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Yakima StageTwo Bike Rack
Price: $749 MSRP Type: Hitch, platform Hitch Size: 2 inches, 1.25 inches Bike Capacity: 2, 4 with add-on Wheel Size(s): 20 inches to 29 inches Max Load: 70 lbs. per bike E-Bike Rated: Yes RV Rated: Yes Off-road Rated: Yes Integrated Lock(s): Yes, 3 Loading Ramp: Yes, sold separately Weight: 66 lbs.
Pros: – Versatile, easy to operate, and works with just about any bike style out there. – One of the highest max load capacities of any bike rack. – Optional ramp makes loading heavy e-bikes a breeze. Cons: – At 66 pounds, it’s about 15 pounds heavier than its competitors. – Like most premium hitch racks, it takes up a lot of space when stored.
The Bottom Line
After about four months of heavy use–which included thousands of miles of dirt roads, mountain passes, and highways–I came away thoroughly impressed with the Yakima StageTwo. The overall versatility and ease of use are among the best of any bike rack I’ve used in the past decade. From lightweight carbon gravel models, to heavy full-suspension e-bikes, the Yakima StageTwo handled them all with grace. In fact, this may just be my new favorite bike rack.
With big, heavy, and bulky items, you never really know what kind of condition they’ll be delivered in. So when the Yakima StageTwo arrived with what looked like someone had given it a roundhouse kick, I wasn’t surprised. Thankfully, Yakima did an excellent job of packaging the StageTwo. Inside the extremely large and heavy box, you’ll find an expertly packaged bike rack. Having opened many models over the past 15 years, I was actually pretty impressed with the attention to detail that the guys and gals at Yakima had given the StageTwo. All seven pieces of the rack were precision wrapped, and the cardboard dividers ensured they weren’t rubbing or hitting one another.
The fact that there wasn’t a single scratch on any of the pieces certainly impressed me–despite the fact that the rest of the rack’s life will see an abundance of miles and gravel roads, it’s nice to know it arrived in pristine condition. Which, honestly, is sort of what I expect for an approximately $750 item.
Assembling the Yakima StageTwo
The StageTwo took me exactly 26 minutes to assemble, which is pretty darn quick, but it wasn’t as smooth as others I’ve used in the past (like the Thule T2 Pro XTR). The most challenging part was installing the trays to the main frame of the rack. Unlike every other hitch rack I’ve assembled, which has a solid tray, the Yakima uses a two-piece design. This configuration required me to line up three holes at once: one on each of the two pieces on the tray, as well as one on the frame that sticks out of the receiver. Then, while balancing the trays and lining up all the holes, I needed to thread a bolt in. Once I got the first of four mounting bolts installed, the rest of the process became much smoother, but it still took a little extra finesse than I’m used to.
Thankfully, this juggling act should only need to be done once, and the rest of the assembly process was very straightforward and easy. One nice feature of the Yakima StageTwo is that the trays can be moved from side to side by a few inches to mitigate any bike to bike interference. The rack arrives in the offset position, but after a few hundred miles of use with different bike configurations and zero issues, I decided to center the trays. Doing so moved the bikes inward and tucked the wheels behind the car a bit more. It certainly wasn’t necessary, but I liked the idea of everything being more streamline.
Yakima StageTwo Performance
Weight and Bike Capacity
What makes the Yakima StageTwo one of the best hitch-mounted bike racks on the market is its higher than average max load capacity. Rated at 70 pounds per bike, the StageTwo outdoes both the popular Thule T2 Pro XTR and Kuat NV 2.0 which have a max rating of 60 pounds per bike. This standout characteristic–as well as an optional loading ramp described in more detail below–makes it a top choice for electric bikes. It’s also worth noting that Yakima specifically calls out that the StageTwo is RV tested and approved for 60 pounds per bike, which as far as my research goes, is unique for this category of bike carriers at the moment.
In terms of the number of bikes you can haul on the StageTwo, the answer is two. However, like most 2 inch receiver platform style hitch rack variants, the Yakima can grow with your needs with the addition of the StageTwo +2 Add-On. Which, as the name suggests, increases your bike carrying capacity by two for a total of four bikes. And since the Yakima employs a raised stadium design, I experienced zero bike to bike interference.
Like most platform style hitch racks, bike compatibility is a definite strong suit for the StageTwo. Because of the ratcheting arms that clamp down on the tires, you don’t need to worry about the shape of the frame, and it works with pretty much all tire and wheel sizes. As it comes, the StageTwo fits 20 inch to 29 inch wheeled bikes with tires up to 3.25 inches in width. And if you want to toss a couple of fat bikes on, Yakima sells the StageTwo Fat Bike Kit for about $30. That said, a simple $7 Voile ski strap is a much more economical choice and the route I took (mainly because I had some on hand). Having personally tested gravel bikes, full suspension 29ers, e-bikes, and fat bikes with the rack, I can safely say that the Yakima StageTwo is the most versatile bike carrier I’ve ever used.
Build Quality and Durability
As can be expected with a premium bike rack, build quality and durability is high on the Yakima. The center mast is exceptionally heavy duty, the plastic tire cradles don’t feel flimsy or cheap, and the stout ratcheting arms inspire confidence (even with heavy e-bikes). In fact, there isn’t a single feature on the rack that I have concerns about and I expect it to last tens of thousands of miles without incident. All in all, after about four months of not nice use–we’re talking snowy mountain passes, dirt roads, and lots of highway miles–the Yakima StageTwo shows no signs of unusual wear and tear. Of course, if something changes I’ll come back here and give an update.
Almost all hitch-mounted bike racks inhibit rear vehicle access in some way, shape, or form, and the StageTwo is no different. Unless you have a swing-away model like the RockyMounts BackStage, there’s just no way around it. With the StageTwo, I found access was only really an issue when trying to load exceptionally large items in the back, like a sheet of plywood. Having said that, this minor inconvenience is something I’ll happily live with for the ease of use that comes with a platform-style hitch bike rack. The handy tilt feature (talked about in more detail below) works great and easily allows access to the back of your vehicle for loading most everyday items.
Removal and Storage
The mechanical nature of removing the Yakima StageTwo from a vehicle is one of the easiest out there for this style of bike rack. Simply remove the hitch pin, unlock and loosen the anti-wobble speed knob, and then slide the rack out. However, if there is one area where the StageTwo falls behind its competitors, it’s with carrying and storage of the rack. Weighing in at about 66 pounds, the Yakima is 10 to 20 pounds heavier than its competitors, which makes lifting and moving the rack a bear. And unlike the Thule T2 Pro XTR, there are no wheels to roll it to the garage or shed.
How Much Does the Yakima StageTwo Weigh?
The Yakima StageTwo weighs 66 pounds, which is about 15 pounds heavier than its closest competitors. For reference, both the Thule T2 Pro XTR and Kuat NV 2.0 tip the scales at 52 pounds. If you leave your rack on all season long, then the extra weight shouldn’t be too much of a concern. However, for those who regularly remove and install their carriers, then it’s important to understand that the Yakima StageTwo is one chunky rack. Having said all that, it’s important to understand that the extra weight of the StageTwo does serve a purpose, as it allows it to carry much heavier loads than its main competitors (more info above).
Key Features of the Yakima StageTwo
As expected for a premium hitch-mounted bike rack, the Yakima StageTwo has a tilt feature that allows access to the back of your SUV, hatchback, or pickup truck. Smartly located at the rearmost area of the rack, the lever is easy to engage whether it’s loaded up with a bike or in the stored position. Having said that–and if I’m being super nitpicky–it isn’t quite as smooth as the Thule T2 Pro XTR, but that’s really splitting hairs. Had I never used the Thule, I’d have nothing to complain about with the Yakima.
Yakima was smart to include three locks with the StageTwo. One is found on the anti-sway mechanism that secures the rack to the receiver, and the other two are located at the end of each ratcheting arm. Yakima also includes two keys, which provides nice peace of mind should you misplace one. The approximately 6mm diameter cables are great for preventing grab-and-go type thieves, but I personally wouldn’t trust them for much longer than a quick coffee or burrito stop. That said, they’re certainly better than nothing and add peace of mind. For longer-term security, Yakima included a giant welded loop on the top of the rack, which you can run a more robust chain lock through.
If there’s one thing that really bothers me about bike racks, it’s any type of unnecessary movement. Thankfully, this is not the case with the Yakima StageTwo. To address side to side motion, Yakima uses an anti-sway knob that, as you turn it, expands a wedge into the receiver hitch and eliminates all movement. I really like the textured perimeter of the knob, which made tightening and loosening it much easier than other models, like the Thule T2 Pro XTR. The knob also doesn’t require any special tools, like the 1UP USA models do, so it’s quick and easy to adjust if need be. Finally, I checked it after a few hundred miles of use and it didn’t come loose one bit, something that’s not always true with competitors. Overall, the anti-sway system is easy to use and works very well on the Yakima StageTwo.
Popular Accessories for the Yakima StageTwo
Yakima RampUp Loading Ramp
A stand-out feature of the Yakima StageTwo is the optional loading ramp, which makes taking heavy e-bikes on and off the rack a breeze. It’s a simple yet effective design that attaches securely into the end tray of the StageTwo. To be candid, I don’t love the idea of needing to carry it around in the back of my car and I wish they had somehow integrated it into the racks itself. However, the convenience of being able to simply roll an e-bike up and down the ramp can’t be understated. I’ll admit that the $95 price tag for the Yakima RampUp does seem a bit steep, but it sure beats trying to use a piece of two-by-four wood.
Yakima StageTwo +2 Add-On
Like many hitch-mounted bike racks, Yakima offers the StageTwo +2 Add-On which increases overall capacity to four bikes. The add-on weighs about 45 pounds, is available in both the darker anthracite and lighter vapor colors to match the main rack, and includes locks in the end of the ratcheting arms. Similar to the main rack, the add-on works with a variety of bikes with wheel sizes ranging from 20 inches to 29 inches and tire widths up to 3.25 inches (the fat bike kit increases width up to 5 inches wide).
Rear Light Kit
I’ve probably logged close to a hundred thousand miles with bikes attached to the back of different vehicles over the years. And while I’ve never been rear-ended, there’s been way too many close calls, especially at night. I think it comes down to the fact that rear racks obscure the brake lights of most vehicles. If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, it might be worth considering Yakima’s SafetyMate light and plate kit. Priced at about $175, it’s certainly not inexpensive, but the alternative of crunched bikes or a rack is definitely a lot more.
Yakima StageTwo Fat Bike Kit
For the fat bikers out there (all 512 of you), Yakima has you covered with their StageTwo Fat Bike Kit. The kit includes 2 extended rear wheel straps (the front ratcheting arm works as is), and fits the following tire sizes: 20 x 4.0 inch, 26 x 5.0 inch, and 27.5 x 4.5 inch. In a pinch, I simply used a Voile ski strap, but if you regularly hit the local fat bike trails then this is a worthwhile accessory.
Issues with the Yakima StageTwo
In terms of broken parts or mechanical failures, the Yakima StageTwo has remained problem free. Which, to be honest, is what I expect from a rack of this caliber (and price). Despite a few thousands miles of rough roads, the paint doesn’t show any signs of chipping, the ratcheting arms still operate smoothly, and there’s no unusual wobbling of any sort. Of course, if this changes as I continue to use and abuse the rack, I’ll be sure to report back.
However, when it comes to fit, there is one minor annoyance that I run into. Unless the Yakima StageTwo is completely lowered, the tailgate on my pickup comes into contact with the front wheel cradle. This isn’t unique to the Yakima–I have this same issue with Thule and Kuat carriers–but it’s a consideration nonetheless. For reference, this was on a 2019 Chevy Colorado. That being said, I’ve already become accustomed to dropping the rack all the way down should I need to get in the back of my pickup, which isn’t a big deal given how easy the tilt feature is to use.
If you ever plan to carry an e-bike, need help loading one, or intend to use the rack on an RV, go with the Yakima StageTwo, but if these things don’t apply to you, then opt for the Thule T2 Pro XTR. The Yakima has a higher max load capacity of 70 pounds per bike (the Thule’s is 60), the optional loading ramp works flawlessly (Thule doesn’t offer a ramp), and it’s RV tested and approved (the Thule is not). Having said that, the Thule’s tilt feature is slightly easier to use, it weighs about 15 pounds less, and the integrated wheels save your back when it’s time to remove and store the rack. In the end, both are amazing hitch-mounted bike racks and the choice may simply come down to your specific needs. See our in-depth review of the Thule T2 Pro XTR.
Yakima StageTwo vs 1UP USA Heavy Duty Double
In terms of build quality and all-out durability, no rack can compare to the 1UP USA Heavy Duty Double. Even after tens of thousands of miles of heavy use, the all-aluminum design shows little to no signs of wear. And I haven’t had a single issue with the rack in general. However, despite its amazing reputation and performance over the years, the Heavy Duty Double falls behind the Yakima StageTwo in terms of ease of use and versatility. The tilt feature is challenging to engage–especially when bikes are loaded–and the ratcheting arms themselves can be a bit finicky at times. And if you want to use it with kids bikes or fat bikes, you must partially disable the rack and move or add spacers. The Yakima StageTwo is also the better e-bike carrier, as it’s rated to haul heavier bikes and has the option of using a loading ramp.
Yakima StageTwo vs Thule EasyFold XT 2
With its high load capacity, easy loading ramp, and user friendly design, the Yakima StageTwo is a standout carrier for e-bikes. Another popular choice with similar features and characteristics is Thule’s EasyFold XT 2. The Thule edges out the Yakima when it’s time to remove and store the rack (it folds up nicely and has wheels for transport), and the loading ramps are built-in instead of a separate accessory. However, that is where the advantages end. The Yakima is about $200 less than the Thule and it has the ability to work with their 2-bike add-on, bringing total capacity to four versus the Thule’s two. And perhaps most importantly, the Yakima’s ratcheting arms do a much better job at securing a wider variety of bikes than the Thule’s frame clamp design. All told, we don’t see a great reason to buy the Thule over the Yakima StageTwo.
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Erik Nilson, founder of Cascade Gear Reviews, boasts a decade-long journey in the outdoor industry. He began his career at REI, excelling in marketing, merchandising, and product development. Later, at Switchback Travel, Erik managed cycling content. With multiple Pro podium finishes in mountain biking, he’s not just an industry expert; he’s an active participant. Whether testing gear, capturing photos, or crafting reviews, Erik’s hands-on approach defines his dedication. Based in Winthrop, WA, he brings experience, expertise, and passion to outdoor gear reviews.
Erik Nilson, founder of Cascade Gear Reviews, boasts a decade-long journey in the outdoor industry. He began his career at REI, excelling in marketing, merchandising, and product development. Later, at Switchback Travel, Erik managed cycling content. With multiple Pro podium finishes in mountain biking, he's not just an industry expert; he's an active participant. Whether testing gear, capturing photos, or crafting reviews, Erik's hands-on approach defines his dedication. Based in Winthrop, WA, he brings experience, expertise, and passion to outdoor gear reviews.
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