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Yakima HoldUp Hitch Rack: Reviewed

Tested By Hipster Pilgrimage

Words by Morgan Taylor. Photos by Morgan Taylor.
July 10th, 2014

My girlfriend and I recently made the hipster pilgrimage from Vancouver to Portland in our Subaru Legacy. We parked the car and got around by bike and foot for the weekend – but we couldn’t help but notice that a lot of people shared our taste in all wheel drive family wagons. Many of these cars had been beaten mercilessly yet were still hanging on to life. And many of those cars were equipped with Yakima racks, similarly beaten.

Rather than boring you with more vacation stories I’ll get to the point: there’s something to be said for the clearly well-used but still functioning objects in our lives, and the people in Portland appear to have pretty good taste. Before I started using the Yakima HoldUp hitch rack, I had been seeing them around town, in varying aesthetic states but obviously well loved.

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I should start the review part of this review by stating that the HoldUp was revamped last year and this version has some new features in addition to a shiny black finish over the previous grey colour. We got the rack in September of 2013 and have been doing our best to have it join the well-used (and well-loved) examples mentioned above. We are using the HoldUp for 1-1/4″ receivers, which can only be used with two bikes; however, the HoldUp for 2″ receivers is expandable to four bikes.

File That One Under Slow Start

The HoldUp came out of the box mostly assembled, and would have been installed in 10 minutes if not for a compatibility issue with the hitch receiver. On both our cars there was a small tab inside the receiver which prevented the rack from going in far enough. In both cases I ended up filing out this tab; I’m certain this has happened for others and was not an issue beyond the initial install. I have to assume hitch shops do this on the regular.

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The HoldUp folds up nice and tidy when not in use, but will most likely block your license plate. Defer to local customs when taking chances with compliance, and don’t blame me if you get a ticket.

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The HoldUp’s design gets puts the bikes well above the hitch receiver, which is a plus for cars with low hitches like our Golf. The hitch hits the ground coming out of some driveways but the bikes are always fine.

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The front wheel ratchet is a nice piece with positive feeling notches, a big, easy to use release button, and a shape that works with anything from BMX bikes to big downhill forks. Fenders and front racks do present challenges.

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The wheel hook is wrapped in a pliable rubber that is nice to shiny parts and grips tires decently.

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The rear wheel gets a pivoting tray to adapt to a wide range of wheelbases, and an easy to use buckle not unlike a snowboard binding.

Getting to Know the HoldUp

The learning curve was quick with the HoldUp. Flipping the rack down from the stowed position can be done with one hand while holding your bike in the other. Getting bikes on and off is intuitive and simple. That may sound a bit pedantic but not all products in the hitch rack market are as easy and pleasurable to use as the HoldUp.

I especially like that the trays will hold a bike upright even when the arm is not locked down. While I’ve got complete faith in the HoldUp’s ratcheting arm once in use, it’s nice to not have to wrestle falling bikes when you’re trying to get the car loaded up. New to this model of HoldUp is the ability to slide the trays laterally to prevent bikes from interacting. With carbon brake levers and $500 seat posts being our norm, this is appreciated.

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The HoldUp will even hold up a bike without the arm on the front wheel – convenient for loading and unloading.

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The front wheel tray will hold anything from a kids bike to, if you’re innovative, the fattest of the fat.

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Sliding the trays laterally is not a quick process with four overtightened (admit it) bolts on each tray, The end result is appreciated regardless.

Ain’t That Neat

Another feature I really like is the simple yet effective system for keeping everything tight and rattle free when not in use. It’s not quite intuitive (the simplicity of the initial setup ensures nobody will read the HoldUp owner’s manual) and I’ve seen enough people out there not storing their racks this way that I thought it was worth mentioning.

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The first step is to fold the front wheel tray back over the rack. There’s a little notch cut out of the plastic for the rear wheel tray to lock into.

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With the rear wheel tray holding the folded front wheel piece down, the ratcheting hook is then closed on the rear wheel tray. Note the protruding piece under the tray which gives the hook something to grab on to.

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Nice and tidy, and quiet. We usually store the ratcheting strap inside the hole as seen here as it has a tendency to flap around and hit the back of the car.

Joining the Ranks

Over the past ten months our HoldUp has gone from shiny and new to a little bit beat and not quite as smooth as it was at first. Some of this is wear and tear and some just pure neglect of maintenance.

The first issue we ran into was a slightly out of adjustment bolt which caused the HoldUp to drop down into the lowered position with two bikes on board. The issue cropped up when we were driving up a questionable forest service road in the Golf pictured here. The locking pin somehow worked its way loose and would allow the bikes to fall, with the back of the rack hitting the ground.

This happened repeatedly as we continued to climb the steep and bumpy road; oddly enough we’d driven 750 km to get to this spot without issue. A quick phone call to Yakima’s customer service department and it was recommended that I adjust the main pivot bolt until it applied just a bit of pressure on the bar. Since then, we’ve had no issues with the rack dropping on dirt roads.

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The main pivot bolt at top middle, as well as the release pin mentioned below.

The next issue, and one that persists to this day due to laziness, is the release pin. The pin itself has developed some corrosion, and is difficult to pull without twisting and giving it a little owner’s touch. A dab of oil would help; cleaning the rust would be even better. Ironically, with the condition the pin is in currently, there’s no way it would work itself loose as it did on that first road trip.

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The plastic housing the locks has gone from red to faded pink over the past year. And that’s just the kind of patina I was hoping for.

One comment with respect to the locks which come standard with the HoldUp. Neatly tucked away in the ratcheting arm is a cable lock that’s intended to loop around and hook back on to itself. This cable is unfortunately not long enough to lock the frame of most suspension bikes. That said, it’s just a cable and that shouldn’t really be trusted to leave a bike where you can’t see it.

Last but not least, this most recent version of the HoldUp carries forward the bottle opener from its previous design and sets out to improve it by adding a piece of metal to aid in the popping of tops. Unfortunately it still doesn’t work very well, but as with the cable locks, it’s not a crucial part of the design either.

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Close, but no cigar. A gimmick with good intents.

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We tested the bottle opener which forced us to have to share this bottle of organic cider. Look at those f*cking hipsters.

The HoldUp hitch rack goes for $580 CDN and the HoldUp +2 four bike adapter adds $425. People often ask me what type of rack I’d recommend for their car, and while I will generally make sure they’re aware of the range of products out there, I put the HoldUp at the top of the heap. There are cheaper options out there, but for usability, broad compatibility, and long term durability I have been really happy with the HoldUp.

It may not make any difference to the people who drive beat up Subarus that Yakima is based in Portland, but even before this trip I was drawing parallels between the practicality of a rusty wagon and a beat up old HoldUp rack. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a date with a pretty lady and a burr grinder.


Racking cars ain’t cheap, but how much did you pay for your bike?

  • schyawn

    Don’t know if this is typical, but I’ve got a HoldUp purchaced in 2013, and with a 650b MTB you can easily push the bike backwards nearly lifting the front wheel out of the rack. This happens nearly by itself when going around turns. A bit unnerving to see in the rear view mirror. It just seems the wide + larger diameter tire doesn’t sit deeply enough in the rack.

    • Morgan Taylor

      I’d conservatively estimate that I’ve had 30 different bikes on this rack without issue, and our personal bikes are 29ers which have larger diameter wheels than your 650B. Is yours the updated black HoldUp or the grey one?

      • schyawn

        It’s all black. Hopefully later i can upload a quick video/pic to show what’s going on.

      • Morgan Taylor

        Yeah, do so, I’m interested to see it and to see if I can replicate the issue.

      • schyawn

        I really messed with it today, trying to get it to roll back. Turns out it only happens if I don’t jam the HoldUps Arm very tightly against the fork of the bike. If I do, it’s totally fine. If i place the arm further up the tire away from the fork, it’ll push back out of the rack. I’m sure low tire pressure doesn’t help. Overall: User Error!

      • Morgan Taylor

        Thanks for checking it out, good to know!

  • brumos

    I’ve had this rack for just over a year on my Tacoma and have used it with both road and mtn bikes (26″ & 29″) without any issues. Holds the bikes securely even on rough roads like the Hurley Pass. However, recently I’ve noticed the ratcheting arm on one of the trays requires more force to rotate. I’ve looked at the plastic covering to see if there’s a way to remove and access the internals for maintenance but can’t seem to figure out how to remove it. The ratchet feels like it’s bone dry and in need of some grease.

    • brumos

      Update: Called up Yakima regarding the ratcheting issue mentioned above. Was told I probably had one of the early production models which had this issue, they have since redesigned the internals so it no longer requires more force to rotate. As a result they’re sending me a new replacement tray at no cost.

      Customer service at it’s best.

  • joshg

    “On both our cars there was a small tab inside the receiver which prevented the rack from going in far enough. In both cases I ended up filing out this tab…”

    I have the older gray version and it has been a solid rack. Unfortunately my subie died and my new car will only accept a class I trailer hitch. This is apparently what you have on your golf as they have the tab to prevent you from loading devices that require a class II hitch. Sounds like you are not having issues with filing the tab off and just going for it but people should probably know to stay in line with Yakima and auto specs the hold up should only be on a class II.

    I’m bummed that its not going to work….so I admit hacking a class I is tempting but these racks are substantial and with a couple large bikes the hitch load/torque is significant. What bugs me is that thule’s competing model and others that seem very similar (and in some cases heavier to start) that are class I compatible….. would be cool if Yakima gave it their blessing from the rack perspective to hack and rack.

    References for those that want to hear it from the horse’s mouth:
    http://www.yakima.com/download/Yakima-Hitch-Fit-Tips.pdf (pg 3-4)
    http://www.etrailer.com/question-35579.html

    • Morgan Taylor

      Good info, thanks. I’ll update the text to indicate that the rack is meant to be run on a class II hitch though I personally feel comfortable with it on the class I hitch at a total weight of about 120 pounds.

      • Derek

        A friend had a tire-carrier mounted SportRack on his Jeep which we
        loaded with 4 freeride bikes for a fun day trip out to Whistler… of
        course, as you can probably guess, the rack ripped off on the highway
        while doing 120km/h. But because the rack was designed for a
        ridiculously small amount of weight, the company (SportRack) refused to
        cover any of the damage (which was substantial). So if your rack
        collapses after jury rigging it to your class I hitch, don’t expect any
        sort of compensation for damages! Not to mention any other damages
        incurred by other drivers!

        ICBC isn’t the most charitable organization around…

  • M_Irwin

    Heads up, when the rack folds up and covers yer plate, the fuzz may ticket you for obscuring it. I haven’t been dinged (yet), but I know two others who have and attached their plate to the outside of the rack as a work around.

  • Sebastian Michalski

    Need this for a euro-style coupling device :(

  • ito

    I had a Yakima rack for a couple years and I can’t say I was overly impressed. That this has corrosion and issues after your testing period seems like a sad joke and makes me quite happy with my 3 year old 1UP USA rack. Not sure what shipping costs are like to get them into Canada, but I can’t imagine ever purchasing a different rack. A little bit of lubricant every 6 months and it works as smoothly as the day I bought it. With no plastic to fade and crack it still looks shiny and new. With easily replaceable bits and pieces I didn’t worry when someone backed into it and bent a bar. One call to 1UP and a new piece was at my door within the week, no charge.
    http://www.1upusa.com/