Auxtail's Towball Mount 2 Bike Carrier is designed for speedily mounting your mountain bike, road bike, kid's bike, carbon framed fancy or e-bike to the rear of your car with as little fuss as possible. It works by clamping only the front wheel, which allows an unusual amount of bike sway back and forth while you're driving and might not be suitable if you have a vertical tailgate and mountain bikes. It can mount directly to a flange plate or, in our case, a towball, and can be locked in place with a small discreet padlock. It doesn't tilt to allow access to the boot, which seems a little remiss considering the price tag, which is high.
Auxtail uses an ingenious bike clamping system that ratchets down on the front wheel, holding it firm against the generous tray. It can take tyres up to 80mm wide, which is good for all but 'fat bikes', from kids' bikes with 18in wheels up to 29er+ monsters. All good then. The bike isn't clamped at any other point by the rack, with just the wheels being held tight with straps to the wheel tray. As I mentioned above, the bike can 'sway' a little like this, but is still held in place securely.
The system for mounting a bike is one of the simplest I have used on a rear rack. Undo the wheel straps, unfold/open the long silver front wheel arm with upside down clamp so that it is as wide as possible, and then open the black retaining hook and lift your bike into the tray, front wheel against the black hook. Then simply push down on the plastic clamp until it locks as it slides down the arm. If your tyres are slightly soft – mountain bike tyres, for example – then this is much easier and gives a better grip than higher pressure road tyres. Then repeat with the second bike facing the other way.
So far I have not come across as many clashes of bars and seatposts as with other racks, and it is certainly less of a pain than the Thule Euroclassic rack I regularly use.
Tucked inside the end of the outer tray are two extendable flexible loop-ended cables, which do a fantastic job of helping lock your bikes to each other and the rack. It's not a tough cable but it will prevent a thief from lifting your bike and running off with it at the lights.
I ignored the supplied padlock and used an Abus Mini U Lock or a Kryptonite Chain to add to the security, but it's a great idea and a useful option when popping in for a takeaway on the way home from a ride. Just make sure you secure the loops around the wheel hook when not in use, to stop them coming loose and flapping about.
The Auxtail isn't without its issues, though. You may not be able to mount a mountain bike with a modern 'wide bar'; the max bar width quoted by Auxtail is 700mm which is actually narrow by today's standards. This will depend on the car you are mounting the rack to, and I managed a wider bar in the inner position, making sure I had a good 8-10cm of clearance between the end of the bar and the rear windscreen. This is the distance suggested by Auxtail, because the bikes can sway as you drive and the bar will move towards the windscreen fast if you brake hard.
Concerned by this unusual mount? Well, you shouldn't be, as Auxtail has tested the system at the Millbrook testing ground (one of the largest vehicle testing centres in Europe) and it has passed the Elk Slalom, Belgium Pave and Braking tests with flying colours. Nice to know when you are spending £495.
Using it over the last three months or so with a variety of road, cyclo-cross, mountain, kids' and plus-size-tyred bikes, I can confirm that it will hold everything I have tried, but I have found a few issues with the 'ratchet' straps. First and most frustrating is the lack of gripper on the end of the actual strap, and secondly it's not actually a ratchet as you cannot crank the buckle to tighten à la Thule or Buzz racks versions, it's just a locking buckle. When you are cold and wet it's very difficult to pull the strap tight enough, especially if your plus-sized tyre isn't leaving you much of a loose end to pull on. Either a finer hole in the end of the strap or a ratchet buckle would be good, considering the high price tag.
I also had issues with the rack not sitting straight or level on the towball. It doesn't have a self-leveller like some on the market, so it relies on you doing it by eye; this isn't too awkward after you've done it a few times, but far from ideal. At least the rack is light and reasonably easy to handle so back strain is a lower risk than some.
However, I've also managed to move it on the towball when trying to pull the strap on the wheel tight or pushing down on the wheel ratchet clamp. Not good. Maybe I'm applying too much force here, but with this system I feel I need to make sure the bike is as tight in the tray as possible because there is nothing else to hold my bikes.
Auxtail is the brainchild of an ex-Nissan automotive engineer and if you have a Nissan Qashqai (close to 45K of you this year already) it will mount very neatly with a lightweight, specific bracket. It has also been designed to be light enough and small enough to fit easily in the boot of your Qashqai. However, in my similarly sized Peugeot 3008 the rack would not fit as it's a few centimetres too wide. Upon looking at actual internal widths of the top cars on sale today, I found a lot that it potentially won't fit in, at least flat on the floor. If you really need to be able to pop it in the boot when not in use you'll need to measure up carefully beforehand.
The rack itself looks neatly made but without the overall finishing touches or quality of a Thule, Atera, Whispbar or other similarly priced racks. There are exposed screwheads and clips on show, the sort of thing normally covered up by plastic moulding on other brands. This in no way affects the way the bike is held, but it does add to the overall feeling that this rack isn't quite as well finished as others in this price bracket, or cheaper ones even.
The number plate frame feels flimsy too, and if you are lifting heavier bikes or ebikes you'll need to be careful not to clout it with a tyre.
The Auxtail can cope with bikes up to 20kg each, which is more than enough for 'light' ebikes like the Ampler or Juicy Ticket. It's been tested with 25kg bikes, but Auxtail stresses it is recommended that you stick to the official 20kg limit. That means two full-suspension e-mountain bikes would be out of the question from many brands, which is a shame because the mounting system doesn't care how non-round or ovalised, hexagonal or large the diameter of your down tube. Maybe Auxtail will be able to increase this weight limit for future models. I certainly hope so, as the solid tray is ideal for lifting the front wheel into and wheeling the bike up into position. A ramp would be better, but that would weigh more and cost more, and there is no need unless the weight limit is increased.
A major oversight at this price, to my mind, is that the rack doesn't tilt. The Thule 9502 tilts and is readily available at under the £200 asking price, as does the BuzzRack Buzz Wing for well under £200. Both carry two bikes and the Thule one is carbon tube safe (needing an attachment to prevent over-tightening at £15 each).
For me, the tilt option is an absolute essential as it's easy to forget something when packing the car, which needs to be added after the bikes are securely loaded and locked on. At the asking price of £495 tilting should be on the spec list, I reckon.
Overall, the Auxtail is a good newcomer to the market with an excellent unusual clamping method, but it feels slightly unfinished. Auxtail tells me that the number plate attachment is being improved and that the wheel straps are being changed for longer ones on future units. Both of which are good news. Another issue is the location of the outer bike wheel strap. It's on the inside between the trays and is just plain awkward to get to – ratchet straps and/or switching its orientation would improve matters.
Auxtail is a small UK company so it's able to make these adjustments quickly, so hopefully most of these issues will be ironed out on future builds.
A lightweight innovative rack that clamps the bike without touching the frame, but not without some issues
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Auxtail Towball Mount 2 Bike Carrier
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Lightweight bike rack for two bikes especially suited to carbon frames and frames with non-standard round tubes.
Auxtail says, "Versatile, fast, no frame touch cycle carrier. Fits wide range of bikes from mountain to road to children's bikes.
"This bike carrier requires a 50mm towball with 13 pin electrical kit to have been fitted to the vehicle. a 7 pin Electrical kit can be used but an adaptor is required. Reverse and fog lights will not function."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Speedy bike load and unload times. Sub 30 seconds to remove and load bikes to the carrier.
No frame touch clamping with unique patented wheel hook system to secure bike meaning your frame is safe.
Wide range of bike shapes and sizes compatible – mountain bikes, e-bikes, and children's bikes.
Full cable locking which allows both bike and carrier to locked directly to the vehicle.
Rear wheel ratchet system with long strap allowing up to 3in tires, with a simple to use quick release system.
Tested in accordance with TUV regulations at Millbrook test facility.
Max Number of Bikes 2
Max Load 50Kg
Max Bike Weight 25Kg
Carrier Weight 17Kg
Carrier Dimensions (L x W x H) 63cm x 164cm x 83cm
Folded Dimensions (L x W x H) 63cm x 108cm x 19cm
Distance Between Bikes 25cm
Wheel Base 75-120cm
Wheel Diameter 45-74cm
Max Tire Size 8cm (3in Compatible)
Lights 13 Pin LED
Lock 2m cable 8mm diameter
Parts of the rack are excellently made – the wheel clamp for instance – but the overall towball mount, the number plate mount and the uncapped bolt heads on show make it look a little homegrown.
It works rather well, holding the bikes by wheel clamp and straps alone. The rack doesn't tilt, though, and the straps don't have ratchet buckles. Clamping is excellent; mounting is less so.
It has stayed together well in use, although the number board feels flimsily attached. The end cap of one of the arms fell off and so the extruded arm is open and unfinished. It doesn't feel like a Thule or Buzz rack.
It's light enough for me to carry easily.
This is going to look harsh, but the lack of a tilt option, self-leveller and rubber-coated soft ratchet straps to hold the wheels, along with the overall finish, make it seem very expensive for only two bikes. You can get much better finished racks for half the price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performed really well, clamping every bike I fitted to it from 24in kids' bikes to my ridiculous 29+ mountain bike. The bikes sway back and forth when driving, but that appears to make no difference to how securely they are held.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The clamping system is excellent, a good idea and fast to use. It's also pretty much idiot-proof – plus you cannot damage your frame with this style of mount. The extending cable for locking the bikes together is another neat idea and I've used it every time.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The bikes move under braking and mean you spend a lot of time checking your mirror (a good thing, perhaps) but it's disconcerting and I found myself generally getting out to try to tighten the already tight clamp. Also, the finish of the hardware around the lights. They are what they are: two light pods bolted to the back of the extruded tray. Also, the fact that it can move when you clamp the bikes down, and the lack of a proper ratchet buckle or at least finger grip or hole in the wheel straps so they can be pulled tight.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's expensive compared with other products that do the same thing, although they don't clamp like this one. (Yakima in the US makes a rack that works exactly like this, including the extended cables, for a lot less money, but it's not brought into Europe at the moment.)
Did you enjoy using the product? Most of the time.
Would you consider buying the product? Not at this price.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they had a Nissan Qasqhai and could benefit from the lighter mount.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a potentially good product but just feels a little unfinished in some areas. I like the speed of the clamping system and its ability to handle all my bikes but I have to balance that with the uneasiness of the movement of the bikes in the mirror (you do get used to it) and the overall level of finish, which looks a little 'home produced' for the money. Longer straps with ratchets and an incorporated light and number plastic moulding across the back would improve the look and finish – though it still needs to tilt at this price.
About the tester
I usually ride: Fairlight My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, bikepacking, adventure, gravel riding