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Verdict: 
The best just got a little better with enhanced compatibility for more vehicles and some effective upgrades
Weight: 
4,900g
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With some subtle tweaks to the classic Bones design, the new Saris Bones EX offers all the practicality of previous models but now fits even more vehicles, including those with rear spoilers. Add some upgrades, particularly to the bike tie-downs, and you've got one of the best three-bike rear-mounted cycle carriers on the market.

  • Pros: Now fits more vehicles, new tie-downs protect bikes and work well, great build quality, very stable in use
  • Cons: Setting it up can be frustrating, 'strap management' Velcro straps are a little basic, watch for rubbing on paintwork with long-term use

Anybody familiar with previous Saris Bones boot-mounted cycle carriers won't find anything too overwhelming with this new EX version. Indeed, the only major differences to previous Bones three-bike carriers is a unique dog-leg design to the two upper legs with built-in strap guides – which allows it to fit on vehicles with spoilers – along with some premium bike tie-downs. However, that's not such a bad thing as the original Bones design is a modern classic.

Fitting

As the EX is so similar to previous Bones models, that means fitting is as simple – or as frustrating – as always. I know the beauty of the Saris system is that it fits so many vehicles – and Saris says the EX will now fit 90% of vehicles – but getting it sorted for your own specific vehicle takes a bit of patience, especially as this version doesn't have the locking lever arms or integrated straps of the Super Bones 3.

The Bones EX comprises four legs – two to rest against the top of your vehicle's rear, two to rest against the bottom of your vehicle's rear – and two arms to carry the bikes.

Saris Bones EX3 on car unloaded 2.jpg

To move each of these legs or arms into the correct position, you have to undo a little black locking button, then slide the arm or leg to the central unsplined section. Put the arm or leg where you want it, then slide it back over the splined section, and tighten the black locking button to keep it in place.

Saris Bones EX3 locking buttons.jpg

No matter how well you think you've got the legs positioned first time, I guarantee it'll take you a couple of goes to get everything perfect. At the end of the four legs are rubber feet, which make the actual contact with your boot or hatch.

Saris Bones EX3 new dog leg design.jpg

Emanating from within the central cylinder are six straps and hooks, which are labelled and latch on to your boot or hatch rim: two at the top, two at the bottom, and two at the side.

Saris Bones EX3 central tube and straps.jpg

Put them in place, tighten the straps – which seem to take a little more force with this version as the strap ratchets bite very firmly when not pressed to release – then use the new handy 'strap management system' (really, just integrated Velcro straps) to tidy everything up.

Saris Bones EX3 velcro strap tidies.jpg

(Remember, if the bikes obscure your number plate, you'll have to use an additional number plate board to stay legal.)

Saris Bones EX3 3 bikes in a line - new tie-downs.jpg

Performance

In pure numbers, the Saris Bones EX 3-Bike can carry three cycles up to 35lb or 16kg each, with a total load of 105lb/48kg. That should be more than enough for typical family bikes or even some fairly serious mountain bikes. Keeping the bikes in place on the carrying arm has never been better, with the new premium bike hold-downs being very good, offering excellent cushioning for frame and a secure hold. The little finger loop to pull them tight through the ratchet clasp helps a lot, too.

Saris Bones EX3 loaded with 3 bikes.jpg

As with all two or three-bike cycle carriers, it takes a bit of juggling to load up a full complement, but the Bones EX is just about as accommodating as you'll find. Remove the pedals, put a bit of pipe lagging around the frames at likely contact points, and you won't have any problems. On the road, aside from a bit of wobbling over road bumps and potholes, there's never any need for concern – everything stays impressively solid.

Value and conclusion

For people with even wider concerns than just carrying three bikes in safety, the Saris Bones EX has some other bonuses. As it is mainly built from rust-free injection moulded plastic, it's guaranteed for life. It's also made from recycled materials. It folds up small for storage (although that means you'll have to go through the rigmarole of repositioning the legs and arms next time you use it!). And its articulated rubber feet, Saris says, protect your car's paintwork. That last claim I'd take with a dose of caution. I've seen a Saris Solo 1 single bike carrier with similar feet take the paint off a Nissan Micra with extended use, and the one review of the EX on the Saris website at time of writing complained of a similar situation, so be warned.

Saris Bones EX3 loaded with 3 bikes 2.jpg

That caveat aside, this is a very complete cycle carrier. Compared to the £310 Thule Raceway 992 or the £350 Saris Super Bones, this is a more simple setup and that shows in the price. However, for all my moaning about getting the legs/arms placed correctly, it still feels and performs like a top-class product. Indeed, in its own way, forgoing the refinements of the Super Bones (a product which I own as well) actually gives the Bones EX a slightly more solid, less gimmicky feel.

> Buyer's Guide: 11 of the best car cycle racks

The Saris Bones EX 3-Bike has all the qualities that made the original Bones cycle carriers a legend, with a few choice updates that work well. And now it's compatible with even more vehicles. Which means, putting my neck on the line, I'd say that for £200 this is the best boot-mounted cycle carrier with the widest appeal you're likely to find.

Verdict

The best just got a little better with enhanced compatibility for more vehicles and some effective upgrades

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Saris Bones EX 3-Bike Carrier

Size tested: 3 bikes

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?

The Saris Bones EX 3-bike is a boot or rear hatch-mounted cycle carrier that will accept three bikes up to 16kg / 35lb each.

Saris says: "What happens when you take the most popular trunk rack of all time and expand its vehicle compatibility by 20%? Spoiler Alert: you get the Bones EX. Cultivated in the mind of Italian designer Fabio Pedrini and brought to life in our Wisconsin-based facility, the Bones EX features a unique and game-changing leg. Featuring a leg that gracefully avoids contact with most plastic spoilers found on many of the best-selling sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs, the Bones EX now fits 20% more vehicles than its legendary predecessor. And that's not all. We've decked out the Bones EX with premium bike hold downs and a handy strap management system in a shade that never goes out of style."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

From Saris:

Carries 3 bikes (up to 35lb / 16kg each).

Unique dogleg design accommodates most spoilers, including those on popular sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs.

Premium bike hold-downs that are easy to use and quick to load.

Integrated strap management system provides clean look and eliminates flapping straps.

Best-in-class ratchet straps speedily fasten bike to the rack.

Built with 100% recyclable materials.

Rust-free injection molded plastic.

Articulated rubber feet to protect paint.

Arc–based design separates bikes on different levels.

Lightweight at 11lb / 4.9kg.

Lifetime warranty.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Almost perfect construction. I'd only complain about the new strap management Velcro straps, which are an added bonus but a little basic.

Rate the product for performance:
 
10/10

Fantastic – super-solid bike carrying.

Rate the product for durability:
 
10/10

So simple and strong, I can't see anything failing for a long, long time. In any case, it comes with a lifetime warranty.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
8/10

Just under 5kg seems very reasonable.

Rate the product for value:
 
8/10

£200 really isn't excessive for a product as well designed and robust as this, especially when compared to the Thule Raceway 992 or the Saris Super Bones, which are both more expensive.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

The Saris Bones EX 3-bike is simply superb. Very stable and secure, and it looks after your bikes.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

New dog leg design, new strap guides, new bike tie-downs and classic Bones simplicity and stability.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Getting it fitted first time.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

The Saris Bone EX 3-bike is just about the perfect rear-mounted cycle carrier, with the classic Bones' simple but ultra-stable design, now with some noticeable upgrades and enhanced compatibility for even more vehicles. As such, it's hard to find anything to criticise, just be wary of paintwork rubbing with extended use.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 39  Height: 6'0  Weight: 16 stone

I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29  My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, leisure