The stability of a hitch rack is very important, and often badly executed. The worst hitch racks have no stabilizing features, which means they wobble around in the hitch and you’re left watching your precious cargo in the rear view mirror, swaying and bouncing all over the place.
The SplitRail uses a fairly simple system — a wedge clamps to the rack, and a screw draws the rack (and the wedge) into the vehicle’s receiver. Once snugged into place, the wedge does a good job of keeping the rack from wiggling around.
In practice though, the system leaves a little to be desired. The wedge is clamped around a square tube, and the clamp just doesn’t hold very well. When the screw is tightened, drawing the wedge into the hitch, the wedge tended to slide a bit no matter how tight I clamped it. That meant that I’d need to check the tightness of the system semi-frequently. I think a set screw or a different method of attaching the wedge would fix this issue pretty easily, but that’s certainly an area for improvement.
I also found that there was a little bit of wobble in the rack at the main pivot point (where the rack folds up when not in use). It wasn’t problematic, and it’s certainly not out of line with what lots of other racks on the market have, but there’s a little bit of play there.
I started using the SplitRail this past winter, which in Montana means that it was in for some abuse. Montana uses a lot of gravel and magnesium chloride on the roads, so the rack was subjected to some difficult conditions, and I’m pleased to report that it came out looking fine. In the 6 months I’ve been using it, the rack has seen its fair share of moisture, mud, gravel roads, and other unfriendly conditions, and it’s held up extremely well.
Shortly before writing this review, the car that we had the rack on got rear ended by a large pickup truck. The car sustained about $10,000 worth of damage, but the rack came out surprisingly intact. A couple of the plastic wheel trays cracked, and the rack was bent a bit. But for the most part, it survived the incident. It’s tough to draw any real conclusions from this, but I can say that I’m surprised at how well the rack fared after getting sandwiched between two vehicles. That generally makes me think that the rack would hold up really well in day-to-day use that doesn’t involve 8,000 lb trucks running into it.
It’s also worth noting that almost every piece of the rack can be removed and replaced, and Rocky Mounts is pretty good about offering replacement parts. So if something does eventually break, there’s a decent chance that it can be repaired with minimal fuss.
All in all, the SplitRail is just easy to use. Loading and unloading bikes is quick and painless, the rack is easy to fold out of the way when not in use, and it looks clean and well-constructed on the car.
I’m a fan of the relatively deep wheel trays because it relies more on the shape of the rack than the wheel strap to keep things situated. This also means that when I, on occasion, forget to strap down the rear wheel, nothing noteworthy happens; the wheel stays put in the tray.
I did find that sometimes releasing the handle that clamps the front wheel took more effort than I’d like — it’s usually necessary to push down on the arm a bit to get it to release. And while I used the bike in a 3-tray configuration, with an additional tray for a 4th bike added, I think the handle to fold the rack up might be a little hard to reach. But those are about the only annoyances I could come up with for day-to-day use.
This is fairly subjective, but I also think the SplitRail looks pretty good. Some racks look, for lack of a better descriptor, cheap and knobby. The SplitRail has nicely finished edges, clean black paint that has held up well, and a well-put-together aesthetic. I wouldn’t be ashamed to put it on my Porsche.
Ok, I don’t actually own a Porsche, but if I did, and if for some reason I thought it was a good idea to drive my Porsche around on shitty dirt backroads in Montana on the way to the trailhead, I’d put the SplitRail on it.
The Rocky Mounts SplitRail is situated as a fairly high-end rack. It’s in the mix with top-of-the-line options from Thule, Yakima, Kuat and others in terms of features, quality, and appearance, and price-wise it’s less expensive than those other options.
It also comes to the table as one of the lightest racks on the market, which is certainly noteworthy for anyone that intends to uninstall and reinstall the rack with any frequency.
The SplitRail has a few quirks, including an occasionally sticky release on the clamping ratchet and a finicky stabilizing system that leave room for improvement, but I didn’t find any of those issues to be deal breakers. All in all, it’s a good rack that held up well in the time I had with it (before it got smashed by a truck), and considering its competitive price, it’s a pretty tough option to argue with.