Fits up to four bikes / Lockable / Rubber clamps / Leaves lights and number plate uncovered / Third and fourth bike adaptor £35.88.
Contact: Thule UK, tel 01275 340404,

Crew-cab vans and MPVs are all very well, but pack in more than a couple of people, combined with bikes and luggage, and even the most spacious load-lugger begins to feel a little like a Colombian prison. Thule’s solution comes in the form of the tailgate-mounted BackPac 973.
The BackPac is attached with tailgate hooks that evenly spread the load and rubber pads keep your paintwork intact. The instructions are Ikea-simple and we soon had it bolted securely to our MK1 Mercedes Vito. The same fitting kit also works with vehicles such as Ford’s Mondeo estate, Galaxy MPV, and Maverick SUV, along with Audi’s A4 estate and Jeep’s Grand Cherokee. Alternative fitting kits allow installation on many other estates, MPVs and hatchbacks.
The standard BackPac is designed to carry two bikes but we also tried out the three and four-bike adaptors. Each bike sits in a trough — adjustable for varying wheelbases — and the wheels are strapped down at either end. A clamping arm hinges upwards to meet a convenient part of the bike’s frame, be it top tube, seat tube or down tube, and the clamp is tightened by a large plastic knob with integrated lock.
It’s a simple but very effective system that works with a variety of frame designs and keeps the bike 90 per cent movement-free. Two bikes fitted with ease, but try as we might, we couldn’t get the third to work. We found the spacing between the troughs caused the fork and dropouts to foul, making it impossible for the clamp arm to reach the frame.
Increased gutter spacing could have solved this problem. We’d also like to see a bend in the longer clamping arms so they can be run over the top tube of the bike closest to the tailgate, instead of threaded through the frames. Finally, the wheel straps are a bit on the short and weedy side — we ended up swapping them for toestraps.