RockyMounts BrassKnuckles Review
Cons: No locks included, expensive for roof mount
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Our Analysis and Test Results
RockyMounts makes all types of bike racks and the BrassKnuckles is one of several roof mount racks in this review. Both the JetLine and the SwitchHitter are roof mount racks made by RockyMounts, and both secure the bike by the front axle and require removal of the front wheel while the BrassKnuckles does not. The result is a very user-friendly and versatile rack that is limited only by its rooftop location and lack of security features. If you're looking for a quality roof mount tray rack we think the BrassKnuckles is a great option to consider, you just might want to buy a cable lock to go along with it.
Ease of Everyday Use
Testers found the BrassKnuckles to be very well suited to everyday use. As with any roof mount rack, the most difficult part of the process is lifting the bike up onto the roof of your vehicle. The BrassKnuckles is easier to use than most roof racks, however, due to the fact that there is no wheel removal required. The lack of wheel removal is one reason that the BrassKnuckles and the Yakima FrontLoader score slightly higher in this metric than their fork mount competition. That said, the BrassKnuckles is the easier of the two to load your bike into.
Once this rack is installed on your roof bars you simply need to open the front and rear wheel straps, flip open the metal wheel cradle, and articulate the clamp arm all the way forward. Then hoist your bike up onto the long tray and secure the front wheel with the stout ratcheting clamp arm. This clamp arm is almost identical to those found on many platform hitch mount racks, although this one has a grip reminiscent of a set of brass knuckles as the handle. Both the front and rear wheels get secured even further with a ratcheting ladder strap. To get the bike down you simply reverse the process. Testers found this system to be easier to use than the Yakima FrontLoader, and easier than all of the fork-mount roof racks as well.
This rack easiest to use on vehicles with lower roofs like sedans and station wagons due to the fact that you have to lift the bike all the way up onto it. The higher the roof, the more challenging it becomes. When not in use, you can fold the clamp arm and the wheel cradle down and the rack becomes quite low profile. It's nearly as streamlined as the fork mount roof racks when fully collapsed.
Ease of Removal and Storage
Generally speaking, roof mount racks typically get mounted on your crossbars and left there for an extended period due to the more time consuming and involved process of attachment and removal. This style of rack is more of a set it and forget it than something you'd want to put on and take off after every use.
When you do choose to install or remove the BrassKnuckles from your vehicle it really isn't all that difficult but it does require the use of a 5mm Allen key and just a little bit of time. The rack can be mounted to virtually any style of crossbar, RockyMounts, Thule, Yakima, and most factory styles. The front mount point is at the connection of the tray and the clamp arm and consists of a rubber-coated metal strap that is tightened or loosened by turning a screw underneath the lockable plastic cover. The rear attachment point is consists of two screws and a metal plate that tighten around the crossbar, both screws are on the same side of the tray making them easy to reach. Mounting or removing the BrassKnuckles takes no more than 5 minutes.
The BrassKnuckles is significantly heavier than the fork-mount style roof racks but at only 19lbs it isn't really that heavy. Once the rack is off your vehicle it is 63.25" long, but only 12" wide and 5" thick, making it quite easy to store in the corner of your garage or shed, especially compared to the massive mitch mount racks in this review.
The BrassKnuckles shines in the versatility department. This rack can fit a huge range of wheel sizes, wheelbases, and tire widths from road tires up to massive fat bike rubber (with the fat bike adapter kit). When used on aftermarket crossbars it has a weight limit of 45lbs, and 35lbs on factory bars. It can handle any bike in your fleet with the exception of heavyweight e-bikes, but who wants to lift a 50lb bike on their roof anyway. Due to the fact that this rack makes no frame contact to secure your bike, it should appeal to a huge range of riders, including those with oddly shaped tubing or fragile carbon frames. The front wheel clamp is one size fits all, and no adjustments are needed when switching between different wheel sizes or tire widths. Unlike the fork mount style roof racks, the BrassKnuckles doesn't have any axle compatibility issues like you may experience with the Thule ThruRide.
Ease of Assembly
When you open the box that the BrassKnuckles comes in you'll notice that it comes in several pieces. The assembly is somewhat more involved than other racks that come completely or mostly assembled from the factory.
Putting the rack together is quite simple with easy to follow instructions and all the tools needed included. You basically connect the front and rear halves of the tray, slide the wheel retention straps into place and then push the end caps of the tray into place on both ends. Assembly of the BrassKnuckles takes 5-10 minutes with another 5 minutes or so to install it on top of your vehicle. We don't feel that this assembly time is a deal breaker, but it's certainly more time-consuming than the Yakima FrontLoader which comes fully assembled.
Unfortunately, the BrassKnuckles doesn't come with any security features. It is designed to accept lock cores in both the clamp arm handle and the front tray attachment cover, and lock cores are sold separately. So, on its own, it doesn't offer much in the way of security for either the bike or the rack, but assuming you spend the $20 to get a set of lock cores this rack quickly becomes much more secure. Even without the lock on the front attachment plate of the rack, one would need a 5mm Allen key and 5 minutes or so to get the rack off of your vehicle, a lock would add significantly more deterrent. Adding a lock to the clamp arm would also do wonders to deter a would-be bike thief, but even then it only secures the front wheel, the rest of the bike remains unlocked unless you happen to secure it to either the rack or your roof bars with a cable lock through the frame.
The most similar rack in the test, the Yakima FrontLoader also doesn't come with any locks included, although it does have an integrated cable that needs a lock core to become a functional security measure. Other roof mount racks we tested that require the removal of the front wheel, like the Kuat Trio come with integrated cable locks and lockable fork mounts for extra security.
During the course of our testing, we've been very impressed by the durability of the BrassKnuckles. With a name like that you'd expect this rack to be tough, and as far as we can tell this is a sturdy and robust rack that is built to stand the test of time. The rack attaches securely to the vehicle and holds your bike steadily at highway speeds and when it's windy. This is thanks to the stout clamp arm and secure clamp mechanism, as well as the ratcheting straps that secure each wheel to the tray. Due to the lack of bike movement, you can tell that this rack is rugged, and the steady bike will help to prevent its parts from breaking down over time. All of the moving parts are still in perfect working order, and in case anything breaks RockyMounts sells every part on their website.
The BrassKnuckles is ideal for cyclists with vehicles that have lower roofs like sedans and station wagons. Assuming you don't have a hard time lifting your bike up to the loading height of this rack, it can accommodate a huge range of wheel sizes, tire widths, and wheelbase lengths, plus it secures the bike with no frame contact and can work with virtually any shape of frame. It doesn't come with locks, although they are easily and inexpensively installed, even with them this rack isn't especially secure so it might not be the best option for anyone who requires a very secure bike rack.
At $220 retail, the BrassKnuckles is one of the most expensive roof mount bike racks in this test. We feel this rack is a good value to the right consumer as it is high quality, user-friendly, durable, and impressively versatile. We'd be more inclined to buy this rack over most of the fork mount roof racks due to its ease of use and versatility, although most of the fork mount racks cost less and have better security.
The BrassKnuckles is a well-designed roof mount rack that is user-friendly, durable, and very versatile. It has sturdy construction with a beefy clamp arm that holds the bike securely on your roof. It's easy to load, for a roof mount rack, and doesn't require the removal of a wheel or any special adapters. It's also relatively streamlined and folds down small when not in use. Our biggest gripe is that it doesn't come with locks, though they can be added, and this rack provides a lesser degree of security than many other competitors.
Other Versions and Accessories
RockyMounts makes a full line of bike racks to suit every need and budget. In addition to the BrassKnuckles model reviewed here, they also make a similar model called the Tomahawk that retails for $150.Lock cores are sold separately for the BrassKnuckles, and a set of two retails for $20.
RockyMounts also makes a Fattie Kit, $20, to accommodate tires up to 5" wide on the BrassKnuckles rack.
— Jeremy Benson