For me, opting for a hitch bike rack was a no-brainer. I wouldn’t have to spend an hour trying to get the bike on top of the vehicle, risk hitting my bike against the garage’s door, or lose any real estate in my car. Settling on one was still tricky, nonetheless.
After a good while of looking around, I decided on two of Yakima’s popular hitch racks — the RidgeBack and the FullTilt. Despite their reputation for being expensive, these racks have impressive features, which is what I was after.
Reaching a conclusion from the Yakima FullTilt vs Ridgeback wasn’t a cakewalk, thanks to the minute differences. This piece will set out to make that process easier for anyone who may be stuck in the same pickle.
Let’s start by getting you acquainted with the options at hand.
Yakima FullTilt vs RidgeBack: Quick Comparison
|Yakima FullTilt Hitch Rack||Yakima RidgeBack Hitch rack|
|Type||Hanging rack||Hanging Rack|
|Dimensions||12.2″ x 16.14″ x 44.09″||44″ x 12″ x 16″|
|Bike Capacity||4 & 5||2, 4 & 5|
|Load Capacity||40 lbs each Bike||40 lbs each Bike|
|Hitch Sizes||1.25” or 2” Hitch||1.25” or 2” Hitch|
|Item Weight||40 lbs||40 lbs|
|Price||Buy From Amazon||Buy From Amazon|
Yakima FullTilt Hitch Mount Hanging Rack
Let’s begin with the Yakima FullTilt. The primary reason I started looking at this product was its tilt feature. Since typical hitch racks obstruct my access to the trunk, that always has been a headache for me. However, the mast on this rack can be tilted down with merely a push!
This rack utilizes Yakima’s AutoPin technology to attach to the vehicle’s hitch, eliminating the requirements of any installation tools. It even comes completely assembled out of the box, saving even more of my time.
It comes in two variants — four and five bikes — the latter being a tad costlier. However, being able to haul this many bikes makes it a suitable pick for families or teams carrying different bikes for a trip.
This hitch rack can work with both a 1.25″ and 2″ hitch receiver, with the maximum weight for each bike being 40 lbs. However, I did face some issues with getting all four bikes on the four-track version, especially if all of them are large bikes.
Yakima does pay heed to security too. It comes with an inbuilt safety lock that uses the SKS or Same Key System to secure everything with one key. In addition, a thick metal locking cable is stored inside the mast and can be put away when it’s not in use.
As expected, users must buy separate adapter bars if the bike comes with an unusual frame. It’s possible to carry those in eerie positions, but that’s far from a viable solution. This is an inherent drawback with hanging hitch racks, so there’s nothing you can do.
Other than that, FullTilt has a lot going for it. Here’s a complete look at all of its specs:
- Total weight capacity of 150 lbs. (4-rack version).
- ZipStrips to secure the bikes and prevent swaying.
- SpeedKnob offers a tool-free installation.
- Assembled out of the box.
- Entirely padded arms with TPE.
- Ability to tilt the rack down if needed.
- Arms can fold down when they’re not in use.
Yakima RidgeBack Tilt Away Hitch Bike Rack
The RidgeBack is another rack that comes fully assembled out of the box and uses the SpeedKnob to quicken the assembly process. It works fine with 1.25″ or 2″ hitch receivers regarding compatibility — all I had to do was remove the extension.
This one also comes in a few variants regarding how many bikes it can hold (we’ll go deeper during the comparison). The highest capacity is five bikes, although I had some issues if they were particularly large or hybrid bikes.
It utilizes a feature for security called the HandCuff locking cable, although users need to buy it separately. Of course, unusual bike racks require something like Yakima’s TubeTop to ensure compatibility, but that’s normal.
Carrying step-through or BMX bikes is possible once you have the tube.
One of the enjoyable things about using this rack is its stability. The anti-sway cradles managed to keep the bikes reasonably steady, and I didn’t have to worry about accidental scratches or scuffs.
Yakima also uses the UpperHand lever to tilt the rack down whenever users need to access the trunk. This is otherwise an issue with hitch racks, as they don’t offer rear clearance.
However, if the rear door goes too far down, the chances are that the rack won’t tilt far enough.
I also found a little bottle opener at the back, which was a nice touch. Here’s a short list for the RidgeBack:
- UpperHand lever for easier access to the rear.
- Lower risk of contact between bikes with the anti-sway cradle.
- Available carrying capacities are 2, 4, or 5 bikes.
- Fully assembled, tool-less installation.
- ZipStrips feature to keep the bikes in place and reduce movement.
- Support for HandCuff locking cable for security, no inbuilt option.
- TubeTop adds further compatibility with unconventional bike designs.
That’s about it regarding a general idea of both the products. We can now move on to direct comparisons between different aspects.
Yakima FullTilt vs. RidgeBack —Head to Head
I’ll be dividing the crucial elements into different categories and providing a clear contrast between them.
Let’s begin with how many bikes you can carry at once with either of them.
Yakima FullTilt: The FullTilt comes with two options – 4 bikes or 5 bikes. This is quite helpful for users carrying multiple bikes for their families or friends.You won’t lose any real estate in the back either. The maximum weight for each bike is 40 lbs., and the max total is 150 lbs.
However, it may be a bit of an overkill if you only intend to carry one or two bikes. Unfortunately, this hitch rack doesn’t come with any other options for lower requirements, so that’s a trade-off you’ll have to determine. Then again, getting a slightly larger rack isn’t a bad deal if you aren’t worried about a little price hike. After all, this product is pretty compact anyway.
Yakima RidgeBack: The RidgeBack, however, comes with three options instead – 2, 4, and 5 bikes, respectively. That means there’s an option for everyone here, including people who only want to carry a bike or two. That way, you can pay for only what you want and have a more compact rack if necessary. The max weight for each bike is also 40 lbs. for the higher capacity racks here (35 lbs. for the 2-bike rack).
While the racks say 4 or 5 bikes as the max capacity, you may not be able to get the most out of them. The FullTilt is guiltier in this aspect. For instance, you wouldn’t be able to push in more than four bikes in the five-bike version of the rack. Moreover, the spacing among them may not always be sufficient either.
The RidgeBack does a comparatively better job, but it didn’t handle larger mountain bikes too well either. That’s something to keep in mind if you own such bikes.
Similarities in Design and Construction
These dual-arm racks share many similarities in terms of design.
In terms of exterior, the FullTilt goes for a black powder coating. In contrast, the other goes for a metallic finish with the powder coating. Both manage to be rust-resistant. The materials are pretty sturdy, and I didn’t see anything that didn’t inspire confidence.
The SpeedKnob exists in both the racks, and I’m glad it does. Locking the hitch was quick and free of hassle.
The racks have the TriggerFinger control and allow users to easily fold their arms. Additionally, the UpperHand lever provided the control to fold the shank.
These arms can tilt downward and allow users to access the vehicle’s rear without having to take them off. And the arced masts play a crucial role in preventing unwanted contact.
Weight and Dimensions
- The FullTilt’s arms are around 29 inches in length, while the cradle’s width is 1.75 inches. The weight of the product itself is just around 43 lbs., and the dimensions are 44.25″ x 12.50″ x 16.50″ (L x W x H). The distance between the arms is just over 12 inches from one cradle to the other. These are all measurements for the five-bike rack.
- For the RidgeBack, the product weighs significantly less at around 35.6 lbs., and the dimensions are 44″ x 12″ x 16″ (L x W x H).The width of the cradle is 1-3/4″, and the usable portion of the arm is 25 inches long. These are measurements for the four-bike option, and the rest will slightly vary accordingly.
I would’ve preferred a wider gap between the bikes, as many users have complained about not being able to carry four bikes on racks even with capacitiesfor four bikes. Of course, this wouldn’t always be the case, but it’s possible depending on your bikes.
Pricing and Accessories
Here’s the thing — neither of these racks is cheap, and Yakima can justify this price with the quality it provides.
- The Yakima FullTilt is a tad pricier than the RidgeBack. The price gap isn’t anything humongous, but it’s there. Another aspect that the RidgeBack can be cheaper is when you get the 2-bike carrying capacity, which understandably cuts the cost of production down. Both racks come with many similarities — the tool-less SpeedKnob technology for easy installation, the ZipStrips to keep the bikes in place, and so on.
- However, the FullTilt comes with the SKS locks included, which ensures that you don’t have to spend extra on security. The RidgeBack uses Yakima’s HandCuff locking cable instead, but it does not come in the box. So, I had to buy it separately, which did increase the cost slightly. There’s also that bottle opener, but that probably won’t be a huge incentive no matter how big a drinker you are.
Other than these few aspects, these racks don’t vary in terms of accessories. The difference also becomes smaller once you factor in the HandCuff for the RidgeBack.
Assembly and Installation
This is a section without too many differences. As mentioned, both of these racks can fit 1.25″ and 2″ hitch receivers. They also come entirely assembled from the manufacturer, which is convenient.
While Yakima uses similar designs to connect the racks to the hitch, the receivers are somewhat different.
The RidgeBack uses a typical hitch pin to secure the connection. At the same time, the FullTilt opts for something more convenient — the AutoPin. This pin works effortlessly with its thumb release, while the competitor is slightly behind.
For the most part, FullTilt’s receiver seemed a tad more robust to me, which is crucial, especially with the five-bike models. Unfortunately, for a few users, the RidgeBack’s receiver failed to maintain its shape after a few years. It doesn’t make the rack unusable by any means, but it is something you should know.
It’s possible to get rid of the wedge extension from both racks to work with 1.25″ hitches, so they do well in this aspect.
Security and Padding
The security of the bikes and racks is paramount, and there are some significant distinctions between the two here.
The Locking System
Having an inbuilt locking system on the rack is always beneficial. You can easily thread the integrated cable lock through the bikes and lock them at the end of the rack’s arm. The FullTilt has that. Its locking cable is made with braided steel, so there are no worries.
Thanks to this, you don’t have to spend extra on locks. The FullTilt also offers its SKS (Same Key System) locking cylinder.
As the name suggests, I could use only one key to rule use them all — from the bike lock to the SpeedKnob. Unfortunately, third-party options don’t always offer such convenience. The only gripe I have with it is that the locking cable sometimes fell short when I tried to secure five bikes.
On the other hand, the RidgeBack does not feature such a locking system. Instead, it supports integration with Yakima’s HandCuff locking cable. But that means you would have to spend extra and set it up, which introduces more hassle.
Once set up, this locking system should be very secure, so no worries.
Both bikes come with anti-sway mechanisms to prevent the bikes from moving too much during transport.
The FullTilt’s anti-sway cradle seemed to fall behind, however. When there were 4 or bike bikes on the rack, the weight was a little too much to keep things completely steady. On the other hand, heavier bikes managed to move quite a bit whenever I hit any bumps.
The RidgeBack’s anti-sway cradle did a slightly better job of keeping things steadier. There was no contact between the bikes even when I drove fast over rough terrain. The two-bike version had an easier time, as expected.
To me, these anti-sway cradles could do a better job of stabilizing, given their price tags.
Another technology Yakima uses to keep the bikes steady is the ZipStrips. There are three points I could use the strips to hold the bike’s body sturdily.
The strips work similarly for both the racks, and the performance doesn’t vary too much. There are three points where I was able to use these strips.
One issue I found with these is that they are pretty rigid and short. Therefore, you may be in for a bit of trouble with unconventional bikes like the ones for women and kids.
Padding doesn’t only protect the rack and the bikes from dents and scratches. Still, it also absorbs and minimizes the shock during travel.
The FullTilt comes with TPE padding throughout the arm, which is excellent. It plays a role in reducing movement upon shock and keeps the top tubes scratch-free. In addition, having the bikes rest on the ridges created through the padding made them more stable.
While the RidgeBack also comes with TPE padding, it doesn’t run throughout the whole arm. I would’ve preferred to see a similar design as the FullTilt, but it’s not too shabby either.
Lastly, another safety strap with a buckle helps secure the bike further. Combining all these elements, the racks do a solid job keeping the bikes safe and steady.
Once again, we see some similarities between the process of mounting the bikes.
Once the racks were installed, I had to pull the control lever to get it up and in position to hold the bikes. There is an audible click to indicate that.
After that, you can move on to mounting the bikes on it. Again, keep the ZipStrips down to prevent contact with the bike’s tube, and place the bikes on the grooves.
After getting the bikes in place and securing them with the strips and strap, you can use the integrated locking cable from the FullTilt’s mast and lock the bikes.
However, that process is different with the RidgeBack, as it doesn’t come with an inbuilt locking cable. Instead, go through this process according to the cable you’ve bought for your rack.
All in all, the FullTilt seemed a little more convenient with its mounting mechanism to me. But the difference isn’t drastic, so I wouldn’t call it a clear winner here.
As both these products are hanging hitch racks, compatibility will be an issue with unusual frames like the ones in mountain bikes. In such cases, the lack of a conventional top tube is problematic for both racks.
That’s why users may need to get Yakima’s TubeTop for BMX, children’s, or step-through bikes. In addition, many full suspension bikes might require one, so keep that in mind.
The Bottom Line
Choosing a winner from the Yakima FullTilt vs RidgeBack battle is tricky, as they share multiple similarities. However, I think the RidgeBack offers a better feature set, considering things like the locking cable, load capacity and more.
However, that’s only according to my preference, so feel free to settle on the hitch rack that seems ideal to you.
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