The Saris Gran Fondo is as stylish as any bike rack we’ve seen, but how did it perform?
Assembly was straight forward, and once we’d grown familiar with using it, attaching the Gran Fondo rack to the vehicle was an impressively simple task, one that rarely took longer than a minute.
We tested it with a VW Transporter van and a Renault Megane Scenic car. The rack attached in the same fashion to both vehicles, with six webbed straps.
Two of the straps attached ‘above’ the rack, in the hinge of the boot lid, two attached ‘below’ it, on the bottom edge of the boot lid, and one each from either side. Each strap terminated in a metal hook that anchored the rack to the vehicle. The straps were robust and easy to tighten and to release.
Four rubber ‘feet’, supplied to form a barrier between rack and vehicle and so protect the vehicle’s surface (paint or glass), proved effective, and increased the rack’s stability by providing a solid base against which to tension the straps.
Our only concern was the lack of any means of securing the rack to the vehicle once in place. If we were buying, rather than testing the Gran Fondo, we would drill a hole in either of the two horizontal stabilising bars to accommodate a steel cable that could then be secured to a tow hitch.
Attaching bikes to the rack was another simple procedure. Each wheel slides into a deep, plastic guide which houses a broad, rubberized-plastic strap that passes over the wheel rim to secure the bike. We’d like to see a webbing strap on future iterations. The rubberized-plastic straps were fine with the aluminium rims we transported, but we shied away from using them with carbon rims, whose construction is softer. We might have been over cautious, but a webbing strap would have put our minds at rest.
The supplied instructions say the Gran Fondo rack can be used with 700c, 26-inch and 29-inch wheels. We used it with road bikes with 700c wheels, and with 29-er mountain bikes, and experienced no difficulties. They also recommend a maximum weight of 35lbs per bike. Again, this caused us no issues, but owners of ‘freeride’ or downhill mountain bikes considering a Gran Fondo might wish to weigh their machines first.
The visibility afforded to the vehicle’s number plate and lights was another positive, and kept us on the right side of the law while avoiding the costly need to install additional lighting.
Once assembled, the Gran Fondo rack consumed a considerable amount of space. It does not fold, although removing the deep plastic guides for the front wheels, the largest parts of the assembly, proved relatively simple and condensed its size considerably.
To summarise, we were impressed by the ease with which the Gran Fondo can be attached to a vehicle and with which bicycles can be attached to it. With a few minor improvements, notably a means of securing the rack to the vehicle, and webbing straps with which to secure the bikes to the rack, it would be hard to beat.
Our final advice, as is often the case, is to try before you buy. We experienced no difficulties, despite the considerable difference in shape and size of a VW Transporter and Renault Megane Scenic, but each vehicle has its idiosyncrasies.
The Saris Gran Fondo bike rack costs £250. Thanks to Ride for the van test.