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We first saw a glimpse of the Saris MTR (Modular Tray Rack) more than a year ago at Crankworx Whistler. It wasn’t a top-secret meeting of any sorts, but more of a showing of what’s to come. This spring, the MTR finally came into fruition.

The MTR broke Saris into the premium hitch rack market. The Bones and Freedom are nice racks, but aren’t quite competitive with the likes of a Kuat NV or 1Up USA rack, known for heavy-duty durability, high-quality machining, and ease of use. The MTR entered the market as a hefty, 60-pound rack, that keeps its grubby claws off of bike frames (please, tires only) and something that could stand up straight in the premium bike rack market.

Saris elaborates: “…we decided to develop the MTR because of the growing popularity of high end tray racks and we wanted to build upon the popular features found in our SuperClamp line (no frame contact, adjustable, tilting/folding, integrated locks). The MTR takes those popular features and integrates the common requests we were seeing (less plastic, more steel, etc.).  We wanted to create a rack that’s versatile, customizable, and with all the popular features we already integrated into our racks.”

Details

  • Tray style hitch rack
  • Available in one bike ($500), or two bike rack ($800), with add-ons to fit up to four bikes (compare options and prices)
  • The one-bike rack fits class II 1.25″ hitch, while the two-bike rack and up must use 2″ hitch receiver
  • Max weight: 60lbs per bike
  • Fits 20- to 29-inch wheels, up to 5-inches wide
  • Maximum wheelbase length: 53-inches
  • Rack weight: 59lbs

Rack performance

The Saris MTR arrived mostly assembled, but in a one-rack version, with an add-on. Although it looked overwhelming at first, assembly didn’t require too much pain. On the one-bike rack, I removed the handle, added some “power bar” inserts to join the rack with the add-on, tightened about a half-dozen hex bolts down, and added the handle back on the new end.

Ok, actually, there was one other piece of frustration that I missed. I removed my previous hitch rack off of my 2010 Subaru Impreza’s 1.25-inch hitch receiver, and tried plugging in the MTR, only to realize that there are different classes of inch-and-a-quarter receivers, and they are not a one-size-fits-all.

The MTR bottomed out in my class I, 1.25-inch receiver on the Impreza before the hitch pin holes aligned, and I learned that the MTR would need a class II, 1.25-inch receiver to work. This goes for the single bike rack, and the two-bike requires a two-inch receiver.

Fortunately, the Subaru Crosstrek that parks next to mine has a two-inch receiver, so I plugged the MTR in, loaded some bikes up, and I was set.

The Saris MTR folded into scorpion mode.

When not in use, the MTR folds up so that the trays are vertical and parallel to the ground, or the rack can be folded up the same, and the trays can be pulled upwards and locked into place so that they are perpendicular to the ground. There really isn’t any sort of advantage to this. It just looks a little different. The rack can also be moved to a downward position, opening up access to the rear hatch.

The handle needs a strong pull to operate. The add-on is installed by removing the handle and adding inserts and bolts within the tower.

The handle needs a good squeeze for the trays to be pulled back down so that users can load bikes, but it does give it a secure feeling, like a bank vault. By squeezing a stainless steel release lever on the bottom of the arms, the arms can be opened up for loading or unloading. Once the bike is in the tray, push the arms into the tires, and you’re ready to rock.

Squeeze the stainless steel lever to release and open the arms.

The arms have been working on my MTR like a charm, and they don’t seem to open at all during transportation. There is one sticky release lever though, which requires a little pull so that it engages fully and locks again. I squirted some PB Blaster inside the release lever and everything seems to be moving properly again.

Saris mentioned that this was a production problem at first, but have solved it and are replacing any arms that may be sticky.

Staggered trays and integrated cable locks.

The trays are staggered in alignment, and this makes for easier loading. With one raised above the other, it makes it much easier for a bike saddle to clear the other bike’s handlebars.

This hex bolt can be loosened and inserted into a lower spot to accomodate smaller wheel sizes.

By loosening one hex bolt at the top of the arm, pulling it out, and re-inserting it at a lower hole, the arms can be adjusted to fit wheel sizes down to 20-inch bikes. They are a quick swap if you happen to be taking the kids to the trailhead too, but I haven’t needed to use them, as I’ve just been using 27.5- and 29-inch bikes on the rack.

A plastic plate with a hex wrench snugged up at the bottom here but didn’t last long. Photo: Matt Miller

Saris integrated a hex wrench inside a plastic plate under the bottom side of the rack. It isn’t all that easy to remove and reinsert and I couldn’t properly secure it again after removing it. The plate came loose and snapped since it is at the rack’s pivot point. Fortunately, since it is just a hex bolt, I usually have the proper tool on my bike or in a pack close by.

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Top left: The MTR can be lowered for rear access. Top right: A clever bottle opener/locking hitch pin.

During transportation, the MTR has kept my bikes secure and worry-free, and there isn’t any unwanted movement or wiggle. On short grocery stops on the way home after a ride, there is also a way to keep bikes secure with the integrated cable locks. They are just long enough to get around the bottom of the downtubes. These are thick cables, over a half-inch wide, but of course aren’t absolutely theft-proof. For quick stops, they are very convenient and thoughtful to incorporate.

Final word

A 27.5-inch and 29er playing nice together on the rack.

While one or two brands have dominated the tray-style hitch rack market, it’s great to see more competition. The Saris MTR is indeed a premium rack, with premium offerings. It’s heavy-duty, durable, and keeps bikes secure on the road, while offering great features like integrated locks — and of course a bottle opener. While pricy, it seems that it will work well for years and distinguishes itself from other racks on the market.

Thanks to Saris for providing the MTR for review.

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# Comments

  • jeffgauvin

    Where is the credit to 1UP USA for the design – this is just a knock-off with minimal differences. Both are made in the USA, but not even mentioning the 1UP in this article definitely lacks credibility. One can only guess that this was a paid piece of marketing.

    • Jeff Barber

      You’re right, it’s a similar design, though that similarity isn’t super relevant to how this rack performs. We also don’t go into the history of bike racks, the name of the engineer who designed the rack, etc. for obvious reasons.

      That being said, we’ve actually investigated the similarities to the 1UP design a good bit over the last year, asking brand reps about things like design patents and licensing, but don’t have anything definitive we can report at this time. If and when we do, we’ll certainly include it. If you have any inside info, send me an email: jeff@singletracks.com.

    • nooman

      I agree… absolutely a 1UP knockoff. It’s not just a “similar design”, it’s the same design with a different plasticy look about it.

  • LeRoy168

    I wish they made racks that did not block your license plate when in the empty/up position (look at the first picture). That’s a good way to get pulled over.

  • 12snap

    I saw the prototypes at Outerbike a couple years ago and signed up to be a product tester, which meant I got a discount on the rack in return for my feedback on it. The production model I got was heavy. Much, much heavier than the 1UP rack I have. It wobbled like crazy. Scary, even. The Saris people said to wiggle the rack while screwing the bolt into the receiver. Not only was that inconvenient and awkward, it didn’t work. I could never get it to stop wobbling. Also, I couldn’t lower the tailgate of my Tacoma all the way when the rack was flat with no bikes. I would need to lower it even further so it angled down. I didn’t want to risk denting or scratching my tailgate so I sent it back. I still ended up having to pay for shipping. I’ll happily stick with my 1UP.

    • Matt Miller

      I haven’t had any problems with wiggle or wobble. It is on the heavy side, but haven’t touched the hitch pin since I installed it and it is tight as a drum.

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