Saris Bones 3-Bike car rack - review - Road Cycling UK

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Saris Bones 3-Bike car rack – review

Excellent car rack for up to three bikes but not without its niggles

The Saris Bones 3-Bike car rack was released a few years ago with a clever design which enabled it to fit a huge range of cars – including many which wouldn’t normally be able to carry bikes externally without expensive one-off modifications. Available in a rainbow of colours, able to carry three bikes and retailing at £156, the Bones is an ideal rack for the driving enthusiast who doesn’t want their two wheeled hobby to limit their car choice.

We put the Bones thoroughly through its paces with a 2,000 mile loop of France, taking in Mont Ventoux, the Massif Central, Col du Tourmalet and a myriad of mountain roads in-between.

Fitting the Saris Bones 3-Bike

The Bones arrived well-packed without any prior assembly required. The initial test fit to the car was something of a trial and error process, my aim being to have the bikes sitting as close to the car as possible in order to avoid compromising its handling.

The Saris Bones 3-Bike can be used on a wide variety of cars

The rack is attached via an array of arms, legs and straps. The arms sit on the top of the boot/window, the legs sit on the rear bumper and the rails that hold the bikes are all adjustable via a splined system to get the optimal fit.

Saris’ website vehicle fit checker confirmed our Toyota GT86 was compatible, however the instructions stated there was to be no contact with any of the hooks to the spoiler. After some trial and error, I realised this wasn’t possible with the side hooks, so I cut a couple small pieces of rubber out of an old tube to protect the spoiler from any unwanted marks. Having fallen foul of rival manufacturer clip-on racks with previous cars, I also applied Helicopter tape to the bodywork where the rack made contact, in order to offer some extra protection.

  • Specification

  • Price: £156
  • Colours: black; blue; grey; orange; pink; red; yellow
  • Website: Saris
  • UK distributor: Paligap

Once in place, I was impressed with the design, however the build quality could be improved in a couple of areas. The arms are held in place by plastic screws which thread into metal nuts – and one of these cross-threaded on me immediately. Thankfully, replacement parts are readily available and I was able to get a spare from our local Halfords the next day.

Another issue arose with the hook on the right side of the rack, which clips underneath the right side of the boot – or at least it should have done. Each hook has a hard rubberised coating set on it to protect the car’s bodywork from damage, however the right hook’s coating had a large bulge in it which obstructed the fit, so I corrected it using a Stanley knife blade. Once fitted, however, the rack instilled significantly greater confidence, securely holding our road bikes with substantial ratchet straps and looking pretty streamlined in the process.

The rack has room for up to three bikes

In use

While driving I noticed some movement from the Bones. Most of the weight is supported by the legs on the rear bumper and hooks that attach to the top of the boot, and it appeared to use the rubber cushions which sit on the boot as a shock absorber to take the sting out of bumps – it works.

After 800 kilometres earning my confidence pounding the autoroute, it was time to bite the bullet and take on technical D-roads and bumpy singletrack lanes which better resembled a tarmac rally stage than smooth, wide highways.

Here the rack really impressed. Weighing only five kilogrammes and sitting very close to the boot it barely affected the handling, while the straps didn’t show any sign of slackening off.

The rack is relatively simple to fit

There was one scary moment, however, when I failed to notice a nasty speed bump hidden in the shadow of a tree. Hitting it at around 30mph with sports suspension, the Bones jumped up and several straps needed re-tightening. This was user error, of course, and fortunately no damage occurred, but it was certainly a good test of what the rack could cope with, and it coped well.

The design is to be commended in that without it, I would have been forced to drive a more sensible Honda Jazz which could envelop the bikes in its ample boot. The Bones meant we were able to enjoy a lap of Ventoux on four wheels as well as two.

It’s worth noting that on cars such as a Jazz, the Bones and bikes would be sheltered behind the vehicle’s frontal profile and not likely to drastically affect the fuel consumption. On the low GT86, I found the extra drag was costing about eight miles per gallon at standard French autoroute speeds – 130kph or 81mph. I also had a layer of flies splattered over my white saddle.

Conclusion

The Bones 3-Bike car rack is excellent value for money and can be relied upon to safely transport your bikes as long as you take care when fitting. It can provide a good fit even with sports cars, however tightening up straps can be a bit of a faff if used daily.

There is room for refinement and I’d like to see metal bolts replacing the plastic screws, and an improved ratchet mechanism for the straps. The Bones relies on the user tying up the excess strap, which seems like an afterthought given the intelligent core design. Saris also manufacture the SuperBones, which appears to address this, but at a significantly higher price point.

But, that aside, for anything up to weekly use, whether you’re off to a road race, sportive or making longer trips, the Bones is ideal.

Pros

  • Enables bikes to be carried by a vast range of cars
  • Holds bikes securely
  • Lightweight, intelligent design
  • Spares readily available
  • Folds up into a small size for storage
  • Fair value for money

Cons

  • Build quality could be improved in places
  • Not easily lockable to car (Saris sell a security cable but it doesn’t fit all cars)
  • Takes longer to fit than a tow bar or roof rack
  • More movement than a tow bar or roof rack

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