Trail Tested: Shingleback Vertical Bike Rack

With so many options in mounting our bikes to cars, some could accuse us mountain bikers of laziness. Well, while most of us probably enjoy a beer and a good sit down at a pub with some mates after a ride, there’s nothing to be ashamed of in having a well-sorted bike transport option for your car.

Shingleback Off-Road is an Aussie brand, designing and building their products here in Australia, including the Vertical bike rack on test here. Ranging from three to six bikes (with many optional extras), like its name implies it’s intended to hold bikes vertically upright at the rear of your car, van or ute.

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This review will look at the five-bike version along with the optional swingarm. The swingarm allows the rack to swing to the left-hand side of the car to allow access to the boot of the car. I set aside an hour or so to unpack the two boxes worth of parts and manual with a bit of space behind my car to get everything fitted up properly. There are a few tools you’ll need such as a good set of Allen keys and 19mm spanners. I did a lot of the work with a cordless impact wrench which made it a little quicker, but as long as you have the right tools, assembly and installation shouldn’t be too difficult. To be sure I had everything right I had a quick chat with the team at Shingleback for some reassurance once mounted up, which any potential customer should probably also take advantage of for after or pre-sales support questions.

Fitting was reasonably straightforward, the only thing here that was a worry was the weight of the combined swing-arm and rack unit, being a combined total of around 55 kilos it’s a heavy weight to bear. I found it much easier on my leg and back muscles to disconnect and lift the swingarm separately into the towbar hitch first, and then bolt up the rack onto the swingarm on the car. There are many mounting holes in both the swingarm and the normal square box mount to use to tune the length between the car and the bottom of the rack, and the upright section of the rack has three different angle settings to dial in the fit. On my old X-trail, I fitted it as close as I could to the bumper and set the angle inwards, this gave a decent amount of clearance to the back door and didn’t have the bikes too far out the back. You need a car, van or ute with a hitch style towbar mount to fit, ideally one with a towbar rated to 150kg or more of towball down-weight.

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Once it was all mounted up it was time to fit some bikes on, the basket style system means that bikes are super easy to get in and out and there’s nothing touching your frame from the rack. Lift the front of the bike up so the wheel pops into the basket, use the supplied bungee cord to hook it in and do the same down on the rear wheel. The horizontal bar that takes the rear wheel is adjustable so you can cater for the main wheel sizes and wheelbases of the bikes you normally fit. I set it to the recommended height and had no issue fitting anything from my long-wheelbase 29er down to a 24” wheeled MTB and a 24” race BMX bike. It’s recommended you load in the bikes from left to right and I found it wasn’t necessary to worry too much about pedal placement unlike some racks I’ve used before where the bikes sit a lot closer to one another. Brake lever placement can potentially cause some issues with levers touching the top tubes of adjacent bikes but the simple fix is to try mounting the bikes in a different order or change the angle of the lever slightly while transporting.

It’s obvious while driving and looking out the rear vision mirror that it’s a solid rack, only a small amount of movement was visible even with the swingarm fitted, thanks to the design including a U-bolt and plate to minimise any wobbling at the towbar, this is tightened up after fitting with a spanner. The swingarm makes accessing boots or tailgates very convenient, simply a matter of undoing the locking mechanism and then swinging the whole unit to the left allowing access to the boot of the car. When finished getting out your helmet, gloves or whatever you needed, just push the rack back into place and re-fit the locking mechanism.

It’s designed for off-road use as well, so I’d have no hesitation in taking it down a dirt road. When the terrain gets very rough though, like anything mounted to the towbar, you are going to be limited by where the car’s towbar is and how much of the rack is coming out of the back, so just be aware of ground clearance on rougher terrain.

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The overall dimensions of the five-bike unit here were great for the size of car I fit it to, for smaller cars or fewer bikes there’s the three or four-bike option, there’s also a huge six-bike option if you have a lot of bikes to carry or want to start a side business doing shuttles!

Now all of these features do come at a cost, at a starting price of $1190 for the three-bike rack and $1299 for the five-bike rack here, plus $899 for the swingarm kit this is an expensive rack. However, for the fact that it’s made in Australia, is ruggedly built and well-designed, that price is not unreasonable and it’s in line with other similar options on the market. A 10-year guarantee shows Shingleback’s commitment to their product.

Overall, while it’s a somewhat expensive option, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by purchasing this rack for your transport needs.

Ratings
Performance 9/10
Value 7/10
Overall 8/10

For full specs and prices head to https://shinglebackoffroad.com.au/

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