Review: Upside Rack will make you flip (your bike)
It was a couple of years ago that Australian entrepreneurs Stefan Wrobel and Sean Stoney headed to Kickstarter with a rather clever device known as the Upside Rack, which allows cyclists to carry a wide variety of bicycles upside down on their car's existing roof rack. It's now in production, and we recently had a chance to put it to the test.
First of all, here's a quick rundown of the form it takes and the way it works.
When unfolded, the anodized-aluminum-bodied Upside Rack takes on a Y shape. There are two rubber-lined clamps at the top of the Y, with a rubber cradle sliding along one side of the Y's "stem," and a glass-filled nylon hook sliding along the other side. A tightening knob is located at the bottom of the Y's stem.
Starting with your bike standing right-side-up and on the ground, you begin by attaching the two clamps to the handlebars (it works with flat bars or drops), and then sliding the cradle forward and attaching it to the saddle using an integrated thick rubber strap. Mountain bikes with dropper posts should reportedly do fine, as the post will end up only supporting the weight of the bike, which is less than that of the rider.
The bike, with the Upside mounted on it, is then turned upside down and placed on the car's roof rack. The tops of the two handlebar clamps hook around one of that rack's crossbars, while the hook slides over to engage the other crossbar. The earlier-mentioned knob is then used to tighten that hook up against the bar – like the gas cap on your car, the knob starts ratcheting when the hook is sufficiently tight, keeping you from over-tightening it.
From there, you just drive to your destination, loosen off the hook, then take everything off and start riding.
So, why would you want to use the Upside? Well for one thing, it works with almost any type of non-recumbent bike weighing no more than 17 kg (37.5 lb) – there's no need to get adapters for different tire widths, axle types or frame designs. Triathlon bikes with very flat aerodynamic handlebars are about the only kind that it won't fit. Additionally, it can easily be transferred from vehicle to vehicle, plus multiple Upside-equipped bikes can be placed on one car's rack, sitting in alternating directions.
We found that it worked just as advertised, quickly and easily attaching first to the bike, and then to the roof rack. It should be noted, however, that the Upside is not recommended for use with racks that consist of two crossbars that are clamped onto the car's door sills – pressure exerted by the Upside could cause these to move toward one another if they're not properly tightened. Wind deflectors mounted on the front crossbar can also be problematic, as are crossbars that are thicker than 35 mm (1.4 inches).
Once we got going, we didn't have any problems with anything loosening, or with bikes flying off the car. The system has reportedly been thoroughly crash- and rough-road-tested, plus it meets the required safety standards.
On another interesting note, the test model that we received was equipped with an optional waterproof electronic locking system, which is said to be the first of its kind.
After the tightening knob starts ratcheting, the idea is that you place a finger or thumb against one section of the knob that contains a capacitive touch sensor. The knob will beep, telling you that the system has "woken up." You then place an included RFID fob against another part of it, causing an internal locking mechanism to disengage the knob from the threaded tightening rod – no matter how much a would-be bicycle-thief proceeds to turn that knob in an effort to loosen the Upside's hook from the crossbar, that hook won't move back. While that thief could release the saddle from its cradle, the handlebar clamps would still keep the bike secured to the rack (the wheels would be easy enough to steal, though).
When you want to unlock the system, you simply touch the fob to the knob again, reengaging everything. Each fob and its included spare is uniquely coded to its own Upside Rack, so users can't use their fob to unlock someone else's rack.
We found that while the locking system did indeed work, getting the sensor to detect a finger or thumb (or even the palm of a hand) frequently took several tries. Wrobel tells us that this is because in order to achieve the lock's claimed 10-year battery life, the touch sensitivity had to be dialled back somewhat. He adds that some early users have also noted the issue, but that they all ultimately got the hang of it. Apparently having oily, sweaty skin helps, so if you're oily and sweaty, you're set.
All told, we quite liked the Upside Rack – it's well-constructed, sturdy, lightweight (under 2 kg/4 lb), easy to use, and will get onlookers saying "Hey, your bike is upside down!". The basic version is available now for AUD$220 (about US$160), with the Electronic Lock model coming in at AUD$275 (US$199).
Product page: Upside Racks
UPDATE: Potential users take note! Stefan has informed us that the rubber strap which secures the saddle to the cradle should go around behind the seatpost, not in front of it like we had it.