Sleek And Dominant Kuat Piston Pro Hitch Rack Review
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First Thoughts On the Kuat Piston Pro
You may be familiar with Kuat and their Piston Pro series, but this latest edition is a leaner and meaner version. Well, maybe not meaner, but they are definitely making advancements on the mechanical engineering design front. I wrote those first two sentences, and decided to go check out their website. This is Kuat’s moto and/or branding:
“It’s lean. It’s mean. It’s a sweet bike-hauling machine.”
I kid you not. Now that, my friends, is a big time advertising budget idea. And, I thought of it before they did. Sort of…
Enough of the kidding already. I have been frustrated for quite a long time with the hitch racks where you place the bikes and their top tube on the arms. Hence, I am stoked for this rack to bring me and my bikes up to the mountains for some solitude and climbing pain. Seriously though, this Kuat Piston Pro is sleek, heavy duty, and a mechanically sound piece of equipment. Additionally, I am stoked to see how she’ll handle the variety of bikes I’m going to be carrying.
All The Parts And Pieces
I’m not going to lie, what showed up was a hefty box. Solid steel construction will do that, I suppose. With that said, the packaging and protection is a thing of beauty. The well thought-out molded foam protection pieces all have their place as they protect every corner and surface. There’s quite a bit of the packaging, but that’s the way it has to be. Therefore, on the packaging front, recycle what you can.
Here we have the hitch attachment, 4 trays, and accessory tools and parts.
Above is the hitch lock, a rope lock to keep the bikes secure, the lever to tilt, an Allen wrench, and two bolts to connect the trays.
Lift up the Piston Kuat Pro center bar, and slide it into the hitch. Again, it’s not exactly light, but can be handled by one person. An extra set of hands will be nice if you can ask your riding partner. Next, you line it up to ensure that the lock pin goes through. It’s a rather heavy duty locking mechanism. Furthermore, the weatherproof cap will provide additional protection from the elements.
The included wrench isn’t your typical Allen wrench. It’s got a hole in the end that’s specifically meant to nestle into the bolt that tightens the Kuat Piston Pro to the 2″ hitch receiver that’s attached to the vehicle. Once the bike rack has been slid into the hitch, and you have the holes lined up for the lock pin to go in, you can tighten it for a snug fit. I definitely want you to take this extra step to properly secure the rack to the car. In theory, it won’t go anywhere, but it will sway a little if not completely fastened.
Next, I go about placing the 4 bike trays. Fastening those means sliding that notch into the hole, and then tightening the bolt. I was impressed with how snug it actually nestled, and once completely tightened, it locked together nicely.
Again, notice the special Allen wrench with the “bulb” end. I am trying to figure out a good place to keep these special tools, so it becomes a habit to have that with the rack or car. Things tend to get lost in the garage. In this case, I’ll probably stash it in a storage compartment in the car. That way, it will always be there when needed.
Below is the step or adjustment lever that also needs to be added and tightened. A super handy streamlined piece to tilt the rack away from the car. This provides the opportunity to access the back of the car without having to remove the bikes.
The Kuat Piston Pro Has The Carrying Capacity Versatility
The Kuat Piston Pro will pretty much carry any bike you throw at it, aside from maybe a tandem or a recumbent bicycle. Plus, with the ever increasing e-bike popularity, this bike rack will carry many of those as well. Notwithstanding the super long cargo bikes or super heavy ones.
The weight limit is 67 lbs. per tray, so do keep that in mind. I can put all, but one, of my bikes on here. It speaks to the Kuat Piston Pro’s ability to adopt to a wide variety of bikes. More so, it grips whatever tire you throw on it. Let me emphasize the TIRE, because that’s how the bikes are actually locked down. In any event, the weight thing surely is a factor, but it all comes down the tire width and size. Luckily, Kuat has a nice guide as you can see in the photo below to allow you to dial in the rack setting before even placing the bike on there.
Back in 2014, one of our gear testers and writers reviewed the Kuat NV Hitch Mount Bike Rack. I never owned a Kuat rack either, and at the time was more familiar with that Northwest Coast and Scandinavian brand. Neither here nor there, it put Kuat on the map for me. Fast forward nearly 10 years, and this Springfield, Missouri company is now a legitimate player in the highly advanced bike and gear carrying industry. It’s truly amazing, as I recall fighting with trunk racks, straps, clips, and bouncy bikes. Plus, my car still sports the battle scars from lifting bikes onto the various roof rack systems I toiled with.
More recently, I’m coming from a hitch mount swing rack, but this is not exactly my first foray into a hitch tray mount rack. A riding buddy has a 1UP double bike model. It’s nice, and all the rage for a while, but I feel that Kuat has really upped the game in this sector of the industry with this Piston Pro.
Keeping that in mind, the Kuat Piston Pro is built like a tank, but acts like a Porsche. The all-metal construction with the no-fade powder coat sandy black finish seems bombproof. Yes, it’s on the heavier side of things, but certainly manageable for an easy install. That does speak to the confidence I have for it to be able to carry my valuable two wheeled cargo. The sleekness and slim design factor makes it look quite stealth. The Piston Pro can carry 2 bikes (an additional 2 bike extension is available) with up to 67 lbs. per tray for the 2” version. In theory, that covers most pedal powered bikes on the market.
It does exclude the larger and heavier e-bikes, but even the e-bike industry is conforming to reach a target market of riders that enjoys a simpler and lighter bike. Hence, most e-bikes will also fit quite nicely on this rack especially with the ability to reach a max tire width of 5”. I had to take a chance with this e-bike. It’s slightly heavier than the limit of 67 pounds, but I took a chance. With only one bike and a somewhat shorter drive, I made it home safe and sound. And the rack was able to hold a bike that might have had an extra 10-15 pounds of weight.
The base rack tilt is super cool to allow me to reach the gate and reach the trunk essentials.
The dual arm and namesake to the Kuat Piston Pro, folds up a little aggressive and with quite a bit of force. It takes me by surprise at times when I hit that release button. I know it’s coming, but it still surprises me sometimes. That said, once it pops out of its locked state, it settles down, and the arm moves smoothly and efficiently to get into the desired spot depending on your bike.
The pedal pivot lever is something you can adjust by hand or foot. At first, I only use my hand to accurately put the correct pressure on it to activate the lever. Now, I do use my shoe to give it a whirl. Balance is the key thing here. Sure, your hands will be holding a bike more than likely, all the while balancing on one foot. That requires some core activation, so I’m glad those crunches are paying off.
The rope lock is a nice added safety and protection touch as it snakes through the bikes. I know it’s not completely steal-proof, but will keep the opportunity thefts at bay. When I do intend to leave the bikes longer, I will likely add another one or two more foolproof locks to give me a bit more piece of mind.
Technical Specifications And Features
- All metal construction
- OneTap™ hydro-pneumatic tire arms
- No frame contact
- No fade powdercoat
- Stainless hardware
- Semi-integrated high-strand 12 mm cable lock
- Equipped with QuickConnect™ for fast and easy installation and removal
- FastFit™ tool-free wheel chock system
- Patented Flatlock™ hitch cam
- Optional eBike ramp for easy loading
- Additional specs:
- 2 – Bike Capacity (Add-ons available, sold separately)
- 67 lbs. per tray on 2” 2-bike, 60lbs. for 1.25” version
- 42 lbs. per tray on chassis mounted RV hitch
- 53” Max Wheelbase
- 5” Max tire width
Out And About With The Kuat Piston Pro
This is about as light as it will get for me with this Bro-tanium Road bike excursion. Two sub 19 pound bikes graced the Kuat Piston Pro. I had to make sure that the “skinny” tires were locked in securely, but once that was done, we were off to set some KOM’s up Lookout Mountain in Golden, CO.
It is mid-summer, and I am moving bikes around every other day. Be it a long road ride on the Eastern Colorado Plains, a gravel jaunt in the bicycle mecca of Boulder, or a mountain bike ride on high elevation mountain passes. I live in an urban setting, so many of these rides are not right out my door. With that said, I even had to come back for a heavier e-bike that had the misfortune of a flat on my morning commute.
Electric Bike compatibility
E-bikes run the gamut. From folding bikes to city cruisers, from cargo to kid transporters, from fat tire to skinny 700c road slicks, the Kuat Piston Pro can handle pretty much all of them. The exception comes into play based on the heft or weight factor of the bike itself.
Final Thoughts On The Kuat Piston Pro
Our hobbies are important to us, and my bicycles are near and dear to me. It’s like they are a subset family of mine, and they all have their stories. Therefore, my bikes need protection while I move them to more desirable riding terrain. The Kuat Piston Pro is a top notch option for efficient and safe bicycle transportation. Be it your racing, dirt, commuter, or e-bikes, this sleek and solid hitch rack has you covered. I get it! It’s a rather pricey investment, and you do have to weigh your options there. Each and every safe voyage without an issue makes the purchase a worthwhile investment for me. If you are in the market and are a diligent shopper, I would certainly add this guy to the list as a viable option.