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Road Diaries: 2 Weeks with the SuperClamp EX Hitch Rack
An up-close and personal look at testing a new bike rack.
Extensive user testing is a key part of every Saris rack genesis story. From relentless hours on the shaker to real miles logged on the road, our racks must pass each test with flying colors to ensure it stands up to our rigorous standards and lifetime warranty.
Last spring we sent Brian in Sales on a road trip with our then soon-to-be-released SuperClamp EX. Here Brian takes you along for the two-week getaway for an up-close and personal look at what it means to be a product tester.
And we’re off on a 4,000 mile adventure with the SuperClamp EX.
By: Brian Turany, Sales
The opportunity to leave Wisconsin for a trip in early March was hard to resist. Especially, because the trip was to sunny Arizona with stops in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. Wisconsin’s cross-country ski season was a bust during our unseasonably dry winter, so I was excited to test myself outdoors after months training on the CycleOps Hammer.
I also had the opportunity to test a prototype of the SuperClamp EX platform hitch rack. The SuperClamp EX is an evolution of the rack I have on my personal vehicle. Upgrades include new ratchet straps, universal wheel scoops that fit road and plus sized MTB tires, and now the SuperClamp EX folds and tilts.The folding and tilting feature is bonanza for me.
Whenever my wife and I head off to races, camping trips, or vacations, our primary vehicle is a Mini Cooper. That car gets packed to the gills with all our stuff, so using the SuperClamp EX with its titling feature will help us access both ends of the car with bikes still loaded on (and locked to) a SuperClamp EX.
For this particular road trip, I was handed the keys to a vehicle about twice the size of my car. I installed the SuperClamp EX on a Chevy Suburban and loaded the truck for visits to some training camps and bike shops along my route. The SuperClamp EX locks to the vehicle and the rack has an integrated system to lock my bike, which is reassuring while making stops for meals and visits.
The SuperClamp EX hitch rack installed on the Suburban, and ready to hit the road.
The first stop was in Chicago, and after just a few hours on the road I needed to rearrange some of my packing to find a rattle that was making me crazy. Not a problem with the SuperClamp EX, which tilted away from the Suburban so I could dig into the way waaay back of the truck. With the rattle fixed, I headed southwest from Chicago and spent the night in Rolla, Missouri.
Two thumbs up for the new tilt feature!
At the hotel, another feature of the SuperClamp EX had a chance to shine. I took valuables, including my bike, into the hotel room for the night.With the rack unloaded, the SuperClamp EX folds in towards the back of the vehicle. That saves valuable real estate in a cramped parking lot.
After more windshield time, I rolled into Dallas, Texas, to visit another bike shop.The employees were super helpful and unloaded the truck for me. Someone spotted the “prototype” sticker on the rack, and figured out how to tilt the SuperClamp EX to get at supplies in the back of the truck.
Phew! My bike safe and secure as it should be after surviving gale force winds in West Texas.
From Dallas, I had a very long haul to Tucson. I’ve never driven through west Texas but I was warned it can be a little monotonous. Mother nature did her best to add some excitement for me with a wind storm that whipped up dust devils and wind advisories for gusts above 60 mph. For several hours in the gale force crosswinds, my bike was safe and sound behind the Suburban.
A cow? Gift wrapped for me?! You shouldn’t have, Tucson.
Once I got to Tucson I met up with wife and friends who had flown down to Arizona. We had a nice rental house that served as the base camp and my office on the road. With morning and evening appointments, I still had plenty of time to ride bikes and enjoy the sunshine without a thermal riding kit for the first time in months.
The SuperClamp EX platform rack proved to be plenty durable. On a visit to a shop in Phoenix, I backed over a dead, woody shrub. I uprooted the plant and scratched the rack, but the scoops and my bike were safe.
Clearly, I still wasn’t used to driving such a big vehicle.
Obligatory Saguaro Cactus photo.
After a week of work and rides in Arizona, my fellow Wisconsinites flew back home and I started the second leg of my trip. Mt. Lemon and South Mountain offered the kind of riding you’ll never see in Wisconsin, so I tried to ride as much elevation as I could in between appointments and Interstate miles.
My next scheduled meeting was in Colorado, so I spent an overnight in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I found a local motel/restaurant at the base of a mountain and decided I’d get in a morning ride before heading to Colorado. A little research of the climb would have been a good idea, but I rolled a couple blocks to the base of the climb the next morning and headed up Aspen Peak.
You’ll have to forgive this Midwesterner for not respecting the elevation of Santa Fe. I had learned an important lesson about mountains and temperature changes while descending Mt. Lemmon a few days earlier, so this time I set out with arm and knee warmers, gloves and a vest. However, that was nothing near what I needed. Santa Fe has a great ski scene and my first hint of that was the round of busses that passed me shuttling skiers to the top of the mountain.
My journeys allowed me to get a taste of Santa Fe’s elevation.
Midway through my climb, I was riding in tire ruts between ice and snow. The road was clear in the sunny spots, but ice waited in every shaded switchback. I snapped an obligatory picture of my bike at the summit and went back down the mountain at a pace that anyone on Strava can chuckle at for years to come.
The SuperClamp EX’s shadow showcases its sleek design and small footprint.
Once in Colorado, it was more work than play. I stayed busy loading and unloading the SuperClamp EX and introducing it to more people. The new, wider, scoops were a hit with the mountain bike crew, and everyone loved to reflective accents. I might have taken the SuperClamp EX integrated locks for granted occasionally, but every time I came back to my bike I was reminded that the hitch rack had me covered while I was in a meeting.
With a couple gorgeous rides mixed in, my work was done. I backed over another shrub for good measure and set out for an incredibly long drive from Boulder, Colorado, to Madison, Wisconsin.
The SuperClamp EX had put on over 4,000 miles flawlessly despite my attempts to use it as some sort of battering ram. I’ll be upgrading my personal rack to a SuperClamp EX and sticking to subcompact vehicles when I can.
My faithful steed patiently waiting for its next adventure.