Tested: Yakima Gatekeeper

By Justin Walker 20 December 2019
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If you have a ute and a bunch of mountain biking mates, Yakima’s GateKeeper will make you the most popular person out on the trails.

If there were three things that were always meant to be, it’s a dual-cab ute, a pile of mountain bikes in the rear cargo tray, and four or five riders jammed inside. Well, that’s how a lot of ute manufacturers present their vehicles to the burgeoning ‘lifestyle’ market, anyway. Not seen are those expensive bikes getting banged against each other and also taking up a fair chunk of storage space as you try various ways to secure them in the tray.

Once the GateKeeper is attached to the tailgate, loading and securing bikes takes little time.

Yakima’s GateKeeper is a tailgate-based bike storage system that goes a long way to solving those problems. This tailgate pad offers storage for five MTBs in the tray, with plenty of storage space left for other gear as well. The appeal of these tailgate pads is that they keep the bikes down low to ensure fuel economy is not affected (equipment stored on the roof of a vehicle increases wind-resistance and thus means the engine works harder – using more fuel – to keep you moving) while allowing you to fit five bikes. The other attraction is that you don’t have to take a wheel off the bikes for loading if using a tailgate pad.

The GateKeeper’s outer fabric is a tough nylon, with plenty of padding inside. As well as that nylon outer, the underside of the pad that comes in direct contact with the ute includes felt backing (there’s also a stowable flap at the rear which provides easy access to the tray handle, or it can be dropped down to cover it). The whole thing weighs 3.2kg and measures 1346mm long, 432mm tall and 127mm thick. Fitting the GateKeeper 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. Cinch the strap tight through the oversized buckles and the bikes are secured.

The GateKeeper is secured via robust straps and buckles; the tricky part is aligning the Sit-Tight cushion cradles on top at a similar angle to that of the bikes’ downtubes.

The trickiest part of the install is ensuring the bike cradles are aligned with the angle of your bike’s downtube to ensure that part of the frame is protected – not always an easy task as different bikes often have different tube angles. It is the downtube (and the tailgate underneath) that cops 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, it can scratch – or even remove – paint from the downtube and/or the tailgate itself.

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 solves this problem.

Loading a bike can be done by one person 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, the bike isn’t moving.

Two to three bikes are easy to fit to the GateKeeper, and it can fit up to five, although that’s a bit more effort so as to ensure forks and frames don’t bang or scrape against each other.

We tested the GateKeeper with two and three bikes aboard and they fit comfortably. The unit’s five-bike maximum capacity is do-able, but it’s a far closer fit between bikes, with all those forks and wheels across the rear. In this scenario, it’s worth checking each contact point after the bikes are secured and adding padding if needed.

RRP $199 www.yakima.com.au