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Bike

Reviewed: Kuat Piston Pro X Bike Rack

Kuat’s beautiful new hitch-mount bike rack is a triathlete’s dream, but is it worth the $1,400 price tag?

Review Rating


Basics

Kuat’s latest super-premium, hitch-mounted bike rack is loaded with tons of features—but it comes at a price.


Pros

Easy, easy, easy

Lightweight

Stable and quiet

Improved safety via integrated tail lights

No modifications required for different styles of bikes

Cons

Cost

Clearance into trunk/tailgate

Two bikes only (additional capacity with purchase of costly add-on)


Price

$1,400

Brand

Kuat


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Kuat Piston Pro X: The Basics

Kuat is viewed as a premium – and yes, pricey – manufacturer of car racks.  They typically also win on style points, but it’s still tough to justify the elevated cost compared to their competitors. Until now. With the release of the Piston Pro X, Kuat has nailed more than just style in a hitch-mounted bike rack.

The Piston Pro X is a two-bike platform hitch-mounted bike carrier, with an available add-on for one or more bikes. Trays enable you to put your bike directly onto the “platform” without having to remove the front wheel.  This makes for greater ease as you do not have to lift your bike onto a roof-mounted rack or deal with the challenges of unusual frame shapes. Equally important (in my opinion), you do not have to be concerned with overhead clearance, which could limit a much-needed post-event milkshake from your favorite drive-through. Sadly, bikes do get knocked off roof racks.

The Piston Pro X comes in two-inch and 1.25-inch hitch options and includes a hitch lock, coated cable bike lock, security tool, bike capacity for up to 67 pounds per tray, 53-inch max wheel base, and 5-inch max tire width.

Kuat Piston Pro X Review: The Good

From assembly, to installation, to use, to storage, the Piston Pro X is easy. Assembly takes a matter of minutes, with included Allen keys, and it’s a one-person job. The rack has a flatlock hitch cam (a fancy term for a wedge inside the trailer hitch that tightens up the hitch, like tightening up a headset). The hitch cam is a game changer, as the rack becomes free of any wobble/rattle, which translates to stability and noise reduction when on the road.

When connected to the wiring of your vehicle, the integrated LED tail lights pair with your brake lights and turn indicators yielding greater safety from following vehicles. The Piston Pro X also uses “Hydro-Pneumatic Arms” to secure the bikes. As a result, the arms are easy, one-handed use that secures that bike by grabbing the tires—never touching your frame. Additionally, the arms are easily adjusted for a variety of different bikes, so all bikes can be used on the same rack. Competitors’ platforms need to be swapped out when hauling bikes with larger-volume tires, but with this setup, you can carry your tri, road, gravel, mountain, or fat-tire bike without having to purchase any accessory platforms, and adjustment is easily done with one hand and in a matter of seconds.

The hitch lock, security locking tool (which is intelligently integrated into the rack), and cable lock all work with the same key (you get a spare) for easy operation and excellent security.  When not in use, The Piston Pro X is light enough for a single person to remove and carry. The materials used are top shelf, meaning you’ll have it for a long time.

Kuat Piston Pro X Review: The Not-So-Good

Let’s get this over with, the Piston Pro X is expensive. It is hundreds of dollars more than the competitors, and you have to spend considerably more to purchase add-on platforms ($750 for each additional platform) if you want to carry a third or fourth bike. However, what is the cost of fixing scratched paint on your car when fumbling with bikes while dealing with a rack of lesser quality? What would you have paid to have that other driver see extra lights on the back of your car so they could have avoided rear-ending your bike? How upset do you get when you get a scratch on your frame from a bike rack or lock that could be avoided?  So yes, this rack is expensive but it does provide some serious piece of mind.

As with any hitch-mounted bike rack, you are limited with access to your tailgate or hatchback. The Piston Pro X does partially pivot down with the use of a hand or foot operated pedal, or you can purchase the Pivot V2 accessory that creates a swing-away rack for full trunk access–but again, that’s an extra $300-plus.

Kuat Piston Pro X Review: Conclusions

The Kuat Piston Pro X is a premium hitch-mounted platform bike rack that comes packed with features making it user-friendly and safe for your bikes, with improved visibility to other drivers and a great excuse to branch out and purchase that gravel bike or fat-tire bike you have been eyeing. Like many premium products, this rack does come at a premium price tag, and you may need to spend even more to make it work in all of the ways you want it to.