After 40 years in the cargo game, Australian outfit Rola recently unveiled its first vertical bike rack. Aimed squarely at mountain bikers, the rack features several refinements over its rivals; the aptly named the VBR also carries a price tag that’s hard to beat. This article will take you through the details that matter with some insights from lead engineer Ben Bremner.
Behind the VBR
The idea behind refining an already popular bike rack was “born out of experience”, says Ben. “After years of riding mountain bike trails, loading, securing and shuttling the bikes back up the hill, I knew there must be a way to make it simpler and more secure. With access to a broad range of unique engineering resources, we’ve produced a simple and innovative solution to securing our bikes with the VBR, and I’m stoked with the result.”
The hook and cambuckle securing system is arguably THE key feature of the VBR. The system consists of a rigid cambuckle strap bolted to the frame of the unit itself and a large hook with a spring-loaded clip. The cambuckle system braces against the tyre and ensures that the bike won’t move when secured to the vehicle. The other bonus is that the cambuckle system is quicker to lock and unlock than its competitors and easier to use with gloves or in cold conditions.
The VBR is a hitch-mount design intended to be slid into a standard 50x50mm towbar hitch. A hitch mount means the VBR is mounted to the vehicle’s structure for additional stability. The VBR also includes an anti-rattle plate that is easily attached to minimise any movement in the hitch itself.
To make loading simple and protect the wheels on your ride, the front wheel hoops offer extra clearance and an angled slide on the front of the holder to aid the wheel in sliding into the hoop itself. The wheel hoop supports wheels sized from 20” through to 29” and tyres ranging from standard 25mm road tyres right up to plus-sized tyres up to 3.7” wide.
The VBR also makes use of a simple pin release mechanism that allows users to pivot the rack away from the vehicle for easy access to the cargo area. Up top, an additional provision has also been made to enable the rack to be tethered to the vehicle for extra security in rough conditions, ideal for those looking to make use of their 4x4 on route to or from their trail network.
We were lucky enough to be given the keys to the Rola wrapped Jeep Gladiator for a day to experience the VBR in all its glory first-hand. Having a number of keen mountain bike riders on staff, we’ve had a bit of experience with rival vertical bike racks in the past and are familiar with their common similarities and shortcomings.
First, the quality of the VBR featured here is arguably class-leading. The fit and finish of the frame, from the bolts to the welds, are all of exceptional quality, something you’d expect from Rola, given their extensive history in the cargo-carrying industry.
The hook and cambuckle system are arguably the most secure and straightforward to use retention system on a vertical bike rack that we’ve used. It’s quick and easy to lock and unlock and made fitting the bikes back to the rack after spending the afternoon lapping local runs much easier with weary hands.
With the bikes attached to the rear of the vehicle, you wouldn’t know the bikes were there unless you looked out the rear window, with no discernable wind noise coming from the unit as the bikes are safely tucked away in the draft of the vehicle. One thing to note was just how much of a difference the tether points atop the unit made when tackling tougher terrain. Our trailhead was accessed via a 4x4 trail, and the tether system gave us both peace of mind and a serious amount of stability to the rack, negating what little sway existed.
Priced at $1,150 for the 3-bike model, with a 5-bike model (as shown) also available for $1,250, the Rola VBR undercuts its key competition and represents a solid option for mountain bikers looking for a safe, secure and stable way to travel with their bikes. The VBR is available right now from selected Rola retailers around the country and right here at BikeExchange.
Looking to travel with your bike? Check out our wide range of car bike racks!