HUNTER Cow Catcher Stem Rack, First Look
We had a chance to take a long look at Hunter Cycles’ new Cow Catcher Stem Rack. Built specifically for the PAUL Boxcar stem, this lightweight rack is designed to carry gear at the handlebars and avoid frame and cable interference. Here are the details, loads of photos, and a Q and A with Rick Hunter about this innovative carrying system…
Following last week’s, Inside Hunter Cycles feature, we take a long look at a specific product in HUNTER’s lineup of “smalls”—The Cow Catcher Stem Rack. If you’ve bikepacked with a handlebar roll bag or harness before, you’re well aware of the tribulations that can arise with these types of bags: straps rubbing off paint—or through carbon—as well as interference with brake and shifter cables. In addition, the strap systems that connect a bag or harness to the bars often interfere with other bags and take up valuable real estate that could otherwise be used for lights or other gadgets.
Mad scientist and master gear carrying system creator Rick Hunter came up with an elegant solution to solve all of these issues. The Cow Catcher Stem Rack was designed in collaboration with PAUL Components to work with PAUL’s machined in America 2024 aluminum Boxcar stem. It effectively clamps onto the stem via a custom faceplate and provides a bent-L-shaped platform to strap a dry bag, tent, or combination of items. It also has a couple other tricks. Here are the details.
The HUNTER Cow Catcher Stem Rack is made of 4130 Chromoly steel rack tubing, a small steel plate, and comes with an aluminum PAUL faceplate that clamps directly onto the Boxcar stem. This allows the Cow Catcher to connect to front the bike independently of the handlebars. It also features two pairs of braze-ons for clamping bottle cages or other custom bags, boxes, or attachments.
The Cow Catcher comes in two versions—the Day Rider (small) and Tour (large, with a hinged lower shelf). The Day Rider weighs 180 grams and the two-piece Tour model tips the scales at 320 grams, not including the PAUL faceplate. They’re priced at $175/$250, which includes the PAUL faceplate. Here’s a Q&A with Rick about the rack and its development, followed by my initial impressions…
When and why did you first come up with the idea for a stem clamp mounted rack?
Not sure; I probably thought about something like it a long time ago. I’ve been working on the actual product now for three or four years.
How many iterations/prototypes have you made and tested?
Dozens. There have been a lot of different shapes and attachment points, just to try things out and see how everything fits and works.
Why did you decide to make it two pieces with a hinge (vs. a single welded rack)?
The two pieces will make it more versatile with the ability to use it with or without the lower shelf. It will also pack up smaller as the lower shelf can fold flat. The smaller Day Rider rack doesn’t have a lower shelf at all.
Any idea what the load weight limit is? What’s the heaviest or weirdest things you’ve carried in one?
Twenty pounds is the limit, which is actually really heavy. There’s no way you would want to ride around with that much weight on your bars. The racks are primarily designed for mountain bikes and trail bikes with short stems and flat or riser bars. I’d say 5-10 lbs is the sweet spot and about as much as any bikepacker would want to carry. These will not replace a traditional front rack, but they will work great on bikes with suspension forks and for lighter backcountry set ups.
I’ve tested it with a bear can filled with gear and food. Other people have used them for rafts and trail tools. They are ideal for a normal 10-15L dry bag. Two [Voilé] straps and you’re out the door with no swaying, no rubbing, and the cables clear everything.
The two sets of braze-ons can be used for two water bottle cages, correct? Any other attachment ideas?
There are four threaded bosses on each model. They work as attachments for water bottles or spots to bolt a dedicated bag or tupperware box. These will also work for light mounts, number plates, etc. The racks hopefully encourage a DIY approach from people. Thats the beauty of them in my opinion, you don’t actually need a special bag or kit, they are adaptable to lots of uses.
The Cow Catcher isn’t yet for sale or on preorder, correct? How can folks be notified when they are available?
I’m taking my sweet time getting them done. I have 50 Paul Component faceplates ready to go for them. I’ve been taking names and have a decent list started for them. Please email me if you’re interested. I’ll see how the first 50 work out and take it from there.
For the last couple of years I’ve been hoping that a solution such as the Cow Catcher would emerge. There are a few products currently on the market that solve some of the common handlebar bag woes—namely cable interference and headtube rub/wear. Salsa’s Anything Cradle, the Rockgeist Barjam, and Blackburn’s relatively new Outpost Elite Handlebar Roll all use clamping hardware to put the load away from the bars and provide wiggle room for cables. However, they take up valuable real estate on the handlebar and each have their own set of quirks–the Anything Cradle doesn’t have lower support, which, in my experience can cause bags to eject on really rough trails if not strapped down extremely carefully. And the Blackburn Elite requires additional straps on the handlebar and weighs a whopping 795g.
The Hunter Cow Catcher stem rack is an elegant, well built, innovative solution that addresses all the issues that come with a typical handlebar roll bag or harness. And, it does so without a weight penalty. When comparing it to the popular size medium Revelate Sweetroll (436g) and the Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack (426g), the Cow Catcher actually weighs 116/106 grams less, respectively. That said, once the weight of a dry bag and straps are factored in, they’re comparable.
A few armchair complaints might arise, such as the price ($250), the required Boxcar Stem ($141), or the fact that the Cow Catcher places the load in a slightly higher position than that of a handlebar roll. It is quite an investment, but the PAUL Boxcar is a nice, trustworthy component that I’ve put thousands of miles on. As for load distribution and performance, we’ll have to wait and see.
Stay tuned for more information over at HunterCycles.com.