Best Bike Racks to Enjoy your Car Trip
Bikes are amazing when you want to enjoy the trails or leisurely stroll on the country roads. Furthermore, biking is a fantastic way to get fresh air, do some cardio, and explore the surroundings in a more immersive way.
Still, unless you get a foldable bike, they are bulky and difficult to transport in a regular vehicle. Not to mention that, if you manage to fit them on the backseat or in the trunk, there won’t be any space left for the passengers!
This is why today we’ll review some of the best bike racks on the market and have a look at the features that matter in such a product (the buying guide).
Designed for a 2-inch trailer hitch (professionally installed), the Allen Sports rack can carry up to four bikes at once. This is possible due to the carry arms which measure 22-inches in length and use Allen’s patented system to tie the bikes to the rack. The arms are designed to accommodate most frame sizes, so you can carry bikes for the entire family (from children-sized to adult-sized).
Furthermore, the arms can be folded away when you’re not carrying a bike and the entire system tilts away (even when fully-loaded), to avoid hindering your access to the trunk or inconvenience your driving. The good news is that it only takes around five minutes to set up and install it, so it will be easy to take it off when the biking season is over.
This rack features sturdy steel construction and comes equipped with a no-wobble bolt that keeps the rack from moving inside the hitch. This way, you avoid any vibrations or the bikes moving when you’re driving on bumpy roads.
Lastly, the rack is treated with a black powder coat finish to protect the frame against the elements. As a result, you don’t have to worry about keeping it on for too long.
- Hitch insert fits either 1 1/4 inch or 2 inch receiver hitches (2 and 3 bike models) or 2 inch receiver hitches (4 and 5 bike models). Important installation note: never use on trailers
- 22 inch long carry arms individually secure bicycles with Allen's patented tie down system
- Folding carry arms quickly drop out of the way when rack is not in use. Minor assembly required.
- Rack sets up and installs in less than 5 minutes; Included no wobble bolt secures rack inside of receiver hitch with a movement free installation
- Allen's warranty does not cover items purchased through third-party sellers
If you usually go biking alone or you’re willing to invest in two bike racks, the Yakima Highroad is a good choice.
This is a roof rack that can securely hold only one bike (it fits 26″ to 29″ wheels and 23 mm to 4″ tires). Furthermore, the locking system doesn’t come in contact with the bike frame and doesn’t require you to remove any of the wheels, which is great for carbon fiber bikes or if you don’t want to damage your frame’s paint job. The fit is done using the TorqueRight tightening knob that keeps the front wheel in place and lets you adjust it as needed.
When not loaded, the rack has a low profile, so when you’re not carrying anything it will not affect roof clearance. Also, since the rack is also narrow, it lets you install two on one roof – one on each side.
Now, to mount it on your vehicle’s roof, you need a roof rack with crossbar spread between 18″ and 35″. The bike rack fits most rails and it is T-Slot compatible if you purchase a conversion kit.
Lastly, if you’re worried about someone stealing your bikes, the system can be secured with a ‘Same Key System’, but this is purchased separately.
- A premium upright bike mount for easy transport; Carries almost any road or mountain bike with wheelbases up to 48”, 26” to 29” wheels and tires from 23mm to 4”
- The low profile tray minimizes hatch interference; No wheel removal required and no contact with the bike frame (an ideal option for carbon fiber bikes and custom paint jobs)
- Requires a roof rack with a crossbar spread between 18" and 35"; Tool-free, universal mounting hardware fits most roof racks; T-Slot compatible with SmarT-Slot conversion kit (sold separately)
- Quickly and easily adjust and secure your bikes with the precise, integrated TorqueRight tightening knob
- Want more peace of mind? Add 2 SKS (Same Key System) locks (sold separately) to the included TailWhip cable to lock your bike and mount to your base rack (not included)
This is another roof rack system with the wheels on, but this time the locking system is attached to the bike’s frame using a Clamp-on design. It is also designed only for one bike and it comes with tie-down straps for the wheels.
Now, since the profile is narrow, you can install two of these racks on your vehicle’s roof. The price is incredibly affordable and you may have to buy some extra bolts (some users have reported receiving the rack without all the bolts and nuts), but if you have crossbars on your vehicle, this is a nice acquisition.
The construction is solid (quality steel) and the entire rack is quite easy to mount on most types of bars (max. 50mm (1.96″) in thickness and max 85mm (3.34”) in width).
Lastly, the rack can be secured against thieves with the lock and key system mounted on the bar that holds the frame in place.
As an easy-to-use premium hanging-style trunk bike rack, the Thule Raceway PRO system comes with Sure-Tight ratcheting cables (for maximum fastening security) and a patented N-Sway cage that prevents the bikes from bumping into each other during transport.
Now, since this is a trunk rack, you need to know it was designed to fit vehicles with standard factory-installed spoilers. So, if this is not the case, you must make sure the rack will fit before purchasing it.
The rack can accommodate two bikes at once, and the FitDial system (also patented by Thule), which controls the angle of the arms, guarantees a perfect fit to any vehicle. Also, the entire system folds flat when not in use, so it doesn’t hinder your driving.
Since the arms of the rack come in contact with and fixate on the vehicle, the product is fitted with molded rubber pads that protect against scratches and provide a firm grip. Also, the bikes are protected due to the Road Dampening Technology which holds the bikes in place and absorbs the shocks from a bumpy road.
Lastly, the bikes can be secured to the rack with lockable cables (locks included) so you can leave them unattended for a short while.
- Strong, secure, and easy-to-use premium hanging-style trunk bike rack for 2 bikes
- Patented FitDial guarantees a perfect fit for your vehicle. *Use Thule Fit Guide to ensure compatibility
- Narrow cradle arms hold a variety of bike frames including smaller children’s bikes
- Soft cradles secure bikes in place and absorb shock during transit
- Lockable cable secures bike to carrier and carrier locks to vehicle (locks included)
Our premium choice is a platform hitch bike rack that can accommodate 2 to 4 bikes in one load (if you purchase the add-on which is sold separately and is only available for the 2” receiver).
The rack can carry a wide array of bikes, with wheels between 20 to 29-inches and even fat bikes with up to 5” inch tires. The load capacity is 60lbs maximum per bike and the included ratcheting arm helps secure the bikes without any frame contact.
According to your vehicle, the rack can be mounted on 1.25” and 2” hitches and doesn’t require any special tools. The AutoAttach knob does the job wonderfully and offers a no-mess installation and removal procedure that doesn’t take longer than 5 minutes.
To make sure the bikes won’t knock into each other while driving, there is generous spacing in between and the ability to adjust mounts side to side. Also, the HitchSwitch level technology makes loading and unloading easier since the rack tilts up and down for easy reach.
Lastly, the entire rack can be tilted down for access to the trunk and, when not in use, the rack folds up so it won’t hinder vehicle movements.
- Premium platform hitch bike rack for 2-4 bikes
- Tool free Auto Attach system makes it easy to install and remove
- Quickly secure bikes without frame contact
- Rack tilts down for rear of vehicle access and folds up when not in use
- Fits 20 - 29 " wheels, fat bikes with up to 5" tires, and hub spacing up to 197 mm
Types of Bike Racks
As you can see from our reviews above, there are several types of racks, each with their pros & cons. So, before we can discuss other features, let’s have a look at the different styles, depending on where they get to be installed on the vehicle.
Roof- Mounted Racks
There’s no mystery here: roof racks go at the top of your vehicle, just like roof kayak racks. Still, since most of them will have the bike installed vertically, you need to consider the roof clearance before installing them.
Also, there are three types of roof racks as well:
- Systems that install directly on the roof
- Systems that need factory-installed crossbars or side rails
- Systems that use suction cups
Now, you’ll also notice that some roof-mounted racks will require you to remove the front wheel, while others don’t. The difference here is that, when the front wheel is removed, the overall weight of the bike(s) and their height lowers. Still, you have to work more when it comes to loading and unloading, and some bikes don’t strip down easily.
The main advantage of roof bike racks is that you don’t risk damaging your precious bikes should someone rear-end you on the way to the trail. However, it’s rather easy to forget you have the bikes on the roof and pull into the garage with them still attached to the rack.
If your vehicle is fitted with a hitch receiver, then you can choose the hitch rack version. These are easy to install, provide better access to the bikes, and don’t require any heavy lifting during loading and unloading.
The system simply slides into the receiver tube and (most work for 1.25 and/or 2-inch hitches) modern designs also fold down when not loaded. You can also (and should) select a product that fits with a juggle-free connection, to avoid any unwanted wear and tear.
Still, make sure you are prepared to use such a rack since most extend the length of your car when loaded (just like a hitch cargo carrier would).
While these systems also mount in the rear of your vehicle, they don’t use the hitch but the trunk door. Such a rack will use straps and hooks to fixate the bike to the car and is the most portable and low-cost version out of the three styles.
The installation may be a bit tricky during the first times, but as you get a hang of it, it will become easier to put in on and off. However, you need to keep in mind that the rack will block your access to the trunk and that it doesn’t securely lock the bikes in place (you can’t leave them unsupervised). Lastly, there is a risk of scratching the paint on your car since bikes are not held in place at a secure distance.
Best Bike Racks Buying Guide
Here we’ll list everything you need to know before buying a bike rack for your car, SUV, or truck.
Attachment and Securing Points
The bike rack must be attached to your vehicle first (attachment point) and, depending on the type of product, it can several points of contact with the body of the car. If this is the case, make sure the area that grips to the car’s body is padded and secured with a soft rubber system to avoid any paint scratching or further damage.
Now, let’s talk about securing points, which are the areas of the rack that secure the bikes in place. These are usually realized using bars that attach to the frame or the front wheel, clamps that fixate on the wheel or frame, or straps that lock the rear wheel to the rack. These systems should also be padded to avoid scratching the bike or puncturing the tires.
You definitely don’t want your bikes or their mobile elements to wobble when you’re driving! As such, make sure to get a rack that locks everything in place and keeps the bikes (if there’s an option to mount more than one) at a safe distance from each other.
Strong Securing Points
We’ve talked about securing points before, but from protection towards the bike’s frame and wheels’ point of view. Now, let’s talk about their strength! You need a rack that can withstand high-speed driving on the freeway regardless of the fact that it’s mounted on the roof or on the rear.
So, make sure to read the producer’s instructions and do some testing yourself, to avoid losing your bike on the way to the trails!
Most modern racks feature a steel build with a powdered coating that keeps the rust away. Still, as the prices get lower, you will notice a change in the type of materials used, which also means the durability will be shorter (especially if you plan on keeping the rack on for longer).
So, before you decide to buy a low-cost product, first make sure you are happy with the materials it features.
You may want to make a stop on the way and enjoy a hot coffee or some water. However, if you don’t have a security system that locks the bikes to the rack, you’ll constantly worry that they might not be there when you get back.
To avoid added stress, get a rack with locking cables or a locking system that uses a key and lock to keep prying eyes away.
So, which bike rack sounds best for your next adventure? We strongly recommend selecting a product that’s supported by a well-known brand, with some history in the market (just like all the racks we reviewed). This way, you can know for sure the chosen design is reliable and durable.