lbs per tray for the two-bike configuration to 40 lbs per tray in the four bike configuration. The NV 2.0 is compatible with wheel sizes ranging from 26” to 29” and can accept wheel sizes ranging from 20” to 24” when using the wheel adapter. The rack easily accommodates standard tire widths and is fat-bike compatible with Kuat’s “Phat Bike Kit''.
Assembling the NV 2.0 is a straightforward process, only requiring the hex keys provided and fifteen minutes of your time. Once assembled, the rack is secured in the hitch via a hand-tightened cam and a stout pin with an integrated lock. Consisting of a burly aluminum construction that weighs in at 52lbs, the build quality and attention to detail of the NV 2.0 are obvious. The weight and finish translate into a rack that is steadfast under load, capable of shuttling bikes up rough gravel roads without swaying or bouncing excessively. When folded away the NV 2.0 is neatly integrated into the rear of the vehicle, making it convenient for day-to-day commuting.
Kuat’s foot-assisted pivot makes it easy to adjust the rack from its stowed position. By stepping on the textured lever, the locking mechanism releases, lowering the rack to its “ready” position before re-engaging. The rack can be lowered even further, allowing access to the trunk even when the rack is fully loaded. I’ve found myself using this feature regularly to grab items from the trunk, saving the effort of unloading and reloading bikes.
The tray design of the NV 2.0 utilizes a front tire cradle with a swingarm that securely cinches down just in front of the crown of the fork. The rear tire is secured by a ratcheting strap that can be adjusted to accommodate a variety of wheelbases. Loading and unloading bikes is a hassle-free process that is enhanced by the rack’s seamless functionality.
While purchasing a Kuat rack can’t eliminate bike theft, it will give you the necessary tools to help combat it. With a fully integrated cable lock that stows neatly in each tray, bikes can be individually secured to the rack. The lock consists of a thick rubber-coated steel cable that can easily be run through a bike's rear triangle without damaging the frame. Although any bike lock can be compromised if given enough time and the proper tools, the NV 2.0 locking system is a sufficient enough theft deterrent for a brief stop at a gas station.
The NV 2.0 also comes with Kuat’s “Trail Doc”, an integrated repair stand that can be used when the rack is in its stowed position. With an adjustable swiveling clamp that can easily support the weight of a full-size modern mountain bike, the Trail Doc is sturdier than some cheaper standalone options on the market. While it’s not a realistic replacement for a dedicated repair stand, this feature has come to my rescue on more than one occasion for an unexpected parking lot repair.
After nearly two years of being a constant fixture on the back of my car, I have yet to experience any major issues with the NV 2.0. I have relied on it to safely transport my bikes to and from every ride I’ve gone on and it still functions as seamlessly as it did on day one. Aside from some abrasions on the rubberized section of the swing arm where it contacts the tire, there are no obvious signs of wear. The swing arms still articulate smoothly, the tire straps retain tension, and the hitch is as secure as the day I installed the rack.
For those looking for the performance of the NV 2.0 at a more affordable price point, the Transfer v2 could very well be the answer. Albeit less glamorous and feature-packed than its sibling, the Transfer v2 is designed for pure functionality. Made of weather-proofed steel and using a similar swing arm and tire cradle system design to the NV 2.0, the Transfer v2 is a reliable product at a cost-effective price point.
The Transfer v2 is available for both 1.25” and 2” hitch sizes. The 1.25” is offered in either one bike or two bike carrying configurations and comes with an additional 2” hitch adapter, whereas the dedicated 2'' model utilizes a flatlock cam for increased hitch stability and is available in one, two, or three bike versions. The Transfer v2 Add-On allows the option to increase carrying capacity on every model except the 1.25” two-bike rack. Unlike the NV 2.0, Transfer add-ons cannot be stacked.
The Transfer v2 can accept 18” to 29” wheels and is compatible with wheelbases up to 50” in size. Both the 1.25'' one-bike and 2” two-bike have a carrying capacity of 60 lbs per bike while all other models and add-ons have a limit of 40 lbs per tray. A semi-integrated lock is included that consists of a single rubber-coated cable that is long enough to be run through multiple frames. Unlike the NV locking system, the lock is not fully self-contained within the rack and must be stowed elsewhere when not in use. The Transfer also makes use of a similar foot-assisted lever to articulate the rack between its stowed, level, and lowered position. While lacking some of the refinement of the NV 2.0, users can rest assured knowing they aren’t sacrificing usability when choosing the Transfer v2.
Which is best for you?
We often associate the quality of a ride with aspects such as the moisture of the dirt or the trails and views that we experience. However, other aspects that are often taken for granted can pose the most risk of being detrimental to a ride; bike transportation is no exception. When I first started riding regularly, I had a 2004 Toyota Sequoia with no bike rack and a broken trunk door. Before and after every ride I would have to take the front wheel off my bike and wrestle it into the back of the car through the back passenger door. After eventually upgrading to a quality bike rack, I realized the absurdity of my previous situation and the instantaneous improvement a reliable rack made.
A bike rack should do one thing and do it well; reliably carry a bike from point A to point B. The Kuat NV 2.0 and Transfer v2 both handle this task with ease and their other features are only a bonus to their already capable design. That said, there are some differences to consider when deciding between the two. For those who want a no-nonsense bike rack that is equally affordable and reliable, the Transfer v2 should be a top contender.
However, having compared the two side-by-side, the thoroughness of the NV’s build quality is impossible to ignore. There is a crispness that shows through in every articulating part that outperforms its cost-effective counterpart. This crispness is accompanied by more solid construction, an integrated repair stand, and an integrated locking system, making for a more rounded package.
A bike rack should be viewed as an investment. Not only is it an investment in overall riding experience, but also the safety of a bike when in transport. I encourage others to be honest with themselves about what level of investment makes sense depending on their involvement in the sport. The build quality of the NV 2.0 and all of its features greatly complements an avid rider who is already deeply invested in the sport. Meanwhile, the Transfer is a great option for a more entry-level rider or someone who is more budget-minded. Regardless of your choice, Kuat delivers a rack that guarantees safe and reliable bike transportation ride after ride.
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