Review of Carver Surf Board Rack for Bikes

The Mojo fixie bike has been doing duties to the beach and back lately and my old back was feeling the effects of lugging bodyboard, flippers, wax (and styling gel?) etc with the poorly designed bodyboard bag. I should consult Shappelle on what bag she prefers, because obviously some bags are better at hauling 4.2kg of of cannabis than others.

Instead of asking Shappelle, what I did was buy a Carver Surfboard Rack. These fellas attached to your bike with little outrigger wings to cradle your board. A hefty chunk of metal attaches to your seat post via a clamp and the two outriggers slot into that hefty chunk of metal and nip tight with a couple of allen key bolts. My local bike store knocked me $165, which I considered a reasonable amount to pay for a quality piece of kit. I was damn sure I only wanted to pay for this item  once so I was keen to get the best on the market. Several people and a great deal of internet trawling had assured me that this rack was the way to go. (There’s some waffle following so if you really want to find out how they ride skip to The Ride below.)

Fitting the Carver Surfboard Rack is pretty easy. The nice man at the store offered to help me should I run into any trouble but really I’d rather sell my tools and buy one of those silly-looking recumbents before admitting I had trouble with a task as simple as fitting a Carver Surfboard Rack. Carver provide a little allen key for you to get the job done and in theory it would be tool enough for the job but if you don’t already own a decent 5mm allen key then there’s something wrong. It’s the single most common allen key size for bike stuff. To me bike riding and bike maintenance go hand in hand. I’ve never quite trusted a cyclist who cant do basic maintenance. They’re not real cyclists, just as every cyclist loves coffee, beer and pastries (though not necessarily at the same time), every cyclist should at the very least have a decent set of allen keys, about fifty tyre levers and five puncture kits (because you accumulate this stuff right?)

The wings stick out a fair bit so Carver have given you the ability to swing the things around lateral to the bike and click them back into place. This eliminates about 15cms of protrusion from the bike. It takes about 10 seconds per wing to swing them round so it’s a no brainer. Alternately you can leave them out and hang Christmas decorations off them.

Wings at full extension. Fly my pretty.

What I preferred to do was remove the wings altogether. The Carver Surfboard Racks aren’t really designed with this practice in mind but it only takes about 3-5 mins (with a decent allen key!). Two cinch bolts per wing hold them in place and they’re reasonably easy to get to. I have half a mind to charge my battery drill and leave it in the shed with a 5mm allen key bolt in it. I used to do this for the Lefty fork on my Cannondale (before I got a decent car rack and no longer needed to remove the front wheel). This might shave 10 seconds off my pit-stop. In terms of a 30 minute ride to The Spit, an hour or so in the surf and another ride home, the 3-5 mins involved with removing the wings seems trivial.

When the outriggers are removed the big chunk of metal that is left clamped to your bike doesn’t deter too much from the svelte good looks of your fixie but it does prevent the fitting of other things like clamp on racks or spray dodgers.

the chunk of metal, not too obtrusive by itself

Once in place there’s little that can be stolen from bike without unbolting it. This is enough to deter casual thieves. This is all I ask. If some shithead really wants to steal my stuff he’ll find a way. The wings of the outriggers can be removed without tools but I fail to see what anyone would do with them alone. For me the risk is worth the pleasure of not having a board on my back when I ride to the beach.

Fitting the board onto the rack couldn’t be easier. It slots in and two bungy cords hold it into position.

Warning! Warning!

For some reason Carver saw fit to put a warning on the box to the effect of:

  • always wear a helmet
  • never ride your bike at night
As though it was any of their business what the hell I did with my bike.
It’s hard to buy a bike these days without it being festooned with stickers warning you about ten different  dangers. Never  ride off road. Never ride at night. Never ride without a helmet. Never ever ever under any circumstances ride anywhere ever. 
What is it about bikes that inspired people within the bike industry to discourage so many people from actually using the products they provide? What is it about bikes that inspired people to treat their customers like children and idiots?
There’s no warning about riding dumping shories or slotting into 6 foot barrels, just a warning about the humble act of riding at night. There is however no warning about riding home drunk at night, something I’ve done often, and I guess I’ll keep on doing because I’m too stupid to know what’s good for me unless I’m told. Stupid. Because I’m a cyclist.

The Ride

The Carver Surfboard Racks are quality equipment and fitting them went without a hitch but  I fell out of love with my racks somewhat when it came time to ride with them. They allow enough room for a leg to to swing and pedal without sticking out too far, and you can stand on the pedals providing you don’t swing the bike from side to side too much, the real problem is the hefty chunk of metal I attached to the seat post  isn’t long enough. What this means is the outriggers sit too close to the back of my legs and prevent a normal cycling movement.

The back of my legs touch the outriggers on every stroke. I ride a smallish frame for my size and I set my seat back as far as it will go. I also have about 5mm of offset in my seat post, so I’m sitting further back on my bike than many people. What this means to me when the racks are fitted is that I’m perched on the nose of my saddle just to allow something like a normal cycling motion, and even then my right leg bumps the outriggers ever stroke. This isn’t too bad on a short run to the beach. On a run to The Spit (about 10kms each way) this becomes a bit annoying, and I certainly wouldn’t want to go any further. A ride down to Burleigh (something I’d hoped to do) is not an option.

If I had a nice straight seatpost and a seat clamped in the middle of its rails I’d probably be perfectly happy with the Carver Surfboard Rack. As it is I’m about 50/50 on whether I sell them and try something else or keep them. Definitely they’re better than the board on the back scenario but they’re not as good as I’d hoped they’d be. If you’re considering buying some of these racks I’d advise you to have a long look at your bike set-up and decide whether you might share similar problems to mine. If you sit your seat forward and you have no offset in your seatpost then I’d reckon they’re a winner for you.

Carver also make another rack, the Carver Surfboard Rack Maxi. It’s a proper pack rack with the outriggers built into it. It’ll suit boards bigger than 8 footers and looks like the outriggers sit a bit further back on the bike. It’d be a good option but you really have to ask yourself, do you really want to put a rack on your fixie?

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