The Garage Accessories

Review: Yakima HangTight 4 Hitch Mount Bike Rack Is a Sturdy, Strong Choice

For SUVs and crossovers, a trailer hitch bike rack is the best option, and Yakima's vertical setup has lots of advantages.

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Let’s face it, normal-height cars are becoming scarce these days and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Even a died-in-the-wool car enthusiast like myself has chosen a crossover for my current family truckster. I’m shopping for my next vehicle, and it’ll likely be another vehicle that sits a little too high with a lot too much extra plastic. Functionally, the plastic is irrelevant, but the jacked-up suspension (which I mean physically and judgmentally) makes it far more difficult to put bikes on the roof. Hanging them off the back of your vehicle with something like this Yakima HangTight 4 is by far the best choice.

Why Use a Hitch Mount Bike Rack

The cheap way out would be a “trunk-style” bike rack, which also works on hatchbacks so the name is curious; there seems to be an uneasiness with referring to them more accurately as “strap-ons.” These use rods sticking off the car held on with straps – oh, now I see – so a trunk mount rack held on with flat cords is the least secure. They utilize nylon webbing and optimism to fix your bikes to the back of your vehicle.

I’ve used these in the past and not only do I not trust the rack to stay on the car, I don’t like the way bikes precariously dangle from the rods. I’ve seen plenty of scratched paint on bikes and cars, and bent sheet metal from enthusiastic over-tightening. You can install a hitch receiver on just about any car, and it is far more secure.

My SUV has a two-inch hitch receiver, so the Yakima HangTight 4 works without an adapter; they are available if you have a different size hitch. It slides into the receiver and then uses a hitch pin that threads into the shank (that’s the part of the rack that slides into the hitch receiver) and after it’s torqued, a keyed cap is locked on the end of the pin. I have full confidence that the rack will stay on the car, even more so than some of the roof racks I’ve had in the past. It does seem like a bit of an inconvenience to pull out the torque wrench every time I want to put the rack on the car.

Hitch racks come in two basic styles; horizontal and vertical. There are multiple sub-genres of those two, but the HangTight 4 is a vertical, handlebar-cradle, mast-type rack. Obviously the naming is pretty on the nose: bikes hang vertically, the bike is secured by strapping the handlebars in a cradle, it holds four bikes (Yakima also makes a 6 bike version) and it was originated by famous rack designer Giuseppe Mast.

Some Assembly Required

Yakima was nice enough to send over the HangTight 4 for me to review, and it arrived at my front door via my overworked FedEx driver. The footage from my front door camera showed them casually sling the big box, 47 x 21 x 7 inches, onto their shoulder and jog up to my door before gingerly dropping it off. When I got home, I grabbed the box to pull it into the garage, not realizing the superhuman strength contained in the driver’s purple polo shirt, I nearly blew out my lower gasket trying to heave the nearly 100-pound box a few inches off the ground. Lift with your legs, folks. You’ve been warned.

The rack includes a couple of flat wrenches, but I hope if you’re reading this on The Drive, you own some tools. If not, please go here and remedy that. There’s nothing complicated, all the fasteners are easy to tell apart. Pretty much everything only goes together in one way and the directions are similar to Lego or Ikea, which is to say visual and well done. The instructions give torque specs for everything, so I of course followed them. If you don’t have a torque wrench, again, fix that. Is exacting torque critical on most of these fasteners? Probably not. Putting the rack together by myself took about a half hour, including pulling the car out, debating on which tools to use, etc.

Installation on the car is also relatively quick and painless. The assembled rack is around 75 pounds and is as they say, awkward. I’m 6’3” and have read that it’s almost impossible for people shorter than myself to do it alone. So, YMMV. I walk up to the thing leaning against a wall standing upright with the hitch shank facing away from me. I grab the lower bar and let the mast rest on my shoulder, lean back, and pick it up. You have to carry the rack out in front of you, so it feels heavier than it is. Walk up behind the car, line it up, and insert in the hitch receiver.

I’ve done it several times now and the most time-consuming part is torquing the one bolt that holds it into the receiver. Could you do this without a torque wrench? Probably, but I’m hanging a couple of hundred pounds and a few thousand dollars off the back of a vehicle that will be traveling at highway speeds, I can take an extra step.

Major Hang Time

The HangTight works with flat-bar and drop-bar bikes, but it seems to work best with flat-bar mountain bikes. If you want to carry drop-bar bikes, like gravel or road bikes, you have to space out the cradles so you will only be able to carry three bikes. If you have downhill bikes with dual-crown forks, you will need to buy different cradles, but if you have flatbar bikes that are under 38 pounds, with tires under five inches wide, you are good to go. If you’re unsure if you have a gravel, road, or downhill bike, there’s a 99.9% chance you don’t as these are something you buy on purpose.

The first time you hang a bike on the rack, it can be a little unnerving as you worry about dropping it through the back glass of your car. The handlebars fall naturally into the cradle, so it’s a “once you do it, you figure it out” thing. Two ratcheting straps hold the handlebars up top. At the bottom, the rear tire sits on a pad that also has a ratcheting strap to hold it. The cradle sits pretty high in the air some of that depends on the height of your hitch, but my wife who is 5’3” has no trouble getting her mountain bike on and off. The rack does have a tilting function so you can access the trunk/hatch of your car with the rack installed, but unlike racks that hold the front wheel, you can’t tilt the rack to make it easier to mount the bikes. My 11-year-old son at 4’9” can’t get his bike on and off, but he rarely takes the car to go riding by himself so it’s not really an issue.

My gravel bike doesn’t easily fit great in the cradle. First, I have a QuadLock mount right next to the stem, so that gets in the way. Also, I can’t put it right next to another bike, as the handlebars interfere with each other. But, like I said, the HangTight seems aimed square at the MTB community.

The High Points of a Tall Rack

One of the main reasons that vertical-style racks are taking off is that they look awesome. No seriously, I’ve talked to several people who sell racks at the retail level, and it’s what they’re hearing from customers.

Functionally, there are two great reasons for mounting your bikes upright. First, your bike sitting upright, up against the vehicle gives you a better departure angle. Platform-style racks are easier to load, but they hang further back and lower, meaning you are more likely to drag them on the ground, even going up steep driveways. Second, while you still have to be mindful of not pulling into parking garages of low drive-thrus since your bolt is sticking up past your roof, you don’t have to be concerned with your bike’s tires being the widest point of your car. Again, this is a big concern if you’re driving off-road.

Another consideration is using the rack while it’s off the car. I never drive around with this thing on my car. Even with the tilt away, it’s kind of inconvenient to get into the rear hatch. And more importantly, I park in garages regularly and don’t want to worry about scraping the thing off on a girder. But, if you buy a wall mount, you can use this to store your bikes. This is the biggest plus as it makes this rack feel a bit like a two-for-one. 

The Verdict

Yakima HangTight 4
Value7/10
Quality7/10
Ease Of Use7/10
Durability8/10
Overall7/10

I haven’t tried the HangTight with an aftermarket anti-rattle clamp, but I probably should. While you’re driving it creaks and groans as the shank is moving around inside the receiver. This is common to most hitch racks and anyone who has towed. But if a bike rack is your first experience with anything behind your car, it’ll make you nervous. 

Overall, the HangTight is a great choice in what is becoming a popular choice in bike racks. Vertical mounts are great for people who want to drive their bikes further off the road allowing you to camp in more remote places. It does look pretty sweet and the quality of the components along with Yakima’s historical durability makes me think it’ll last for years. The normal retail price for the HangTight 4 is $849 which is competitive with similar products from Velocirax and Lolo with the bonus of being able to find parts and accessories just about anywhere. It even has a built-in bottle opener. 

Questions? Hit me up: mike.febbo@thedrive.com