Yakima Viper Bike Rack

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New outdoor technology has its advantages, but many times it comes with some gotchas, too. Get a new soft shell jacket? You'll probably want an ultra-light storm shell instead of the old mountaineering parka. Upgrading from old school to shaped backcountry skis? You need new climbing skins. Get a new mountain bike with disk brakes? Then your old car rack may no longer work.

Now that disk brakes (and tubeless tires) are the emerging trend in the mountain bike world, getting to the trailhead and arranging car shuttles is more problematic for vehicles with roof racks. Even if you personally haven't gone to disks, it's likely one of your compadres has -- particularly if you ride in muddy areas of the country. The bulky brake housing mounted on the front forks often has clearance problems with older roof racks (read: they don't work).

Fork mount racks are still the most secure of all the roof rack designs -- an important consideration since the roads to trailheads are often "unimproved." However, budget-priced fork mounts have been known to break from the side-to-side swaying. Yakima's Viper bike rack ($124 each) sets the new standard for ease of use, convenience and durability. Special cut-outs in the Viper head allow it to accept almost any bike with disk brakes (even dual-piston models).

Compared to the Yakima Steelhead ($99), which has been a popular model for a decade, the Viper racks are even easier to use. Adjusting a Steelhead requires reaching through to the other side while holding the bike with one hand, sometimes a tricky balancing act. With the Viper, the adjustment is on the same side and easier to turn though a tad fiddly. Plus, you get a more comfortable lever (a Steelhead can hurt to close).

The Viper quickly mounts to any round (Yakima and clones) or square bar (Thule and clones) roof rack without the need for tools. With the turn of a key, you lock the bike to the rack and the rack to the car (about $10 extra), even if the rack is located outside the towers. Yet it is easy to reposition the rack for accommodating extra bikes or a cargo box.

As you would expect for a top-of-the-line rack, construction is sturdy and, dare we say it, stylish too. All of the Yakima racks have gone to a new tray and wheel strap that are a noticeable improvement over the older design. Although it costs more than most other bike racks, you'll appreciate the Viper for years to come -- it's probably the last bike rack you'll ever need, even if you do upgrade your bikes.

SNEWS Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $125

For more information: www.yakima.com

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