Words: Georgina von Marburg

Photos: Georgina von Marburg

In early summer I reviewed the ground-breaking Boost rack from Shingleback Off Road. Its gas-strut assisted loading mechanism vanquished any concerns about lifting heavy bikes onto vertical bike racks. In addition to this mechanism, it also introduced a host of new features which worked with a wider variety of bikes, secured them better and increased the vehicle compatability. Naturally, the Boost also came with a befitting price tag ($2450 for the 4-bike version).

But what about those riders who are confident in loading their mid-weight bikes, who may not need the gas-strut? What about those who desire all the other ingenious new features without the Boost pricetag? Well, at $1990 for the 4-bike version, the Sport rack might be for you. 

The Sport rack provides all the upgrades from the original Classic rack, minus the gas-strut mechanism. It’s a rack which will surely become a best-seller, as its adjustability and versatility will serve the majority of riders regardless of cycling discipline or car model. 

Shingleback Off Road are a fiercely proud brand, and rightly so. Their vertical bike rack design has been more or less copied by several companies since taking the Aussie market by a storm a little over five years ago. The family business remains Australian owned, operated, and made. A third-party engineering firm reviews and approves all of their designs, something Shingleback will reiterate to anyone thinking of building a homemade contraption (we’ve all seen them). Their racks are built and assembled right here in north east Victoria, and they come with a 10 Year Guarantee - a testament to the reliable craftsmanship which has made these racks some of the most popular in the country. 

Being such a widely used and respected brand, it’s always exciting to test their latest products. Having used the original Classic rack for nearly a year, I was interested to see if the upgrades on the Sport would make the Classic redundant. Just as I do with the Classic, I dragged the Sport across highways and mountains, dirt roads and cattle grids. The results were overall impressive, and they might just signal a new era for the burgeoning company. 

Lever-operated tilt mechanism 

Like the Boost, the Shingleback Sport uses a hand lever to initiate the downward tilt. However unlike the Boost, it relies on your strength rather than a gas strut to lower and return the rack. I found with several 15kg enduro bikes and a dirt jumper, this was no issue. A pin allows you to set how far the rack can be lowered, and as long as it’s at a reasonable height, lifting a full rack of bikes is achievable. If you were loading e-bikes or had less upper body strength, you may still look at the Boost option. 

Lowering the rack allows bikes to be easily loaded without heaving them overhead; but more importantly, it provides convenient access to your car’s boot. The issue I had with the Classic rack, was that the old pin system was too fiddly for me to be bothered using it. I preferred to reach through the back door, rather than lower the rack to the ground, open the boot, lift the rack again and precisely position the holes to reinsert the pin. Those who own the Classic rack will undoubtedly understand and empathise. The Sport mechanism has completely changed this approach, making boot access a simple, five second procedure. The orange safety latch secures the load even if you forget to tighten the first lever - a simple but essential feature for the absent minded!  

Improved cradles

The new and improved cradle design is one of the many features which trickle down from the Boost rack. These cradles are wider and thicker, pressing against the tread of the tyre as opposed to the sidewall. What does this mean? It means minimal wear on your tyres, alleviating an occasional complaint made with the Classic. The entire cradles themselves are also adjustable, so you can customise the space between your bikes to avoid brake levers and handlebars rubbing or scratching each other. Note, this is a set-and-forget procedure utilising bolts and nuts; so don’t expect to spontaneously change the spacing during shuttles to accommodate your mate’s awkwardly sized bike.

Various hitch arm lengths 

When Shingleback were designing the Boost and Sport racks, a top priority was navigating the vast compatibility issues presented by car manufacturers and their varying hitch specifications. While the Classic refused to fit some car makes and models, the Boost and Sport racks can be ordered with different hitch arm lengths. This positions the rack close to your boot, regardless of your car. You should still look up overhang limits relevant for your own state or territory.

Telescopic centre post 

Another new feature which exemplifies the compatibility of the Sport rack is it’s telescopic centre-post. Again, this feature is also found on the Boost. If you have a tall 4x4, you can lengthen the entire rack upwards for better ground clearance; alternatively, if you have a wagon or small SUV, you can bring the entire rack downwards for a neat and practical aesthetic. 

Internal anti-rattle magnet 

And now for the best feature yet, in my opinion: the anti-rattle magnet. This simple but effective device slides inside the hitch arm to prevent side-to-side movement. While the original anti-rattle clamp (which is still comes standard with all racks) prevents up-and-down movement, some frustrating movement remained. After a dusty day of shuttling, my Classic would squeak all the way home due to play in the hitch. But the new anti-rattle magnet obliterates this common complaint. After hours of driving through various conditions and terrains, not a sound could be heard; in fact, there was so little play that when I pushed my entire weight against the rack, the car itself would move.  And yes, this magnetic clamp can be fitted retrospectively to the Classic rack. 

Compatible with BMX, kids, road, and gravel bikes

Rounding out the unique versatility of the new Shingleback design is their ability to carry BMX, road, and gravel bikes. A simple extender device will accommodate 20” BMX and kids bike sizes, and the ‘Roadie Insert’ will secure those thinner tyres. These accessories are cannot be retrospectively fitted to the Classic, as they are designed around the new, wider cradles found on the Boost and Sport racks. 

Conclusion 

It’s hard not to be impressed by the solid build and versatility of the Sport rack. It addresses some drawbacks of the original Classic while still maintaining the robustness and practicality Shingleback are known for. The hierarchy is now complete with 4, 5, and 6-bike options available in the Classic, Sport and Boost racks, along with the unique 2B90 2-bike rack. But for those who want to steer clear of the more complex Boost mechanism and price tag, the Sport is the viable option. 

RRP: $1990 (4-bike)

From: shinglebackoffroad.com.au

Hits

  • More budget-friendly than the Boost
  • Improved cradles
  • Improved anti-rattle system

Misses 

  • Still a significant investment
  • Customisable features require tools and time to set