Saturday, September 09, 2006

Softride Bike Rack Review

Softride extended
Softride extended,
originally uploaded by pedalmaniac.
Discalimer- I purchased this rack at full retail price, so I can say pretty much what I want about it.

I bought this rack just before our trip to Oregon back at Easter. We have used the rack often and it stays on the car all the time. Now that we have used the rack for four months I think I can make a fair assessment of it's performance.

The main reason I purchased this rack was for it's ability to easily access the back door of our van. There are many racks on the market that allow "access" to the back door, but none are as easy to use as the Softride.

Previously we have used a Swagman that had a pull pin that held the rack in the upright position. Remove the pin, lift the rack, and then it will pivot down to the ground. Reversing this process with four bikes was almost impossible for my buck 50 frame, I was successful just once. It also took forever to mount the bikes on the rack with the screw down assembly.

On our old Subaru, although we had a Yakima roof rack for bikes, we also had a SportRack for when we went on the ferry and didn't want to pay for overheight (yes a Subaru Legacy with a pair of bikes on the roof is gonna cost ya). A couple of good things about the Sport Rack was that it was easy to put on take off the car and it had a great bike attachment system. The only problems with the Sport rack was that it wasn't very secure and it was difficult to open the back door with the rack on let alone with bikes on as well.

An option that I considered was the Yakima Fullswing 4. To me this seemed like overkill. There is a toggle bolt and a pin that has to be removed every time you want to access the back of the van. Not very convenient.

Time and again I came back to the Softride Access DX rack. The bikes stay upright when pulled down, and the only input is a quick kick of the latch system.

In terms of access the Softride is definitely the easiest with the best design. This isn't to say that this rack doesn't have issues. First of the downfalls is the height of the rack off the ground. Granted the rack is low enough for easy mounting of the bikes. This also is a problem, I think mostly because our van has such poor ground clearance. Honda Odyssey's are very low to the ground. When I mount a bike with 4" or more of suspension travel the bike will hit the ground when going over bumps in the road. This can be rectified if you hang the bike by the down tube with one arm of the rack and by the top tube with the other arm of the rack. This also leads to some problems, but none as bad as the bottoming out of the bike on the road.

The second issue with the rack is attachment of the bikes to the rack. This is definitely substandard. The bikes hang on two square bars with depressions in them for the bikes to fit into. This doesn't make the system very adaptable. The bikes have to hang in the divots. This can be a problem when you want to fit 4 non conventional bikes onto the rack. Not only are the bars annoying the rubber bands that hold the bikes on are not very confidence inspiring. I have had one break, luckily I noticed just as the bike was tipping up and off the rack at 80km/hr. Disaster narrowly avoided. I use the rubber attachments as a start and then use toe clip straps (remember those? I have a million uses for them -- but that is another post) to strap the bike to the rack more rigidly. Another problem with the bars and rubber band attachment is that the bikes will swing as the car accelerates and brakes. This means the bikes can rub and scratch one another. Some more toe clip straps and rags can help this.

So, although I have spent a bit of time on the things that I don't like about this rack, in general this is a good rack. It should also be noted that there is a ski attachment and, get this, a barbecue attachment for tailgate parties. Hmm I think I'll stick with the bike rack

Pros: Easy access to back door of van ( this is the trump card)
Easy mounting of bikes
Carries 4 bikes
Good locking mechanisms (both to car and for bikes)

Cons: Square bars with divots for bikes
Weak rubber band attachments for bikes
Too low for Honda Odyssey's

So, Softride if your listening, change your bars to round ones, use Yakima like bike to rack attachments that attach to top tube and seat tube to stop swinging of bikes, get better rubber bands, and make the rack 8 inches higher. Other than that I have no idea why these rack aren't more popular-- other than the fact that they are almost impossible to find in Canada.


  • Hi,

    Thanks for the review as I am interested in this rack as well. I will likely get it and I have a work around for your height issue. You can use a hitch riser to gain more height. Check out the following link:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:14 PM  

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