dovetail ferst bike rack

Dovetail Ferst Hitch Mount Bike Rack: Simple, Light, Secure

The lightest hitch rack you can buy is also the simplest and the most affordable thanks to the Dovetail Ferst.

Dovetail’s Single and Double bike racks weren’t designed by a young entrepreneur with an idea and an Indigogo campaign. The rack was a personal project of Dovetail’s founder, Steve Randazzo, an expert in lean manufacturing. Randazzo wanted a bike rack that was lightweight, functional, and easy to manufacture.

So he sat down to make a rack with the fewest parts.

That was a decade ago. Now Randazzo has brought his bike rack to market. The California-manufactured, tight-tolerance Dovetail offers an alternative to existing bicycle tray hitch racks and solves problems previously considered compromises of that style of rack.

It’s a fraction of the weight of other tray-style hitch racks, around half the cost, and it takes around 10 minutes to set up. And starting under $300, it’s competitively priced.

dovetail ferst bike rack easy install

Dovetail Ferst Bike Rack Review

Slide the Dovetail Ferst Bike Rack hitch receiver (available in 1¼ inches and 2 inches) into your car’s receiver and fasten with the two pre-Loctited bolts, then slide the main body of the rack onto that receiver.

If you choose, you can slip a long-shaft padlock or locking pin from another bike rack into the hole on the corner of the assembly. Conversely, you can pick up a non-locking pin from your local hardware store.

The main body of the rack has one or two front wheel trays with sliding Velcro fasteners (one- and two-bike versions, respectively). Slip your bike’s non-drive side crank into the vertical crank receiver, tighten a screw knob to lock the crank in, then Velcro your front wheel to the front tray.

The crank receiver is aluminum with plastic protective covers anywhere the sleeve might touch your bike, including the channel for your pedal.

The crank receiver has a plastic piece at the top that flips to slip between your bike’s crank and bottom bracket. It unscrews and remounts with a single screw. Once you have it set for your bike, you don’t need to deal with it again.

dovetail ferst bike rack crank sleeve

Who Should (and Shouldn’t) Buy

If you want a folding rack, look elsewhere. And if the lack of a full tray makes you nervous, pass on this rack. If you need four trays, opt for a different option.

But if you want a light, simple, and safe bike rack to carry one or two bikes, check this one out. This rack will fit most bikes, including road, gravel, mountain, and fat bikes. If you primarily carry hybrid, road, or gravel bikes, go for the small tray option, which accommodates tires up to 2.1 inches.

For most mountain bikes, you’ll want the large tray, which accommodates bikes with tires up to 2.6 inches. And coming soon, Dovetail will offer a fat bike tray. Best of all, if you want to mix and match, Dovetail lets you do that. So you could get one large and one XL tray, or one large and one small tray. Rack options for the Dovetail Ferst start at $295.

Lightweight Bike Rack

For me, one of the biggest challenges of any hitch tray rack I’ve tried is the weight. Hitch racks are a bear to get on and off. Most weigh around 50 pounds, so at 12-14 pounds, this aluminum rack comes in a fraction of the weight of any Thule, Yakima, or Kuat.

Until I got the Dovetail, I’d never casually taken my hitch rack on and off my car because removal and installation were always such damn heavy projects. And other racks’ weight also impeded storage. I keep my hitch rack on the ground or in a wall-mount when it’s not on the car, as it’s too heavy to pick up and put on a shelf.

But with Dovetail, I take the rack off when I’m not using it that day, simplifying truck access. And I can set it anywhere in my garage.

dovetail ferst bike rack hitch attach

Lower Cost

Most tray-style hitch racks are expensive. And if you ride an expensive bike, a hitch tray rack is the safest and most convenient way to carry your bike.

Because this rack uses less material and fewer parts than other hitch tray racks, it costs less while still carrying your bike without the rack touching any part of the frame. And the Dovetail Ferst does so at half the price of other racks.

Fast and Easy Assembly

If you’ve ever sat in your driveway with piles of nuts and bolts and a dozen pages of instructions, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of assembling this rack. It comprises a main body, one or two tray racks — the front section only — a hitch receiver, and bolts and tools to install and remove the rack.

It took me about 10 minutes to assemble, and it takes around 2 minutes to remove the rack from my car or reinstall once assembled.

receiver

It Could Be Better

There are two changes I’d make to this rack.

First: I’d include a locking pin to secure it to the car. A standard padlock won’t work, and I didn’t have one with an extended shaft. In the end, I pirated a pin from an old rack I had in my garage. It’s much too long, and an inelegant solution.

Second: I’d replace the Velcro wheel straps with Voile straps. With the bike’s crank secure in the crank mount, the front wheel secures to the tray with a wide piece of Velcro (a slider on the bottom of the tray prevents you from losing the strap). The rack has been on my car for a couple of weeks, and the Velcro still maintains the wheel/tray connection.

But as I use this rack more, and I plan to use it year-round, that Velcro is going to get dirt and other detritus in the hooks and loops. And it will cease being as secure.

I’ve doubled up on the Velcro with Voile ski straps, which I know won’t fail regardless of weather, road grime, or dog hair. But my added straps aren’t permanently mounted, so I keep extras in the car in case one gets lost when the rack is empty.

velcro wheels

On my wish list for this rack: A third bike tray mount. That would let me carry one bike solo, two on the double rack, or three combined.

Dovetail Ferst Bike Rack

I’ve tested most hitch racks on the market. I use a hitch rack daily, and I use one all year round. While I’ve only tested this rack in summer, I was impressed with how well it carried two expensive, 30-plus-pound enduro bikes over the pavement, rough forest service roads, and Vermont “gravel” for the past couple of weeks.

In that time, neither the rack nor bikes incurred any damage. When I wanted it off my car, it took me a couple of minutes to remove it, and I was able to carry it one-handed into the garage and store it on a shelf.

If you love tray-style hitch racks for their ease of loading and how they carry your bike, but the weight and price have held you back, check out Dovetail Ferst.

The rack will support one to two bikes us to 45 pounds each, depending on the number of trays. Rack weight starts at 7 pounds (single bike, small tray). To date, the heaviest option weighs 14 pounds (two bikes, large tray).

If you want to use this rack on multiple cars without fussing with removing and replacing the receiver, additional receivers are available for $58. A maintenance kit that lets you mount your bike to the rack for repair is also available ($220) and coming soon to the brand’s website.