Bike Rack Designs are Temporary. RockyMounts is Forever.

RockyMounts has been designing bike racks in Colorado for 30 years. Their tire hold hitch rack, the GuideRail, showcases all the brand has learned in three decades.

Mountain bikes have undergone a dramatic evolution over the years, and along with them, bike racks have too. Just ask Bobby Noyes, founder of Colorado-based RockyMounts. In the early 1990s he was the “bike rack guy” at his local bike shop at a time when roof racks were all the rage. Back then, consumers had to wade through complicated fit guides and assemble specialized clips, towers, bars, and trays to make the racks work with their vehicle.

“If you wanted to buy a bike rack back then, you had to go to a bike shop,” Noyes said. “I was really the only one who understood the fit guides. I became this rack maven by default because no one wanted to do it.”

A lot has changed since then, and now many buyers opt for hitch racks from RockyMounts that are literally plug-and-play. The brand’s flagship hitch rack, the GuideRail, shows how close today’s bike racks are to perfection, and how Noyes and his team continue to tinker their way toward an ever better rack.

The RockyMounts GuideRail

Tire hold bike racks, first introduced in the late 1990s, became popular for their ability to securely and conveniently hold bikes of all shapes and sizes. In 2015 the design patent expired, allowing brands like RockyMounts to come up with their own take on the concept.

“We had people asking for that style of rack,” Noyes said. “And there are some advantages to it, and I also see some disadvantages.”

The GuideRail secures bikes using a tire-hold system that’s adjustable to fit wheel sizes from 20″ to 29″. One advantage is that bikes can be loaded asymmetrically to avoid handlebar and saddle interference while keeping bikes secure. The outer tray on the GuideRail is also raised slightly for additional clearance.

Bike rack designers are constantly updating racks to work with the latest bike standards, though as Noyes notes with a bit of self criticism, so far it’s been impossible to design a truly future-proof rack. First tires got wider, then wheel bases grew longer, and lately, e-bikes are pushing weight boundaries. Aside from crash damage, the next biggest reason buyers purchase a new rack is not because theirs is broken or worn out, but because a new bike won’t fit.

With that in mind, the RockyMounts GuideRail is designed to work with today’s bikes and likely the bikes of tomorrow as well, supporting wheelbases from 36″ to 55″, and weights up to 60lb. per tray. The GuideRail handles everything from road bikes with skinny, 19mm bike tires up to mountain bikes with 3″ plus tires.

The GuideRail folds up when not in use, and can be tilted 30° for hatch access with bikes in place.

Bike rack security

Modern mountain bikes are not cheap, and the GuideRail is built to protect from both road mishaps and theft. Fortunately Noyes is far removed from the days of designing bike racks in his garage. “Back then I was pretty nervous,” he told me. “I couldn’t risk bikes flying off. So I used a lot of more established industry norms.”

Today RockyMounts has a mechanical engineer on staff and performs its own rigorous testing, for example driving over speed bumps at excessive speeds and measuring rack deflection. The brand has pulled the GuideRail ratcheting arms (and competitors’ arms) to the point of failure to ensure they are strong enough, and they even have their own shake table purchased from a Michigan missile control company to test for the effects of vibration.

Many hitch racks, even expensive ones, wobble side to side, and often the culprit is a poor fit between the hitch and receiver. RockyMounts uses a “premium, three-axis anti-wobble system” that bolts securely using a locking hitch pin. The result is a stable platform that doesn’t noticeably rock or sway, even on bumpy roads.

When it comes to securing bikes from theft, RockyMounts is not messing around. After receiving reports from riders in California who had bikes stolen off racks while stopped at traffic lights, the company knew they needed a robust solution beyond the integrated cable locks they had been using. So, they bundled a massive, 10mm square link chain that locks right to the rack. “We’re not perfect and we learn when we release things to the wild,” Noyes said.

In 2014 Rocky Mounts introduced their Limited Lifetime Warranty that covers manufacturing defects, excessive wear, broken parts from regular use, and even issues that prevent the rack from functioning as intended. The brand obviously takes pride in their work and by offering a lifetime warranty, they’re clearly confident the racks will continue to work great season after season.

Look and feel

RockyMounts employs both an engineer and industrial designer to ensure racks like the GuideRail are functional first and foremost, but that they also look great and are a joy to use. After all, the bike rack is there at the start and end of pretty much every ride, setting the tone whether we realize it or not. The bright blue pull handle on the GuideRail is both intuitive and satisfying, and tends to draw the most compliments.

“The user experience is really important and I don’t like using junk, myself. I like to feel good about it,” Noyes said.

RockyMounts spent a lot of time designing the sliding ratchet mechanism on the rack arms in particular. The team considered using aluminum for both the ratchet and lever, but with alloy on alloy, “it galls and binds and it actually gets worse with time,” Noyes said. “So we’re like, well let’s go to plastic. And then, we hit it with an alloy lever. So we get the nice smoothness on the rack which people really like.” In 12 years the company says they’ve never had a ratchet failure.

The GuideRail ships in a compact box with packaging worthy of an iPhone unboxing. In reality, the packaging is designed to save shipping costs and floor space at cramped bike shops. Separating the left and right sides of the rack not only saves space in the box, it also means buyers can repair damage to one side of the rack — say as a result of backing into a pole — by replacing just one side. The whole rack is assembled with just four bolts in ten minutes flat.

Smooth lines and pops of color complement bikes and vehicles alike, whether your bike costs more than your car, or vice versa. RockyMounts was one of the first to use color on their bike racks beginning in the early days, producing a yellow tray for the University of Colorado cycling team. Consumers loved it, and the brand went on to offer trays in other colors as well.

RockyMounts into the future

RockyMounts got its start in 1993, exactly 30 years ago, and it’s clear that Noyes and team aren’t tied to the past, nor are they completely satisfied with the present. Noyes told me that not including the carbon Specialized Stumpjumper he rides now, he’s owned 31 different mountain bikes in his life, and has sold all but one over the years. Clearly he isn’t particularly sentimental about old bikes or old designs, and is always pushing himself and his team to improve and to embrace the latest and greatest.

It’s difficult to say what the future holds for bike designs, but one thing is for certain: Grand Junction based RockyMounts will continue designing high-quality racks that will be durable, dependable, and easy to use. Whether it’s a hitch rack, roof rack, or something entirely new, Noyes says “We want the best product in this category.”

The RockyMounts GuideRail is available to fit 1.25″ or 2″ receivers, and can be purchased online fro $850.