Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The 'Stealth Hitch' Really Is Stealthy

When I donated the SAAB, I took off the Yakima roof rack and sold it on Craigslist.  I really like the rack when I used it, but it wasn't really too often that I did actually use it: if it was just me, I would fold down the back seat and put the whole bike inside the car (safer than locked to the roof rack, and protected from the elements).  I usually used the rack if Jen and I were going mountain biking, allowing me to easily throw both bikes on the roof.  Sometimes I'd throw my own bike on the roof by itself if the back of the car was full for some reason.

With the 335, I don't have a fold down back seat.  The car is available with a fold down back seat as an option...but the one I purchased doesn't have it (one of the few things that still bugs me about it; everything else has been pretty great).  Without the ability to put the bike inside the car, I definitely need some sort of external rack.  At first, I thought I'd get one of the ubiquitous Saris Bones 2 or 3 bike racks:


Saris released a new one, the Bones RS, that is a bit more secure than the basic one:
With both of these, though...I am pretty paranoid about where it touches with the car.  The Yakima rack didn't do anything bad to the roof of the SAAB, as its touch points were clamped in place, totally fixed.  When I took the rack off, after almost 10 years on there...there was zero damage to the roof (once I cleaned off some goo from the blackened decay of the rubber pads where the rack met the roof).  Looking at the Saris' touch pads where it meets the car...I was a bit leery of it damaging the paint.  Unlike the roof rack, there would be a little bit of movement with a rack like this (probably less so with the Bones RS, as it ratchets down a bit more securely).

I don't know anyone who personally has reported any paint damage from a Bones (but then again, I don't know all that many people with trunk racks), but more than a handful of people reporting that in online reviews ended up being enough to drive me to a hitch rack.  Hitches are all over the place on trucks here, but it's not too common to find them on passenger cars, and even less so on sportier ones.  Searching around, I found a hitch manufacturer, Valley Industries, that makes a hitch specifically targeted at the 2009 335: the Stealth Hitch Receiver.

It's pretty sweet: it has a vertical down tube that is pretty much flush with the underside of the bumper:  There is a separate receiver adapter that mates with the down tube when you actually want to hook up something:



This way, it's not even visible that the car has a hitch when nothing is hooked up.  This is the car from behind, after the hitch was installed:



Getting up close and underneath a bit, the vertical tube can be seen:



To actually hook something up, the adapter would be slotted in (and yes, it's upside down):



I had all of this done at Spillar Hitches' SoCo location.  I'm glad I had them do it in the shop there: it took probably 1.5 hours, and requires dropping the exhaust and trimming the inside of the bumper fascia a bit...not exactly something I would have had much luck with at home.  Now I just need to figure out what rack to mate with it.  I think the varieties that do avoid contact with the frame and clamp onto the wheels would allow super fast and easy loading, while avoiding any danger of paint damage (of particular worry with the overly-delicate paint on my Trek..it has several spots of bare carbon now).

1 comment:

Ben said...

Funny, I just put one of those stealth hitches on my Saab before we drove out to Cali last weekend. Thei nstaller had to trim the fascia, and then I had to lower the exhaust when they didn't do it well enough and there was some colliding going on during heavy acceleration.

The end result is similarly-stealthy and probably really useful. I'm trying to decide whether to buy a road bike out here (never had one before) or ship out my cdale mtb and ride it to the office. Some of my decision will hinge upon whether I feel like I can carry it back on a convenient mount of some sort.