If you don’t have the space or patience to disassemble your bike and put it in the car, then a bike rack is the obvious alternative. You can use a bike carrier attached to the rear of the car; either heavy duty towbar mounted rack or lighter ‘boot’ bike rack that fastens to the car with straps and hooks. Or you can opt for a roof-rack system; either with a mounting arm that clamps to the bike frame or a fork mount which requires one wheel to be removed.
There is a broad choice, but this wasn’t enough for Stefan Wrobel who created the Upside Rack, a portable bike rack for the car which looks different, is competitively priced ($220 AUD) and in contrast to most bike roof racks, the bike is fastened upside-down.
BNA was offered a review though all of the reviewers in the team had to decline, (either we didn’t drive or our car didn’t have the right setup, more on this soon). I was still interested in this Australian designed cycling product, so in lieu of a review of the Upside Rack, I interviewed the founder Stefan Wrobel to find out what makes it special.
Christopher: There are plenty of bike racks on the market, what sets the Upside rack apart? Who is it for?
Stefan: Convenience and flexibility would probably be the easiest way to describe our key advantages. Every customer seems to have a different reason it suits them. All customers say it is easier to use which is particularly applicable to those with high cars and 4WDs. The key difference is that it is not semi-permanently attached to your roof, installs on different cars and bikes in seconds and doesn’t grab wheels or frames. It’s hard to nail down just one type of rider it’s for because we’ve found so many different reasons customers prefer it.
Christopher: To use the Upside rack, there are certain requirements, the vehicle already needs have roof rack which limits the audience. What were the considerations in the design phase with respect to these limitations and reason why a ‘more compatible’ roof rack was not created.
Stefan: I’ve always had roof racks for surfboards, ski’s, ladders and even stuff my wife see’s on the side of the road. I had bike carriers on and off over the years but the inconvenience of it meant I didn’t go on rides sometimes so I guess the design really grew from a selfish need to be able to use my roof racks for all my toys. I do have a few compatibility challenges but the design goal was to provide an easier, faster option.
Christopher: What are the key differences and advantages compared to the Thule ProRide and ThruRide roof mounted bike racks.
The Upside Rack is currently compatible with the vast majority of roof racks on the market and to increase the compatibility, I would have needed additional mechanisms and features limiting the ease of use. I do have adaptors designed to increase the compatibility but these are a little way off market readiness.
Stefan: As the market leaders in most areas, Thule make a great products which I used for years. The biggest differences are ease of use and that the Upside Rack comes off between uses. When it comes to ease of use, even my father-in-law can’t use the Thule due to the height of his car but uses the Upside due to the ease of install.
Having the bike carrier off between uses reduces wind noise and fuel use as well as makes it very easy to use on multiple cars. I have roof racks on the family 4WD and on my little hatch so when I duck out for a ride I decide at the last minute which car I am taking. The last big advantage is that we don’t squeeze/clamp wheels or frames, a force which bikes were not designed to withstand.
Christopher: The Australian retail price of $220 is competitive against the retail price of the Thule racks though there are other brands and also different retail pricing in other countries. Is the Upside Rack competing on price or does it have a different appeal?
Stefan: We know our product costs significantly more to manufacture due to the quality of materials, component design and smaller manufacturing runs. At the same time we wanted to ensure we provided a price which was attractive enough to provide an alternative to the high quality brands out there. I understand it may take a bit to convince people to change from the “norm” so kept the price as low as possible.
Christopher: In the case where a customer has the right roof rack and a bike that can fit, are there circumstances in which you would recommend that the customer choose a different type of bike rack?
Stefan: Not at all. I’m quite transparent with our limitations as there are two key customers we don’t currently suit. Those with super wide aero bars or tri-bars and those with cross-rails that attached to the car with clamps under the door frame. We have adaptors designed which make both of these work but they are not in production yet so until then, these are the only customers I recommend look elsewhere. I would add heavy electric bikes to the list. Although we have crash tested bikes well over our 17kg rating, to cover all fitment scenarios and until we can repeat expensive international testing we currently limit to the industry standard of 17kg.
Christopher: A version of the rack with an electronic lock is available – are there other variations or products which we can expect to see in the near future?
Stefan: I hope so. I love the design and development part of my work so spend far too much time developing products and not enough time on the business. I have three other rack concepts in varying stages of development which one day may see the light of production but for now I am focussing on the Upside Rack.
Christopher: You make a point that the UpsideRack is manufactured in Europe and not Australia or China. Is this important?
Stefan: I am from the collapsed Australian Auto industry here in Melbourne and had hoped to fully manufacture here as a way to help rebuild what was once a great part of our workforce. I was able to find manufacturing for half our parts locally however local manufacturers were unable to meet the specifications for some of our components. I do some final assembly as well as dispatch from Australia and hope to one day either bring production here or setup future products to be made locally.
We found a fantastic European manufacturer who also produce for some of the highest quality products in the world like BMW. They not only met my high expectations but also helped us step up to even higher levels of quality with their own ideas, checks and processes. The cost is higher than other parts of the world but we don’t have warranty costs due to quality to worry about which makes up for it.
Thank you Stefan for your time and answers. For readers seeking further information, visit: upsideracks.com