Kuat Transfer Review
Cons: Feels a little cheap, no locks included
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Kuat is well known for their quality, and often very expensive, bike racks. That's why we were intrigued by the much more reasonably priced Transfer, a platform hitch model that costs less than half of that price. With a price that much lower we kept our expectations similarly low but were pleasantly surprised by a relatively user-friendly and good looking rack, albeit in a much less refined package. It does not feel as rugged or quality as its much higher-priced siblings, nor does it come with security features of any kind, sacrifices made to keep the price of this model down. This is a fine entry-level platform hitch rack to be sure, but those looking for high-end Kuat quality will still need to pay the high-end price to get it.
Ease of Everyday Use
The Transfer is well suited to everyday use. This is the type of rack you can attach to your vehicle and leave it there between uses so it's always ready when you need it. When not in use you can position the rack vertically, simply press the convenient foot pedal tilt release to lower it to its horizontal position. Loading the bikes is very easy thanks to the low loading height and wheel clamp design. Fold the clamp arm out, place the bike's wheels in the wheel trays, then secure it by pulling down on the ratcheting front wheel clamp and the rear wheel ladder strap.
The Transfer has a small foot pedal located by the hinge that connects the receiver arm to the main support arm of the rack. This foot pedal is quite easy to press when the rack is in the vertical position, it is a bit out of the way, however, when the rack is in the horizontal position or when it's loaded with bikes. This design is better than the difficult to reach release knob on the Yakima HoldUp, but not quite as convenient as the release handles found on the Thule T2 Pro XT or the RockyMounts MonoRail. The rack does articulate down at an angle making it easier to open the rear door or tailgate of your vehicle even while bikes are on the rack.
One thing that testers noticed about the Transfer compared to other platform hitch mount racks is that it works better with backup cameras than most. The U-shaped support arm is open in the middle while most other racks have a single main support arm that largely blocks the view of a backup camera. Testers found this to be true both when the rack was folded up and not in use, as well as when bikes were loaded on it.
Ease of Removal and Storage
The Transfer is relatively easy to remove and store but like most platform hitch mount racks it suffers a little in this metric due to its size and shape. Attaching and removing the rack is similar to most other racks with a threaded hitch pin and requires a wrench and bending down low to the ground. While tightening a threaded hitch pin with a wrench is quite easy, racks like the Thule T2 Pro XT make this process even easier with their tool-free stinger pin and tightening knob design.
At only 35lbs 8oz, it's among the lightest weight platform models in the test, just 1lb 8 oz heavier than the Yakima Dr. Tray. It's also somewhat smaller than many of its competitors, with a width of only 47 inches, so once removed it takes up a little less space in your storage space compared to other wider racks like the RockyMounts MonoRail which is 56 inches wide. Like most similar racks, it's still quite sizeable and somewhat awkward to store compared to a trunk mount rack that can fold down nice and small for convenient storage.
The Transfer scores quite well for its versatility. It comes with a convertible system that makes it compatible with both 1.25" and 2" receivers. The wheel trays are well designed and can hold everything from skinny road tires all the way up to 4.5" fat bike tires, although you'll need to purchase the Phat Bike Kit to secure the latter. It can also clamp down on wheel sizes from small 20" BMX bikes up to 29" plus sized mountain bike tires thanks to the large range of adjustment in the clamp arms. It secures the bikes with no frame contact, so there is no fear of damaging expensive carbon frames or compatibility issues with oddly shaped tubing. It has a 40lb maximum weight per bike, so it'll be fine for all but the heaviest downhill or e-bikes.
Ease of Assembly
The Transfer lost some ground to the competition for its time-consuming and relatively involved assembly process. This rack comes completely disassembled, so prepare yourself for a solid 30-45 minutes putting it together before you can start using it. It does come with easy to follow instructions and all of the tools you'll need to complete the process, it's just a bit more involved than bolting a couple of trays to a support arm.
Testers felt that assembling the Transfer was reminiscent of putting together a piece of furniture from IKEA. It isn't especially difficult, it just takes a bit of time and making sure you follow the instructions. The assembly is quite different from but similar in scope to that of the Kuat NV 2.0. Racks like the RockyMounts MonoRail and the Kuat Sherpa 2.0 also require some assembly but it is much easier and less involved than the Transfer.
Unlike many of the platform hitch racks in this review, the Transfer doesn't come with locks included. There's not much in the way of security for either the rack itself or your bikes unless you purchase the lock kit or some sort of aftermarket cable lock. Considering the relatively low price of this rack it isn't exactly a surprise that it isn't equipped with locks, but we generally prefer the added value and convenience of locks coming preinstalled and integrated into the design of a rack.
Kuat's Transfer Lock Kit can be purchased and it includes one cable lock per bike and a hitch pin lock to secure the rack to the vehicle. If everything is purchased at retail prices this brings the total price of the Transfer to $347 which is still a pretty solid value.
The rack itself attaches to your receiver with a standard threaded hitch pin. If security is a priority, we think you're better off checking out racks like the RockyMounts MonoRail or the Yakima Dr. Tray, both of which come with locks for both the rack and the bikes.
During testing, we didn't experience any durability issues with the Transfer, but one of our tester's biggest complaints about it is that it feels a little cheap. The main receiver tube, support arm, and clamp arms are made from lightweight aluminum tubing which looks and feels highly durable. The wheel trays and wheel clamps themselves are made from plastic which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the way they interface feels poorly designed. The main hinge of the rack also feels a bit loose and has some play in the system, it never caused any issues but it doesn't feel nearly as solid as some of the competition. We also noticed that the end caps of the support arms don't line up perfectly making that a place that water could possibly get in and do some damage over time.
The Transfer is a highly versatile platform hitch mount rack that can carry just about any type of bike and can accommodate wheel sizes ranging from 20" kids bikes up to 29" plus sized mountain bike tires. It has a low loading height and it secures the bikes by the wheel with no frame contact making easy to load. It also fits both 1.25" and 2" receivers with a unique convertible design. It has a 40lb weight limit per bike, so it'll work fine for most bikes but isn't a great option for heavyweight e-bikes. There are no locks included with the Transfer, so those hoping to secure their bikes will need to buy an aftermarket lock kit or check out a different model.
We feel the Transfer is a relatively good value. It's far less expensive than Kuat's other platform hitch mount racks and it works well with a simple and intuitive design. If you're looking to get a platform hitch mount rack and don't want to pay premium prices, then this is probably the way to go. That said, testers found it to feel a bit cheap and less refined compared to most of the more expensive models in this review, but it works far better than marginally less expensive competitors like the Swagman Chinook, which makes bike frame contact.
The Transfer is a reasonably priced entry-level platform hitch mount rack from Kuat. It lacks the refinement, sturdiness, and security features of models that cost twice as much, but this is a convenient and relatively user-friendly option that won't completely break the bank. If you're looking for a platform hitch rack that doesn't make any frame contact and you don't have piles of money to spend, then we feel this is your best option.
Other Versions and Accessories
In addition to the 2-bike model of the Transfer we tested they also make it in 1-bike and 3-bike configurations. They also make a 1-bike add-on that can be used with the 1-bike version to expand its capacity to 2 bikes.A Transfer Lock Kit, $39, is sold separately and includes one cable lock per bike and a lock for the hitch pin.
The Phat Bike Kit, $10, includes a strap extender and a secondary velcro strap to secure fat tires.
Kuat makes the Hi-Lo, $49, an extension for 2" receivers that extends by 7 or 10 inches and gives 2-1/8" or rise or drop.
The Pivot, $295, is a fold-out receiver arm that allows you to swing the entire rack to provide better access to the back of your vehicle.Kuat also makes several other platform hitch racks including the NV 2.0 and the Sherpa 2.0, both of which are also in this review.
— Jeremy Benson