If there were ever three things that were meant to be, it’s a dual-cab 4x4 ute, a pile of mountain bikes in the tub, and four or five riders and all their gear, somehow jammed in.
Well, that’s how a lot of 4x4 ute manufacturers present their vehicles to the ‘lifestyle’ market. Not seen are those expensive bikes getting banged against each other – and against the ute – and them actually taking up a fair chunk of storage space as you try various ways to secure them in the tray.
Yakima’s GateKeeper is a ute tailgate-based bike storage system that goes a long way to solving those problems. This tailgate pad offers secure storage for five MTBs in the tray of your ute, allowing you to still shove a big hardcase and a fridge/freezer up the back for you and your mates’ gear.
The appeal of these tailgate pads is that they keep the bikes down low (not on the roof rack) and also allow you to fit five comfortably – with the actual loading process super-simple. Even better, you don’t have to take a wheel off your bikes to do so, which is always welcome.
The GateKeeper’s exterior utilises a tough nylon material, with plenty of padding inside, and it weighs only 3.2kg and measures 1346mm long, 432mm tall and 127mm thick. The process of fitting the GateKeeper is simple and takes about five minutes; you just drape the pad over the tailgate (with the long side on the outer) and then feed the three straps through the gap between the open tailgate and the tray.
Then cinch the strap tight through the oversized buckles and it ain’t moving. As well as the tough nylon outer, the underside of the pad that comes in direct contact with the ute includes felt backing (there’s a stowable flap at the rear which gives easy access to your ute tray handle, or it can be dropped down to cover it).
The trickiest part of the install is ensuring the bike cradles are aligned with the angle of your bike’s downtube so that part of the bike is protected, which isn’t always easy as the tube angles on bikes can differ.
It is the downtube (and the tailgate underneath) that can cop the most punishment when bikes are loaded without using a pad, owing to tub/bike fore/aft and side-to-side movement. If there’s any grit/dust or other materials between the downtube’s underside and the tailgate lip, both cop a good scratching/sanding and there’s high potential for paint removal.
One thing we’d recommend adding is some form of locking system; as much as the bikes are easy to fit to the GateKeeper, they’re just as easy to remove. A simple cable lock threaded through the bikes will take care of this.
Loading a bike can be done by one person by simply lifting the bike over the tailgate and resting the downtube on the bike cradle, with the front wheel/forks hanging over the side. Then close over the Sit-Tight cushion cradles by looping the padded strap (it’s padded on both sides) through the clip and back over, before closing the Velcro closure. As with the tailgate pad itself, once the closure is cinched tight, your bike isn’t moving.
We tested the GateKeeper with two and three bikes aboard and they fit comfortably. The unit’s five-bike maximum capacity is definitely do-able, but it’s a far closer fit between bikes, with all those forks and wheels across the rear. It would be worth checking each contact point after the bikes are secured and adding in some additional padding, if you think it’s needed.
Ready for the outdoors with 4x4 gear
Available from: www.yakima.com.au
We Say: Robust, easy to fit, needs some type of lock, built to last.