Editor’s Note: This sponsored post is courtesy of Saris. Learn more at www.saris.com.
The Saris SuperClamp EX is undoubtedly a top tier hitch rack with a lengthy feature list. Easy to load and secure. Zero frame contact. Integrated theft-prevention cable locks. Capacity for two bikes or four depending on model. Max per-bike weight of 60 pounds for the 2-bike option (making it e-bike friendly), or 190 total pounds for the 4-bike offering. Exceptionally light at just 35 pounds for the 2-bike version, or 63 pounds for the quad carrier. And it has a tilt-away mechanism so even when the rack is fully loaded, you can still access the rear of your car. Mtbr has been testing the two-bike carrier for about a month now and has been thoroughly impressed with its form and functionality. It’s capably carried all manner of bikes to the trailhead and back.
But viewing the Saris SuperClamp EX through the narrow lens of a basic product review is to miss the true gestalt of this family-owned, Wisconsin-based business. Yes, they make all manner of bike racks, plus loads of other cycling-related goods, including power meters, indoor trainers, and cycling infrastructure under the respective sister brands of PowerTap, CycleOps, and Bike Fixation. And with few (if any) exception, those other products have garnered similar praise as the Saris SuperClamp EX — well designed, durably constructed, fairly priced, easy to use.
That alone would be enough to earn an enthusiastic thumbs up and a buy recommendation. But in this age of conscientious consumerism, good (even great) products aren’t always enough to create competitive separation. Indeed, the best companies are those that produce top product — and also do good, good for their community, good for their employees, and good for the greater world. And that’s where Saris truly stands out.
This union of capitalism and compassion was evident right from the company’s genesis back in 1989 when the husband and wife duo of Sara and Chris Fortune purchased what was then a small bike rack maker called Graber Products, then changed the name to Saris, an amalgamation of the couple’s first names. At the same time, the Fortunes made a commitment to maintaining its Made in the USA manufacturing mantra. That, plus insight from Sara’s father’s business expertise and Chris’ dad’s on-the-ground sales knowledge, provided the foundation to grow and shape the company into what it’s become today.
Back then there were 24 employees. Now there are close to 200, many who have worked there for 15, 20, even 30 years. In 2014, during the company’s 25 years in business celebration, Sara and Chris bought each of their employees a custom 3-speed Electra cruiser bike. Collectively it’s testament to how Saris cares for its employees. But employee appreciation is just part of the Saris business model. For nearly 30 years now, they’ve steadfastly remained committed to local sourcing and manufacturing.
Over 90% of the materials that go into making Saris products (the SuperClamp EX included) come from within 120 miles of Saris world headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. That includes steel suppliers, injection molders, painters, decal printers, tool manufacturers, even corrugated boxes. The end result is a tighter grip on quality control – and just as importantly, local jobs. Instead of shipping jobs overseas, they prefer to ship the world’s best built bicycle racks, is how Chris likes to put it. And Saris has done just that, shipping bike racks to over 60 countries in all corners of the globe.
This intimate hands-on approach gives this company (that’s run out of a Civil War era farmhouse) more control over the things that matter most, such as product integrity and customer service, which is regularly rated as best in class within the cycling industry.
Just as important is Saris’ continual commitment to advocacy at the local, regional, national, and international level. In 2017, for example, Chris and his son traveled to Zambia as part of a World Bicycle Relief delegation with the core mission of using the power of the bicycle to empower people to enhance and improve their lives and living situations.
Saris also puts significant support into local events aimed at getting more butts on bikes, and thus far have helped raise over $1 million for Wisconsin’s leading bicycle advocacy group. The company’s most popular local event, which takes place each summer during Wisconsin’s Bike to Work Week, is called “Bratcakes on the bike path,” a reference to a magically delicious concoction you could only find in Wisconsin: a freshly cooked bratwurst wrapped in a made-from-scratch pancake topped with real maple syrup. The last two years, Saris served over 1000 bratcakes to hungry bike commuters as a way to encourage more trips by bike within the city of Madison, which has an impressive networks of bike paths.
So how does this all relate to the Saris SuperClamp EX or any of their other products? The link lies in their product development process, which is anchored by the tenet of being close to and listening to their customers. By operating in this manner, Saris gleans critical knowledge into what people want and what’s driving overall market trends.
“We engage with our consumers at multiple points during the product development process to validate that we are meeting their needs,” explains Heather Fortune, the company’s director of marketing. “That feedback helps us make better products, because if you watch and talk and listen, you get the information needed to create products consumers will love.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the Saris workforce is filled with cyclists of all types, collectively creating a living laboratory. “As users of our products, we constantly are testing, improving, and tweaking products and product ideas,” adds Fortune. “We make products we want to use, and we use the products we make.”
The Saris SuperClamp EX is a perfect example. Originally brought to market in 2014 as the SuperClamp, its intent was to deliver a lightweight, easy-to-use platform rack with no frame contact on the bike thanks to a design where two bikes share a single horizontal bar and their positioning creates a parallelogram so there is no component conflict.
But while product reception was overwhelmingly positive, some consumers requested that the rack tilt away from their car for easier access. Saris listened and in 2017 the SuperClamp EX was introduced, adding the tilting feature as well as incorporating larger, universal wheel holders to fit a wider range of bikes. It also delivered an aesthetic upgrade and reflectors on the wheel scoops, making it sleeker and more in line with current market trends.
Indeed, with its robust construction, appealing style, and compact design where both bikes are carried on a single bar and dual shepherd’s hooks ensure a truly secure ride without frame contact, the Saris SuperClamp EX is ready to hit the road whether you’re hauling long travel 29er mountain bikes, your prized road racing rig, or even hefty eBikes.
And thanks to the rack’s smooth tilting feature, you’ll never have to unload your bikes just to let out the dog or unload groceries. Add in integrated cable locks, a locking hitch pin that secures the rack to the car, universal wheel trays that hold tires up to 4.0, a universal hitch that works with 1¼” and 2” receivers, a small overall footprint, and built-in bottle opener for post ride libations, and the SuperClamp EX is clear evidence that Saris understands the wants and needs of its consumers. Combine that with an exemplary company ethos and you see the complete picture of what this company stands for: Doing business the right way — and doing it well.
To learn more about the Saris SuperClamp EX and all their bike racks head to www.saris.com.