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Kuat NV 2.0 Review

High-end durable hitch mount rack, with welcome upgrades to the original version
Kuat NV 2.0
Photo: REI Co-op
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Price:  $849 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Durable, versatile, integrated work stand
Cons:  Heavy, expensive, more difficult assembly, no tray adjustability
Manufacturer:   Kuat
By Curtis Smith ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 29, 2019
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 23
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 8
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 6
  • Versatility - 20% 9
  • Security - 20% 8
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 6
  • Durability - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The Kuat NV 2.0 is the updated version of the highly popular and well-loved Kuat NV. We loved the original, and the 2.0 takes it to the next level with class-leading aesthetics and functional design. While it certainly looks great and has loads of useful features, it can't quite match the ergonomics or adjustability of our top-rated hitch racks. It does work with a wide range of bikes, but this rack is heavy, and its fixed tray positions can lead to some bike interference issues. That said, the feature-rich NV 2.0 sets itself apart with the useful Trail Doc work stand and class-leading security features.

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Kuat NV 2.0
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
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Overall Score Sort Icon
77
82
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53
Star Rating
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Pros Durable, versatile, integrated work standEasy tilt release function, durable, fat bike compatible, tool-free installationReasonably priced, highly versatile, solid construction, user-friendly tilt release, comes with locksVery secure hold, no frame or fork contactVery inexpensive, no assembly required, lightweight, folds small for storage
Cons Heavy, expensive, more difficult assembly, no tray adjustabilityHefty, priceySits slightly closer to vehicle than some, some assembly requiredDesign seems a little over-complicated, limited to vehicles with low roof height, you have to lift bike to height of roof to loadNot adjustable, support arms may not work with all frame shapes/styles, no security features
Bottom Line High-end durable hitch mount rack, with welcome upgrades to the original versionImpressively easy to use and highly versatile, we think this is the best hitch-mount rack on the marketA versatile hitch-mount rack that provides a high price to performance ratioA roof-mount rack with an exceptionally sturdy and secure hold of your bicycle with no frame contactA very affordable, bare-bones trunk rack for the infrequent rack user on a tight budget
Rating Categories Kuat NV 2.0 Thule T2 Pro XTR RockyMounts MonoRail Thule UpRide Allen Deluxe 2-Bike...
Ease Of EveryDay Use (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
Ease Of Removal And Storage (20%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Versatility (20%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
4.0
Security (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
2.0
Ease Of Assembly (10%)
6.0
7.0
6.0
10.0
9.0
Durability (10%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Kuat NV 2.0 Thule T2 Pro XTR RockyMounts MonoRail Thule UpRide Allen Deluxe 2-Bike...
Style Hitch (tray) Hitch (tray) Hitch (tray) Roof Trunk
Bike Capacity 2 2 2 1 2
Lock? Yes Yes Yes Available but not included No
Weight 57 lbs 10 oz 51 lbs 44 lbs 2 oz 17 lbs 7 lbs 9 oz
Other Sizes Available? Yes, 1.25" receiver and rack add-on for 2 additional bikes Yes, 1.25" receiver and rack add-on for 2 additional bikes Yes, 1.25" reciever, single bike add-on sold separately No Yes, 3 and 4 bike versions
Cross Bar Compatibility N/A N/A N/A Round, Square, Aero, Most Factory N/A

Our Analysis and Test Results

Many modern bikes, especially electric models, are heavy and can be difficult to load on platform hitch racks like the NV 2.0. Fortunately, Kuat sells the NV 2.0 Bike Ramp as an aftermarket accessory that is compatible with any rack in their NV series. Instead of struggling to lift heavy bikes, this handy accessory allows the user to roll them on and off the platform. February 2021

The Kuat NV 2.0 is a high-quality platform hitch mount rack. The original NV is a previous winner of our coveted Editors' Choice Award, and the 2.0 continues in that tradition of quality. Best in class security features, a beautiful finish, and an integrated work stand separates the NV 2.0 from nearly every other hitch-mount rack on the market. Kuat has refined an already great product, although the new NV 2.0 has a few flaws.

Performance Comparison


The Kuat NV 2.0 ready to go to work for a day of shuttling.
The Kuat NV 2.0 ready to go to work for a day of shuttling.
Photo: Curtis Smith

Ease of Everyday Use


The NV 2.0 scores well here and is one of the user-friendliest racks we tested. The ratcheting arms are easy to snug up and easy to release, while the rear wheel straps are also well designed and easy to manipulate. The main mast pivot has seen a well-thought-out redesign from the previous version of the NV. It now incorporates a large lever at the pivot point, which makes lowering and raising the rack easier; the release lever is designed to be pressed on with your foot when the rack is in the upright position, eliminating the need to bend down to get the rack into the horizontal loading position.

With the Kuat NV 2.0 in the lower tilted down position, it is...
With the Kuat NV 2.0 in the lower tilted down position, it is possible to open the back glass on a camper shell, and open a hatch on many hatch back vehicles. Not quite enough room to lower the tailgate though.
Photo: Curtis Smith

When loaded with bikes, however, it's still a two-hand operation, and potentially a two-person operation depending on the weight of the load to lower the rack into the tilted down position. The NV 2.0 is outscored in this category by the Thule T2 Pro and the RockyMounts MonoRail both of which use a release handle on the end of the mast arm to lower and raise the rack. We applaud the pivot redesign on the NV 2.0, but it doesn't compare to the ergonomically excellent design of the Thule T2 Pro. Another gripe we have is the fixed position of the trays. The front-wheel cradle can be adjusted slightly, but the trays can't be adjusted horizontally, which can lead to handlebar and seatpost contact with certain bikes. While the rack certainly feels solid, we prefer having the ability to adjust the trays to avoid bike interference.

Ease of Removal and Storage


The NV 2.0 uses a similar vehicle attachment system to its predecessor. A knob on the end of the receiver arm is turned, which expands a cam system within the hitch receiver and eliminates wobble. This is similar to the system used on the Thule T2 Pro, but the Kuat system still requires a locking hitch pin, where the T2 Pro is locked to the vehicle by securing the lock at the tensioning knob. Both systems get the job done, but we have to give the T2 Pro the upper hand here when it comes to ease of use.

At 57 lbs and 10 oz, the NV 2.0 is also quite heavy. Given its size, it can be quite awkward to deal with when moving it from the vehicle to your storage location. Like most hitch-mount platform racks, it also takes up a fair amount of space wherever you choose to store it as it is quite large.

Versatility


The NV 2.0 is among our highest scoring products when it comes to versatility. All of the platform hitch mount racks we have tested score well here, because they hold bikes at the tires, eliminating frame design variations or axle standards from the equation. The NV 2.0 and the Thule T2 Pro stand out due to their ability to carry bikes with tires up to 4.8" and wheel sizes from 20"-29". The NV 2.0 does require the use of an adaptor for 20" and 24" wheels, but the adaptor is provided free of charge by Kuat upon request.

The Kuat NV 2.0 is user friendly and easy to load.
The Kuat NV 2.0 is user friendly and easy to load.
Photo: Curtis Smith

The Kuat claims a 60 lbs per bike weight limit for the NV 2.0 which means that it should be able to handle just about any bike out there, including most heavy electric models. Kuat also sells a ramp that works with the NV models that allows the user to load the bikes by rolling them up the ramp instead of lifting them in to place. Should you ever want to expand the capacity of your rack, Kuat also sells 1 and 2 bike add-ons so you can create a 3 or 4 bike rack. Additionally, if you drive a van or similar vehicle, Kuat makes the Pivot v2 which can be added to the rack so you can swing it out to the side for easier access to the back of your vehicle.

It should also be noted that the Trail Doc work stand has been redesigned, with a quick ratcheting clamp, which makes securing a bike in the stand easier. We love this feature for quick trailhead repairs, but it's not as stable as a dedicated work stand. It's a great feature, but after years of using the work stand on the original NV, we've come to the conclusion that it's not a replacement for a high-quality home repair stand. It should also be noted that there is no provision for locking the Trail Doc feature, making it prone to theft.

Ease of Assembly


No beating around the bush here, the NV 2.0 is a bear to assemble. It does come with excellent directions, and reliable, durable tools that won't end up in the trash after you assemble the rack, but the assembly process is best approached with two people and some patience. Each tray on the NV 2.0 is composed of two sections that must be bolted to the main support mast and the bolts extend through both sections of the tray and the main mast. To assemble the rack, tray sections must be lined up with the holes on the mast. This process requires some patience and ideally two people because the individual tray sections and the mast are quite cumbersome and awkward to manipulate.

The Kuat NV 2.0 was a bit difficult to assemble for a 1 man team....
The Kuat NV 2.0 was a bit difficult to assemble for a 1 man team. We recommend you phone a friend to make the process a bit more manageable.
Photo: Curtis Smith

Security


The Kuat NV 2.0 uses two burly cable locks, one extending from the back end of each tray to secure bikes. The cables are substantial in diameter and are designed to be looped through the rear triangle of the frame; the original NV used a single cable that had to be looped through the frame of both bikes. We like the individual cables for each bike, but wish they were longer to allow for the securing of the front wheel as well. That being said, the NV 2.0 still gets high marks for security due to the substantial diameter of the cables when compared to other racks we have tested with thinner cables.

While we were impressed by the security features of the NV 2.0, it is not infallible. The cable locks will certainly deter many opportunistic bike thieves but they can easily be cut by determined ones. We highly recommend spending a few extra bucks and adding a rugged aftermarket bike lock for maximum security.

The Kuat NV 2.0 utilizes a heavy duty locking cable that deploys...
The Kuat NV 2.0 utilizes a heavy duty locking cable that deploys from the tray to secure a bike from theft. The cable slides back into the tray and clicks in place with a magnetic system.
Photo: Curtis Smith

Durability


Kuat has nailed it when it comes to durability. The powder-coated finish is simply more durable than the painted finish found on most other racks. It's hard to scratch and maintains a like-new appearance even following extended use. All of the moving parts also held up well during testing, and we had no issues with the central pivot or the ratcheting wheel clamps despite our abuse.

The Kuat NV 2.0
The Kuat NV 2.0
Photo: Curtis Smith

Value


The NV 2.0 is one of the most expensive racks we've tested. It is a very high-quality rack and has features such as a built-in work stand which is not found on any other products. We are pretty cut and dry when it comes to value, either stating a product presents a good value, or it doesn't. However, the value of the Kuat NV is somewhat subjective to the prospective buyer. Whether or not it is or is not a real value is dependent upon how much aesthetics and the inclusion of a work stand are worth to you. If looks are secondary to function, and they are to us, then we would have to recommend you look elsewhere at racks that cost less and are more user-friendly.

Conclusion


The NV 2.0 is a beautiful rack and follows a logical progression from the original NV, with many worthwhile functional upgrades. While it is aesthetically pleasing and generally easy to use, it loses a little ground to the competition for its limited tray adjustability and lofty price of admission.

Curtis Smith