Mesquite Trail, AZ

31 03 2010

1998 Santa Cruz Heckler Redux

30 03 2010

Heckler Redux

My friend Sean wanted a new mountain bike, but the sticker shock of a new full suspension ride was putting him off.  He had access to a 1998 Santa Cruz Heckler frame so we decided to upgrade it a bit so he’d have a sweet rig at a reasonable cost.

New LX dearailleur...

I put a new LX derailleur on back as well as a Schwalbe Fat Albert 26 x 2.4″ tire. I kept the existing 8 speed cassette since it was in decent shape.

New V-brakes and existing rear rim...

I replaced the beat up v-brakes for a set new of Deore stoppers.  I kept the old rear wheel after tensioning and truing it.

Robust single pivot suspension...

The robust single pivot suspension design of the Heckler was in good shape with no play.  The rear shock was working fine.

Race Face Turbine LP cranks...

The cranks, BB and front derailleur were all serviceable so I just cleaned off the crud and adjusted them.  I put a new SRAM 8 speed chain on.

Nice paint job...

The paint was in good shape so I cleaned off the bike and polished it with some Pedros Bike Lust.  I pulled the cables and housing at first, but ended up reusing everything, but the brake cables.

Fox Float RLC 100

The old Marzocchi Bomber came off and a new Fox Float RLC 100 fork went on…mmmm…buttery smooth suspension travel.

Avid BB7

The Fox fork won’t accept v-brakes so I binned the old ones as well as the old front wheel.  A new Sun Ryhno Lite/Deore disc wheel shod with a Schwalbe Fat Albert took its place.  An Avid BB7 and 160mm rotor will handle the braking duties now.

Ergon Grips and a Salsa Moto Ace riser bar...

The cockpit got a complete upgrade with a Salsa stem and bars.  Ergon grips and Avid brake levers.  I kept the old 8 speed XT shifters.

One nice ride!

I was amazed how well the bike rides now.  I used to own a Heckler of the same vintage and it did not ride this nicely.  I’m giving most of the credit to the Fox 100mm fork which jacks up the front end an inch slowing down the steering and providing some excelent suspension action which seems to be a good match for the ~3″ of travel in the rear.  The Schwalbe Fat Alberts are light for a big tire and roll nicely adding a welcome dose of traction and even more plushness.  The wide riser bar and Ergon grips are really nice on the hands and give you lots of leverage for precision steering.

This bike rides so sweetly I’m sad to give it back to Sean….=-)

This is why you buy quality – not many FS frames from 10 years ago would be worth upgrading and even fewer would give you such an amazing ride compared to modern FS bikes.  Nicely done Santa Cruz.

Carbon Fiber Mountain Bikes?

29 03 2010

Ibis Mojo HD

You can’t help, but notice a lot of the new mountain bike designs are featuring carbon frames.  The Luddite in me says carbon is too fragile and too expensive to be a good choice.  However, when you look at companies like Santa Cruz and Ibis that have gone heavily carbon you don’t see huge amounts of failures being reported in the online forums.  Additionally these are both smaller boutique brands that rely on their reputations to justify higher sticker prices compared to the major players like Specialized.  If Ibis suddenly had a reputation for frames breaking they’d go under in a heartbeat.

I found this interesting discussion of different frame materials linked on the Ibis site.  It was written a few years back before the current generation of Ibis frames were designed and it is worth a read if your keen on understanding the differences in frame materials.

Talking to a couple Santa Cruz dealers they were both super stoked about the carbon frames and felt they were superior to the aluminum in almost every way.  They even went so far as to say the carbon frames were as tough or tougher than the metal frames.  You could just chalk this up to salesmanship, but these are some longstanding well respected bike shops that rely heavily on customer loyalty and reputation to sell high end bikes.

Santa Cruz Blur LT Carbon

Going carbon for a Santa Cruz Blur LT costs$564USD and saves you a pound for a similar build in aluminum.  The frame will also be stiffer and can be made in shapes not possible for a metal bike.  In the world of high end mountain bikes $600 to save a pound and get better ride quality is well within the spectrum of what’s considered acceptable.

Santa Cruz Blur LT - aluminum

So after a bit of poking around the choice of carbon fiber for a mountain bike frame material doesn’t seem as crazy as it did when I started thinking about it. Ultimately the proof will be in the pudding.  With so many carbon frames out in the dirt it won’t be hard to get a feel for how they are holding up by seeing what riders are posting online.

Cannondale Raven

As a side note my buddy Kurt had a Cannondale Raven which was one of the first carbon fiber mountain bike frames made.  He abused it pretty well until the frame failed.  Interestingly the part that failed was the aluminum insert at the headset not the carbon fiber.  He rec’d a Scalpel as a replacement since Ravens were out of production at that point.  The Scalpel uses carbon fiber chainstays without a pivot so they flex as the rear suspension compresses.  He’s been riding that frame hard for years and it’s still going strong.

Cannondale Scalpel - note carbon chainstays...

BTW – if you want a deal on some aluminum Santa Cruz bikes aluminum Blur LTs are being sold off online by riders upgrading to the carbon Blur LT…same thing is bound to happen when the carbon Nomad hits the trails this spring…you’ll be able to snap up some used aluminum bikes at great prices.

Sunday Skool

28 03 2010

Urban Assault - Calgary Alberta

Carbon Santa Cruz Nomad

27 03 2010

Carbon Nomad Flyer

I’m still not sold on carbon mountain bikes, but I gotta admit this looks pretty sweet….=-)  By the time I wear out the fork/shock/drivetrain on my aluminum Nomad MK2 the jury should be in on how durable these frames are in the real world.  Santa Cruz is going heavily carbon with almost all their bikes now offered in this material other than their uber long travel DH rigs and the [relatively] economical Heckler.  Given their small volume sales and high cost Santa Cruz can’t afford to get a bad rap about frame quality so you have to assume they’ve beat the hell out of these new carbon frames and they stood up just fine.

Time will tell!

PS – who do I have to sleep with to get one of these carbon Nomads to test???…=-)

Rain Forest Riding

26 03 2010

Photo: Dan Barham

I found this sweet photo of riding at Sooke BC – Vancouver Island.  Makes me want to load up my Santa Cruz Nomad and head for the island!

eTikit Impressions

26 03 2010

eTikit's electric hub motor...

I’ll be posting all the gory technical details about the two electric motor kits Kurt and I are testing on two Bike Friday Tikits next week.  I’ve been a bit strapped for time so I haven’t managed to fit in all the testing I would like and I need to pull together all the numbers from Ken at Power in Motion to provide accurate specs on each system.

I have been riding the high power version of the eTikit kit on a loaner Tikit from Ken for a week now.  My rides have mostly been my short commute to work 2kms and some running around downtown.  While I haven’t tested the capabilities of this system to the fullest I do have enough experience to comment on how I feel about an electric Tikit and how I see it fitting in to my bike/transportation options.

I’ll admit I didn’t really “get” the idea of an electric bike.  Pedaling and exercise are the two things I really like about cycling so I couldn’t understand how I’d like a bike where you didn’t have to pedal??  I now realize that this isn’t a bike.  Ya that’s right this isn’t a bike.  It’s a folding electric scooter.

That may sound crazy, but when you look at it as a transportation device [not a bike] it’s fun to ride, it’s convenient, low cost and pretty darn cool.  It can replace a car/motorcycle and either be used with or instead of public transit.

I haven’t sorted out the range I’m getting from the motor/battery I have, but let’s assume I can get 15kms from it @ 30kph with no pedaling.  That gives me a pretty useful range from home to work with zero sweat.  I can add a transit leg in the middle to extend my distance.  If I ride the whole way to work I’m looking at 30mins to 40mins with a few lights.  I can fold the bike and take it in to my office and charge the battery while I work and ride home. I charge the battery overnight and I’m ready to rock in the AM.  No car, no parking no waiting for a bus. Less emissions. Less traffic. No noise. No license. No pain.  It’s a really great commuting tool.

I’ve used the eTikit to bomb home after work.  It has allowed me to cut my commute time by about 33% and arrive fresh.  I must admit I do pedal when in public just ’cause I feel funny using only the motor.  Perhaps that will pass???

Just to provide some basic stats I can cruise on flat ground at 30kph+ [35kph is my fastest electric only speed].  I can cruise up a moderately steep sustained hill in town at 19kph without pedaling as long as I pedal to get to that speed. I tend to leave my Tikit in 7th or 8th gear [out of 8] and pedal away from a stop slowly while giving full throttle.  The motor helps, but it’s not uber torquey so a little bit of effort on my part gets me to cruising speed faster at which point I can coast.

To be honest I can pedal the eTikit without using electric power, but it’s not fun.  You can feel the drag of the motor at each pedal stroke.  If I had to pedal the last 5km home once or twice a year it’s not a big deal. So running out of battery power isn’t tragic, but I wouldn’t be happy if that happen a lot so I’d make sure I had a big enough battery to get the mission accomplished 95% of the time.

Of course the beauty of a hub motor is that in less than 5mins you can swap in a regular Tikit wheel and ditch the battery to have a normal Tikit which is fun to pedal.  I think that’s very cool and it makes an eTikit a useful product for even a one bike cyclist who wants transportation Monday to Friday and exercise on the weekends.

Ken was smart to match an electric kit with a Bike Friday Tikit.  You don’t ever have to leave your e-bike outside at the mercy of thieves and vandals.  The Tikit design is clever and adding an e-bike kit to it that doesn’t impede the fold just makes it even more versatile.

Bottom line I “get” an electric bike now.  It’s not a bike replacement.  It’s a car/transit replacement.

Zotefoam Bent Seatpad Free

25 03 2010

Free Bent Seatpad

I have a Zotefoam seatpad [9.75″ x 36″] for a hard shell bent seat.  It’s free for a local pick up or $15USD shipped anywhere in North America. It’s brand new – never been used.

Andrew’s Bike Friday PL For Sale

24 03 2010

Andrew's Pocket Llama

Local Calgary Bike Friday rider Andrew is selling his Pocket Llama.  Click here for all the details if interested.

Kicking Horse – Golden BC

23 03 2010

Sharon at the top of the mtn...

Sharon and I ventured out to Golden British Columbia this weekend to use up some free passes we had for Kicking Horse Resort.

Boarders getting strapped in...

The terrain was steep and challenging which was nice and the snow was better than in Alberta, but that’s not saying much this year.

Chair lift antics...

I liked the mega gondola with 1.2km vertical drop.  It’s great to get the snowboard off your feet and relax while you are being whisked up for another long run down.

Sharon ripping it on skis...

Sharon spent one day skiing and then took a uber long snowboard lesson the next day. I’m jealous because I can’t ski, but I’m not motivated enough to try and learn!

Goofing off after a beer at the lodge...

I was stoked to hear Sharon express an interest to take up back country skiing/boarding next winter.  I’ve been keen on that for a while, but need to get a few friends motivated to make it really happen.  It will be nice to not be hostage to the crappy snow at the resorts and to get more exercise between runs down the mountain.

Sharon shredding it up on a snowboard...

Dinotte Battery Pack DIY

22 03 2010

Topeak Battery Case

I rec’d this handy tip from Jim B:

“Hi Vik,

I was experiencing unreliable DiNotte battery connections like you were. For my trunk light, a rubber-band cut from an innertube and holding down the connector to the battery holder terminals solved the problem.

For the front lights, I found that the 4-cell battery holder fits just right into a Topeak cell-phone case. The stretchy sleeve on the side holds the light’s power cord. I have not experienced a single accidental disconnect since adopting these cases several months ago. The battery removal from the case is easier than with the DiNotte-supplied floppy bag. Also the whole battery and case can be quickly separated from the mounting hardware if need be (like theft prevention).

Take care,

eTikit Testing

19 03 2010

eTikit along the Bow River Calgary

Ken from Power in Motion [a Calgary electric bike specialist store] is letting me test the eTikit shown above as well as providing me with a slightly different electric assist kit I’ll mount on one of my Bike Friday Tikits.  I’m stoked to give these kits a thorough test and after a short ride yesterday I can see how this could be a deal maker for people who don’t want to drive there cars to commute, but can’t pedal a bike to work for whatever reasons.

To be honest I’m not an e-bike guy.  Which is why I don’t own an e-bike or talk about them much on this blog.  So I’m coming to this test with no real idea of how I’m going to feel or what’s happening in the e-bike world.  If you are an e-bike enthusiast please feel free to comment on what I write and point out any errors or misunderstandings on my part.  Also if you have any specific questions you want to see answered about these kits for the Tikit leave me a comment and I’ll answer your questions.

I’ll be posting my impressions at various points throughout the next few weeks.  I’ve also started a Flickr set for the eTikit and I’ll be uploading photos there as I take them.

I will also be posting some info about Power in Motion when I have a chance.  I had been in the shop last summer and it was pretty much 100% e-bikes.  When I dropped by the shop yesterday to meet with Ken I was surprised to see a Yuba Mundo, Xtracycle Radish and another Xtracycle equipped bike – cargo bike heaven!  I’m hoping to head back one day in April and do some back to back testing on all the cargo bikes as well as my Surly Big Dummy.  If you are from the Calgary area and interested in cargo bikes Power in Motion is well worth a visit.

Flanged Rohloffs from Thorn

18 03 2010

Standard Rohloff

Thorn bikes are now adding reinforcing flanges to Rohloff hubs used on their tandems [see photo below].  I’ve also read that they are drilling Rohloff hubs for 48 holes for tandem use.  So you could get a 48 hole Rohloff hub with flanges added…probably total overkill, but I’m sure someone will want one!

Rohloff with extra flange added.

I got these photos from this YACF thread and there is also a related thread on the Thorn Bike Forums here.

I should point out that I’ve been using a standard 32H Rohloff on my Surly Big Dummy under massive loads and had no issues.  I’m not suggesting getting your Rohloff drilled for 48 holes and/or adding extra flange reinforcement is needed except in the most extreme circumstances.

48 hole Rohloff

17 03 2010

Photo: Aaron's Bicycle Repair

Aaron’s Bicycle Repair will redrill your Rohloff hub so you can lace up a 48 hole rear wheel.  The service is low cost @ $50USD incl shipping back.  Rohloff hubs only come in 32 hole drillings from the factory.

Keeping in mind that a 32H non-dished Rohloff wheel is stronger than a 48H dished wheel I’m not really sure how necessary this is.  I’ve had 300lbs+ off cargo on my Big Dummy as well as my 165lbs with zero issues.

This will of course void your warranty!

Velocity Racers

16 03 2010

Velocity Racers - Hong Kong

Corbett has posted some really interesting commentary on BROL about owning a recumbent bike shop in Hong Kong. Even if you are not into recumbents it’s still worth a read.

The shop looks so elegant and classy it almost doesn’t look like a bike shop!

Velocity Racers website.

The inside...

Aaron’s Wildest Valley

15 03 2010

Image: Aaron Teasdale

The definite highlight of my CDN GDR ride last year was the reroute through the Flathead Valley. This infrequently traveled section of the route was remote and wild while still providing enough of a road to let us explore with ease.  Although the road we were riding was evidence of man’s intrusion here the fact it was so poorly maintained and that we met nearly no one else using it is testament to the area’s wildness.  Some of the least used sections were clearly being reclaimed by nature and the scar we were riding would be erased in short order.

Not that I need more motivation to go back and ride in this area again, but Aaron Teasdale has posted an award wining article, Return to the Wildest Valley, he wrote about the area for Adventure Cyclist Magazine.  The photos are lovely and the words will make you want to load up your mountain bike and explore this amazing ecosystem.  It’s well worth a read.

Flathead Valley Touring on the CDN GDR

While you are visiting Aaron’s fine blog check out his article, Finding New Nowheres, about a 5 day bikepacking trip in Alberta Canada’s Kananaskis Country – my very own backyard…=-)

I liked the new colour until…

14 03 2010

I'd like an 18" Curry Squirt please...

I liked the look of the new Pugsley colour…I would even have been happy to be riding one…until I read on the Surly site that the colour is called…Curry Squirt…hahaha…still a cool colour as long as you can get the day after curry feast imagery out of your head…interesting choice…=-)

Oak Bay, Victoria, BC – March 2010

13 03 2010

Dreadnought 2

12 03 2010

photo: Aaron's Bicycle Repair

I found this cool cargo hauler on Aaron’s Bicycle Repair website.  They’ve got lots of great cargo bike information if you feel the urge to geek out.  This bike is based on the cargo monster ridden Val Kleitz [of Rolling Jackass fame!] so you know it’s practical and robust.

Xtracycle Hoodie & New Freeloaders

11 03 2010


Xtracycle has a new bag system out called the Hoodie – [shown above].  Priced at $125USD for the bag and 2 V-racks it will be cheaper than the standard Freeloader setup with a more streamlined aesthetic, but it’s not nearly as versatile for carrying odd loads.

It doesn’t have a top deck so you’ll be limited how much weight you put on top and how well it carry a passenger and it won’t fit your Surly Big Dummy.

Having a lower cost option makes sense and gives people choices – that’s a good thing.

2010 Freeloaders

New 2010 Freeloaders are also going to hit the streets.  They are shown above on a 2010 Radish, but specific details on what’s new with these bags have not been released yet.

Getting some Kickback!

11 03 2010

Xtracycle Kickback

My Surly Big Dummy hasn’t seen any upgrades for a long time. One thing I’ve wanted was a centre stand.  The one I want is Val’s uber sweet Rolling Jackass Stand, but at $350USD I just never seem to get it high enough on the priority list to pull the trigger. Xtracycle makes this Kickback stand shown above and at $140USD I’d be willing to buy one one if I didn’t consider the design seriously flawed.

What’s wrong with the Kickback?

  • you can’t use the Kickback with Footsies to support a passenger’s feet.
  • every time you want to install or remove the Wideloader side racks you have to remove and reinstall the Kickback.

As an apartment dweller I have to remove all my Xtracycle attachments every time I go in and out of the building.  Even if you have a garage do you really want to ride a 4’+ wide bike when you have no cargo load on board? So the Wideloaders really need to come off regularly.  The Footsies are a great way for passengers to feel more secure when riding on the back of your Big Dummy.  I use them a lot.  So you have to ask yourself why would Xtracycle build a product that makes one of their useful accessories impossible to use and another useful accessory a pain to install/remove?  I still haven’t figured that out!  Especially considering that Val’s design is totally compatible with the whole Xtracycle accessory line up.  Go figure!

So my Big Dummy has been rolling centre stand free for two years.  Its poor side mounted kickstand has taken a beating and it has fallen over a few times when loading/unloading. I was hoping Xtracycle would redesign their stand to mount like Val’s and allow for full compatibility with their other accessories.  However, it seems that hope was in vain.

Recently Dylan decided his Kickback stand was not particularly useful to him and was generous enough to let me have it for less than half price – thanks!

Why spend any money on a product I’m so down on?

  • I want to confirm that my assessment of the Kickback is accurate.
  • I want to confirm how useful a centre stand is so I can justify buying one of Val’s.
  • I’m hoping that 2010 will be the year of the garage for me.  If I don’t have to install/remove the Wideloaders twice per ride I think my ability to use the Kickback will be greatly improved.
  • Someone will take it off my hands for what I paid for it so it’s a risk free transaction.

Photo: Nathan Thompson

The photo above shows Val’s Rolling Jackass stand installed on Nathan Thompson’s Big Dummy. Notice the cunning design doesn’t mess with the attachment points for the Footsies or Wideloaders. Great job Val!

Illegal Boarding

10 03 2010

Don't do this in Calgary on a street!

Kurt got pulled over the other day for longboarding on the street downtown in Calgary.  I couldn’t believe that it was illegal to ride a skateboard on the road here.  Kurt checked with his local city councilman and in fact it is illegal to ride a skateboard on the road in Calgary….amazing!

Traffic Bylaw 26M96 – [Specifically, Section 44(2)], which states: “no person shall be on or shall operate or use a device known as a skateboard on any portion of any street.”

I’m sure the pedestrians downtown will be stoked to know that skateboarders have to use the sidewalk since there is no other legal way to get around town on a board.

For a town drowning in cars they sure aren’t interested in people using alternative forms of transport to get around.

4 Fatty Shoot Out!

9 03 2010

AL 907

I found a great comparison of 4 amazing fat bikes at  It’s well worth a read if you are into fatties…=-)  These bikes make my Surly Pugsley look pretty plain!

Ti 907

These are rare bikes so getting some back to back ride impressions is super nice.

Fatback Ti

Many thanks to Tscheezy over at for a outstanding post…=-)


All photos belong to Tscheezy @

Heavy Haulers…

9 03 2010

Two of my cargo machines...

Dinotte 200L-AA 2 Year Update

8 03 2010

Dinotte 200L-AA on my Tikit

It’s been over 2 years since I got two of these Dinotte 200L-AA LED bike lights so I thought I’d provide an update on how they are working.  Just so I don’t have to repeat myself see my 4 month review for more details about these lights.

What I like:

  • lights are in perfect condition and have given me no troubles.
  • construction is robust and wiring seems quite tough.
  • I have used them on pretty much all my bikes at one time or the other.
  • I really like how versatile the mounting system is while being so simple.
  • they are more than bright enough for use in the city to be seen by.
  • one is enough to see by on dark pathway at slow to moderate speeds.
  • at higher speeds you need two aimed at different spots in front of you for good visibility up close and down the road.
  • buttons are easy to use with gloves on.
  • lights are waterproof.
  • colour of button lets you know when batteries are getting low.
  • I’ve gone through two sets of rechargeable batteries.
  • I’m really glad I got the AA version so I’m not stuck with proprietary batteries.
  • run time is good for commuting and errand use.
  • for brevets or longer night rides you’ll be carrying several sets of batteries.
  • you can pre-load batteries into spare cradles for super fast battery swaps.
  • helmet mount is versatile.
  • excellent customer service.

Top view...

What I don’t like:

  • optics aren’t focused so a lot of light is going up away from road into the trees and driver’s eyes.
  • I have to cover lights with my hand when passing pedestrians or other bikers as there is so much light aimed up into their eyes that would be more useful on the road.
  • batteries tend to vibrate loose so I end up taping them into their cradle which makes replacing batteries a bit of a pain.
  • you have to remember to detach the power cord from the batteries when not using them as the light seems to drain the batteries after a couple days plugged in even if they aren’t being used.
  • helmet mount works well, but with the short power cord and battery pack on helmet it’s a lot of weight which isn’t fun for too long.
  • short power cord and cold temps = short battery life.  If you ride in winter get the longer power cord and insulate your batteries.

Helmet mounted...

The future:

  • I’ll keep using these lights as they have proven to be reliable, rugged and effective.
  • If they fail I bet it will be damage to the power cord from excessive bending and I bet Dinotte will fix that for a modest repair fee.
  • I’ll probably be posting a 5yr update about these lights!
  • I hope Dinotte incorporates some focused optics in their lights.  When they do I’ll buy a couple new ones and probably be even happier!

Dinotte 200L-AA website.

Popular Science Online Free

7 03 2010 is reporting that over 100 years of Popular Science Magazine have been scanned and are online for free.  Insomnia is no longer such a big deal…=-)

ITI – Eye of the Tiger!

6 03 2010

Snow Kiting….

5 03 2010

I’ve got a snowboard and I’ve got kites…hmmm… winter may be the start of my snow kiting career!

Olympus Stylus SW850 Update #2

4 03 2010

Olympus Stylus SW850

In my last update for this camera I noted that Olympus repaired a cracked LCD panel on the back of the camera.  Unfortunately they seem to have let something contaminate the CCD inside.  All my photos with light backgrounds had an annoying dark blur on them in one spot.  Since I didn’t notice this until I got back from Baja I was well past the camera’s one year warranty. I sent it back to Olympus with an explanation of what was wrong unsure if they would fix it as a warranty repair or charge me.  Happily they just fixed it and returned the camera.  Service was very fast just like last time.

Although sending the camera back twice was a bit of a pain it’s nice to know the folks at Olympus Canada provide fast repairs and are happy to support their customers.  I’m glad to have this camera back and hopefully will get lots of great adventure shots from it.

Swagman XC Bike Rack – 1yr Review

3 03 2010

Swagman XC Bike Rack in Moab

I posted a review of the Swagman XC bike rack about this time last year.  Having been through quite a lot of abuse throughout the last 12 months I thought I would report back on how it’s doing.

Well this rack has been to Burning Man and back as well as to southern tip of Baja Mexico and back without any significant problems.  It will fit pretty much any two bikes you care to mount and holds them quite securely even when bouncing down some ugly roads.

I guess there are 3 downsides to this rack I should mention:

  • the extra length [especially with the extender I’ve got installed] makes the vehicle uber long which can be a challenge in parking lots or when trying to tackle steep off-road sections.
  • the clamp that holds the bikes’ top tubes is hard to undo without a wrench to bang it with!
  • the bolt that installs the rack tightly to the receiver is long and hard to install so you are not encouraged to install/remove the rack frequently – although this works as a plus for bike thieves!

Given the cost of this rack [less than $200 with extension] I can’t really complain and I’m happy to use it.  If I know I’ll be doing some serious off-roading I’d carry the bikes inside.  I like using the extension because it lets me open the tailgate of my pick up truck and get inside without messing with the racked bikes.

I should also point out that the bikes I carry on this rack are 30-40lbs – not light at all so this rack has been well tested.

If you are going to only use the rack occasionally you may want to replace the stock receiver mounting bolt with a QR version.  The rack won’t be as secure, but you’ll be able to throw it on in 10secs and remove it just as fast.

One last point I should make – with this rack you can turn any vehicle with a receiver hitch into a bike hauling machine in about 10mins.  That’s cool and something you can’t do with a Thule roof rack!