Cyclists the world over are discovering just how convenient and accessible more and more riding spots are becoming with the simple addition of car bike racks to their vehicles. This neat little piece of technology has been around in some form or another for many years, but has really seen a boost in popularity as more and more people find ways to harmonize the use of bikes and cars for a green, more economical as well as healthier world. Truly one of the few essential accessories that most modern bikers just can’t live without, you’ll want to make sure you pick the right option from all the car bike racks available.
If you’ve been looking to make the difficult decision between car bike racks, then hopefully this short little primer will give you the information you need to make the best informed purchase possible. Instead of focusing on price points, makes and models I’ve decided to take a “type” based approach. The form factor and design of your new bike rack is going to be one of the most important decisions you make, and so selecting the right one should be top of the list. You’ll also be able to find budget and basic based all the way to high end, high speed solutions in every single form, so this list is perfect for any economic situation.
Types of Bike Racks
1. Roof Bike Racks
One of the most commonly seen form factors on cars, trucks, and SUVs all across the world, the roof rack is a favorite of many. Basically a car rack system that snaps right onto the already installed roof bars of your vehicle, this is a fantastic option for people who are looking for a cheap and simple set up. You’re basically leveraging parts of your car that you didn’t have to pay for or install on your own, and setup is a breeze.
There are a couple of problems going with a roof rack for your selection though. One, your vehicle may not have the installed roof racks already and an aftermarket upgrade could be pretty expensive. You’d also have to leave your car at the shop for an indeterminate time, which is a major inconvenience. And even if your vehicle does have the included racks, your bikes will most likely need to be strapped in vertically – a problem for any person of a shorter stature. Loading and unloading bikes will take place above your shoulders and could get potentially dangerous in heavily wooded areas or inclement weather, not to mention you’ll need to be constantly on the lookout for low hanging obstructions as you drive.
2. Hitch Bike Racks
These are super simple to install and very easy to use car bike racks. Attaching directly to your vehicles tow hitch in just a matter of seconds, you have an amazingly strong platform for securing and transporting your bikes. No heavy lifting, no odd contortions you need to put your body through to load and unload, this is a dream system and set up for many people in the biking community. The bikes are safe and sound securely behind your vehicle.
There are a couple of problem areas here too that need to be addressed. For one, there is a ground clearance issue that you’ll need to be constantly aware of as well as a lengthening of your vehicle that may not be apparent when you don’t have bikes in the rack but it’s still installed. Parking is especially affected, as is turning and reversing your vehicle. You may also suffer from loss of rear view out the back window when you’re driving with loaded hitch car bike racks.
3. Trunk Mount Bike Racks
Super minimalist, these simple little car bike racks attach with some straps directly to your car’s trunk portion with a couple of arms or a tie down system coming out and up for attaching your bike for transport. Easy to unload and load as well as being relatively cheap and inexpensive (with the added bonus of a super easy installation) this makes these car bike racks a very smart buying decisions.
But there are a couple risks entailed, and many of them similar to the hitch systems. You’ll definitely loose a bit of rear window visibility when this system is in use, but driving and parking while empty shouldn’t be affected. The other problem is that with your bike or bikes bouncing around there could be some serious cosmetic damage done to the rear of your vehicle – and even though there are some innovative systems to minimize the risk they are never 100%.
How to Choose The Best Bike Rack for You
Most people think that shopping for the best bike rack is simple, but with an astounding array of styles, sizes, prices, and accessories, shopping for one can be as complex as shopping for the vehicle that you’re mounting it to. Not to worry, though: we will guide you through the ins and outs of bike rack selection.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of best bike rack facts, you should consider the needs that will define which rack works best for you. To figure this out, we have broken your possible needs into three categories: safety, utility, and complexity.
Safety is the most important thing that you need to consider when searching for a bike rack, and here are the reasons:
- Security: if your rack is not securely attached to your vehicle, you bike may fall off while it is in tow, potentially damaging your bike and creating a hazardous situation if the vehicle is in motion or someone is standing there. Some racks are less theft-resistant than others.
- Vehicle Damage: attaching the wrong rack can scratch your paint, or crack a window.
Riddle of the day: How useful is a bike rack that you can’t use? Answer: it isn’t. Being able to install and use your bike rack is just as important as the quality. Here are some utilitarian questions to ask before buying your new rack:
- How Difficult is Assembly? some bike racks are more difficult to assemble and attach than others, so if you don’t have a DIY personality, you may wish to opt for the more easily attachable rack.
- Will my bike fit? some racks simply do not possess the real estate to fully secure your bike.
- Can I lift my bike high enough? some racks set your bike in the back of the car; others on the roof. Keep this in mind.
- Can I afford it? sike rack prices are as varied as their styles.
Not all bike racks are just bike racks. If you’re shopping for the best bike rack, then you may want to consider multipurpose type racks. Some of them have the ability to transform into racks for canoes, skis or rafts; others require extra attachments to be used. Consider these things before buying:
- Other Possible Uses: if you need a rack for other large outdoor activity gear, consider purchasing a versatile bike rack that can be transformed into a rack to suit your changing needs. Following this course of action will be less expensive, and much simpler than buying a rack for each piece of equipment.
- Additional Parts may be Required: some bike racks won’t attach to your vehicle until you buy a special accessory to make it fit.
Top 6 Hitch Bike Racks
1. Kuat 2 Bike NV Rack
The NV comes fully equipped with front and rear tire ratchet system, hitch lock and integrated bike cable lock. “Holy smokes, a built in repair stand for pre-ride prep, post-ride, clean up, or looking smart.” Decked out with Kuat’s hand tight cam system, this rack is available for 2″ and 1.25″ receivers. After equipping your ride with NV, you will need to haul more people due to increased friendship as a result of coolness. Simple storage with lever action pivot for rapid, folding, tilting, and hiding.
2. Thule T2 Original Bike Rack
The Thule T2 2-Bike Platform Hitch Rack is a premier platform hitch rack that offers maximized features, performance and convenience fit for both serious and casual riders. The rack utilizes a combination of a reinforced bike tray providing maximum strength and rust-free protection from below, with effortless ratcheting SecureHook supports at the top that keep up to two bikes secure and scratch-free during transport. Additional features include: two separate models specific to 2-inch (916XTR T2) and 1¼-inch (917XTR T2) hitch receivers, compatibility with bikes up to 20-inch to 29-inch wheel diameters with up to 3-inch wide tires, locks to secure bikes to the rack as well as the rack to the vehicle, and a 4-bike expansion option for the 2-inch 916XTR T2 model with an added accessory (sold separately).
3. Hollywood Racks HR1400 Sport Rider SE 4-Bike Platform Style Hitch Mount Rack
This heavy-duty platform-style rack is designed as a 2 + 2 system so it can be easily converted to hold either two bicycles or four bicycles. It mounts on a 2-inch hitch and folds flat against the back of a vehicle when not in use. The rack uses padded universal top clamps and adjustable wheel holders. Bikes need simply to be dropped into the wheel holders and clamps slid down onto the frames. Velcro wheel straps add security. To prevent rack sway, the hitch system is “no-wobble/no-tools” and includes a locking pin and 9-foot security cable. The rack carries a limited warranty against defects.
4. Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack
The XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack from Swagman is a versatile hitch-mount rack that can easily accommodate children’s and adult bikes, downhill bikes, cruiser bikes, full-suspension bikes, BMX bikes, “Y” frame designs, and much more (and without the hassle of removing wheels). The XC slides into a two-inch receiver and carries up to two bikes. The XC easily adjusts to different bike frame sizes with the simple movement of the wheel hoops. Its frame grip arms feature a soft, frame-friendly coating to protect your bike’s finish. When not in use, the rack folds up for easy storage.
5. Pro-Series 63124 Eclipse Black 2-Inch Sq. 4 Bike Carrier
This bike carrier has a strong center tower design, folds for storage and includes a reflector for added safety. The tilt feature allows easy trunk access and unloading of bikes. It has hoop and loop straps that permit quick and easy bike loading and removal. It has soft rubber cradles that protect bike finish. It also has rear reflector for added safety and fits the 2 inches receivers.
6. Allen Sports Deluxe 3-Bike Hitch Mount Rack
Carry your bicycles as securely as possible and avoid the hassles of piled bikes or high threshold rooftop mounts, with the Allen Deluxe 3-Bike Hitch Mount Rack. Fitting vehicles with a 1.25 or 2-inch trailer hitch, the Allen Deluxe Hitch Mount Rack is both easy to operate and super secure for your bikes. Constructed out of steel with a durable black powder finish and with Allen’s patented tie downs that keep bikes from bumping, the rack is built to last and is backed by a lifetime warranty from Allen. The Allen rack boasts a patented tie-down system and individually cradles up to three bikes in the 16-inch carry arms. As easy to install as it is to use, the rack sets up in less than 5 minutes with a no-wobble bolt that holds it still within the hitch. When the rack is not in use, the carry arms quickly drop out of the way and fold down flat with a patented single pin mechanism and the rack tilts up to allow easy access to the lift gate.
Top 5 Trunk Mount Bike Racks
7. Saris 805 Bones 2-Bike Trunk Rack
With ratchet straps that keep your bike secure to the rack arms, exclusive anti-sways and articulated rubber feet to protect the finish on your vehicle, Bones ensures that nothing gets damaged in transport. The vinyl-coated hooks strap securely to the car with spring-buckles, which makes installing Bones quick and easy. The arched design fits practically any vehicle — from sedans to mini-vans — even most cars with a spoiler. And because it’s a trunk-mounted rack, your bikes are accessible and easy to put in place. No overhead lifting, twisting, balancing or hefting required, so you can save your energy for the ride. Constructed from heavy-duty, 100% recyclable plastic, Bones is the strongest and most environmentally-friendly rack on the market. Injection-molded arms and legs will never rust and can support up to two bikes with ease, separating them on different levels for the ultimate assurance that they won’t rub or touch during transport.
8. Hollywood Racks F4 Heavy Duty 4-Bike Trunk Mount Rack
Carry heavy loads with confidence with the Hollywood Racks F4 Heavy Duty 4-Bike Trunk Mount Rack. With an exclusive dual-positioning trunk/bumper system, the F4 Rack works with a custom fit on most sedans, SUVs, and minivans. With extra-heavy-duty steel tubing and hardware, the rack can carry up to four bikes, and an integrated tie down strap affords extra security for your load. In addition, the rack is equipped with motorcycle tie down buckles and extra side straps to ensure a secure fit for heavy loads. The rack comes fully pre-assembled and folds flat for easy storage.
9. Yakima KingJoe 2-Bike Trunk Rack
Compatible with the broadest range of vehicles of any Yakima bike rack, the Yakima KingJoe 2 fits up to two bikes on the trunk of your sedan. The KingJoe 2 is equipped with a quick-trigger hub system that makes installation a snap, along with a six-strap array that holds your bikes securely in place–even if your car has a spoiler. Plus, the unit’s premium tri-padded feet and metal buckles are expressly designed to protect your car’s paint job. And thanks to the narrow arm design, the KingJoe 2 holds a variety of different bikes, from cruisers to mountain bikes. Other details include folding arms that make storage easy; glass hatch hooks to accommodate glass trunk or gate mounts; and integrated StableCradles for maximum stability.
10. Hollywood Racks F1B The Original 3-Bike Trunk Mount Rack
Designed in 1973, The F1B 3-Bike Rack from Hollywood Racks is the original fully pre-assembled and foldable trunk rack that works on most sedans, vans, and SUVs. Featuring multi-position hinges, this classic design offers a versatile fit for most vehicles with a high-quality build backed by a lifetime warranty. Equipped with an integrated tie-down strap for extra security, the F1B Rack holds up to three bikes with generous 14.5-inch spacing in between to prevent bike-on-bike damage. The economically priced rack folds flat for storage.
11. TYGER Deluxe Black 1-Bike Trunk Mount Bicycle Carrier Rack
100% assembled. Fits most Sedans/Hatchbacks/Minivans and SUV’s. (Exclude vehicles equipped with rear spoilers.). One bike capacity with sturdy and handy construction. Padded lower frame keeps bicycles away from vehicle. (Safety strap included.) Individual soft cradles made to protect your bike frame and secure your bikes. OE standard black E-Coating for rust resistance. Foldable carry arms when not in use. Easy installation in minutes. (DIY instruction included in package.)
Top 3 Roof Bike Racks
12. Yakima ForkLift Fork Mount Rooftop Bike Rack
Experts agree, the Yakima ForkLift is the way to carry your bike. The fork-style roof rack bike mount fits nearly every crossbar right out of the box; no tools necessary. It keeps your bike pristine, not touching any painted surface. Simple tool-free installation and removal of the bike mount from your car roof rack. Fits most disc brakes. Secure and lockable skewer with integrated adjustment knob for single-handed, easy access (SKS LOCK CORES sold separately). Easy-to-adjust sliding wheel tray makes positioning the rear wheel a snap. Fits car rack systems with round, square and most factory crossbars right out of the box. Doesn’t touch the painted surfaces of your bike and makes for a great bike mount for your carbon rig.
13. Genuine Subaru E361SAJ300 Bike Carrier
Manufactured from top quality components, this is your inexpensive replacement option for your rebuild, repair, and maintenance needs. When you select a genuine OEM part – you can rely on the high quality and effectiveness of the product and brand without having to guess if the product will work in sequence with your vehicle. Protecting your investment is important and choosing the right parts can be challenging. Stick with what you know and choose a genuine OEM part.
14. 1 Bike Bicycle Car Roof Carrier Fork Mount Rack
Bike roof top carrier. Steel powder coating. The frame holder is easily secured to the frame of the bicycle and holds it steadily in place. Tie down straps to secure wheels included Manual and all accessories are included. Will fit the bars Max. thickness: 50mm (1.96″) Max width: 85mm (3.34″). Fit square and aero crossbars brands: Thule, Rhino, Ralo, Prorack. Maxium Loads: 3kg = 6.6lbs. Weight: 2.12kg = 4.65lbs. Will fit all size bicycles with 9mm front quick release fork.