Pricey but simple, quick and well designed
The Saris Gran Fondo is a very fine rear mounted rack for taking your posh bike to the sportive or crit. If you have a big stable of disparate bikes then it might not be the right choice, but as an easy-to-fit solution to carrying your good bike it's a well-thought-out, if fairly expensive, option.
The Gran Fondo comes in bits and putting it together is simple and takes about 10 minutes. When you're done you'll have an alloy frame with a standard six-strap harness to fit on the tailgate of your motor. The Gran Fondo will fit most cars easily and you can swap the hooked straps for toggled ones that sit inside the tailgate if the hooks won't grab or you're worried about your paintwork. The four big rubber feet are very kind on paintwork and rear windscreens and spread the load well.
The bike mounting system, however, is nothing like the standard two-prong approach. There are two half-moon front wheel holders at the top and smaller rear wheel mounts at the bottom; you lob the front wheel in and the holder keeps the whole bike hanging nice and securely. There's a ratchet strap on both wheels to stop your pride and joy ghost riding off the back of your car.
The main benefits of this approach are that the bikes aren't obscuring the number plate or the rear light clusters, so there's no need to carry a light board. You also get markedly better rear vision when you're driving. And, most importantly, it looks really Pro.
Once I'd fitted the Gran Fondo and set off on a 200-mile cross-country jaunt, the process with this rack was the same as it is with any other: set off cautiously, convinced the rack/bike is going to fall off every time it moves at all; stop to tighten the straps; eventually forget about it and proceed as normal. There's a bit of side-to-side movement of the bikes on the rack but they're well held and you soon relax. Obviously, the straps are just webbing and easily cut, so the rack isn't thief-proof; I wouldn't leave bikes on any rear-mounted rack while I was out of sight of the car at a service station or whatever, and the Gran Fondo is no exception.
The half-moon wheel cups are adjustable, with two settings. There's a standard wheel size for 700c bikes and 26in mountain bikes and a bigger one for 29ers. There's a limit to what you can carry though. You can usually find a way to carry an odd-shaped bike (kid's bike, BMX, tandem, etc) on a two-prong rack but you'll be stuck with the Gran Fondo. Similarly, if you've bikes with mudguards then this isn't the rack for you; the wheel holders are designed to grab the tyre and mudguards just get in the way or get bent. Also, you're limited to two bikes. there's no sneaking another one on.
Assuming you have specific needs (standard bikes with no mudguards, carried in style) and plenty of cash, the Gran Fondo is certainly worth looking at. You can get a roof-mounted system for similar money – and that'll look *really* Pro – but the Saris scores on being super-simple to fit and remove and easy to use, although it's not as secure as roof bars and a lockable carrier. If you're worried about clamping your expensive frame then this approach doesn't really put stress on any part of the bike.
£250 is a lot for a rear mounted carrier, but if you're moving a couple of expensive bikes about then the Gran Fondo is simple and quick to fit and well designed for the job. It's not as versatile as a two-prong rack or as secure as a roof carrier, but it's definitely worth a look.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Saris Gran Fondo bike rack
Size tested: n/a
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? A bit spendy for me probably, and some of my bikes have mudguards
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track