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bak-rak tow-ball mounted carrier for anything - from bikes to bins

BAK-RAK-YAK the bak-rak Blog

29/05/18 Price of Technology

A customer rang up the other day. He wanted to buy a bike-rak for 99 but was convinced it must be a scam as 'it can't be that cheap'.

We have always been committed to selling our racks at the sort of prices that we think are sensible. We often cannot believe the prices being charged by our competitors. However their customers seem to be quite happy to pay the prices asked.

We offer most of our products on eBay and Amazon and for certain niche products such as the Swan to flange converter this works out very well. Amazon can offer items like this across Europe which would be a headache process for us. The prices we pitch on Amazon and eBay typically include postage and the overall package is slightly more expensive than on our website.

So are we getting our pricing wrong? We don't make a fortune doing it the way we are, but equally we don't have the hassle of selling through the big players such as Halfords etc who demand large volumes, leaving us to pay for the financing of the and if they don't sell them they feel free to dump them back onto the manufacturer.

Interestingly having dealt with one of the large middleman operations our advice there is that our manufacturing cost should be 25% of the ultimate sale cost on which basis our prices would need to rise significantly.

We heard an interesting story from a large manufacturer of roof boxes. They chose to sell through Argos who have a no quibble return policy. They were horrified to find that 50% of the boxes were returned all of them having been used. Clearly customers were buying the box, using for their holiday and then returning it for a full refund. Lesson be aware of Argos customers!

With help from Wilmond we intend to go on offering the competitive pricing we have in the past but would be interested in feedback from customers on whether they think are value offering is too good to be true!


1/11/17 Bak-rak is for sale .... Sort of!

I started bak-rak 27 years ago when my daughters were toddlers and I needed some way to transport all the toddler stuff - push chairs, cots etc.

It seemed obvious to me that to mount a carrier on the towball would provide lots of space. So having designed and built stuff all my life it was a straightforward process to make up a carrier.

I have spent my engineering life designing everything from battle tanks to intranets - so a towball carrier was dead easy. It rapidly moved on to the current patented mount to cope with swan-neck towballs.

From this start we moved on to the current range of products - mostly developed to meet  needs that customers told us about.

The current operation works with me at the centre, designing and organising production at UK sub-contractors, the castings come from China and all the real work is being done by Paul and his colleagues at Wilmond, who warehouse, pack, assemble and send the full range as well as doing all the card transactions.

I am now of an age where all my friends have retired and every now and then one of them falls by the wayside. I have no desire to retire - I have no interest in golf, though my #1 interests of skiing and tennis have both been knobbled by my knees! However I would be happy to take a back-seat and transfer what I do to someone younger as there is lots more potential in the business than I have chosen to develop (sales and exhibitions are not my line). In the ideal world bak-rak would be absorbed by a similar manufacturing operation to offer economies of scale which our small operation cannot access.

So if there is anyone out there to whom this is of interest then get in touch.

16/9/17 Basket rak is no more

Bad news. We cannot find any company prepared to make the basket-rak at a sensible price.

14/6/17 Basket rak is no more

Bad news. We cannot find any company prepared to make the basket-rak at a sensible price.

We even got a far as buying a large pack of the mesh to free issue it. But no-one was interested in making it for a price which we could sell at.

We will go on looking for a manufacturer - but meanwhile we have had to scrap all the mesh panels.

11/4/17 Slow ship from China

We have another batch of castings on the way from China. God news.. but the ship seems to be an all stops calling at most places in SE Asia before it heads for UK.

We didn't even recognise some of the calls - to odd islands and 5 on the Chinese mainland. Not to mention 3 around Singapore , Sri Lanka etc.

Happy to say it is now on its way.

1/11/16 Prices damn prices

Sorry sorry sorry.

Our prices are going up.

Brexit and the plummeting pound is a part of the problem. All our Chinese parts in particular  the castings that go into most racks are now 20% more expensive. The jokers who talk about businesses absorbing the increase clearly don't work in the real world!

In parallel the cost of steel has rocketed, and all of our contractors are getting more expensive. When you are a small company with limited production quantities you end up grateful to find companies prepared to make your parts. We fantasize about having a production facility of our own where we could whittle the prices down to what we think we should be paying.

1/4/15 . The basket-rak family has more babies

When we introduced the Basket-rak the intention was to make a whole family of lighter weight raks around a central spine. The first introduction was the basket-rak itself with two halves of mesh basket mounting onto the spine. We followed this with a bike rak fitment supporting our standard roof-rack bike racks which we buy in. This wasn't wholly successful as with three bikes and someone resting on one side it could bend the spine arms.

We have now introduced a universal frame which supports both bikes and the box and because it runs across the spine is now tough enough to stand up to almost any abuse. This means that those who buy (or have bought) a basket-rak can now convert it to take boxes or bikes as well.

As a further step we use the spine unit as the central support for the Spare-Wheel-Rak so this too can swap from basket to wheel to bikes or a box.

So now we boast three groups of racks - with most parts interchangeable between them - the base-rak family, the bole rak family and the basket-rak family.

11/2/14 . Security for the system

In the early days we fitted the outer casting with a thread for a lock system. But no-one ever purchased it so we now offer a replacement socket head bolt and key to clamp on the mount. We can also offer a combination lock 1.5 metre cable lock which will keep casual thieves at bay. A pair of bolt croppers will remove it - so our suggestion if you have anything particularly valuable is to use a top-end cable lock and to replace the clamp bolt with a wheel-nut bolt in M12 with its own key.

30/12/13 . Growing upward - the pole-rak and its brethren - ski and bike-rak and surfboard-rak and canoe-rak and tandem-rak

We introduced a ski-rak last year - based around a high strength aluminium pole and stainless fittings.

We have now moved this to a different level with the central pole having a range of fittings that will take virtually anything including our basket-raks, base-raks and anything else clamped to the pole.

To be honest we have not yet set one up with tandems - but our basic design will carry at least two tandems, so we are waiting for the next customer request for a tandem rack so we can refine the details.




02/02/13 Skirak pole will sprout a bike rack.. then a surf rack

We have done the tests and proved that the skirak pole is strong enough to take a 5 bike rack. So the next step is to get a twin arm rack designed to fit onto the pole. It will have two separate arms which will form the basis for a surfboard and short canoe rack for the summer. Like the skirak it won't sell in big quantities but another component in our super-flexible range.

29/01/2013 Another Delivery of Castings

Got a batch of 1000 castings from a different Chinese supplier - they managed to get over 50% of the outers too small. So we are now 'in discussion about a replacement batch. Determined to move the casting back to the UK.. but because investment casting is so labour intensive the cost looked too much last time we looked. Have to try again!

 29/05/2012 A delivery of Castings arrives from China

Finally got the batch of outer castings we have been waiting for for six months. Usual Chinese incompetence. Told the pallet shipped on a boat called Uranus and we could not find any record of it. Turns out that this is because this is its maiden voyage and it was only launched in March this year. Biggest boat and probably least attractive you are likely to see.


28/11/2011 bak-rak huge box for the base-rak

We still keep hunting for a much bigger box to fit onto a base-rak. Something that will swallow all the lightweight stuff in a camper van. We have been investigating large tanks as used in process industries. Tanks like this one are available in multiple colours and with and without casters. - sizes are 350 or 455 litres - seriously huge! Unfortunately the lid just rests in position and we are unlikely to sell enough to get a decent deal for delivery - so we will have to leave customers who want to go down this line to sort their own products. Look in base-rak boxes for supplier details.




10/4/2012 bak-rak a new vehicle step

We are working on a new step-rak for the back of vans and 4X4's. As you have come to expect from bak-rak the new rak will have some interesting innovations. The most important is that it will spring up out of the way if you reverse it into something.. A much used innovation to judge by most van steps!

27/10/2011 bak-rak can mean different things to different people

Chatting to a mate who works in PR and he offered to send us a couple of photos he thought might make good advertising for bak-rak. We think he may have misspelt bak-rak to get here.

We will  leave you to decide whether they would make a good advert for a towball carrier!!




7/9/2011 Chinese don't do lasering

One of the reasons we found the Chinese quality was never right is because they do not generally laser cut the steel profiles that go into a bak-rak. In China the general process involves making up stamping tools and then using a large press to stamp out the steel profile. This is up to 12mm thick plate. Stamping done well can hold dimensions to around half a millimetre - but this goes off as tools wear. And holes generally have to be oversize to allow for tool wear. The laser cutting we use now for UK manufacture will hold dimensions to around a tenth of a millimetre and this stays constant on all batches. The latest lasers will cut thicknesses up to 20mm.

1/8/2011 Price is not always right

The bak-rak system was originally made in China. But we got fed up with the mediocre quality control and huge batch sizes, so took the decision to move most of our production back to the UK. The prices went up as a result.. but we are supporting UK manufacturing and the products are better- and allow us to improve them on an ongoing basis.

The exception to this is the base clam and outer castings. for which we own moulds in China and the investment casting process is very labour intensive - so the Chinese cost advantage is huge. Unfortunately the cost of these parts has nearly tripled since we started and the batch we are just ordering are even more expensive. We have chosen to swallow the cost increases on the majority of our kit as the castings are not a major proportion. However the uni-rak is exceptional as the castings are the major part. so the price of that has had to go up to cover the new batch of castings... sorry!!!

4/7/2011 Dogs Away200x200_fitbox-small_3.jpg

For several years we have been selling our base-raks to John Ginnel in Ireland. He makes a fine glass-fibre dog box that sits on the base giving a good way to carry a couple of gun-dogs. We have tried to interest our British customers in the dog box at around 400 it is cheaper than most European contenders - but to no avail.

We recently got a flier from one of our Spanish competitors - Urbeni who do the dog box you see on the right .

This sells for around 700 and obviously has a following in Spain.

Our Greek agent also does his own dog box for the base - this is plywood and flat packed. This sells for around 200 and is also a good seller.

Do all these European countries have a different view of dogs? We suspect there is a market for a dog box in UK - just needs to be to the right hunting, shooting fraternity who use dogs. Would you put dirty gun dogs n the back of your white leather fitted Range Rover.. probably not!


20/6/2011 Competitors are NOT Beating us .. yet!

Since we invented bak-rak, some of our competitors have been busy. However we are sure that none of them offers the same flexibility of operation or modular range of accessories. We would, grudgingly, admit that some of them are better looking than a bak-rak. We think..... designed by stylists - not engineers.

We like the look of the Thule Easybase - but it is powder coated mild steel and only carries 60kg  for the same price as our stainless steel G4 base-rack that carries 130kg.  Their box is very big (it can be mounted onto a base-rak) but at 270 it needs to be magic!  Funnily enough the Thule Easybase saw the light of day the year after lots of Thule engineers spent an age on our stand at Automechanika show in Germany. Was that a coincidence?

The Westfalia Portillo is a bike rack that also mounts a box - but the bike rack is 239 plus 280 for the box it is in a different cost realm to any bak-rak kit. With a carrying capability of 45kg it doesn't seem like good value to us.

But we are biased so go and look at their web sites and make up your own mind!

16/6/2011 Segways are go

Segway is a personal transporter with two wheels and a gyroscopic stabilisation system.

Last week we were in the Lake District and took the opportunity to visit one of our customers, Rob at Lakeland Segway (http://www.lakelandsegway.co.uk)who uses bak-rak to transport his Segways. We took Rob's introductory tour and had the most fantastic fun. The girls were very doubtful to start with - but they loved it too. To go forward you just lean forward to stop or reverse - lean back to turn lean sideways. An incredibly intuitive control system that you learn in seconds. Great value too at 35 per head - but a Segway for 5000 is not cheap.. Would still like one!!  .. Isn't technology wonderful!!


1/6/2011 Chasing the Technology

Social Media.. Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter .. We are starting to get bak-rak properly onto all of these. So we can get our message out to our many supporters. And we now have a QR code for those of you who use such things . Admire this !!! For those of you who do not follow such things the QR code can be viewed with a mobile phone camera and with the right free 'APP' translates into all our contact details which you can then text to yourself or anyone else. Expect to see more of them around. With the wonders of Google a further APP allows you to find local prices for a QR coded product to see if the offer you are looking at is worth buying.. Isn't technology wonderful!!



18/5/2011 Dogs don't like to be left out.

We have just introduced the new collar system that will allow the raks to be fitted without using a spanner. Taking the pictures of the parts, as usual involved placing the bits on our office floor and out with the camera. But our retriever puppy Florrie was not sure of the new parts in the area she looks on as her empire. You will see from the attached photo her desire for an imvolvement.


14/5/2011 . Boxing battles with suppliers

We continue to battle to get a decent option for an aluminium box. We can either find big, beautiful and expensive which sums up the US made box we have offered for the past couple of years. Or smaller than the optimum - typically 500 deep and 500 wide but with a more approachable price.

The plastic box we offer is robust and well designed - but doesn't offer as much space as many people would like.

So we go on hunting while offering the current range - but even then we struggle for delivery - the US box is not available for another 5 weeks ..."awaiting a shipment" .

The box we are now offering is a reasonable compromise. 1200 + wide but 500 square section for 149 is about as good as we can manage. Made by the Chinese though!

















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