North Shore Racks NSR 4-Bike Rack
Capacity: 4 Bikes
Stated weight: 42 lbs
Hitch Size: 2” only
Maximum capacity: 200 lbs
- 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.
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).
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.
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.