by Craig Lepkowski, PCI #1180-B/EMSCI #272-B
Lake Forest (IL) Police Department
As an IPMBA Instructor and a father of three kids, I need a bike rack that carries five bicycles. I’ve looked at a few on the market and even tried one or two recommended by friends. In my experience, the racks that promise to carry five bikes never fully live up to that promise. They always seem to be locked in place so that when bikes are loaded, they don’t have the flexibility to make room for all five at once. In theory, they hold five bikes; in practice, they always seem to struggle with the task.
At the 2016 IPMBA Conference, I spotted a new vendor and approached to see what new-fangled item was being hawked. Secure Carrying System (SCS) was demonstrating the Magnum Anti-Theft Bike Carrier. I was intrigued; not so much with the lockable factor, but with the possibility of placing five bikes on the rack. You see, SCS devised a system that enables the user to slide the bike frame trays along and adjust the angle on the cross bar. They advertise the rack as being for four bikes and it comes with four frame trays. However, I saw some potential and bought a fifth frame tray.
SCS Racks has taken a very simple approach to improving the concept of a bike carrying system. They built everything out of durable but light aircraft aluminum. They did not force the user to secure their bikes in specific locations on the crossbar (load bar). Instead, they created frame trays that slide on and off the crossbar and can be placed at different angles to permit bicycles to nestle closer to each other. Since the bicycles can be angled, there is more flexibility and less conflict between handlebars and pedals causing the bikes to take up more space. The frame trays securely hold the bikes in place with three Velcro® straps (two around the top tube and one around the seat tube). The frame trays are held in place with set screws that use a hex wrench to tighten/loosen from the cross bar. Obviously, SCS Racks thought this out since most bicyclists have easy access to hex wrenches.
The Magnum rack is designed and built differently for security. It is equipped with two locks that use the same key and allow the user to both lock the rack to the vehicle hitch and lock the bikes to the rack. The rack really consists of three main components and three smaller locking pieces with up to four frame trays.
To ensure the security aspect of the rack, the company intentionally designed it without any moving pieces; therefore, it does not have any hinges which may lead to the weakening of the security and durability of the rack. By welding the rack into a 90 degree post, SCS has guaranteed the integrity of the unit. After using the rack over the summer, with five bicycles mounted several times, I have not discovered any weak points.
Once all the bikes have been loaded on the rack, a locking bar inserts into the end of the cross/load bar and then through the mast. It can be secured with a lock. The aircraft aluminum locking bar and load bar create a secure rectangle around the bike top tubes that is bolt cutter-proof and does not allow for the removal of the bike frame. The design also allows for the locking bar to be reversed and inserted into the load bar so that the bike rack can simply be used as an unsecured bike rack [per SCS, this feature has been discontinued].
With all the parts and pieces, there is an increased chance of misplacing something, but the ability to have such versatility and the ability to carry 1-5 bicycles outweighs the negative. The user just needs to ensure they keep all the components together when not in use.
Over the past few months, I have successfully utilized the SCS Rack for personal and professional use and had no trouble mounting five bikes securely. However, there are a few things I would change to improve the rack.
First, I would round off all the edges. Twice while moving the bike rack I sliced my finger on the sharp edge of the mast hole where the cross/load bar inserts. The precision cutting is important to ensure tight fit, but I believe the edges of all the drilled holes could be sanded down so they are not as razor sharp as I found them. [Per SCS, the inside bore is now being de-burred in order to reduce the risk of cuts.]
Secondly, I would paint the end of the cross/load bar a bright orange so that vehicle and pedestrian traffic is alerted to the cross bar jutting out from the rear of the vehicle. The rack itself juts out quite a bit from the rear hitch, and the silver color of the aluminum is not all that eye-catching. It blends into the background, posing a risk when people are walking through a parking lot or parking their vehicle behind the vehicle with the bike rack. I actually broke down the rack when I parked in a public parking lot by simply removing the cross/load bar and placing it in my vehicle so another vehicle wouldn’t inadvertently back into it. [Per SCS, they are considering including high-viz or reflective material with the rack so the user has the option of applying it for higher visibility.]
Lastly, I’d attach the rubber lock covers to the locks themselves. To weather-protect the lock keyholes, the locks come with rigid rubber covers. However, they are not attached in any way and a couple times when working with the locks I’ve misplaced the covers or had them drop and roll under my vehicle. A little rubber strap that keeps the cover attached to the lock would be helpful.
On a note unrelated to the quality or performance of the rack, while the SCS website has a very clear video explaining the usage and versatility of the product, other parts of the website are not complete, and other sections seem amateurish in the development. With so many people doing product research and purchasing online, I’d expect a better designed and more professional website to increase traffic and sales. [Since this article was written, SCS has taken steps to update and improve the functionality and information available on the website.]
These are all minor improvements I would recommend and not deal breakers. All-in-all, I am very impressed with the Magnum rack and will continue to use it for family and work for many years. The workmanship is impressive and the quality of all the components should ensure durability for quite a few years. The company believes so strongly in its product that it offers a non-transferrable lifetime warranty for all parts and workmanship and will provide replacement of all broken components as long as they are used in compliance with the instructions. From my experience so far, the chances of a component breaking due to regular use is negligible.
I would give this product a nine out of ten for how well it met or exceeded my expectations. I would give it 10 out of 10 for how well it delivers on its performance promise.
- Versatility of mounting possibilities for one to five bikes
- Quality of components
- Durability of components
- Removable components allow for ease of storage
- Security of bikes
- Weight of the rack (20 lbs) allows for ease of set up
- Price for the unit is comparable to lesser quality racks
- Lifetime warranty
- Multiple removable (and therefore losable) components
- Sharpness of edges [Per SCS, the inside bore is now being de-burred in order to reduce the risk of cuts.]
- Lack of warning color to highlight the load bar when it has no bikes [Per SCS, they are considering including high-viz or reflective material with the rack so the user has the option of applying it for higher visibility.]
For more information on the SCS rack and upcoming products, please see http://www.scsrack.us/.
Craig has enjoyed riding at his department for many years and was honored to assist with the development of the department’s bike unit. Impressed with the IPMBA Course he attended in 2009, he attended the Instructor Course in 2010 and has enjoyed teaching bike skills ever since. Never one to say “no”, Craig was elected to the IPMBA Board in 2013 and is currently serving as Secretary. He looks forward to helping maintain IPMBA’s position as the top-notch provider of public safety bicycling instruction. He can be reached at email@example.com.
(c) 2017 IPMBA. This review appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of IPMBA News.