Take Your Bike on Your Road Trip (or Just Escape for the Weekend) with One of These Top Bike Racks for Cars & Trucks
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Whether you're a cycling enthusiast or just packing for a family vacation, loading and unloading bicycles from your car or truck is always a pain. Bike racks provide an elegant and simple solution to this problem and can even increase your bike-carrying capacity.
There is a huge selection of bike carriers to choose from. The type of mount, the type of bike, the size of your bike's tires, the number of bikes you wish to carry, and your budget will all determine which rack is best for you. With such a wide variety of racks on the market, you can choose the one that best suits your practical and aesthetic needs.
With so many options, as well as volumes of information to know when purchasing a rack, the Gear Team has stepped up to help you out. We've assembled a list not only of some of the best bike racks on the market but also some of the most crucial knowledge you'll need for purchasing and owning your perfect bike rack.
Types of Bike Racks
Trunk Mount: Trunk-mounted bike racks are among the most affordable type of bicycle car carriers. They can range in price from less than a hundred bucks up to several hundred and are made to rest on the rear of a car trunk or rear hatch. They're usually fastened in place with straps. Arms and cradles support the bike to keep it securely in place.
Hitch Mount: Hitch racks are an excellent choice for frequent users, especially for those requiring storage for several bikes. Loading bikes onto the trays is simpler than raising them above your head as you would with a roof rack, and they provide a more rigid mounting point than a trunk-mounted style and are usually more expensive. Most are available for 1.25- and/or 2-inch receivers, and they slip into your vehicle's receiver tube.
Roof Mount: A great option for the serious cyclist or outdoor enthusiast because of how adaptable it can be—provided you're able to hoist your bike to the top of your car. While the cost can be reasonable ($200 to more than $500), it can quickly increase if you add more cradles or if you have to assemble a rack system. Many automobiles and trucks have crossbars, mounting points, or rails for securing bike racks.
Spare Tire Mount: Spare tire racks are quick, simple, reasonably priced, and are an excellent option for sport-utility or off-road vehicles with a spare mounted on the rear of the car. Similar to a trunk-mounted rack, these racks attach via straps to the tire mount or rest directly on the tire. They're ideal for Jeep owners.
Truck Bed Racks: Pickup-truck-bed bike racks allow you to transport multiple bikes inside the bed of your truck safely. They normally have a mounting mechanism that fastens the rack to the truck's bed. Clamps, belts, or other attachment methods provide stability. They also include components to safeguard the truck bed and bikes during transport, such as rubber padding, foam blocks, or other materials.
Tailgate Pads: Tailgate pads allow you to travel with numerous bikes safely by fastening to the tailgate on your pickup. They typically drape over the tailgate and wrap straps around the gate to secure it. Bikes should be loaded rear-wheel first so that only the front wheel protrudes over the tailgate. Each bike should be fastened securely, and the bed liner's grooves serve as the rear wheel's natural trays.
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So which type of car bike rack is perfect for you, your bikes, your vehicle, and your lifestyle? Here are some of our favorite picks.
The most popular—and most affordable—type of car bike rack, trunk-mounted racks use a combination of straps, weight, and leverage to carry your bikes. They come in a variety of styles and shapes to carry (usually) up to four bikes.
S-102 2-Bike Trunk Rack
Allen Sport's S-102 trunk-mounted 2-bike rack offers a secure lightweight option for transporting your bikes. It features Allen's patented Sure Strap lower straps which keep the bottom hooks in place during use, as well as large pads to help distribute weight. It can hold up to two bikes or a total of 70 pounds.
910XT Passage 2-Bike Trunk Mounted Carrier
From the leader in car cargo solutions, this trunk-mounted bike carrier also comes in a three-bike version. Your bikes hang, which may result in them clanking around. But those bars fold down when they're not in use, which is a handy perk. If you're looking for a trusted brand name, you can't go wrong with Thule.
Ultra Compact Folding 1-Bike Trunk Mount Rack
What makes this trunk-mounted offering from Allen Sports different from the rest is its incredibly compact size when not in use. It fits neatly into a carrying bag or backpack so it can easily be stowed in your vehicle's cargo area. It comes pre-assembled and ready for use and features a padded spine to protect both bike and vehicle.
Hitch-mounted Bike Racks
Hitch bike racks are generally designed to slip into 1.25- or 2-inch hitch receivers. They come in two general types. Hanging racks are lighter, more affordable, and usually provide more ground clearance than platform styles. The negative is that the bikes can swing and bump into one another while you're driving. Platform mounts are the simplest and safest way to load and secure your bikes. However, they are often more expensive and can be tricky to mount, remove, and store when not in use.
Helium Pro Hanging Bike Rack
Thule's Helium Pro hitch-mounted rack is made from super-lightweight aluminum, making it much lighter than most similar systems. It folds down for easy access to your cargo area and has a number of cool features including a 3-bike (112-pound) capacity, integrated cable locks, compatibility with 1.25- or 2-inch receivers, and integrated anti-sway tech that prevents bike-to-bike contact.
50025 Hitch Mount 2-Bike Rack
MaxxHaul is another well-known brand name in car cargo carriers and haulers, and its 50025 bike rack has a ton of features at a great price. It has a padded column to prevent scratching and improved cradles and buckle straps to secure and transport up to two bikes (maximum capacity is 50 pounds per bike). A built-in locking knob keeps your bikes steady, and the entire unit tilts to provide easy access to trunks and rear hatches.
T2 Pro XTR 2 Hitch Bike Rack
The T2 Pro XTR is another serious offering from the folks at Thule. It offers all of the same features as the more lightweight Helium (above) but adds an overall more rigid build. It has a 2-bike, 120-pound capacity which can be expanded to four with the addition of the Thule T2 Pro XT Add-On. It has large 12.5-inch spacing between each bike and fits 20–29-inch wheels and up to 5-inch tires without adapters, making it great for all types of bikes.
Heavy Duty Tilting Bike Rack
This hitch-style rack is a solid option for those who want to haul today's heavier e-bikes. Its 132-pound capacity makes it ideal for electric bikes, and it features a patented Anti-Wobble System to keep things tight. It tilts down for easy trunk/hatch access and folds up out of the way when it's not in use.
Roof-Mounted Bike Racks
Roof-mounted bike racks get your bikes up and out of the way, opening up sightlines and providing easy access to trunks and rear hatches. They most often mount to roof racks and rails, so they're ideal for SUVs and CUVs with roof racks already installed. Yes, lifting your bike up to the roof may be a hefty task for some. And they're not exactly subtle! But for security and peace of mind, rooftop bike carriers provide the sturdiest form of bicycle transport.
Aluminum Bicycle Carrier for Roof Rack
Here's a simple, affordable solution to getting your bike onto the roof of your car or truck. The Erkul fits a variety of wheel and tire sizes without adjustment (or removing your wheels) and features an integrated TorqueRight tightening knob that makes it easy to secure your bikes. An existing roof rack is required; optional crossbars and accessories add versatility.
Mountain Trail Universal Bike Rack
Rhino Rack's roof-mounted bike rack is built to hold your bike tight. It is designed to hold road, mountain, kids, and fat-tire bikes with the front wheel removed. It's up for the job thanks to a dual-locking system that holds both the bike and the carrier secure. It also has a rear-wheel strap and works with most roof rack crossbars.
HighRoad Rooftop Bike Mount
The HighRoad makes transporting your bike a breeze. The TorqueRight tightening knob fits almost any bike with tires up to 4 inches. It requires no wheel removal and doesn't make contact with the bike frame, making it a great option for carbon-fiber bikes and custom paint jobs. The universal mounting hardware fits most roof racks and it can be converted to integrate with T-slot crossbars with the SmarT-Slot Kit (sold separately).
Suction Cup Bike Rack System
This is perhaps the most portable and versatile way to mount your bike to your roof; they're ideal for use with rental cars while traveling. These suction-cup mounts use a vacuum seal to attach to the roof of your car, meaning there's no need for a rack or roof rails. Installation involves simply wiping the area clean, placing the cups on the roof, and repeatedly depressing the plunger until the cup is firmly sealed. Better still, Kupper Mounts look far more sleek than traditional bike racks.
Spare Tire–Mounted Bike Racks
An excellent option for sport-utility or off-road vehicles, spare-tire bike racks are ideal for Jeeps—or any vehicle with an externally mounted spare. Similar to a trunk-mounted rack, they attach via straps to the tire mount or rest directly on the tire.
SR1 2-Bike Spare Tire Mount Rack
Hopefully, your spare tire doesn't see much use—which makes it a great place to set-and-forget your bike rack. The SR1 has a 2-bike 35-pound capacity, is very lightweight (only 10 pounds), and is easy to install. Adjustable to fit most spare tires, the support arms can be centered for side-mounted tires and folds away when not in use.
BC-8407-2 Blue Devil Spare Tire Mounted Rack
If you like the idea of a spare-mounted bike rack, Apex Legends' BC-8407-2 offers superior rigidity. It's made from duty steel and mounts to your hatch rear-spare hub mount rather than the tire itself. It can hold up to two bikes, is key-lockable, and includes tie-down straps, a rear reflector, and two keys.
Truck Bed Bike Racks
For pickup owners, the easiest way to move your bikes will be in the bed of your truck—but you'll still need a mount to keep them from jostling around. Mounted directly, bed racks allow you to transport multiple bikes safely in the bed of your truck with clamps, belts, or other attachments providing stability. Bed racks also usually include safeguards for your truck bed and bikes, such as padding or foam blocks.
Truck Bed 4 Bike Rack
Pipeline racks use a strap system that requires no drilling into your truck's bed. It works with a variety of bikes, and the company offers a range of accessories to expand the rack's capacity and security. It's made of lightweight, rust-resistant aluminum, and its rubber feet won't scratch bed finishes. Also available in 2-, 3-, and 5-bike options.
RT201 Truck Bed Bike Mount
The RT201 from Inno is a different type of bed-mounting system. There's no "rack;" instead, the Inno uses sturdy C-clamps to mount to the side of your truck's bed and ratcheting straps to secure the bike, leaving the rest of the bed open for additional cargo. Installation is a breeze and only involves two clamps with ratcheting straps. That said, it only holds one bike at a time.
SportsRack 2030 BedRack Elite
Designed for full-size trucks like the Ford F-150, the 2030 BedRack from Heininger is incredibly versatile. It's easy to assemble without tools and mounts to the inside of your truck bed using wingnut screws tipped with soft padding, to protect both your truck's finish as well as your bikes. Able to hold up to four bikes at a time, the BedRack can be left in your truck, making it easy for anyone to roll their bike into the bed. It's adjustable from 52 to 68 inches.
TGP-XS Tailgate Bike Pad
This tailgate pad from DNA Motoring is an easy solution for hauling your bikes without installing a metal rig in the bed of your truck. It's made from heavy-duty weather-resistant vinyl, has a soft plush underside to protect your truck's finish, and can hold up to five bikes using strap anchors.
Tailgate Pad Duo
Ideal for hauling two bikes at a time, this tailgate pad features a cool design that comes in black, gray, or stone (pictured). The tarpaulin exterior and foam padding interior are cut-resistant, water-resistant, and UV-stable. It also features a fleece lining on the inner truck-side of the pad to protect your paint. It fits both mid- and full-size trucks.
What to Look For in Bike Racks
Determining the type of rack to use is the first step in selecting the best bike carrier. As evidenced above, there are many kinds of bike racks in a variety of configurations to fit various vehicles and demands. For instance, you might choose a trunk-mounted bike rack if you own a small sedan or hatchback. Consider a spare-tire bike rack if you drive a Jeep or SUV, and there are numerous options for pickup owners. Which rack you buy will depend on the design of your car or truck.
Number of Bikes You Want to Transport
Determine how many bikes you intend to bring on your journey. Think about a tailgate or hitch bike rack if you need to transport several bikes. A trunk or roof bike rack is best if you only have one or two bicycles. There's no need to purchase a rack that carries four or five bikes if you plan on cycling solo.
The Car or Truck You Drive
Keep in mind the year, make, and model of your vehicle when shopping for racks, as that will significantly influence your options. You can use vehicle fit recommendations provided by manufacturers to find a rack that is appropriate for your particular model. Does your car or truck have factory roof racks? This can make choosing roof-mounted options much easier. You should also look at your car or truck's hitch receiver. These typically come in sizes of 1.25 or 2.0 inches.
How much are you willing to spend on a bike rack? Bicycle racks for the trunk and spare tire are generally less expensive than those for the tailgate and roof.
Those who are serious about cycling know how valuable their bikes are. So you may look at which racks include security features. Locking systems will help hinder thieves, but many trunk-mounted racks don't offer built-in locking mechanisms.
Are bike racks weatherproof?
A rack should suffer the rain. Because it keeps the bike the farthest from the road in the rain, a roof rack is arguably the safest rack to use. When using a hitch rack or trunk rack in the rain, be prepared for road grime to kick up around the back of the vehicle.
Do bike racks damage cars?
Any bike rack can cause damage if it's not installed properly, utilized incorrectly or neglected. Trunk racks can cause damage to your vehicle's finish, which may allow rust to form on your car's body, which will lead to greater damage over time. In the case of hitch-mounted racks, the rack, the hitch, the car, and the bikes might all sustain damage if more weight is placed on the rack than the hitch or the rack handle.
If your bikes are mounted on the roof of your vehicle, be mindful of your overhead clearance.
Can you leave a bike rack on your car?
In some states, it may not be legal to leave an empty bike rack on your vehicle. If you leave your bike rack on your car while you're not using it, it's more likely to be stolen. When you aren't utilizing the bike rack to transport a bike, it is usually advisable to remove it.
Can you take a bike rack through a car wash?
Manufacturers of bike racks and car-wash establishments usually advise taking off bike racks before having your vehicle washed. Bike racks can damage the equipment, which could result in fines or legal repercussions, and they are not made to withstand the force of a vehicle wash. In a self-service car wash where you can manually control the water pressure and direction, you can rinse out your rack if it's dirty.
How fast can you drive with a bike rack installed?
In most cases, you can drive as fast as you normally do—if you have a reliable bike rack that is properly fitted. Some racks have speed limitations on their manufacturer warranties. Your car will experience significant drag or wind resistance if you have a roof rack hauling large mountain bikes on top of it. Your speed and gas mileage will also be impacted by the style of rack you use. On the other hand, a bike rack that is attached to a hitch will have far less wind resistance.
Do car bike racks need lights?
While some states have regulations governing license plates and automobile lights when towing a bike rack, the majority do not. But you should consider putting lights on your bike rack as a safety feature. Done correctly, adding a few lights to your bike rack will give you greater protection and visibility.
Can you open the trunk with a bike rack installed?
If your car has a trunk-mounted rack installed, you should avoid opening the trunk because doing so could harm both the rack and the car. Even if you are able to open the trunk with the rack attached to the vehicle, the additional weight of the rack could force the lid to close abruptly. However, if your automobile has a hitch-mounted bike rack, you might still be able to access the trunk. Some bike racks for hitches feature a swing-away mechanism.
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