North Shore NSR-6 Review
Cons: Only works with bikes with suspension forks, not that versatile, works best on large vehicles
Manufacturer: North Shore Racks
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Analysis and Test Results
The NSR-6 has a place in the wonderful world of bike racks. Given some of the lackluster scores in a few metrics, it may be easy to overlook this rack. That said, it performs exceptionally well within its intended application. This rack can transport a lot of bikes over nasty roads with ease. This rack is all about shuttle laps, burly bikes, and rough roads. No, the NSR-6 didn't score very well in terms of versatility, ease of assembly, ease of removal and storage or security, but this is a high-end bicycle rack that does its job very well.
Ease of Everyday Use
The North Shore rack is a reasonably user-friendly rack. That said, the process of loading and unloading bikes can take a little getting used to for riders who primarily use tray-style hitch racks or roof racks. We found the NSR-6 to be easier to use compared to the other vertical hitch rack in our test, the Yakima HangOver 6.
This bike rack must be loaded from the left to right. In other words, when loading multiple bikes, you always start with the furthest left slot and work your way to the right. It is best to grip the lower fork leg with one hand and the seatstay with the other hand. Raise the front wheel towards the cradle. Turn the wheel slightly to the right and set the fork crown in the rubberized cradle. The cradle has a little bit of flex or give to it which allows the fork crown to settle into position. When the fork crown settles into place in the cradle, it squeezes the fork and holds it in place. This is a surprisingly firm grip. As you lower the rear end of the bicycle onto the rack, the rear wheel drops into place on the lower bar assembly where you can use the knotted rope to secure the rear wheel.
Unloading bikes is quite easy. Simply work backwards and unload from the left to the right. Just look out for handlebars smacking you in the face.
The beauty of the NSR-6 and other vertical-mounted hitch racks is the lack of interference between handlebars and seat posts. We have used some of our favorite tray-style racks with the "add-on features" that allow you to carry 4-bikes. These 4-bike tray racks can be difficult because with all of those bikes loaded, handlebars and seatposts are at the same height. This can damage dropper seatposts and simply make it difficult to load the bikes. This is where the NSR-6 really shines. When carrying 4+ bikes, the benefits of the vertical racks really stand out. If you are only transporting a couple of bikes, we recommend a tray-style rack. Tray-style racks are easier to work with. That said, if you are truly carrying a lot of bikes, the NSR-6 is the easiest way to do so.
The rack also has a few positions/orientations. There is a D-shaped pin on the lower mast. This allows you to tilt the mast in a few different positions. This helps you access the trunk or hatch of your vehicle more easily. This system is easy to use. Just be careful if you are tilting the mast backward with bikes loaded on the rack, all of that weight can make the mast difficult to control.
On longer road trips we recommend passing some rope through the front wheels of the bicycles. If not, the front wheels will spin continuously. This isn't a huge deal, but it might put some extra wear on your bearings.
Ease of Removal and Storage
It is no secret that the North Shore rack is large. In fact, it is enormous. Throughout testing, it spent most of its time on a 1999 Nissan Pathfinder. The rack is so big that it protruded approximately one foot above the roofline and was wider than the mirrors. In addition, it weighs approximately 70-pounds. Yes, it is quite large. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the more bike carrying capacity a rack has, the bulkier and clunkier it is.
Given the sheer mass and bulkiness of the bike rack, it can be difficult to remove it from your vehicle. There is no great way to carry the rack. When moving the NSR-6 around for storage purposes, it is best to have two sets of hands to finagle this behemoth around corners or through the doorway of a shed.
The NSR-6 did not score well in terms of versatility. In fact, it scored quite poorly. This is a niche product that has a definite and distinct target group. The rack will work very well for the target audience but is not so useful for the casual bicycle rider.
This rack will not work with road bikes. Generally, it needs a suspension fork to function properly. With a road bike or any bicycle with a rigid fork, there is usually not enough space between the front wheel and the fork crown for the cradle to function. You may get lucky with some rigid-forked mountain bikes that do have clearance between the wheel and fork crown, but road bikes and hybrid bikes likely will not work.
This rack will work with dual crown downhill bikes. According to North Shore Racks, the maximum load capacity is 360-pounds. That means E-bikes should work just fine on the NSR-6. This is a distinct advantage over the similar Yakima HangOver 6 which has a reported weight limit of 37.5-pounds per bicycle. This means the NSR-6 is a much better option for carrying downhill bikes or e-bikes.
North Shore designed this rack for the hardcore mountain biker, not the casual rider. It offers a low amount of versatility. If you think you'll be carrying multiple types of bicycles, we suggest looking elsewhere.
Ease of Assembly
The NSR-6 was quite difficult to assemble. The process was a little involved and will take roughly 60-minutes to complete. It may be a good idea to have two sets of hands to avoid dropping the heavy metal pieces onto your foot. Yes, that happened.
Upon unboxing the rack, everything is wrapped in industrial cling/stretch wrap. It can be difficult to unwrap everything smoothly and we recommend doing so on grass or a soft surface to avoid damaging the metal in the event you drop a piece. There is a bag of hardware and rope, an anti-rattle device, three pieces of the mast/hitch, and two horizontal pieces. Two crescent wrenches are required to secure all of the nuts and bolts together.
The directions are decent and we were able to follow them without too much trouble. It is best to use the directions in conjunction with an image on a phone or computer to double-check your work as things can get a little confusing. While the directions were okay, this rack comes in a lot of pieces and there are a lot of loose parts. It was the most difficult and time-consuming rack to assemble.
Security features are quite minimal with the NSR-6 rack. In fact, they are non-existent. The bikes do not lock to the rack and the rack does not lock to your hitch. According to the North Shore website, the hitch pin is compatible with ¼" padlocks.
We recommend carrying a long, heavy-duty, cable lock in your vehicle. If you run into the grocery store after a ride or are camping in a seedy area, you can feed the cable through the bikes and lock them to each other. Some hitches have slots where you could lock the bikes to the hitch itself.
Given the design of the NSR-6, it would have been difficult to integrate a security feature that locks the bikes to the rack. We do think it would have been possible for North Shore to include a locking hitch pin as we have seen in a few other racks.
Throughout testing, we observed no signs of wear or deterioration. We drove this rack through some serious rain/hail storms, on dusty dirt roads, and plenty of smooth highway. It still functions as new and there is no abnormal wiggle or play. We have not observed any signs of the rack not holding bikes in a secure-enough manner.
Some folks have complained on the interwebs about previous iterations of the NSR rusting easily. We have no indication that this issue is developing through our short test period.
At $750, the NSR-6 is expensive. No two ways about it. As a result, it only makes sense for the hardcore mountain biker who will be giving this rack years of heavy use.
The enthusiast or casual crowd should check out the tray-style racks that cost a few hundred dollars less and are much easier to use when carrying just a couple of bikes.
The North Shore NSR-6 rack is a niche bike rack that features a quality design and has a build-to-last feel. Yes, this rack may have a much narrower range of applications compared to other options in our test. It only works with bikes with a suspension fork, lacks security features, and is quite clunky to remove from your vehicle and store. That said, for the right buyer, the $750 price tag will be well worth it. This is a great choice for heavy shuttling and hauling 4+ bikes around town.
— Pat Donahue