The Saris Modular Hitch System (MHS) is built around a sturdy steel base unit available in three different lengths. Bike trays attach to the body of the base with a simple and robust clamp. There are three sizes available and the longest base unit can carry up to four bikes. I tested the 2+1 base which has a maximum capacity of three bikes, and attached a DUO bike tray and an UNO bike tray. This combo gave me an opportunity to compare the two trays.
The base unit requires no assembly; it simply bolts into the hitch using a socket or wrench.
After the base is installed, adding trays is convenient with the bulk of the weight supported at a horizontal and stable position. Each tray simply clamps around the base body and tightens with a single hex bolt.
The folding actuator on the base squeezes with a T-shaped pull action and allows the unit to tilt in multiple secure positions. When folded down to the lowest point, an angled plastic support on the bottom makes contact with the ground.
DUO bike tray
The DUO tray secures both bike wheels with two independent pivoting arms, using a design that’s similar to the one patented by 1UP USA. (That patent expired in 2015.) Saris advertises the DUO tray is able to support bikes with wheelbases up to 53″, tires up to 5″ wide, and weights up to 80 pounds. To an avid mountain biker, this means versatility for enduro/DH bikes, fat bikes and even heavy e-bikes.
With Saris MHS base units weighing 35-42 pounds and each DUO tray weighing 30 pounds, the total weight of this system can be over 100 pounds. If racks are frequently installed and removed from a vehicle, this heavier weight could become a chore. The full weight of the 2+1 base with one DUO and one UNO tray as tested is just under 70 pounds. According to the Saris website, the weight of the two-tray DUO package is 104 pounds.
The DUO tray arms rotate up onto the tire and hold in place with a few clicks of tension against the rubber. The intuitive one-handed release action is triggered with a large squeeze button near the bottom of the arm. The DUO arms also have the ability to freely rotate away from the bike all the way to the ground on the sides. While this is unique and nice for unloading, it could expose unattended arms to damage from a passing vehicle.
My collection of N+1 bikes allowed me to experiment with multiple dirt-seeking tire types on the DUO. I mounted a long-travel full suspension bike, a larger enduro hardtail, a fat bike (with massive 27.5 x 4.5″ tires), a gravel bike, and a dirt jumper with 26″ wheels.
The DUO has a wide cavity tray with a unique plastic wheel block designed to remove the guesswork on bike position. Once the front arm is erected and tensioned, the wheel block acts as a backstop, keeping the bike vertical. Larger wheelbase bikes had no issues with clearance and were easily secured within a few seconds.
Smaller bikes, such as my gravel bike and dirt jumper, posed a fit issue for the rear arm to secure the rear wheel effectively. Each arm includes vertical adjustments for wheel size, but the rear wheel arm doesn’t reach shorter bikes as illustrated in the photo above. Saris says that the wheel block is adjustable and tool-free, which is not the case with our sample. There is just one set of mounting holes in a fixed position and removing the block from the tray requires a 3mm hex wrench.
Both the block and the sliding strap can be interchanged on the left or right side of the tray but only the strap can be infinitely repositioned. The wheel strap provides some rear wheel security but obviously the arm is much more secure. I broke the plastic wheel strap on a freezing cold day, and I never really felt the need to replace it.
I ultimately removed the front wheel block to allow better side to side bike alignment on the tray. By using neither the block or strap, bikes centered on the DUO can face either direction, and seem to be held securely.
UNO bike tray
The more recently released UNO tray provides a cheaper and lighter tray option to the MHS system, and works with smaller bikes that might not fit the DUO. With a max bike weight of 40 pounds, max tire size of 3″, and max wheelbase of 50″ the UNO tray is a better fit for traditional mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and road bikes.
UNO uses a single arm design that clamps down on the front wheel, and the tray secures the rear wheel with a traditional indexed strap. When aligning the arm along the tire, it locks into place at about a 45-degree angle, keeping the arm from making contact with the frame or fork. Saris says this fixed arm position keeps the guesswork out of bike positioning and is indeed more secure than I had expected. The tray has opposing downward ramps at each wheel, resembling a trapezoidal shape, slightly lowering the tray below the base height. These ramps allow gravity to stabilize the bike and keep it from rolling during mounting.
Like the DUO, the UNO is simple and very easy to operate. I tested the full bike arsenal again and was even able to try a friend’s size large Santa Cruz Hightower. Sporting a 49″ wheelbase, the Hightower provided a great example of the upper limit of what fits on the rack. The rear wheel was near the end of the tray, and the extended arm had just enough clearance for the 29″ x 2.5″ tire. The 3″ max tire spec will be limited to a 27.5″ wheel; 29×3.0″ won’t fit. Conversely, the gravel bike and dirt jumper’s small wheelbases nestled perfectly in the smaller tray, and I preferred using the UNO with these bikes to ensure their security on the rack.
Looks and security
The Saris MHS has a very distinct and rugged look. Each wide silver clamp displays a Saris logo on the underside. When folded up, the logos stand out from the black base. The racks are made in the USA.
Each of the three MHS components I tested has a built-in security element. Unfortunately bikes locked on vehicles are the target of very prepared and savvy criminals. The MHS Base has a lock a with a rubber weather guard and attaches to the hitch bolt. The DUO tray features an extendable braided cable that extends from the center of the tray and secures around the bike frame. The UNO tray has lock pods that insert into arm to prevent the release button from being used.
Like every other bike rack I’ve used, the lock components don’t provide comfort leaving the loaded rack unattended. I supplemented the security with a heavy-duty Kryptonite chain lock wrapped around the rack base and the bike frames.
For those who need multiple DUO trays, Saris offers a pre-packaged solution that includes all the pieces at a better price than going a-la-carte. There are no pre-packaged options for the UNO trays as these are a-la-carte only. In addition to the UNO and DUO trays tested, there a MHS cargo tray available for purchase separately.
Pros and cons of the Saris Modular Hitch System
- Secure and intuitive assembly and functionality
- Heavy bike carrying capacity for e-bikes and fat bikes [DUO only]
- No frame or fork contact with either tray
- High-quality materials
- Attractive and well built
- DUO options are expensive
- Heavy complete system, especially with DUO trays
- DUO tray’s wheel block limits bike positioning and security
- UNO bike trays are limited on bike/tire size and not recommended for large enduro bikes
- Very basic security; heavier lock will be needed for expensive bikes
- $199.99 for MHS 2+1 Base [Weight: 38lb]
- $349.99 for MHS DUO single bike tray [Weight: 30lb]
- $249.99 for MHS UNO single bike tray
- $799.97 total as tested.
- Buy from saris.com and Amazon.
Each tray option is functional and easy to use with quality construction. Both options have bike limitations, but each also provide the complimentary accommodation lacking from the other.
The UNO tray is smaller, lighter and cheaper than the DUO but cannot fit extra-large wheelbases, fat bikes or e-bikes. The DUO can fit all three, but may not work well with smaller bikes. The DUO is the clear choice for serious mountain bikers, while the UNO is better for gravel bikes, or shorter wheelbase mountain bikes.