Review by Matt Thompson // Photos by Dave Trumpore
Back in Spring 2013, as we were getting ready to start a season of downhilling once again, I was excited to get my hands on the Hang5 from Softride. Although I've got an open-bed truck, I was looking forward to mounting up this hitch rack in an effort to minimize the damage shuttling can sometimes inflict on one's vehicle. Instead of hanging bikes over the tailgate and dealing with pads/blankets/cardboard/etc, the Hang5 provides a solution that keeps the bikes away from the truck. If your dirtbag friends rely on you to provide a shuttle vehicle for them, you will appreciate the fact that you can prevent their steeds from scratching your rig.
Softride Hang5 Highlights
- Capacity to carry five mountain bikes
- Capacity to carry three road bikes (dropbars) or up to four with reconfiguration
- Capability to carry some kids' bikes (20-inch wheels and up)
- Heavy gauge powder-coated steel construction
- Rear vehicle access with original parallelogram design
- Replaceable hanger grips
- Not intended for bikes weighing more than 50-pounds (each)
- Not intended for Time Trial TT bars or clip on aero bars
- MSRP: $650
On The Road
Although at 100-pounds the Hang5 is quite heavy, assembly of this rack was quick, intuitive and easy. It came with a great set of instructions, seemingly fine quality hardware, and durable coating on the bulk pieces. Once one is accustomed to how it works, bikes mount up relatively easily, securely and quickly to the Hang5. This is key when shuttling. As a parent and someone without a ton of time to waste, I need to be efficient with my time on the hill. That means getting to the ride spot and shredding, not spending all day getting bikes on and off some ill-conceived shuttle system or rack. I quickly came to appreciate how fast the turnaround time was at the bottom of the hill with the Hang5. I also appreciated its unique construction that allows it to swing back, even when fully loaded, to grant access to the truck bed (or a trunk). A nifty and practical feature.
Most handlebars mount up quickly on the Hang5's soft, replaceable hanger grips. Although these grips seems to wear rather quickly, I appreciated the fact that they are replaceable. Riders who run really low bars or those who run their fork legs well up in the crowns will find it difficult to mount their bikes on the Hang5 the way it's intended. When mounting bikes with single crown forks and with varying stem lengths, users will also find it necessary to sometimes juggle/rearrange bikes in order to prevent bikes from touching. Not a big deal to me, really.
Once on the road, it's refreshing to look in the mirror and feel good about how your bikes are riding. There isn't too much swinging or swaying, and the bikes look and feel secure on even the bumpiest of shuttle roads. There's nothing worse than taking a new bike to get some early season runs in and watching it get scratched and scraped in the back of someone's truck. Thankfully, the Hang5 negates this problem.
Things That Could Be Improved
The way the Hang5 is constructed means no bike can be mounted in the middle position without taking the seat and seatpost off. Not a problem if you're shuttling with someone who's got a quick release seat collar, but a real issue if you're not. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, it's heavy. We wouldn't be making such a big deal out of its 100-pounds if it meant rock solid performance and dependability - but more on that shortly.
We should also note that the Hang5 does not work well for some bar/stem/crown combos. Notably low bars or bikes running the crowns low would cause issues, so check that before you commit. Finally, the Hang5 sticks out quite far from the truck, especially with bikes on it, often making parking difficult.
Long Term Durability
On the durability front, everything was going well for upwards of the first 20 or so days of use. Multiple days up the local shuttle spot and a few 100-mile plus trips on the highway resulted in no issues. In July, we mounted up the rack and headed to the Pacific Northwest for our annual pilgrimage. 24 hours of driving later we arrived at our temporary home, another successful trip with the rack completed. Upon further inspection, we noticed that the upper main bar had begun bending slightly on both sides. Although barely visible to the unsuspecting eye, it was bending, if ever so slightly. Not a big deal, but it was a good reminder to me that just like a bike, the rack may occasionally need some TLC and maintenance. I broke out the tools and set to completing a bolt check. Although it was disappointing and a bit alarming to note the bending of the main hang bar, it was quite refreshing to see that none of the hardware had come loose at all.
Here's where the story gets interesting. The first time the rack was loaded with five DH bikes (light race bikes, not 45-pound beasts), it broke. While shuttling on a smooth logging road in the Pacific North West, two of the four bolts that hold the top plate to the main base rack assembly sheared in half. We heard the commotion and stopped before anything bad happened or the other two bolts sheared.
After contemplating our options, we replaced the sheared bolts and rigged up a reinforcement system utilizing two tie-downs, two caribiners, and a cable lock that worked quite well for the rest of our trip, although it made it difficult to access gear from the back of the truck.
Softride is aware of this issue, and they have modified the design of the Hang5 in response. The 2014 model of the rack features a 14% thicker top plate that has also been further reinforced with additional welds to prevent this failure going forward. Incidentally, it is easy to tell - the number "5" stamped on the bottom of the top plates indicates whether it is a 2014 model. All racks currently shipping include this redesigned plate.
Customers who purchased the original series rack can get the upgraded top plate through the dealer they bought the rack from originally or from Softride directly at no additional expense. It ships as part of an upgrade kit that also includes a reinforced set of fasteners. Call Softride at 888-258-7286 (US) or talk to your local dealer if you have a rack that is eligible for the upgrade.
What's The Bottom Line?
Based on the performance we saw up until the failure, the Hang5 presents a viable and interesting solution to carrying multiple bikes on your vehicle. It is heavy and certainly has some limitations in terms of what types of bikes it can (easily) carry, and the price tag may make you think twice, but all in all it is a practical solution that offers many benefits and functions very well in its intended application. Operating under the assumption that the steps taken by Softride to remedy the failure we experienced address the issue conclusively, we give it 3.5 stars.
For more details, visit www.softride.com.
About The Reviewer
Matt Thompson - Humble enough not to claim his Master's Downhill World Champ status when we asked him what his accomplishments were, Matt has over 20 years on a bike and likes to go fast. Really fast. At 210-pounds of trail building muscle, he can put the hurt on a bike in little to no time.