RockyMounts MonoRail Review
Cons: Sits slightly closer to vehicle than some, some assembly required
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Colorado-based RockyMounts has been producing quality bike racks since the early 90's. They've been steadily improving their designs and product offerings, and the MonoRail is one of several hitch mount platform racks in their line. We tested the MonoRail during an especially wet spring in the Sierra Nevada mountains with frequent trips to escape the snow and ride bikes at lower elevations. During testing, it rained and snowed quite frequently and this rack lived on the back of our tester's truck for over a month. We carried all types of bikes and logged thousands of miles on everything from smooth highways, winding mountain roads, and washboard doubletracks. Read the full review to see how it compares to the competition.
The MonoRail scored well across our rating metrics and impressed our testers with an excellent price to performance ratio earning it our Best Buy Award.
Ease of Everyday Use
The MonoRail is very well suited for everyday use. It's quite user-friendly and loading bikes is simple and easy thanks to its low loading height and intuitive design. The clamp arms are sturdy and articulate with just enough tension that they stay where you put them but don't move around on their own. The clamp itself is easy to tighten down onto your wheel and just as easy to release with the large blue lever on the handle. The ladder straps that secure the rear wheels are also easy to use by simply pulling tension on them, they don't have a ratcheting feature like some racks. The rear wheel cradles are also on pivots and they self-adjust depending on the wheelbase of your bike.
One of our favorite things about the MonoRail is the tilt release handle. This handle is located on the bottom of the main arm of the rack and is incredibly easy to access with the rack in either the up or down position. Simply pull the blue handle up to release the rack and move it into whatever position you like, up, down, or tilted down. The tilted down position of the MonoRail makes it possible to open a truck tailgate or the back hatch of a station wagon or SUV with bikes on the rack. This is a similarly user-friendly design to the tilt handle found on the Thule T2 Pro. It is dramatically easier to use than the tilt release pin on the Yakima HoldUp which requires you to awkwardly reach to release the pin by the main pivot point. Testers also found it to be a better design than the foot pedals found on the Kuat NV 2.0 and the Kuat Transfer since it's easier to access when the rack is in the down position.
Ease of Removal and Storage
The MonoRail is similarly easy to remove and store as most of the other hitch mount platform racks in this test. It loses a little ground in this metric due to its standard threaded hitch pin which must be tightened with a wrench. One the hitch pin is tight you can secure it to the vehicle with the included hitch pin lock. Other racks share this attachment style and it isn't especially challenging to use, though the tool-free knob designs on the Thule T2 Pro and the Yakima Dr. Tray are much quicker and more user-friendly.
One thing the MonoRail has going for it is its moderate weight. It tips the scales at 44lbs 2oz, putting it right around average for the hitch mount platform racks we tested. Testers found it relatively easy to move around and pick up with just one hand, making putting it on and taking it off less of a chore. We much prefer the lighter weight racks anytime we have to move them by hand as they are far less cumbersome than heavier models like the Thule T2 Pro at 51 lbs, or the Kuat NV 2.0 which weighs a whopping 57 lbs 10 oz. The MonoRail doesn't weigh nearly as much as those competitors but it's far from the lightest platform rack in the test. The Yakima Dr. Tray is a svelte 34 lbs which helps to make it one of the easiest racks to deal with off the vehicle.
Like most hitch mount platform racks, the MonoRail takes up a fair amount of space. It's similar to many of the other racks in this test in terms of its width of 56", but it's compact in comparison for its height of only 26.5". Other competitors like the Yakima Dr. Tray which has a height measurement of 40.5", are much taller. Either way, the MonoRail is still a fairly awkward shape to deal with when it comes to storage. From a storage standpoint, we were most impressed with the 1Up USA for its folding tray design.
During testing we found the MonoRail to be a highly versatile rack. It scored relatively well in this metric although it lost a little ground due to its limited wheelbase length adjustment.
It comes in both 2" and 1.25" receiver sizes, so you can be sure to get the appropriate size for your vehicle. It has a bike weight limit of 60 lbs per bike, so it can handle any bike you've got, even heavyweight e-bikes. The clamp arm is designed so that it holds the bike by the front tire and it fits everything from 20" up to 29" wheel sizes. Since there is no frame contact to secure the bikes in the rack it can hold any style of bike and won't damage your frame's paint in any way. The tire cradles themselves are well designed with a curved shape and a narrow groove down the center that holds skinny road bike tires all the way up to 5" wide fat bike treads. The rack comes with ladder strap extensions to secure fat bike tires in the rear wheel trays.
During testing, we didn't have any problems getting any of our adult sized bikes to fit on this rack. Due to the fact that the wheel cradles on the rack are fixed in place, however, we did notice that there is a limited wheelbase range. The rear wheel cradle is attached on a hinge so it does have some adjustment, the RockyMounts website claims it can fit wheelbases from 34" to 49". This is only really an issue for really small BMX or kids bikes, and most riders shouldn't have any issue getting their bikes to fit. We also read a complaint online that the clamp arm didn't have adequate clearance for a user's fat bike suspension fork, something to consider if you happen to have one.
Ease of Assembly
The MonoRail comes mostly disassembled in the box so before you attach it to your vehicle and go for a ride you'll need to put it together. The process is relatively straightforward and easy, and it took us around 15-20 minutes to complete.
The trays come mostly assembled, putting the pieces together is relatively intuitive, and the included instructions are simple to follow. The rear wheel cradles need to be attached to each tray and the ratcheting straps also need to be slid into position on each one. The mounting brackets for the trays are on the top of the main arm of the rack. Placing the main body of the rack into the receiver on your vehicle is a good way to approach attaching the wheel trays, it's like having an extra set of hands to hold it steady for you.
The mounting brackets for the trays are snug, so once you position the trays it holds them securely while you insert and tighten down the hardware. It's a relatively simple process, the hardest part is making sure you put the right tray in the right bracket, the one with the RockyMounts logo goes on the outside. The trays are also designed to have about 2 inches of side to side adjustment, so be sure to take the time to position them so your bikes don't conflict in transit.
Testers found the assembly of the MonoRail to be similar to most of the other hitch mount platform racks we tested. It did prove to be just slightly easier than the Yakima Holdup, and a fair amount easier than the Kuat Transfer. The 1Up USA was our highest scorer in this metric as it arrives fully assembled and ready to go.
Securing your precious cargo is a concern for many cyclists and RockyMounts has a made a solid effort to provide the user with security features on the MonoRail.
It comes with a standard threaded hitch pin to attach the rack to your vehicle's receiver. The MonoRail also comes with two small hitch pin locks, keyed the same, that attach to the end of the hitch pin to prevent anyone from simply unscrewing it and making away with your entire bike rack. One of these hitch pin locks is for the hitch pin itself, the other is for the cable lock system (more on that below). Several other racks we tested use this same style of locking hitch pin for security, like the RockyMounts BackStage and the Yakima HoldUp. We feel it adds a good level of security to your rack and will definitely deter the majority of would-be rack thieves. The locks themselves don't feel especially robust, however, and can be broken off with a hammer in just seconds. The included locks are certainly a good theft deterrent, but not much more than that.
A cable lock is also included to secure the bikes to the rack. The cable is approximately 6.5 feet long and has a cable loop on one end and a metal fitting on the other. This cable isn't permanently attached to the rack in any way so it's quite easy to loop it through your bike frames. It's long enough to feed it through 2 frames and two wheels, though you can't feed through all 4 wheels if you have 2 bikes on the rack. Once you've got the cable configured how you want it, the metal fitting on the end of the cable slides onto the pin at the main pivot of the platform and gets locked on with the 2nd hitch pin lock. This lock style is similar to that found on the Kuat Sherpa and we feel it is a good system that seems to add the most security. Other racks like the Thule T2 Pro and the Yakima HoldUp have smaller cable locks that are integrated into the clamp arms and are slightly more user-friendly but we don't feel they add as much security. It should be noted, however, that this cable lock system is far from theft-proof and is more of a theft deterrent than anything else. Anyone looking to truly secure their bikes to this rack would be wise to look into a more robust aftermarket lock.
So far we've been quite impressed with the durability of the MonoRail. Its seen a lot of miles, some bumpy roads, mountain highway road grime, and it appears no worse for the wear.
The tubing and trays have a durable metal construction, though there is a fair amount of plastic on this rack. Similar to racks like the Thule T2 Classic and the Yakima HoldUp, the Monorail has plastic wheel cradles and some clamp arm components. The plastic parts used on the Monorail do appear to be highly durable, though plastic tends to break down over time. We experienced zero issues, however, with any of this rack's moving parts despite a fair amount of wet spring drives and leaving it on the back of one tester's truck for several weeks on end.
The locking hitch pins that are included with the rack are probably the least durable feeling part of the whole package. They feel lightweight and plastic-y, not as robust as those that come with other brands. Otherwise, we feel good about the overall durability of the MonoRail but it can't match the bombproof all-metal construction of the 1Up USA, or the sturdy design of the Kuat NV 2.0.
The MonoRail is a great bike rack that can handle virtually any type of bike in your fleet. From heavyweight e-bikes and fat bikes to skinny tire road bikes and everything in between, this rack has you covered with a simple user-friendly design that holds your bikes securely with no frame contact. We think this is a solid and affordable option for just about anyone. It isn't ideal for transporting small kids bikes, but it can handle just about everything else.
We feel the MonoRail is a solid value for a quality platform hitch rack that comes loaded with features, and we give it our Best Buy Award. This rack is solid, user-friendly, fits a large range of tire sizes, and comes with a cable lock and a locking hitch pin. This rack costs less and outperforms the Yakima HoldUp, and you're looking at spending quite a bit more to get a rack with better performance and features than the MonoRail.
The MonoRail is a quality platform hitch rack from RockyMounts. If you don't want to spend a small fortune for a well designed, user-friendly, versatile, and secure bike rack, we think this an excellent option to consider. It's slightly less refined than some of the more expensive competition but it still checks all of the boxes and earns our Best Buy Award.
Other Versions and Accessories
RockyMounts makes a full line of bike racks and accessories. In addition to the 2 bike version of the Monorail we tested, they also make a one bike version called the MonoRail Solo which retails for $280.Accessories specific to the MonoRail models include a MonoRail Add-on, $170, which can be used on the 2" size of the MonoRail to expand its capacity to three bikes or the MonoRail Solo to 2 bikes.
They also make a Hitch Extension, $50, for 2" receivers that extends 8" and comes with a bolt and hitch pin lock.RockyMounts makes several other models of platform hitch racks including the BackStage Swing Away, $600, that is basically a MonoRail mounted to an arm that allows the entire rack to swing out 180 degrees to allow easier access to the back of your vehicle.
The SplitRail LS, $550, is another model with more features than the MonoRail including integrated cable locks, an anti-wobble system, and enhanced aesthetics.
The WestSlope, $320, is a new lower-priced model in their line that carries 2 bikes in a unique sloped arrangement.
They also offer a full line of locks and lock kits for each model in their line. A full complement of replacement parts are also available online so you can fix your rack should any part of it happen to break.
— Jeremy Benson