As true outdoor media professionals, we are loathe to pay retail for anything. So when it was time to purchase a new car rack, one of our intrepid testers naturally turned to our friends at Thule and Yakima. Much to his chagrin, neither brand offered a trunk mount bike rack compatible with his convertible -- a Mercedes (yes, SNEWS is obviously paying our testers way too much money). And even if they did fit, there's no way a foam pad is going near his car's paint job. So he had to abandon the outdoor industry and find a suitable rack -- which turned out to be superior to the standard fare.
The answer came from a small company in North Carolina, BDI Systems that primarily makes racks for carrying motorcycles and ATVs on the back of SUVs. The License Plate Bike Rack is a unique design that securely carries either two bikes or two pairs of skis and easily attaches to almost any vehicle with a license plate in the center.
The rack works by attaching a 1/8-inch thick steel plate behind the rear license plate. The plate has a square receiver that accepts the steel bike carrier using a locking pin. A single strap goes from the carrier to the lip of the trunk or hatchback, which makes all the forces on the license plate bolts vertical with nothing touching the surface of the car. It takes less than a half hour to set up the rack on most cars. Once installed, it takes about 60 seconds to attach or remove the rack.
Construction of the rack is very burly so there is no fear of dumping $5,000 of bikes on the highway at 80 mph -- something that cannot be said about most trunk mount racks. The bike rack accepts any bike with a conventional triangle frame as well as most mountain bikes (unless they have a funky design). Both bikes are held securely and do not bang against each other or the car; they can be locked to the rack with a cable. The ski rack kit adapts the bike rack in less than five minutes with a simple hex key.
While the build quality is superb, the finishing leaves a bit to be desired. The foam padding on the bike mounts seems an afterthought and the straps in the ski rack are better replaced by Voile ski ties. The only other minor gripe is bikes and skis must be removed to access the trunk but that takes almost no time.
For someone with a smaller car (e.g. Honda Civic), this is even better than a roof rack since there is less wind drag. And the BDI Rack is certainly the best option for anyone with a convertible or luxury car that deserves protection.
SNEWS Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retails: The bike rack with plate retails for $189 while the ski rack is an extra $89; a tad high but not unreasonable. Retailers should like the minimum of SKUs to fit a wide range of vehicles. If customers have extra cars, a spare plate runs $58 so it's an affordable system.
For more information:www.bdiracks.com/bdiplate.html