Cycling journalist Matt Lamy puts the innovative Saris Super Bones 3 to the test and finds a rear-mounted car bike rack that sets a new standard for secure cycle carrying with your car.
I’ve tested a fair few bike racks — or cycle carriers for cars as they’re more accurately known — over the years. Quite frankly, the combination of straps and buckles and pivoting arms and rubberised feet can easily end up to be a massive headache. I’ve even tested some of Saris’s other products before, including the legendary Bones rack, which simplified things and introduced a rare element of funky styling to the bike carrier community.
But I can say quite confidently that all previous attempts to create the perfect boot or hatchback-mounted cycle carrier pale in comparison to the new Super Bones 3. The reason why this new model so good is because the biggest problem with most boot or hatchback-mounted carriers is the huge potential to misread, misinterpret or be simply befuddled by the instructions. There is next to no possibility for that to happen with the Super Bones. It is secure, beautifully designed and almost foolproof. But the only way I can fully demonstrate just how different this product is to other cycle carriers is to take you through the fitting process. So here goes…
Taking the Super Bones out of its box isn’t a huge revelation because at first sight it looks just like a standard Bones rack. The simplicity of design and the strength of the original Bones involves the thick central splined beam — like a long, fat cog — to which the rack’s four legs and two arms are attached. The problem with that original Bones system was that there is no clutch mechanism for moving the arms or legs. You simply have to remove them entirely, position them as desired to suit your car shape, and slide them back on the central beam again, engaging them with the necessary section of teeth.
However, the first major upgrade the Super Bones 3 represents is that there is now a clutch mechanism for the upper legs and the bike-holding arms. By flicking up the ‘lock’ catch it is possible to revolve the upper legs and bike carrying arms around the central beam (the lower legs remain fixed).
Once you’re happy the legs and arms are where they need to be to fit your car and carry your bikes securely.
You simply click shut the locking levers.
The next stage is to rest the Super Bones 3 against the back of your car, with its rubberised feet positioned correctly according to the instructions, and attach the upper hooks to your boot or hatchback lid. Again, there have been some improvements here. Instead of getting tangled up in straps and buckles, Saris has fitted all hook straps within the body of the Super Bones 3 and made them retractable — like a seatbelt. To extend the strap, you push the ‘Free’ button (fig 4) and it can be pulled to the required length.
Then place the hook over the top of the boot or hatchback lid.
Repeat this with the lower hooks at the bottom of the boot or hatchback lid.
And now to another innovation. Rather than having to pull all the straps tight manually, those retractable strap systems have an internal ratcheting mechanism for tightening. Where we pushed on the ‘Free’ button to release the strap, we can pull back the lever, audibly clicking the strap tighter.
Once you’ve tightened all four straps — two upper hook straps, two lower hook straps — and locked the lock, the rack is ready to load up with bikes (fig 8).
Finally, the moment of truth: loading the bikes. Although any innovations with the bike carrying arms aren’t as significant as the rack positioning and strap securing systems, the method used to attach bikes to the Super Bones 3 is still very well thought through. The Super Bones 3 will take three bikes, each secured with two top tube ratcheted straps (fig 9) and one articulated ratcheted strap below to secure the down tube (fig 10). Fit the bikes as the instructions suggest, top and tailing each one, and you’re ready to head off on a cycling adventure.
As well as the ease of setting up and the convenience of the new innovations, the proof of the pudding with any rear-mounted bike carrier is how secure it is. I have to admit, I was dubious that the ratcheted strap-tightening system would be able to match my own traditional ‘pulling-on-the-straps-until-the-car-threatens-to-come-off-its-handbrake’ technique. But I was wrong — the Super Bones 3 is the most stable boot or carrier-mounted rack I’ve ever used.
There are all sorts of arguments for which type of cycle carrier you should buy for your car — rear-mounted, towbar mounted or roof mounted. But if your preference is to go boot or hatchback-mounted, there really is no better bike rack than the Saris Super Bones 3.