Living in Colorado means two things. First, you either own a Jeep, Subaru, or a pickup truck. Second, you need a mountain bike. And those two things often go hand in hand, which means you will either invest in a bike rack or, if you’re a truck owner, a tailgate pad.
A tailgate pad offers a few advantages over a rack. First, it’s easier to install and remove, usually cheaper, and often can accommodate more bikes. And up to now, truck owners have had relatively few features to consider when shopping for a tailgate pad. But when ski bum brand Rocky Mountain Underground (RMU) launched its first pad, it put the industry on notice.
The Tailgate Locker doesn’t just provide protection and security for trucks and bikes, it adds a host of features to complement the typical mountain bike adventure. From a beer cooler to tool organizer, rinse station, and miscellaneous gear pockets, the Tailgate Locker offers more functionality than we’ve seen in the category.
In short: We tested the RMU Tailgate Locker for months in Colorado — both on an old Ranger body and brand new Chevy Bison. While not without its drawbacks, the Tailgate Locker, by and large, proved a winner for its clever gear storage options, simple design, rugged build, and sharp aesthetic.
RMU Tailgate Locker MTB Carrier Review
At first, I wasn’t sure if the Tailgate Locker, available in small (for midsize trucks) and large (for full-size trucks), would fit my 2001 Mazda B4000. Even though it’s built on the old and popular Ford Ranger chassis, modern midsize trucks dwarf their pre- and early-millenium counterparts.
But, though a little big, the pad slid over my tailgate and secured with three aluminum clasps. Installation took no more than 5 minutes. I also tested the pad on a Chevy Colorado Bison — a noticeably beefier midsize truck. Though considerably more snug, the pad seemed better suited to this larger “midsize” build.
The underside of the pad itself sports a felt lining, which protects your vehicle’s finish. Additionally, felt lines the underside of each of the five top-tube straps, which carbon bike owners will appreciate.
Though I tested it with two mountain bikes, the Tailgate Locker can carry up to five. Tailgate operation remains simple with a Velcro and zipper door. When open, this accessory also allows trucks with a rearview camera to see what’s behind the truck. On the Bison (no such tech on my Mazda), this worked fine.
RMU Tailgate Locker MTB Pad Review: Pros
As noted, the pad is a cinch to install. Once on, loading and securing bikes is just as simple and intuitive. Run the Velcro straps over the top tube and secure. In my testing, there was ample length to loop around a variety of mountain bikes and frame sizes.
In total, the Tailgate Locker has four storage pockets, and each proved well-thought-out. On the outside of the tailgate, the pad offers tool storage on the right side and a rinse kit pocket on the left. Inside the tool pocket, you’ll find two inner zippered pockets and a handy bottle opener. This is great for stashing extra tools for pre- or post-ride repairs that you won’t carry with you.
I didn’t use the rinse kit pocket, but it offers some storage space for those who think a little shower after a dusty ride is necessary (no judgment).
Inside the tailgate are two more large zippered pockets. The one with the beer can printed on it clearly delineates where you can store up to 24 12-ounce cans with a little ice. Gromets at the bottom of this compartment reveal some clever forethought, as this allows melted ice to drain.
I used this a couple times — once with ice, once without. Without ice, it kept beer cold for the duration of my 45-minute ride. But I wouldn’t expect it to keep brews ice-cold for days on end like a proper cooler.
What’s more, the Tailgate Locker has a sleeve to allow for a cable lock to run the length of it. I used this to secure the pad to a tie-down anchor in my bed. At $250, I damn sure wouldn’t want someone walking through my alley to undo the clasps and walk off with that pad.
While the sleeves could also be used to cable lock the bikes to the tailgate, I primarily found it offered peace of mind for securing the pad itself.
Finally, the Tailgate Locker looks sharp. The 630-denier nylon with orange aluminum hardware offers both waterproof storage and a surprisingly sleek look — especially compared to other pads on the market.
RMU Tailgate Locker MTB Pad Review: Cons
While the overall execution of the Tailgate Locker is solid, it’s not without some drawbacks shoppers should consider.
First, back to that rinse kit. The pad’s burly, abrasion-resistant, waterproof construction is pretty unforgiving. While that’s great for withstanding damage, it doesn’t offer much give when storing items.
I tried stuffing a small portable shower into the rinse kit pocket and noticed that the pad’s inability to stretch means you’ll be restricted in what you can stuff. A quick glance at user reviews revealed I wasn’t the only one. Another user found they had to leave the pocket unzipped to accommodate their rinse kit.
The cooler held what it advertised, but it too was a tight fit. But the miscellaneous tool pocket on the back worked to carry home my empties — so long as I crushed them.
Second, tightening the buckles was a little tricky on the Mazda. As tight as I could get it, the pad remained a little loose on that small truck. The Bison had no such problem. And overall, the Tailgate Locker seems a smidge overbuilt. That’s not bad if you need a bomber, feature-rich tailgate pad, but the combination of Velcro and zippers on many of the pockets seems redundant and excessive.
This was especially true with the rear camera flap — Velcro alone would have sufficed, but the addition of zippers on either side made a little more work out of an otherwise simple chore. What’s more, you’ll have to fold the flap back manually to free up the camera. It’s easy enough, but one more Velcro strap would allow you to secure the flap open while you back up.
This is not a major issue, just minor considerations for those wondering what to expect.
RMU Tailgate Locker: Should You Buy?
In deciding whether or not the RMU Tailgate Locker is the right pad for you, there’s really only one consideration: How much you’re willing to spend. The product itself is well-built, well-designed, generally easy to use, and attractive. It ticks all the boxes that other pads do and adds more utility.
But it costs $250. That puts it about $100 or more over the competition. That said, I don’t see any reason it wouldn’t last as long as your truck — or bikes. As we like to say, “Buy once, cry once.”
Though expensive, the RMU Tailgate Locker stands head and shoulders over the competition and (literally) opens new doors to what mountain bikers should expect from a tailgate pad.
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