SWAGMAN PARAMOUNT TAILGATE PAD REVIEW
Review by Sourpatch & Dusten Ryen
Photos by Dusten Ryen
Based in Penticton, BC, Canadian company Swagman was one of the original purveyors of the hitch-mounted bike rack, and have been all about carrying bikes and gear on adventures since their conception in the early 90’s. As trucks have become increasingly popular for mountain bike rigs, Swagman saw the opportunity to offer their swag-carrying services to this new area, and produced a couple of tailgate pad options to suit truck-owning bikers. We got their high-end Paramount tailgate pad to put to the test in our Tailgate Pad roundup, and it left us a bit underwhelmed considering the price tag.
The Swagman Paramount comes in two sizes, the 54-inch-wide mid-size option and the 61-inch-wide full-size option. The mid-size pad is designed to carry four bikes, while the full-size option has a claimed carrying capacity of seven. The Paramount is constructed out of a high-density foam that is encased in a tarpaulin outer shell, with a fleece inner shell for paint protection. Bikes are held in place by the industry standard hook-and-loop downtube straps, and the fork stanchions are further protected via protruding exterior pads. Swagman outfitted the Paramount with a large flap that can be clipped out of the way for use with a backup camera and access to the tailgate handle. A pair of mesh pockets can be found on the back of the pad to stow away a half shell helmet, dirty gear or anything else you can stuff in. Three straps with plastic adjustable clips keep the pad secured to the tailgate. The Swagman Paramount is available in black color only, with a price tag of $235.
The Swagman Paramount Tailgate pad fit all our test vehicles fairly well and offered a fair amount of tailgate coverage. The standard three strap design and the pads’ rather thin construction made for an easy install. Though the install was easy, that pad itself had a less than desirable look with plenty of wrinkles and bunching. I do believe going to a four-strap fastening set-up could offer a slight correction to this, and slightly thicker padding could also help in this area. The fleece lining is great to see in a bid to protect the paint of the truck, and the materials used seem durable without any signs of abrasive wear after testing. The mesh pockets proved to be useful and effective, though we’d be wary of leaving any items in there that could potentially fall or blow out of the unfastened hole. However, bikes would likely keep most items from vacating the bed of your truck without warning.
The full-size Paramount pad has seven adjustable Velcro downtube straps that need a bit of work. Something we took issue with is that they aren’t securely fastened to the pad itself due to their single loop construction. This means they could easily be lost if they aren’t closed with an empty truck. There is nothing keeping the straps secured to the pad in the event you forget to close the straps when you aren’t hauling bikes, whereas some of the other pads, like the Race Face T2, have a double Velcro construction keeping their straps secured to the pad at all times. Without a solid way of keeping the straps secured to the pad, the straps have to be adjusted for whatever bike you are hauling, and it can take a few tries to get the straps snug enough on the downtube, increasing the time required to get them loaded up.
Once our bikes were mounted up we ran into our next couple of issues. The Paramount Pad offers very little padding between the tailgate and the downtube and stanchions, leaving the tailgate susceptible to some potential damage if there’s a lot of movement with a heavier bike. Not to mention, the bikes move around a ton on the pad even when secured in place as best as possible with the downtube straps. They do not move side-to-side thanks to those stanchion pads, but they do lean (or tilt) a lot, meaning bike-on-bike violence can be prevalent when driving mountain roads or shuttling fire roads.
The handle flap works fairly well thanks to its generous sizing and easy clip-out, but it looks like a real afterthought and is a bit cumbersome. Swagman claims that the Paramount Pad can carry seven bikes in its full size configuration, but that’s very dependent on the type of bikes you are carrying, and we regularly found that we’d struggle to get more than 4 or 5 without the bikes being too close for comfort on all but the smoothest roads.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The Swagman Paramount Tailgate pad is the priciest pad in our little roundup but doesn’t pack the best performance to justify it. It is loaded with features and has everything one could want in a pad in theory, but fell short of our expectations in practice with some key elements that let the performance down. We appreciate the features like the fleece liner to protect your paint, downtube straps, easy-to-use flap to access your tailgate handle and backup camera and generous width. However, when mounted up on most tailgates the pad itself looks cheaper than some others with wrinkles that a fourth strap would likely alleviate. The handle flap, although easy to use, is a bit cumbersome, and the foam in the pad is extremely thin providing less than adequate protection to downtubes. The main negative – one that had us concerned about using the pad most – is the amount of rotation or lean the bikes have when using this pad. If allowed to touch, the bikes are inclined to commit bike-on-bike violence when driving on rough terrain, and no one wants that. Unfortunately, the lack of protection means we’d struggle to recommend the Swagman pad over other options in the roundup that can save you quite a few dollars.
Sizes: Full Size & Midsize
Disclosure: Our team selects all of the products we review and do so with honesty and objectivity in mind. Some of the products we receive come directly from Competitive Cyclist, who also value our readers and have offered them a 15% discount (exclusions apply) on their first purchase by using LOAMWOLF15. Through this program we may also receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support, TLW.