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It’s as if Küat made this new Piston Pro X hitch rack just for me. It’s no secret—I like nice things. But perhaps even more than I admire great design, I absolutely despise poorly designed, shoddily-made products.
It’s with literally everything, too. Matches, even. I got a box of matches last year where the matches themselves were made of thin cardboard tubes. Cool idea—make a few million of those suckers and you’ve saved a tree or two. But, they simply do not work. They bend over when you strike them and if you’re lucky enough to get enough friction to light one, it’s probably because you had to resort to pushing directly on the match head and you’re about to burn your finger. Like, did the person who made those matches ever even try them? Do they have any pride as a matchmaker whatsoever? Who has the nerve to actually manufacture a thing that can’t even do the one job it’s supposed to? Infuriating, isn’t it? No, just me?
Bike rack companies are one of the biggest offenders of putting out shit products full of compromises. Most of them do actually perform the function of carrying bikes, but just barely. And the companies often charge astronomically high prices for wobbly, clumsy designs, plastic parts that fade and crack, crap paint, ratchet mechanisms that either bind up or slip, and back-breaking heft. Then they expect us to put our prized possessions on their precariously built pieces of garbage.
But times they are a-changin’. Küat came along in 2008 and stepped up the game. The bar back then was low, and Küat’s products, while quite good, were still far from perfect. Then a company called 1Up came along with a CNC’d beauty of a rack and took the market by storm. 1Up soon became the rack of choice for the growing masses of overlanders spending gobs of cash accessorizing Sprinter vans and Land Cruisers. Not to be outdone, Küat started working on its pièce de résistance.
And, well, the 1Up must have gotten some things right because the Piston Pro is almost a carbon copy. The wheel hooks are based on the same concept and the Piston Pro also sports a tiered tray arrangement, just like 1Up. But that’s where the Küat takes off. To start, the mostly cast aluminum construction is dressed in a high-quality powdercoat finish and features automotive grade stainless hardware.
Next, the wheel arms come up automatically with just the touch of an actuator, via hydro pneumatic struts (think a beefed-up version of the gas struts on a minivan trunk) that are … wait for it … Kashima Coated. Now, if that’s not a surefire way to a mountain biker’s heart, I don’t know what is. And as if that wasn’t enough—they went ahead and stuck friggin LED tail lights on the thing. The power cord is even well-thought-out, with a magnetic connection to the rack and little magnets along the wire so that you can neatly route it from the car’s trailer wire harness along the steel lower chassis of the rack.
The rack also features a wobble-free cam lock mechanism and the tool to install or remove the rack is integrated into the end cap of the main support. Plus, there’s a beefy cable lock that plugs neatly into the main support and is long enough to secure wheels as well. Küat even designed elements that make the Piston Pro easy to assemble out of the box. There’s a tongue and groove sort of interface that the trays lock into, which holds them in place as the main bolt is installed. No more holding the weight of the trays as you’re trying to feed and torque the lag bolt. That’s a level of attention that my mechanically-minded brain really appreciates.
The Piston Pro X can hold up to two 67-pound bikes, and can accommodate a third and forth tray as well. You’ll also be able to purchase the Piston in 2 or 4-bike configurations. But don’t get your hopes up just yet, because like most things in the bike world right now, the Piston isn’t available right now. Küat is currently estimating availability starting March of 2022.
I’ve only had the rack for a week or so and have already had a few people come up to ask about it. It has some real panache that feels like it belongs on a much nicer rig than I have it on. Using it so far has been really good. The automatic wheel hooks might seem like a total novelty thing, but it’s incredibly convenient. When stowed in the upright position, the Piston Pro sits nice and close to the car, a feature I really like. I hate it when a stowed rack adds a ton of length to a vehicle.
But the shorter main mount does mean that it won’t fit on every vehicle without an adaptor to lengthen it. It just barely clears the bumper on the 2011 Subaru Outback I have it on right now, and it didn’t come close to clearing the bulky utility bumper that’s on the Knapheide service bed-equipped Chevy HD2500. I think the Piston Pro is more designed to fit on newer, sleeker vehicles, and it’s an absolute must-have for the luxury vehicle owners out there.
With all this bling, the Piston Pro is expectantly pricey, at nearly $1,400. That’s a lot of money to plunk down on a hitch rack, but as soon as you look at the thing it’s clear that it’s a notch above the rest. But, it’s still not totally perfect—here are a couple things that could use some attention. First, the wheel hooks take a little extra coaxing to lay flat. You have to push on them down and sideways a bit in order to get them to click into that last little notch for them to sit flush. Also, it’s nice to have tool-less wheel size adjustment, but the mechanism on the rack I have knocks back and forth a touch. When driving on a bumpy road, I can hear the knocking. It doesn’t feel unsafe or sketchy in any way, but it’s not totally silent. I hope Küat can address these two minor things by the time the Piston Pro X hits its first pull production run. Even with a couple nitpicks, this is easily the rack to beat. And if the thing’s materials, design and construction are any indicator, it seems like it’s built to last a really long time.
Photos: Ryan Palmer