When I was shopping for a hitch-mounted bike rack years ago, I just couldn’t fathom spending $1,000 or more on one. Don’t get me wrong – my bike’s safety is just as important to me as the next guy. But some of the racks out there have gone a bit overboard with their designs.
I managed to find a 4-bike platform rack for the price of a 2-bike rack from the other companies… and no one seems to talk about it. That rack is the Hollywood Sport Rider SE4.
Allow me to start with some of my credentials when it comes to bicycles. Although I’m a car guy through and through, my first passion was actually mountain biking. I started when I was a kid and raced Downhill in the Ontario Cup series during my teenage years.
I even managed to pick up a few sponsors back then too. At the time I was also working at a local bike shop where I built and maintained every type of bike you could imagine.
Nowadays, mountain biking has become more of a side hobby for me. I still try to get out to the trails as often as I can. I personally built my current bikes from the ground up starting with just a bare frame and as with everything else, I focused a lot on all of the little details. It’s safe to say that I have experience on both the car side and the bike side of a trailer hitch.
Comparing Hollywood bike racks to others
When I was shopping for a new rack, my biggest concern of course was the safety of my bikes. Having one of them fall off while flying down the highway is absolutely unacceptable. This meant that a sturdy design was more important than any other features. I can live with a heavy weight or difficult mounting system. Just. Don’t. Fall. Off.
At the time, 1up USA, Kuat, and North Shore racks were all the rage. They’re certainly nice, but again, we aren’t dealing with rocket science here. I’m not looking for fancy materials, flashy colors, and over-engineered ratchet systems. I just need to stick my bike to my 4runner and have it not fall off.
I briefly thought about getting a less expensive 2-bike rack from one of these companies, but that would limit the number of buddies I could bring with me on adventures. In this case, I’d rather have it and not need it rather than the opposite.
After hours of research, I finally found a user on the MTBR.com forums mention the Hollywood Sport Rider. He posted a few photos of it mounted to his Chevy Tahoe and said that it was surprisingly good quality given the price.
I was unable to find much info about the rack other than this forum post and etrailer.com. It seemed to have a solid design with some nice features though, so I decided to take the plunge and find out for myself. Now, roughly 7 years later, I’m glad I did.
For more details on the 4runner used in this review, check out the feature article here:
Hollywood HR1400 Sport Rider 4 Review
The Hollywood Sport Rider SE4 is essentially a 2 piece rack. It starts as a 2-bike rack and you plug the other 2-bike extension into it if you need it. It’s really like having 2 racks in one. I love this modular design because I do most of my riding solo and having a full 4-bike rack on my vehicle isn’t always necessary.
This rack works with 2” hitch receivers only. Given the weight of the full rack combined with the payload it can hold, I wouldn’t trust it with a smaller hitch anyway.
Bikes are held firmly by the top of the frame with clamped hooks. Velcro straps hold the wheels in the trays as a secondary measure. These two systems ensure that your bike will still be there when you arrive at the trailhead.
It’s rated to hold up to 50 lbs per bike and has a maximum tire width of 3”. In its longest, 4-bike format it extends out about 43” from the hitch.
Assembly and Build Quality
I ordered the Hollywood rack from Amazon and it arrived just as expected. Some assembly is required, but it’s manageable with basic hand tools. The instructions weren’t great but I was able to figure out how it went together without too many problems.
This rack is constructed of fairly thick steel which adds to its burly feel, but also its weight. It’s finished in a satin black powder coat rather than paint. The support hooks that contact the frame of your bike are wrapped in foam and the wheels are held snug with high-quality velcro straps. The locking hitch pin and cable lock are all black, adding to the rack’s sleek appearance.
Mounting to the Vehicle
The way the Sport Rider mounts to your vehicle is one of my favorite features of this rack. It uses a patented “No Wobble, no tools” tightening system that was designed to take as much slack out of the rack as possible. I find it works very, very well.
A long, threaded rod runs through the center of the rack and pushes firmly up against the pin in the hitch by tightening the handle. The rack itself also has sort of a flange around the base that butts up against the face of your hitch. When installed correctly, this system makes the connection to your vehicle rock solid.
Having a bike rack swing and rattle around behind a vehicle is a pet peeve of mine. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical of how well Hollywood’s system would work, but it really does do a great job of keeping things tight.
Loading your bikes for the first time will require some extra work. The wheel trays need to be adjusted to fit the wheelbase of each bike. This can be a bit frustrating, but you’ll get the hang of it eventually.
Once you have them dialed in, loading and unloading bikes is an absolute breeze. The good news is that you’ll never have to adjust the trays again as long as you’re using the same bikes in the same locations.
When traveling alone, I usually put my bike in the outermost position. I can load it or unload it easily in under 30 seconds. I suppose other systems like 1up’s might be even easier, but I don’t have any issue with this design at all.
Before I bring the bike over, I set the rack into position, raise the hook and undo the velcro straps. Next, I toss the bike into the wheel trays and slide the hook down onto the frame. After tightening the velcro straps, I give the hook one more firm press to make sure everything is tight.
(Maybe it’s a force of habit, but I ALWAYS grab the handlebar of the bike and give it a wiggle before I drive away).
This is even quicker and easier than loading the bike. I simply rip the velcro straps free, raise the hook and grab the bike. That’s all there is to it.
You can load a wide variety of bikes on this rack thanks to its adjustable wheel trays. Road bikes, children’s bikes, and heavy downhill bikes all fit fine without a problem.
If I had to come up with any real downsides to the Hollywood Sport Rider, it would be its weight. This thing is a tank. I actually prefer it this way though. It gives me peace of mind knowing it’s overbuilt for my 30 lb mountain bike. I’ll take a burly steel rack over a lightweight yet flimsy aluminum one any time.
I could see the weight being an issue for smaller, weaker people. It can be a bit awkward to carry and mount to the hitch even when split up into separate 2-bike pieces. Hollywood actually sells a rolling dolly if you’re not exactly the squats-and-deadlifts type. Your neighbors will probably judge you for using it though.
|Hollywood Sport Rider SE4
|KUAT NV 2.0
|1UP USA Heavy Duty
|Thule T2 Pro XTR
|Max bike weight
|Max tire width
Hollywood didn’t have to include any locks with this rack, but they did anyway. Not only do they give you a locking hitch pin to lock the rack to your vehicle, but they also send a 9’ cable lock to secure your bikes to your rack. Both locks use the same key, which is nice.
I eventually chose to upgrade the hitch lock to this one from BOLT. It allows you to reuse your ignition key from your truck rather than add an extra key to your ring.
These locks aren’t 100% theft-proof, but they do a fantastic job of keeping the honest people honest. They create enough of a hassle that anyone other than a hardcore bike thief will see it and move on to an easier target.
I have no problem with leaving my bike on the rack and running into a store or even leaving it out for a prolonged period of time if it’s still somewhat in my view.
Durability After 7 Years
This review isn’t a result of me borrowing a rack for a week to test it out. I bought this thing 7 years ago. Not only do I have no regrets, but I would recommend it to anybody looking for a rack like this. So how’s it holding up?
Functionally, it’s flawless. It works exactly the same as it did the day I got it. The velcro straps are still just as sticky. The foam padding on the hooks is still there. And most importantly, there’s still zero play in the hitch. Yes, it’s heavy. But it’s built to last.
Cosmetically, it does show a bit of wear. Nothing major though. The threaded rod and joints show slight signs of rust. Not rotten at all, just stained. I believe any steel rack that gets dirty and sits out in the rain will suffer from this, so I don’t fault Hollywood. It’s just the nature of the beast.
Overall, I’d say the powder coat has held up pretty well. The main rack is the one I use all summer long while the 2 bike extension sits in my garage. As you can see in the photos, there’s no noticeable fading in the black powder coat in comparison to the garage-kept portion.
Removal and Storage
Aside from its weight, the Sport Rider SE4 is relatively easy to remove and stash out of the way. Just flip it up, loosen the handle on the threaded rod and unlock the hitch pin. It does, however, take up a good amount of ground space. I usually find it easier to just leave it attached to my 4runner when I’m not using it.
It can also be tilted down in order to gain access to your hatch. This is difficult for one person to do, especially with bikes loaded. For that reason, I’ve never really used this feature.
Off Road Testing
Most bike rack manufacturers will tell you that their racks are not intended for off-road use. I would assume that’s because of the increased chance of damage from vibrations or impacts on a trail.
The thing is, mountain biking is an off-road sport. Most of the time, the parking lot or trailhead is unpaved and in some cases requires some off-road driving to access it. This is the real world scenario, and I like to do real world testing! So I loaded my rack up with 4 bikes and took it for some (rather lame) off-roading.
It’s worth noting that the amount of movement with this rack is different depending on whether you’re using the whole thing or just the 2 bike setup. Loading the extra bikes adds leverage to everything and causes a bit more sway, but I think that would be the case with most 4 bike racks.
I’ve seen bikes wiggle around on the expensive racks too. With a single bike loaded on the 2 bike setup, the rack and bike are rock solid.
First, I wanted to test the ground clearance. When it’s set up in the 4 bike configuration, it hangs quite a ways out behind your bumper. Having something extend that far out from your vehicle can be a problem when you’re dealing with steep inclines.
I’m happy to report that I was able to make it over every obstacle that I would have without the rack, including a steep, sandy hill climb and a whoop section. Keep in mind though, that my 4runner is lifted 2″ in the rear and has 33″ tires. The results of this will certainly be different on a lower vehicle like a minivan.
Next, I decided to head down a rough, dirt road and see how much movement I noticed. While the bikes did wiggle around a bit during my slow speed off-road testing, I was surprised to see how sturdy they were on a dirt road at speed. I kept it at 70-80 km/h even over some rougher washboard sections and the bikes were totally happy.
Once again, we have to remember that my 4runner isn’t exactly the average soccer mom mobile. It has Fox suspension and tires with tall sidewalls that help to cushion hard impacts. On the other hand, I had the tires inflated to 40psi which is WAY too hard for off-road use. In this instance, it’s probably safe to say the high tire pressure negated the bump absorption of the Fox suspension.
Despite me driving around and having fun off-road, I never once had to tighten a bike or the rack itself down. And believe me, I checked. That white bike is a full figured gal, and would have no problem pushing a weaker rack to failure on its own without the help of the 3 other bikes!
Hollywood’s Sport Rider is hard to beat in terms of value. This is a sturdy, well built, 4-bike rack that comes in closer to the price of a 2-bike rack from the popular companies. It features strong construction, no wobble, and a really easy to use loading system. It also has a lifetime warranty!
The Ideal Buyer
I think the ideal buyer for this rack is someone that’s concerned more with function over form. You won’t have the fanciest looking rack in the parking lot. The stealth, all black look makes it much less noticeable.
People that don’t mind handling the rack’s weight will really enjoy its features. If you’re looking to save some money but don’t want to sacrifice the safety of your bikes, this is without a doubt the rack for you.
So why isn’t it more popular? Up until the post I found on MTBR, I had never even heard of it. Maybe it looks too similar to other flimsier racks in pictures. Or maybe Hollywood’s marketing department didn’t put much effort into getting the word out.
Whatever the reason may be, this rack is a performer. Don’t write it off as “cheap” because of its lower price. I took a chance on it and was blown away by its quality.
I doubt you’ll be able to find another rack that’s built this strong and holds 4 bikes this securely at this price. Hollywood did a great job of focusing on the details and features that matter rather than adding unnecessary gimmicks. Sometimes a simple design is the most appealing and this is definitely the case.
Things to look for in a bike rack:
How it mounts to your vehicle
Roof-mounted racks shouldn’t touch your paint but will be difficult to access on taller vehicles such as SUVs. Racks that strap to your trunk lid or hatch will certainly scratch your paint and should be avoided. In my opinion, a rack that mounts to your trailer hitch is the best option.
How it holds your bikes
Some racks require you to remove your front wheel to load your bike. This adds more time spent in the parking lot, rather than enjoying yourself on the trail.
Some racks will only hold the bikes from the top of the frame, allowing them to hang down. While these are less expensive, they allow the potential for damage. Not only can the bikes swing and hit each other, but the wind can actually make the rear wheel spin backward which causes your pedal to slam into the other bikes or the rear of your car.
Lightweight, aluminum racks are great if you can afford them. If you’re trying to save money, make sure your rack of choice is built with heavier steel. It’ll be a pain to lug around, but if you can trust it to hold your bikes safely.
Most reputable bike rack manufacturers will stand behind their products by offering a good warranty. If the rack you’re considering has a very short-term warranty or none at all, you might want to keep shopping.
Ease of use
Nobody wants to spend more time setting their bike racks up than they do riding. Excessive ratcheting, adjusting, and removing parts from your bike is a waste of time. Find a rack that you feel is easy to use whether you’re alone or have the help of friends. A bike rack that requires 4 hands to use isn’t much help when you only have 2!
What are the benefits of a hitch-mounted platform rack?
- No decrease in fuel economy unlike a roof-mounted bike rack
- Some racks require you to remove your front wheel. This is not the case with a platform rack.
- Bikes are unable to swing and hit each other unlike other hitch mounted racks that only hold the bikes from the top of the frame
- Racks that strap to the back of your vehicle will scratch your paint and window glass, and can even bend the edges of your trunk lid. A platform-style rack won’t contact any part of your vehicle other than your trailer hitch
- Tailgate pads for pickup trucks are simple but have a high risk of scratching both the tailgate and the frame of the bike
If you feel that your bike rack of choice is better than this Hollywood Sport Rider 4, I’d like to see it. Tag me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or leave a comment below with your favorite rack and why it’s awesome. See ya on the trail!
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: