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North Shore Racks NSR 4-Bike Rack

Marti Bruce reviews the North Shore Racks NSR 4 Bike Rack for Blister Gear Review.

NSR 4 Bike Rack

North Shore Racks NSR 4-Bike Rack

Capacity: 4 Bikes

Stated weight: 42 lbs

Hitch Size: 2” only

Maximum capacity: 200 lbs

Stated Features:

  • Adjustable in height, layback, and setback
  • Doesn’t block brake lights on most vehicles
  • Rack design allows close, contact-free spacing of bikes
  • High-quality SANDTEX powder coating finish
  • Super compact
  • Folds down for easy hatchback and side-hinged trunk access or tailgate access
  • Enough clearance for rear-mounted spare wheels
  • Single and dual crown fork compatible
  • Includes a heavy duty lockable anti-rattle hitch pin (compatible with most ¼” padlocks)

Test Duration: 2 years

MSRP: $569.99 + shipping (unless you want to drive to Vancouver)

Two years ago, I decided to buy the North Shore NSR 4-Bike rack for my Toyota RAV 4 because I needed a compact rack to fit 2 downhill bikes and 2 trail bikes for a honeymoon bike trip in British Columbia. I needed a rack with good clearance for dirt roads. I also wanted a rack that would last and take some abuse, and the North Shore rack gets talked up for its durability.

In two years of using the NSR 4-Bike Rack, I haven’t had to replace or fix any part on the rack. The North Shore Rack has allowed me to travel with DH and trail bikes — 4 downhill bikes at once — and it’s a great rack for shuttling on local trails.

Installation

Out of the box, I found the rack to be straightforward to assemble, especially with the guidance of the YouTube video, provided by North Shore Racks on their website. The rack comes with every part you need, but you will need a few common tools (two ¾” wrenches) for assembly.

The rack includes a lockable anti-rattle pin, which is essentially a bolt that secures the rack to your hitch. The North Shore fit on our 2” receiver no problem, and both the rack and bikes stay stable and silent even on rough roads. I’ve fixed occasional rattling or wobbling by simply tightening the hitch’s anti-rattle pin. (I tighten the bolt about 2-3 times a year.)

Loading the Rack

The loading system is easy once you’ve done it a few times, but because the rack is designed differently than the conventional tray-style rack, that first loading experience can be challenging. It works best to load bikes from left to right, otherwise it gets awkward trying to load your bike at a specific angle, with bikes on either side of you inhibiting your movement.

I’ve found that the distance between the crown of your fork and your handlebars can affect the order in which you should load the bikes — sometimes the brake lever of a smaller bike can rub the top tube of the larger bike. Planning your bike sequence—largest to smallest—ahead of time prevents a lot of unnecessary loading and unloading.

The North Shore Rack uses knotted ropes to secure your back tire. At first, the rope system seemed a bit primitive to me (where are the plastic ratchets?) but it actually works really well.
You tie the knots yourself during assembly, so you have the opportunity to adjust your knot spacing accordingly. When I bought the rack I didn’t own a fat bike, and didn’t space my knots to accommodate those big tires. I’ve since added another knot to the rope to fit my fat bike (which now fits on the rack without issue).

Marti Bruce reviews the North Shore Racks NSR 4 Bike Rack for Blister Gear Review.

NSR 4 Bike Rack back wheel attachment

One issue I’ve personally had with the rack results from my having fairly weak arms and shoulders. I have no problem lifting my 27 lb trail bike or my 25 lb hard tail onto the rack, but I struggle to lift a 35 lb fat bike onto the rack, and have to summon all my energy and strength to try to lift my 40 lb downhill bike onto the rack. For most people, this probably won’t be an issue. But if you’re small, not very strong, or have a persistent shoulder injury, the North Shore isn’t as easy to load heavy bikes as a tray-style hitch rack.

Bike Compatibility

I’ve used both single and dual crown forks in the rack. My Specialized Demo in its stock configuration (size Small, Boxxer fork, and inset lower headset cup) wouldn’t fit the fork cradle. After some trial and error—i.e., cursing, head scratching —I figured out that installing an external lower headset cup made just enough room for the cradle to clear the downtube of the frame. Most road bikes don’t work on the North Shore Rack because there isn’t enough room between the front tire and the fork crown.

According to the North Shore website, a 20” kids’ bike fits on the NSR 4-Bike, with the addition of a smaller knot at the end of the securing rope. However, a 12” or 16” kids’ bike would require a bungee or something similar to secure the rear wheel to the lower double bar of the rack. I don’t own any kids’ bikes so I didn’t get a chance to confirm this.

The North Shore Rack cradles can rub the finish off of certain fork crowns. So far I’ve only noticed this with the Rock Shox Pike, and I haven’t seen any wear on numerous other forks, including the Reba and Boxxer, or any Fox fork.

NEXT: On The Road, Security, Etc.

5 Comments

  1. Lewis April 7, 2016 Reply

    I have the 2 bike one on a subaru brz. Works great, I think I will drill another hole into the hitch tube so the entire assembly can sit a bit closer to the car. I noticed that ground clearance can be improved if that hitch tube is cut down a bit, but even I haven’t really had a problem, unless the trailhead is the side ditch off a highway. For my car I’ve had to install the vertical section as high as it can go to maintain smooth departure angle, but that lifts the front wheel pretty high above the room. I definitely see a drop in gas milage, but still better than a roof rack would do.

  2. Bryce Lewis August 9, 2016 Reply

    Were you able to get the Rav4 side swing door open with the tray folded down? there are almost no bike racks that play will with the Rav.

    • Author
      Marti Bruce August 13, 2016 Reply

      With the rack fully down you can get the door about 2/3 open. So you can’t get it all the way open but it’s pretty easy to grab stuff out of the car.

  3. T White November 5, 2016 Reply

    Obviously wasn’t a problem for the reviewer due to location or usage, but North Shore racks are subject to extremely fast and aggressive rusting due to poor coating quality on all components (powder coat, fasteners). There are lots of links to reviews if you search for them. Our rack rusted so badly in one winter in the Vancouver-Whistler corridor that it looked as bad as my previous Sportrack (cheap, made in China) did after 6 years use under the same conditions. Buyer beware if you live in an area where they salt the roads and you continue to use the rack through the winter. We also found that modern DH bikes with tapered steerers fit poorly.

    • Lewis November 7, 2016 Reply

      I actually did notice too that DH bikes and carbon framed bikes have problems with headtube rub. I haven’t noticed any rust issues as of right now, the powder coating seems okay (not excellent but good enough)

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