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KUAT NV BASE 2.0 REVIEW

We test Kuat’s sleek, high-end hitch rack in the Pacific Northwest. Founded just over a decade ago, Kuat is a relative newcomer to the world of bike racks, but they haven’t wasted any time in creating functional, polished designs. Their NV Base 2.0 is a solid hitch-mounted rack that is comparable to class-leading options from Thule, Yakima, and 1Up. We’ve been hauling bikes around for over a month now with the NV, and have enjoyed its simplicity, durability, and robust attachment system—all bundled up in a sleek and stylish package. Below we break down the Base 2.0’s performance, set up and ease of use, bike capacity and wheel sizes, weight capacity, build quality, key features, and more. To see how it stacks up to the competition, see our article on the best hitch bike racks.

Performance
Ever since I started spotting Kuat racks on vehicles at my local trailhead, I’ve wanted to give them a try. And from their range of models, the NV Base 2.0 stood out as a strong alternative to Thule’s popular T2 Pro XT, a rack that I consider to be the best all-around design currently available. Having used the Kuat extensively this fall in the Pacific Northwest, I’m happy to report that from a bike carrying perspective, the Kuat is a worthy competitor. Its attachment system is sturdy and holds two bikes solidly in place, the rack is easy to set up and operate, and there’s minimal swaying and movement while on the road. While the Kuat can’t match the Thule’s versatility in carrying a wide range of bike styles (more on this below), it’s an excellent option for those hauling adult road, gravel, and standard mountain bikes.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (with bikes)2


Set up and Ease of Use
As far as set up goes, the NV Base 2.0 is one of the easiest and quickest racks I’ve ever assembled. The process took about 20 minutes from start to finish, with most of that time spent lining up the bolts in their corresponding holes while simultaneously balancing the trays (it's much easier as a two-person job). All of the necessary hardware and instructions are included, and the only intricacy is matching the letters on the rack beam with those on the trays. They’re clearly labeled but can be easily missed if you’re in a hurry.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (basket)

The NV Base 2.0 has a very simple design, so it’s no surprise that it’s extremely easy to use.
Similar to most platform racks on the market, loading bikes is a straightforward process: lift the bike onto the rack, swing the ratcheting arm up and over the front wheel, and cinch it down over the tire. The upper part of the arm slides into the lower portion to secure, but I found that it can feel a little sticky when tightening over the front wheel. This didn’t hinder the rack’s performance, but it did require extra attention when I was loading bikes and wasn’t quite as smooth as the ratcheting arm on Thule’s T2 Pro XT. That said, the NV Base 2.0’s system felt much more robust than other similar models, like the Yakima Dr.Tray. Finally, the rear strap is equally simple and easy to adjust: simply loop it over the wheel and slide it through the buckle.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (ratcheting arm button)_0


Bike Capacity and Wheel Sizes
Like most platform hitch racks, Kuat’s NV Base 2.0 can carry two bikes. The larger 2-inch receiver version (the NV Base 2.0 is available for both 1.25- and 2-inch hitches) can be upgraded with an add-on to carry an additional two bikes, but it doesn’t come cheap at $419. In terms of wheel sizes, the NV Base 2.0 can handle regular road and mountain bikes with 20- to 29-inch tires. However, tires 20 to 24 inches require a separate wheel adapter, while fat bikes need the Phat Bike Kit (sold separately for $10), which includes a strap extender for the rear tire and a Velcro strap for the front. For comparison, Thule’s T2 Pro XT—which comes in at $11 more—is able to haul fat bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, and kids’ bikes (with at least 20-inch wheels) without any extra hardware. For a premium platform rack, we were expecting the same from Kuat.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (from above)


Weight Capacity
In terms of weight-carrying capacity, the NV Base 2.0 can transport two 60-pound bikes, which is right in line with most other platform-style hitch racks. While this might seem like a lot, electric bikes often toe the threshold, so it’s important for e-bike users to check their weight beforehand. You should also consider the effort involved with lifting heavier bikes onto a platform rack like the NV Base 2.0, as it often takes more than one person to load and unload (comparably, a rack like the Thule EasyFold XT 2 includes deployable ramps).
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (loading bikes)


Build Quality and Durability
We’ve come to expect a certain degree of quality from high-end platform racks, and the NV Base 2.0 doesn’t disappoint. But to be honest, I was initially wary of testing this rack. I’ve known a handful of fellow riders who have had serious durability issues with Kuat in the past. And although each problem has been remedied by their lifetime “No Worries Warranty,” I was still concerned the NV Base 2.0 wouldn’t stack up to its competitors. All that said, I came away impressed by the rack’s sturdiness and high-quality build. It felt much more trustworthy than Yakima’s Dr.Tray thanks to its mostly metal construction, and the rack’s black powder coat finish is meant to withstand years of abuse. All in all, I have no issues to report and the rack has held up well so far.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (logo)


Weight
Almost without exception, platform-style hitch racks are heavy and bulky, so it’s no surprise the NV Base 2.0 comes in at 51 pounds. However, considering alternatives like the T2 Pro XT (52 pounds), 1Up USA Heavy Duty Double (46 pounds), and Kuat’s NV 2.0 (52 pounds), the NV Base 2.0 is right in line with the competition. The only real standout in this category is Yakima’s Dr.Tray, which is impressively light at just 34 pounds. Needless to say, it’s best to leave the NV Base 2.0 on your car rather than taking it on and off between outings.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (rear photo)


Key Features
Attachment System
We consider the attachment system on a bike rack one of the most critical features. It has to be extremely sturdy and limit side-to-side movement of the bikes while in motion, and I’m happy to report that the Kuat NV Base 2.0 passed these tests with flying colors. The rack’s ratcheting arms confidently lowered and tightened snugly onto the front tires of all the bikes we tested (although, as mentioned above, they do require some precision to avoid sticking). Furthermore, the adjustable front tire cradle system can be lowered or raised to help eliminate contact between two bikes. Most other racks, like Yakima’s Dr.Tray, achieve this by allowing you to slide the entire tray left or right. I haven’t had a reason to adjust it yet—and I’m not sure I will—but it’s a notable feature that may come in handy for some.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (basket adjustments)

As for the rear wheel, I was able to sufficiently tighten the strap just by pulling on it without too much force. The strap also easily slides back and forth on the tray, which makes loading bikes with different length wheelbases a breeze. That said, I still prefer the rear strap on the Thule T2 Pro XT—its deep notches and two stopping locations offer quick loading and unbeatable security.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (tightening)2


Tilt Lever
The NV Base 2.0’s tilt lever is located mid-rack—that is, right in the middle of the mounted bikes—and yet is surprisingly easy to operate. When I first spotted the lever, I had flashbacks to my original Thule T2 Classic, which often required advanced yoga poses to adjust with bikes on board. But thankfully, the NV Base 2.0’s system doesn’t demand the same flexibility—it’s easily within arm’s reach with two bikes mounted and moves without much force. Its metal construction also inspires confidence and should be long-lasting. While I prefer Thule’s HitchSwitch Lever on the T2 Pro XT that’s positioned away from the car and bikes, Kuat’s system is nonetheless easy and quick.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (tilt lever)


Locks
We appreciate when premium (and pricey) hitch racks include built-in locks for the bikes and rack itself to save us a few extra dollars. On the NV Base 2.0, you’ll find a cable lock concealed at the end of each tray and a locking hitch pin to secure the rack to the vehicle. The cable locks—located at the rear of the bike, which proved very functional—feel thicker and noticeably more secure than those on most other racks we’ve tested. Even better, they don’t require a key to lock—you simply click them into place and use the key only when unlocking. However, I do have one considerable gripe about the cable locks: they’re more challenging to stow than almost any others I’ve used. I recently left the lock wrapped around my bike for a couple of hours, and when I tried to remove it, it struggled to straighten and proved extremely difficult to stuff back into the base of the rack. While not a major concern by any means, it could definitely be smoother.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (locking)

Although Kuat’s NV Base 2.0 uses an expanding wedge for a wobble-free attachment to the vehicle, it forgoes an integrated lock. Instead, it features a locking hitch pin to secure the rack. This system works well enough, but I prefer when the lock is integrated into the rack itself—like on the Yakima Dr.Tray and Thule’s T2 Pro XT—which eliminates a step in the mounting and removal process.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (key)


What We Like
The NV Base 2.0’s sturdy ratcheting arms restrict side-to-side bike movement.
Tilt lever is easy to use when bikes are loaded.
Expanding receiver wedge prevents movement between the vehicle and rack.
Very sleek and modern design.

What We Don’t
The rack’s ratcheting arm can feel “sticky” at times and doesn’t adjust as smoothly over the front tire as some other racks.
Additional adapters and hardware required for fat bikes and bikes with 20-24-inch wheels.
Cable locks can be difficult to stow back in the rack after use.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (tilting)

The Competition
Among fully-featured platform hitch racks, Kuat has a winner on its hands with the NV Base 2.0. But it’s a crowded field, and Thule’s T2 Pro XT is currently the class leader. Three major features set the Thule apart from the Kuat: it’s able to accommodate a wider range of wheel sizes and bike types without buying separate adapters, the tilt lever is more convenient, and the cable locks are easier to use and stow (for more, see our in-depth Thule T2 Pro XT review). If you only plan to carry adult road and mountain bikes, the NV Base 2.0 is a great choice, but for a slight increase in price ($11), a similar weight, and more features and versatility, we give the nod to the T2 Pro XT.
Kuat NV Base 2.0 (bike clearance)

We’ve also been testing Yakima’s Dr.Tray this season, which comes in an impressively light 34-pound package. And while Yakima included a couple helpful features that the NV Base 2.0 lacks—like an integrated lock in the expanding wedge and more conveniently located tilt lever—we think the Kuat is the better overall rack. Why? While Yakima included all the features you’d expect in a premium rack, the major weight-shaving comes with a sacrifice in durability and build quality. If you prioritize low weight and plan on carrying lighter bikes (the Dr.Tray maxes out at 40 pounds per bike), the Dr.Tray makes a lot of sense. But we think Kuat’s NV Base 2.0 is a better choice for those who want a long-lasting rack, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s $60 cheaper.

Finally, you can’t get much more premium than Kuat’s own NV 2.0—a step up from the Base model. But for an extra $60, there aren’t too many discernible differences. Namely, the NV 2.0 has a metallic coating (the Base has a matte finish) and includes Kuat’s Trail-Doc: an integrated repair stand that allows you to work on a bike while it’s on the rack. That’s a decent value (purchasing the Trail Doc separately for the Base 2.0 will set you back $109), but it’s far from a vital feature for a good portion of riders.

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