In early 2022, Wisconsin-based bike rack manufacturer 1UP USA purchased Recon Racks and began offering the Recon 5 and Recon 6 for, you guessed it, carrying five and six bikes respectively on a single vehicle. With attractive features such as no frame/fork contact with the rack, off-road rating, Smooth Pivot recline, and accommodation for a variety of tire and bike sizes, our interest was piqued. Josh has been testing a Recon 5 for the better part of a year, taking it everywhere from Arizona’s remote forest roads to local shuttle runs and cross-country road trips. 1UP also recently redesigned their RakAttach swing-out adapter, which Josh has been using in tandem with the Recon. Continue reading below for a full rundown on these new offerings from 1UP…
I Like Racks
I’ll admit: I have a bit of a bike rack obsession. During high school—and for about ten years following—I worked in ski/climbing/outdoors shops. I can trace my rack obsession to my first such employer, Bill and Pauls Sporthaus in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At the time, the shop was (and maybe still is) one of the top independent dealers of Thule and Yakima products in the Midwest. Whether it was ski and cargo boxes during winter or kayak and bike racks in the warmer months, products made for carrying your recreating stuff regularly flew off the shelves. I think that one of the reasons we sold so many was that we offered complimentary installation with purchase.
And you might think that sounds like a pain in the ass for employees—having to withstand the biting cold of a frigid Friday afternoon in the parking lot, twisting the t-nuts of a Thule Summit cargo box with numb fingers during a lake-effect blizzard, so your customer could get on the road for their weekend ski trip to Nub’s Nob—but, in fact, I loved it. My co-workers and I prided ourselves on carrying out speedy and efficient installs and were always down for a challenge. Regardless of the vehicle, weather conditions, or time of day, we were akin to Ayrton Senna’s pit crew in the ’93 European Grand Prix.
Naturally, I would eventually apply my experience working on other peoples’ racks to my own vehicles. I’ve always been the one with trucks capable of holding at least five passengers, which means I’m the defacto driver for road trips, shuttles, or just rounding up a group of friends for the commute over to local trailhead or put-in. I wish I had photos of some of my old rigs because they’d probably look pretty ridiculous by today’s standards with their massively wide crossbars jammed with a combination of bikes, kayaks, ski cargo boxes, and who knows what else. Once my hobbies changed though, and tray-style hitch racks started to become available, I ditched most of the roof-mounted apparati. My first hitch rack was a Thule T2, later a Yakima (Hold Up, maybe?), and then a 1UP Quik Rack —a true classic—which I still have after about eight years. You can read John’s in-depth reviews of both the Quik Rack and Equip-D for more on why 1UP makes best-in-class tray racks.
The one rack variation I didn’t have any experience with was the hitch-mounted vertical style. Sure, I had loaded my bike on one for the shuttle up to the top of Whole Enchilada, but I hardly ever hauled more than two or three bikes at a time, and having a capacity of five (or more!) seemed like overkill. But then I had kids. And then they grew up and started riding real bikes that I couldn’t just toss into the back of my pickup as I did with their cute little balance bikes. Additionally, as a photographer and editor for this site, I spend a lot of time on the road covering events and facilitating photoshoots, so being able to transport five bikes no longer feels unreasonable. 1UP had originally sent John the Recon to review, but knowing I could use the extra space, he handed the rack off to me.
This is the first in what’s looking like a series of bike rack and vehicle-related reviews from me, so before delving into the details of the Recon 5 and new RakAttach I’ll provide a little background about my situation first. I drive a 2019 Ford F150 with 6.5′ bed and a Go Fast Camper. The truck is mostly stock except for a Fox 2.0 coilover kit with 2″ lift on the front end, 34-ish” tires on 17″ wheels, and an adjustable airbag suspension system for added rear-end support. I put a lot of miles on this truck each year both for work and family trips, many of which are on rough roads in Arizona where I live and across the American West more broadly.
Ultimately, the truck bed will be built out with additional sleeping, storage, and a simple kitchen making it even more capable and comfortable for long stretches away from home. So having a rack that gets bikes both out of the truck bed and out of the way while accessing the rear is super important.
1UP Recon 5
Before diving into the benefits of using a swing-out adapter with the Recon (which, in full disclosure is a spendy addition), let’s take a look at the rack itself. When 1UP acquired and assumed production of Recon Racks, they didn’t change too many of their already functional features. The rack is essentially a large L-shape comprised of burly (95lbs!) powder-coated steel where the long (vertical) and short (horizontal) ends of the L are joined by a smooth pivot. Two horizontal components attach to the vertical beam, one to hold each bike’s front wheel and a lower bracket to cradle the rear wheel.
With the horizontal end of the rack assembly inserted into a vehicle hitch, actuating the smooth pivot allows the tall portion of the rack to move back and down, away from the vehicle. Designed for vehicles with a 2″ hitch receiver, the rack is held in place with an anti-wobble hitch bar and threaded 3/4″ hex pin. I like to use a little U-shaped hitch stabilizer as well. The hitch pin has a keyed lock on one end and there’s a welded handle on the vertical bar for running a long cable lock through for bike security. 1UP gives the Recons an “off-road rating” due to the strength of the anti-wobble hitch bar and pin.
The Recon is adjustable both vertically and horizontally based on the shape and height of individual vehicles. 1UP suggests the vertical bar be installed in the middle slot but adjusted according to the position of the receiver hitch from the ground. I’ve played around with this a lot and found the middle slot to be a good balance between exit angle and leverage. If the rack sits too high and too far back, it tends to bounce and sway more than if it’s low and close to the vehicle. I’ll explain this more below when I discuss the RakAttach.
Following in the tracks of 1UP’s popular tray-style racks, there is no contact between bike frames or forks and the Recon Rack. Front wheels are held in place by cradles mounted at the top of the rack, with tires as the only contact points, and rear wheels are lashed in place by a cam strap that also loops around a pedal for support. There are three options for wheel baskets which are determined by the anticipated width of rubber on the bikes you’ll be carrying. The Standard Bike Basket covers wheel diameters from 24″ to 29″ and up to 3″ wide, the Fat Bike Kit accommodates 24″ to 29″ with a special basket for up to 5.1″ wide tires, and the Kid Bike Kit adapts the rack for smaller wheels from 20″ to 24,” and 3.0″ wide. My kids’ bikes are both 24″ x 3.0″ so you can see that they just barely fit in the standard baskets with included cam straps. But they do fit!
Each basket is rated to 45lbs for a total of 225lbs across the Recon 5. The Recon 6 can hold up to 270lbs and is about 10lbs heavier than the smaller version.
The Recon Rack(s) are a simple solution for the complex problem of hauling a bunch of bikes securely with a single vehicle. Aside from a few nitpicks outlined below, it’s been a pleasure to use the Recon 5 over the past year and it saved my ass a few times when I needed to transport four or five bikes. Specifically, here are a few of the features that really stand out:
Efficiency Without trays to fumble with or fold down, loading bikes on the Recon is fast and simple. You just lift the front wheels into the rack’s baskets, lash the rear wheels with cam straps, and away you go. Depending on vehicle height and rack positioning, you can even load bikes from a lower position with the rack pivoted down.
Adjustability The Recon has three positions for height adjustment for users to dial in reach and ground clearance per specific vehicle. Additionally, the hitch bar has multiple options for hitch pin placement. In setting up the Recon, I utilized these features to find a balance between height and extension; preserving a reasonable approach angle while retaining a relatively low center of gravity to reduce wobble.
Stability No vertical rack, nor any bike rack period, is going to be completely solid. With the potential for hanging 200+ pounds off a single steel beam with pivot points, it’s going to flex. Still, 1UP has managed to build a very sturdy rack that is rated for off-road use. And, when loaded properly, bikes don’t budge from their positions.
Weight How is weighing in at nearly 100lbs a positive thing? Well, it’s more about bike to weight ratio. Consider 1UP’s Super Duty Double tray rack. The base rack, which holds two bikes, weighs 47lbs. Each add-on is 19lbs and, if the rack could hold a total of three add-ons for a total of five bikes (which it can’t) it would weigh 104lbs. So, while certainly heavy, the Recon 5 is a lighter-weight alternative and can actually hold five bikes rather than four.
Price Similar to its weight, the Recon’s price per bike is relatively reasonable. At $1,200, the Recon’s price per bike is $240. Compare that to $332 per bike on a Super Duty with two add-ons and it starts to paint a picture. If the Super Duty was able to carry up to five bikes (again, which it can’t, but humor me for the sake of this thought experiment), the price per bike would be $407. Now, there are certainly less-expensive vertical racks on the market, but comparing them is the subject of another article. My point is that Recon Racks have the best bang for buck within 1UP’s catalog.
MUSA We’re big fans of brands that manufacture products in the US. When 1UP acquired Recon Racks, they brought all production in-house. Like other 1UP products, replacement parts are easily available at local hardware stores or directly from 1UP. Oh, and they also offer a lifetime warranty.
I haven’t really found any major flaws with the Recon that would prevent me from recommending it to someone needing to carry 3-4+ bikes. It’s built very well, doesn’t wobble too much, and is the most space-efficient option out there for carrying a lot of bikes on a single vehicle—just think how far a five or six-bike tray rack would stick out! I’m not sure such a thing could even be engineered and why would you want to? But I do have a few relatively minor nitpicks to list, in no particular order of importance:
Cam straps Sure, these simple straps are functional but I’m more of a set-it-and-forget-it kind of guy. When I’m running out to the trail with my kids, or on a long road trip with a truck full of who knows what, the last thing I need is another piece of gear to look after. I currently store the straps in a cubby or small bag in the truck’s center console, but I fear for the day when one of them walks off. While they’re easily replaceable at pretty much any hardware store or truckstop, it would be nice to discretely store them in or on the rack while not in use.
Bike security I’m a big fan of 1UP’s 1/4 Turn Wheel Locks. They are a clever theft deterrent that I think surpasses a simple cable lock. With some slight tweaks to the shape of the front wheel baskets, 1UP could have incorporated the existing, or a modified, wheel lock into the Recon’s design. Now, a thief with an angle grinder or bolt cutter is going to get bikes off any rack if they’re so determined, but it’s all relative. 1UP does sell a massive 12′ chain lock, which I imagine would work very well when paired with a Recon, but it’s $225 and just another heavy piece of equipment to store and look after.
Anti-wobble Hitch Pin vs. Hitch Bar with expansion bolt – No two hitch receivers are the same size. While they all might be labeled as 2″ or 1.25,” there will be some variation, however minor. For me, at least, there will always be a little play with the Recon in my truck’s receiver because, while the hitch pin tightens the rack and receiver together from the side, it can’t completely isolate up and down movement. Using an additional stabilizer sure does help, though. This is why 1UP blew everyone (including off-roaders) away with their first racks; instead of only isolating lateral movement as most racks had done in the past, their Hitch Bar with expanding bolt system was able to isolate all movement.
I realize the reason they couldn’t include this on the Recon was the difference in material. The Hitch Bar is aluminum and the established Recon design is steel. A complete redesign of the Recon would have incurred massive costs, which would have then made the rack more expensive than it already is. Sometimes, though, as I’m drifting off to sleep at night, I start to dream of a world in which Recons have Hitch Bars with anti-wobble expansion bolt mechanisms.
At nearly 100lbs, the Recon 5 can be a bit unwieldy for a single person to maneuver and install. 1UP seems aware that their racks are heavy and bulky and have added the Rack Stand to their lineup of Rack Stash products. The Rack Stand serves double duty as both a storage platform for heavy racks like the Recon and as transport in and out of a garage to your vehicle for installation. It rolls on a rubber caster wheel and sits solidly on long powder-coated metal legs that lever out to counteract the top-heaviness of the Recon.
Knowing I was reviewing the Recon 5, 1UP sent me one of these to test out. It’s been quite useful in transporting the rack in and out of my garage and, when not in use on a vehicle, the Rack Stand enables the Recon to function like a bike rack in the garage, too! The Rack Stand sells for $310 at 1UP.
After scrolling through the photo gallery above, you’re probably wondering why there are multiple swing-out adapters pictured. During the past year, I’ve been on a mission to find the best one for heavy bike racks. My goal is to have uninhibited access to the back of my truck while carrying at least four bikes. Most racks, including the Recon and 1UP’s tray racks, pivot downward allowing access to truck tailgates and rear vehicle doors. While this is fine and a well-designed feature, it inhibits use of my tailgate area, which we use for cooking, etc., while at camp and it’s how we get in and out of the GFC. With a swingout, the rack is completely out of the way allowing full use of the truck’s rear end.
While I realize there are compromises with such a plan, I’m determined to find the best possible solution. So far, my list includes Wilco Hitchswing, 1UP RakAttach 1.0, Kuat Pivot V2 Swing Away, 1UP RakAttach 2.0, and recently received a Rigd Ultraswing to test. In the next few months I’ll be writing a standalone comparison of these swingouts, along with any others I can get my hands on. For the purposes of this review, I want to take a close look at 1UP’s revised RakAttach, as I’ve used it in tandem with the Recon for a while now.
RakAttach V1 (left) and RakAttach V2 (right)
RakAttach has been around for nearly as long as 1UP has been making racks. A unique product when it was first released, it was designed to support the racks of the era, which were less substantial than their modern versions. And, similar to their acquisition of Recon Racks, 1UP purchased RakAttach a few years ago and only made a few tweaks to the initial design once taking over production. 1UP’s new RakAttach is a majorly beefed-up version of its predecessor partially in response to racks growing heavier and bigger in recent years, but also catering to user feedback.
The 2.0 version retains the same hinge and clasp mechanisms as the original, but adopts a nested design over the previous stacked configuration. This enables the revised device to flip and open towards either the driver or passenger side of the vehicle. For installation, the new swingout has the same anti-wobble hitch pin as the first generation, which is also the same as the Recon’s attachment mech. I added a hitch stabilizer in this application also, as it seems to help snug up the system.
While the Recon has multiple holes into which the hutch pin can be threaded, for a somewhat vehicle-specific fit, the RakAttach only has one. Thus, in my case, since the overall unit can’t be mounted closer to the hitch receiver than the single hole allows, it sticks out a considerable distance from the truck. This is nice for opening the GFC’s glass door, but it impacts approach angle and introduces wobble. Still, I find the new RakAttach much stronger than the original and instills more comfort and confidence while driving with a big rack like the Recon.
Like most swingouts I’ve used thus far, the RakAttach is rated to carry up to 250lbs. When combined with a heavy rack like the Recon, you’re left with about 150lbs of capacity for bikes. This typically isn’t a big deal for me, as I’m usually carrying a couple of 30(ish)-pound adult bikes with lighter kid bikes. But, if you’re planning to shuttle five 35+ pound enduro bikes, the RakAttach might not be for you.
And, if you’re planning to drive off-road, the RakAttach certainly isn’t for you. Yep, that’s right: most swingarm adapters, including the RakAttach, eliminate a hitch rack’s off-road rating as determined by the manufacturer. While this might sound like a bummer, I think it comes down to your comfort level. Have I driven this setup off pavement? Yes. Are there roads I wouldn’t drive down again with this setup? Yes. Are there swingout adapters available that are capable of driving rough roads? That’s TBD.
To be sure, off-roading is different than driving off pavement, but with bigger bumps comes bigger wobbles which could cause damage to bikes, the rack, or your vehicle. For now, the RakAttach solves my problem of moving the rack out of the way while at camp or when I need to use the back of my truck, but it hasn’t ended my search for the best and strongest swingout.
Have you used Recon Racks or other vertical-style bike racks? How about swing-out adapters? Drop your comments and experiences in the comments!