The Totem Pole concept is a simple one. Hang the bikes on a car rack by the wheel, just as many folks do in their garage. Stack them together, hold them down with a strap and voila.
It seems to work pretty well for casual bikers and family of cyclists with big bikes and kids’ bikes. But will you trust it with your fine carbon steed? Check out our initial impression on it as we mounted some small bike and mountain bikes and we hit some speed bumps and hard corners.
How is it so compact?
Six bikes in less space that it takes to transport four? Yes, the key is the bikes are resting on each other with the front tires. The tires by nature offer natural cushion from any damage. The handlebars are at opposite sides and away from each other in an alternating pattern. Furthermore, the bar to hang the front wheels on is sloped upward. This ensures that the handlebars are at a different height from each other, giving them just enough room to avoid interference. The rear wheels of the bikes and cranks are a little more at risk as there’s nothing holding them in place and they’re free to bang on each other. Special attention needs to be taken to make sure cranks and disk rotors and skewers are not in contact with other frames.
Is Hanging by the wheels safe?
Mountain bike wheels, axles and suspension forks are strong. And although the wheel is not designed to be loaded from the inner rim, folks have been hanging bikes in this manner for ages. A typical bike weighs 30 lbs and that load is quite small compared to the 200 lb. rider who is dropping from a jump. So yes, we think the bike can take being hung from the wheel.
But we may take a couple of exceptions, one is if you have a carbon aero road wheel. These wheels are pricey and not the strongest between on the inside diameter between the spokes. The other exception is if you’re driving to the trailhead through a rocky fire road. We think the wheel is better off not subjected to this type of constant impacts.
We think the key disadvantage is that the bikes are touching each other. If you have a precious $10,000 road bike, look somewhere else. If you have a color-matched, fancy mountain bike and a long, bumpy ride to the trailhead, then this may not be the best for you. The bikes will inevitably touch each other and wrassle a little bit.
If you have a family and have to mount a lot of odd shaped bikes in the fastest way possible, this may be a good solution for you. Loading and unloading six bikes while the kids get restless in a minivan is a painful job so hanging them quickly may make you the family hero of the day.
For high end or enthusiast road bikes, this is not really a good solution unless it is a short trip. The rack is big and bulky and has to be disassembled all the time. And the bikes rest on each other so they will inevitably cause some scratches on long, or rough roads
We’ll continue to update this review as we use it in more situations.