Sierra Coast Cargo Racks Fat Boy
By James Sharp
Anyone who has a passion for outdoor sports knows that getting your gear to your destination can be a challenge. Having a pickup helps, but do you really want to just pile your gear in the back? In cycling, the challenge is to get your bikes there in one piece, without any dings, scratches, broken spokes or other costly damage. This means you don't just throw that $3000 full suspension bike on top of another $3000 full suspension bike. While there are a few rack options out there for pickup beds, most require the removal of the front wheel. This becomes a problem if one bike has a standard 9mm quick release hub, one has a 20mm through axle or even a Maverick fork with its 24mm axle. Sierra Coast thinks that they have a better solution with their Fat Boy rack. After seeing it at the Sea Otter Classic event, I thought we needed to take a closer look.
The Fat Boy kit consists of a base plate and the upright "saddles" that hold the front wheel securely. There are two ways to mount the rack, the first and most secure is by drilling holes in your truck's bed and bolting the base plate in place. The second (reviewed here) is using the Rack Clamp. The Rack Clamp fastens to one upright on either side of the rack and then clamps onto the front of the bed, between the cab and bed. The Rack Clamp holds the rack in place very well, but isn't locked down in any way -- loosening the knobs by hand enables a would be thief to walk away with your rack. The bike's tire -- front or rear, more on that in a minute -- slips between two of the saddle uprights and then a long lever is thrown to tighten the uprights against the tire. It takes much longer to type how to load up a bike than it does to actually load it. Once set up for the correct tire width, it is a matter of seconds to put the bike in the rack. Almost as fast as just throwing the bike in the bed alone.
I found the instructions on how to install the rack very good as this is a a kit that needs to be assembled. Plan on taking some time to get it all set up right. It's not that it's hard, rather that there are a lot of pieces. Once assembled, the rack can be removed quickly and painlessly without disassembly. In fact, that is one real benefit of using the Rack Clamp rather than bolting the rack in place. During my summer long test I had to remove the rack many times. It seems that when you have a pickup, everyone needs your help. Anyway, hauling dirt and gravel isn't easy on the Fat Boy, so loosening four knobs and lifting the rack out in one piece was very handy. Same with hauling debris to the dump -- out comes the rack, in goes the debris and off I went to the dump. Once the load was dumped, in went the rack and I was ready for bike hauling once again.
The Fat Boy adjusts for different size tires by sliding the upright saddles on the base plate. The uprights are held in place with the same knobs used on the Rack Clamp. It doesn't take very long, but I'd like to see a quick release-type adjustment in the future. If you are hauling the same bike all the time, it's a set and forget program. If you switch bikes constantly you'll get good at loosening the knobs, sliding the uprights -- don't forget to adjust the quick release up top -- and then tightening the knobs in place again. This type of system allows the uprights to be adjusted for any size tire, from skinny road slicks to off road motorcycle tires. No joke, this rack will work with motorcycles. Now, that being said, I don't recommend using the rack on road wheels. Sure you can get the saddles close enough to work, and it will clamp the wheel and hold the bike in place, but without a bit of give in the tire -- remember a 23c slick is barely wider than the rim -- you risk clamping down on the rim. You can bend your rim doing this. I'd stay with 28c or wider and cyclocross tires certainly work fine.
I also found that some bikes are more stable when you clamp the rear wheel. This is mostly due to wheel flex and the rear wheel is supported a little better than the front. I got less wobble when I put the bike in backwards. Either way, the bike is securely attached and will not roll out of the rack for any reason.
My only real complaint, other than the lack of quick adjustment for different wheel sizes, is that there is no way to lock the bikes in place. If you use the Rack Clamps, the rack itself isn't even locked down. I would recommend bolting an eye bolt to your bed -- something big enough to allow a cable to be passed through. This would at least give a modicum of security for those times when you have to leave your bike outside.
Summary: Sierra Coast Cargo Racks has a winner with the Fat Boy. It's not cheap -- the kit to hold three bikes will run $347, while the two bike kit is $264 -- but the rack is well made, dirt simple to use and can take some abuse. The Rack Clamp is an additional $85 and makes installation a breeze. Everything is made of 6063 aluminum and has stainless steel hardware -- the Fat Boy could out last the truck you bolt it to! If you have a pickup you owe it to yourself to check out the Fat Boy, it very well could simplify getting your gear to your destination.
James Sharp is a contributing editor for GearReview.com; more of his ramblings and a look at upcoming reviews can be found at his blog -- Lactic Acid Threshold.
For more information, contact:
Sierra Coast Cargo Racks