Product Reviews October 8, 2013

Saris 'Bones 3' Review Update

About a year ago I reviewed the Saris 'Bones 3' bike carrier. At the time I was very pleased with it. My opinion of the concept itself has not changed. I still think it is a clever design and it will carry 3 bikes simultaneously. However, there are some intrinsic (and expensive) issues with using it. I'll detail them here.

The primary issue concerns the straps. In essence, the weight of the bike carrier sits on the lip of the rear bumper with the other pair of adjustable legs 'resting' on the boot, helping to sustain the load and provide stability. There are 3 pairs of nylon straps, 3 per 'side' that attach to the top edge, side and bottom of the boot. These straps effectively keep the unit in place and stop the carrier becoming detected from the car, along with your precious bikes. The trouble is it is very hard to tension the straps to the point where there's no play in them. This isn't too much of an issue with one lightweight road bike, but load another, heavier bike onto the rack, the straps start to loosen. This is because the load is pulling out and away from the car, which means the straps that attach to the top edge are critical; essentially they are baring most of the load when the car is in motion. The instructions on the Bones 3 is to knot the straps. This is critical, because the weight of the bikes combined with the British roads results in the straps loosening. Over time, you need to re-tension the straps. I have spent many anxious miles watching the bikes in the rear mirror, hoping they are sufficient secured. There has never been any issue - they have always been safe - but it does not lend itself to miles of carefree driving.

The issue described above is inherent in the design; the bike carrier is temporary. It is not designed to be a permanent fixture to the car and as a result you need to be able to take it on and off the car relatively easily. The drawback with this is that it's not as secure as you might like. 

The plastic ratchet straps keep the bike frame well secured to the carrier arms. Position the bikes correctly and you can also loop a strap around the down-tube. This helps to keep the bike steady. Whilst driving I then noticed the front wheel twisting round and banging the back of the car. Not ideal for the car and definitely not good for carbon wheels. In the end I secured them to the frame with a long zip tie. It was a good solution, but now it meant I required a pair of clippers to release the bike at either end of the journey. 

I have mentioned the position of the bike on the carrier. One other factor to consider is the position of the carrier arms relative to the car. On one long journey, I decided to keep the carrier as low as possible to the boot of the car so the bike was kept below the roof line. I thought this might reduce the amount the bike (and the carrier) moved on the boot. I positioned the legs that rested on the bumper about 10mm above the boot line; perfect I thought. All seemed well until I stopped for a rest about 160 miles through my journey. The small amount of movement that was present meant that the serrated aluminium tube on the Bones 3 had rubbed on the edge of my boot - taking the paint down to the metal. A further look then showed that the pedals had also scuffed the bumper. This was very irritating. I have subsequently repaired the bumper costing £150. The boot needs to be re-sprayed and this will cost £450. Suddenly, the bike carrier is becoming quite expensive to run.

There's more. The straps that hold the carrier on the boot are metal. They are painted, but as the carrier moves about, so do they. This means they also rub on the paintwork. At the points where I've been securing the rack to the boot, you can see the marks on the paintwork where the carrier has flexed.

If you are using the Bones 3 once in a while, it's perfectly fit for purpose. The challenge come when you use the rack on a regular basis and you use it to move more than one bike. This is where the weight of the load becomes critical. I would say 3 bikes is almost too heavy for the system to bare. Furthermore, I would not drive on a motorway with 3 bikes on the back using this carrier. And ultimately, this means something more substantial is required. 

What I've concluded is this; another solution needs to be found........

 

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