We’ve been using the Saris SuperClamp EX 4 as our everyday use rack for the last three years. While we have access to many car racks, we consistently choose the SuperClamp because its exceptionally easy to use and it doesn’t block your rear window view when not in use.
If you need to carry 4 bikes and would also love the convenience of keeping your rack stored on your car, the Saris SuperClamp EX 4 should be at the top of our list. Read the review to find out why we’ve used this as our family rack for three years! From single day trips to half-way-across-the-country road trips, the SuperClamp has done us right!
Saris SuperClamp EX 4 Overview
BEST FOR: Frequent bikers who prefer to always keep their rack on the car and need a rack with a short profile
CAPACITY: 2 bikes or 4 bikes, 20″-29″ wheels, up to 4″ tires
HITCH SIZE: 1.25″ or 2″ for 2-bike, 2″ for 4-bike
EXPANSION KIT: No – either 2 or 4 capacity, cannot expand
- Great for families – easily holds 24″ and adult bikes
- Dual shepherd’s hooks for added stability
- Two bikes per horizontal bar makes the rack very low profile
- Easy to use and adjust – even kids can help load and unload
- Folding up and down is a breeze
- Lightweight compared to other platform racks
- High-quality and durable
- Bikes are spaced more closely together – handlebars touch
- Only one of the tire trays is highly adjustable, the other moves less than 1″
- 20″ bike isn’t 100% secure unless another bike is not next to it
Saris SuperClamp EX 4 Review: Results of our Testing
For the last three years I’ve been using the Saris SuperClamp EX-4 as my daily use rack. Loading up bikes is a breeze – our 10-year-old can load the entire rack by himself! With a low profile when folded or in use, I pretty much keep it on all year long and make taking the kids out for long rides a regular activity.
Easily able to accommodate 24″ kids’ bikes, the SuperClamp EX-4 is a solid-quality option for families with older kids who want to make family riding a part of regular life.
Who It’s Best For
- Families who are looking for a tray rack system to use with mountain, standard, road, and hybrid adult bikes, as well as 24″ kids’ bikes
- People who will regularly be carrying 3 or 4 bikes
- Frequent bikers who prefer to always keep their rack on the car and need a rack with a short profile
- Those who prefer a rack that sets bikes closer to one another so the rack doesn’t stick out as far
Who It’s Not Best For
- Mountain bikers carrying 4 adult mountain bikes, or anyone concerned with handlebar contact
- People who want the flexibility of an add-on tray for changing their rack capacity from 4 to 2
How It Works
Platform hitch racks in general are pretty easy to use, and the SuperClamp is no exception. No heavy lifting overhead, no reaching across the top of the car, no using top-tube adapters to hang bikes with sloping top tubes, no bikes clanking against each other, and no frame contact!! There’s a reason (or tons of good reasons) platform hitch racks are usually the most expensive style of car rack.
Simply place the bike’s wheels in the tire trays (adjustable on the bottom horizontal bar depending on wheelbase), adjust the rack arms forward or backward so they sit over the tires, and cinch down the shepherd’s hooks until they make contact with the tires.
For added security, loop and tighten the wheel strap over the rear wheel. The process of loading up a single bike takes about a minute, so loading a full rack of four bikes shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
The rear tire tray (Tray A) can adjust pretty significantly, while the front tire tray (Tray B), only moves about an inch. You’ll do most of your adjusting with Tray A to accommodate for differences in wheelbase lengths. That said, Tray A has to stay close enough to the shepherd’s hook so that it can still clamp down on the tire.
What Makes the Saris Superclamp EX Stand Out
The Saris SuperClamp EX is unique from other tray car racks because it has two shepherd’s hooks for each bike – one for the front wheel, one for the rear. Most other racks have a hook just over the rear wheel. It’s also unique because two bikes share the same horizontal rack base and pivoting arms.
This design allows the bikes to be placed closer to one another so the entire rack (loaded or unloaded) is more compact and has a much shorter profile. However, because the bikes share hooks, the rack isn’t quite as easy to load and unload as racks with four independent trays and separate hooks for each bike, like the Thule T2 Pro XT.
From a stability standpoint, the SuperClamp EX is top-notch. Once loaded up and secured, those bikes are locked in place – no clanking around, no swaying. It’s rock solid, in addition to super low-profile.
Capacity and Bike Fit
20″ wheels up to bikes with 50″ wheelbases fit the Saris SuperClamp EX without the need of any adapters… but with a caveat.
The potential disadvantage of the two shepherd’s hooks per arm is that the two bikes have to be aligned just right so that the hooks can safely and securely clamp down on the tire. We tried a lot of different set-ups with adult and kids bikes. We only had an issue when we introduced a 20″ kid’s bike to the mix. If you’re transporting adult and 24″ kid’s bikes, you may have to do a little bit of adjusting, but you should be okay.
20″ wheels are just too short (and the wheelbase is also too short) to be ideal for this type of set-up. Even set next to a 24″ bike, we could not get the 20″ bike to line up properly with another bike. While the tire trays adjust forward or backwards, there’s just not enough adjustability to correctly accommodate a 20″ bike when placed next to another bike.
As you can see above, while the front shepherd’s hook can clamp down securely on the front tire, the rear shepherd’s hook does not clamp down and the tire just leans against it. Both wheels are secured on the bottom by the ratcheting wheel strap. Since most other platform racks only have a single shepherd’s hook, while not entirely within the intended design, you may feel comfortable transporting a 20″ bike this way.
However, if you only need to transport three bikes, the 20″ bike does secure properly if it’s the only bike on the horizontal bar. The shepherds hooks are highly adjustable and are able to cinch down low enough to secure a 20″ wheeled bike by itself when it doesn’t have to be aligned with another bike.
On the large end, we’ve consistently transported an XL 29er Santa Cruz High Tower on this rack. While the wheelbase is a bit long (49.6″) for an ideal fit in the tire trays, it fits well enough that we had no issues traveling on 20 hour road trips this way.
The included tire trays accommodate tires up to 4″, which will certainly fit most bikes. If your fat tires are fatter than that, you can upgrade to Fat Tire Wheel Holders. At $50 a set, it would be nice if you could request them in place of the standard tire trays, but you can’t. As a comparison, the Thule tire trays accommodate tires up to 5″ without adapters, and the Kuat NV 2.0 can fit tires up to 4.8″ without a different tray.
Bike Quantity and Weight
The Saris SuperClamp EX comes in two versions – one for 2 bikes and the other for 4 bikes. Unlike similar tray racks like Thule T2 Pro XT and the Yakima Hold Up EVO, the SuperClamp EX does not have an expansion kit for the 2-bike rack. If you want to transport 4 bikes, you have to buy the 4-bike rack from the get-go.
Like with all car racks, it’s recommended that the heaviest bike is placed closest to the car. The two trays closest to the car each have a weight capacity of 60 lbs., while the second set of two trays each have a weight capacity of 35 lbs. (For a total weight capacity of 190 lbs.)
The spacing between bikes on the SuperClamp is wide enough to accommodate many different types of bikes and is ideal for road bikes, hybrid bikes, and kids’ bikes with more narrow handlebars. It’s even great for mountain bikes if one or two of them are kids mountain bikes.
If you have four adult mountain bikes with wide handlebars or carbon frames, a rack like the Thule T2 Pro XT would be a better bet because the spacing between the bikes is wider. Four adult mountain bikes can be done (we’ve done it a lot!), but it takes a lot of care and time to make sure pedals aren’t hitting chain stays or scratching carbon frames.
For further reference, the picture below shows how two standard adult bikes fit in trays 1 and 3. There’s handlebar contact, which certainly doesn’t prevent the bikes from loading properly, but can be more problematic with mountain bikes. The same contact occurs with kids’ bikes when they are loaded in the same direction.
Because the bikes are stacked opposite of one another, if you had two adult bikes being loaded opposite of one another in the first two trays, along with two kids’ bikes loaded opposite of one another in the last two trays, handlebar contact would be eliminated due to the difference in bike height between adult and kids’ bikes.
Superclamp EX Profile – Loaded Up and Folded Up
While my entire experience has been fantastic with the Saris SuperClamp EX, its low profile is what I think really sets it apart from other platform racks. The SuperClamp has a very short profile both when in use as well as when folded up.
With two bikes stored on a single horizontal bar, it’s much more compact that super beefy racks like the Kuat NV 2.0 that stores each bike on its own bar. When driving with it fully loaded, the SuperClamp wasn’t extra burdensome to back up, and when not in use and folded up, I can’t see it while I’m driving and we were still able to park our Honda Pilot in the garage.
Rear Window View with Various Racks Folded Up
This benefit does, of course, come at the cost of the bikes being placed closer to one another on the rack. If you need your bikes to be spaced farther apart, you’re going to need to get a rack with separate horizontal arms for each bike. These racks are, of course, taller.
Folding is Easy!
Additionally, the SuperClamp EX is incredibly easy to fold and unfold. My 8-year-old does it regularly. The push bar that unlocks it for folding is on the outside of the outermost rack arm, making it a cinch to access. Some other high-end racks actually have this mechanism in the center of the rack, which can make it more cumbersome to use.
During our first few months of testing, we eventually experienced an issue with the folding design and the mechanism that locks the rack in place when the rack is folded or opened. A square metal bar (see image below) locks into place, keeping the rack folded vertically and preventing it from falling down, or in horizontal position and from folding down further.
This bar is tightened in place by a screw set that is hidden under the warranty sticker. That bar should not move! After several months, the screw came loose on ours, which allowed the horizontal bar to work its way to an un-centered position, as seen in the image on the left below. If this happens to you, you can push it back in place (image on the right).
However, if the pin were to work itself all the way out to one side, the rack would come falling down. I actually discovered this flaw because my horizontal metal pin did fall out. Luckily I was at home and the rack was already down, so no one was hurt and the pin wasn’t lost.
In all the Amazon reviews we’ve searched, no one else has mentioned this as an issue, so we assume it is not a common problem. We would, however, recommend periodically checking that the pin is tightened and secure. When alerted of this issue, Saris replaced our receiver bar immediately, as using the rack with a pin that could possibly fall out is not safe by their (or our!) standards.
Weight and Securing and Removing the Receiver Arm to the Hitch
Compared to other platform hitch racks, the Saris SuperClamp EX-4 is much lighter-weight at just 63 lbs. That said, I can’t lift by myself and make my husband take it on and off the car. For that reason, I also just tend to leave the rack on the car most of the time because I don’t want to get caught in a situation when I need to use it and it’s not on the car. It’s so low-profile that this doesn’t bother me.
Whoever is responsible for the heavy lifting, the weight of the rack is distributed a little strangely, making it a bit awkward to take on and off. However, this is not so much that it should affect your purchase decision.
Rear Hatch Access
Like other high-end platform hitch racks, the SuperClamp can be tilted forward when fully loaded so you can easily open the rear hatch and access whatever you’ve got in the back of the car. Once again, this is a bit dependent on upper body strength.
I’m no wuss, but I can’t do it when the rack is loaded with four bikes. My husband can, but it’s a bit awkward so we’ve only done it once or twice (in three years!) when we were really in a pinch to access the trunk after we’d loaded the bikes.
Security – Locking Hitch and Locking Cables
If you need to store your bikes securely while you run into the store, the easy-to-use locking cables come installed to prevent theft. Be aware, however, that anyone seriously intent on stealing a bike is going to be able to cut through those cables in a matter of minutes. All bike racks have these same type of cables, so there’s no great solution beyond taking your bikes into the store with you if you’re truly concerned.
These locking cables are 41″ in length, and based on their placement, can be wrapped around the rear frame triangle of the bike.
Like other high-end racks, the Saris SuperClamp EX has a locking hitch pin so someone can’t just come by and steal your rack from your hitch while you’re out on a ride.
The Saris SuperClamp EX 4-bike requires a 2″ hitch receiver, while the 2-bike version can be used with either 1 1/4″ or 2″ hitch receivers.
Superclamp EX Initial Assembly and Installation
If you already have a hitch installed on your vehicle, installing the Saris SuperClamp EX doesn’t take too long or too much effort. Our initial installation took about 45 minutes with me stopping to take pictures.
A 8mm hex key and an adjustable wrench are the only tools you need for installation, and the hex key actually comes included. The installation video below recommends assembling the rack while the receiver bar is already in the receiver of the car. We followed this advice and found it did make installation really simple.
Check out this official assembly and installation video from Saris:
Saris Superclamp EX-4 Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a rack that can carry 24″ kid’s bikes, is easy to load and unload, and has a low profile that allows you to keep the rack stored on the car regularly, the Saris SuperClamp EX-4 is an excellent choice.
We’ve also tested and reviewed the Saris Bones trunk bike rack. If you don’t have a hitch on your vehicle, it’s an excellent alternative.