You’re ready to hit the road with your bike in tow. Perhaps you’re heading out on a family vacation, or you and your friends have finally decided to tackle that fantasy trip and need your bikes for a little R&R. Of course, if you’re going to travel with your bike, you’re going to need a bike rack. There are plenty of options out there, but they’re definitely not all created equal. How do they all stack up? Let’s take a look at the best bike racks for 2018.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Hitch Bike Rack Reviews and Comparison Table
- 2 Thule T2 Pro XT
- 3 Kuat Racks NV 2.0
- 4 Yakima HoldUp 2-Bike Hitch Rack
- 5 Saris Superclamp EX
- 6 Kuat Sherpa 2.0
- 7 RockyMounts BackStage
- 8 Critical Cycles Lenox Hitch Mount Bike Rack
- 9 Yakima RidgeBack
- 10 Swagman XTC Cross-Country
- 11 Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch
- 12 Bike Rack Buying Guide: What You Need to Know
- 13 What Is a Hitch Bike Rack?
- 14 Why a Hitch Bike Rack?
- 15 Pros and Cons of Hitch Bike Racks
- 16 Top Brands of Hitch Bike Racks
- 17 Hitch Bike Rack FAQs
- 18 Most Important Considerations When Buying a Hitch Bike Rack
- 19 Tips to Follow When Shopping for Hitch Bike Racks
- 20 In Conclusion
Best Hitch Bike Rack Reviews and Comparison Table
|Thule T2 Pro XT||Platform/Wheel||51 lbs.||2 bikes||1.25 or 2 inch||Tilt, bike locks, tool-free install/removal|
|Kuat Racks NV 2.0||Platform/Wheel||55 lbs.||2 bikes||1.25 or 2 inch||Adjustable tire cradles, pivot, foot assist, cable locks|
|Yakima HoldUp Hitch Rack||Platform/Wheel||49 lbs.||2 bikes (4 with mods)||1.25 or 2 inch||No frame contact, StrongArm design|
|Saris Superclamp EX||Platform/Wheel||35 lbs.||2 bikes||1.25 or 2 inch||Tilt, locks, folding, 120 lbs. capacity|
|Kuat Racks Sherpa 2.0||Platform/Wheel||45 lbs.||2 bikes||1.25 or 2 inch||All aluminum, one-hand adjustment, folding tire cradle|
|RockyMounts BackStage Swing Away||Platform/Wheel||59 lbs.||2 bikes||2 inch only||Fits electric bikes, swing out design, folds down|
|Critical Cycles Lenox Hitch Mount Bike Rack||Hanging||21 lbs.||2 bikes||2 inch only||Fits fat bikes, folds for access/storage|
|Yakima RidgeBack||Hanging||32 lbs.||2 bikes (up to 5)||1.25 or 2 inch||Tool free installation, tilt, ZipSecure system|
|Swagman XTC Cross-Country||Platform/Wheel||32 lbs.||2 bikes||1.25 or 2 inch||Folds down, rubber tire straps, 70 lb. total capacity|
|Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Mount Rack||Hanging||22 lbs.||Up to 4 bikes||2 inch only||Steel construction, folds down, individual cradles, patented tie down system|
Thule T2 Pro XT
The Thule T2 Pro XT is one of the more innovative platform-style bike racks on the market. It offers a tool-free installation and removal process, and a simple to use lever that allows you to fold the rack up when it’s not in use. The same lever allows you to tilt the loaded rack downward, so you can access the rear of your vehicle.
One of the more interesting aspects of this bike rack is the use of ratcheting arms to secure the wheels to the platform. This ensures that there is no contact with the frame, and the arms can fit wheels up to five inches in width and 20 to 29 inches in diameter. Both bike mounts can be adjusted side to side to get the perfect fit, and the integrated cable lock makes securing your bikes a snap. Note that an optional add-on allows you to carry up to four bikes, but requires a two-inch hitch.
Kuat Racks NV 2.0
The Kuat NV 2.0 is a two-bike rack that offers innovative features, convenience, and plenty of capabilities. It’s a platform style rack that uses wheel securement to hold your bike in place without touching the frame. It also offers an adjustable front tire cradle system to ensure that the perfect fit is found for every wheel size.
One of the most interesting features of the newly redesigned NV 2.0 is the pivot system and its integrated foot assist. This allows you to pivot the rack as you need, with nothing but your foot, ensuring an easier loading/unloading process. The integrated cable locks ensure plenty of security for your bike during transport. There is also an included Trail Doc work stand that allows you to effortlessly hold your bike still for repairs or maintenance work on the go.
Yakima HoldUp 2-Bike Hitch Rack
The Yakima Hold Up is another platform style bike rack that focuses on holding your bike secure without touching the frame. Like the Thule and NV 2.0 mentioned above, this rack offers adjustable tire cradles, and a locking clamp that hooks over the top of the tire to keep the bike in place without damaging the frame. It also features the StrongArm design to help make getting your bike onto the rack and secured simpler and easier no matter how much it might weigh.
One of the most unique selling points about this particular bike rack is the fact that it offers a 60-lb. weight limit per bike, giving the entire rack a 120-lb. capacity. Note that this is a two-bike rack, but an optional +2 attachment allows you to carry up to four at a time.
Saris Superclamp EX
The Saris Superclamp EX is another platform-style rack with wheel clamps. Unlike the other racks we’ve mentioned, the wheel clamps are located side by side, parallel to the body of the rack, rather than to either side of the rack. It’s one of the lighter racks on the market, weighing in at just 35 lbs., but it has a 60-lb. per bike capacity (two bike limit).
The rack tilts down to provide access to the rear of the vehicle, and folds up when you are not using it. The hooks that secure the wheels simply fold down and lock in place for easy installation, and the rack also features reflectors for better visibility in low light driving situations. Finally, the rack also features integrated locks to keep your bikes secure during travel.
Kuat Sherpa 2.0
The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 shares some of the same DNA as the NV 2.0. Like the NV, the Sherpa utilizes a new redesigned pivot system with an optional foot assist. It also includes a front tire ratchet system to lock your bike’s front wheel in place. The rear tire is cradled in a molded cup for security.
Most buyers will appreciate the “no tool” assembly, installation and removal of this innovative bike rack, as well as the low-profile design. Note that this rack is available in three different colors (gray, black and pearl). Note that this rack is available as either a 1.25 inch or a 2.0 inch assembly. It is made fully from aluminum.
The RockyMounts BackStage is another platform style rack, but one with a difference. It swings out to allow access to the rear of the vehicle, rather than tilting down. Tilting allows access to hatchbacks, but does little good for vehicles with swing-out doors. This rack solves that problem. It’s also quite sturdy, with a capacity to carry up to two bikes weighing 60 pounds each. Note that this 120-lb. capacity does not mean you can carry a single 120-lb. object on the rack. It must be evenly distributed or damage may result.
The rack is also designed to keep a good bit of space between bikes, making it a good choice for owners of fat bikes, or for those who ride electrics. The hitch tube is made from lightweight Chromalloy, ensuring durability and corrosion resistance for years to come. Note that this hitch does not offer an extender to increase the number of bikes it can carry. Note that this rack is only compatible with two-inch hitches.
Critical Cycles Lenox Hitch Mount Bike Rack
The first hanging rack on our list, the Critical Cycles Lenox offers secure mounting for up to two bikes. The L-shaped frame slides into the hitch easily, and locks into place with a bolt and nut. You will find that a convenient pin allows you to fold the rack down so you can access the rear of the vehicle even when the rack is fully loaded, as well. Note that this rack is only compatible with Class III and Class IV two-inch hitches.
The rack has a weight limit of 80 pounds, meaning each bike can weigh up to 40 pounds. Both bikes have individual cradles on each rack arm, allowing the frame to be cupped safely, and protected from contact with the metal rack. The tie down straps are specially designed for worry-free operation. Note that this rack requires a minimal amount of assembly, but does ship with the tools needed in the box.
The Yakima RidgeBack is the second hanging style hitch bike rack on our list, and a worthy contender to the other options we’ve listed. It can carry two bikes (although four and even five-bike versions are available), and it fits receivers measuring either 1.25 or 2 inches. The rack only weighs 32 pounds, meaning that it is easy for a single person to install and manipulate, as well.
The SpeedKnob on the rack allows you to install or remove the rack in just seconds, and alleviates the need for pins, bolts and other hardware. The rack tilts backward and down with the touch of a convenient lever, allowing you to access the rear of your vehicle, and the unique ZipSecure system offers outstanding security for your bikes while in transit. Note that this rack also features anti-sway technology to keep bikes as still as possible during transport.
Swagman XTC Cross-Country
The Swagman XTC is a heavy-duty hitch bike rack designed to hold two bikes securely during travel. It features a wheel stirrup on each side (two per bike) with individual tie down straps per stirrup, as well as a locking hook per bike. Note that the hook fits over the frame of the bike, not over the wheel. It is covered in soft-grip material to prevent any metal-to-frame contact or potential damage, though. Note that the stirrups can be adjusted to fit different tire sizes.
The XTC can hold bikes sized 20 to 29-inches (wheel sizes), and can support up to 35 pounds per bike for a total of 70 pounds in capacity. Note that this rack can fit 1.25 and 2-inch hitches. One of the most interesting features of this rack is the push-button ratcheting arms, combined with the limited lifetime warranty.
Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch
The only four-bike hanging system to make our list, the Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch is a top performer. It features plenty of room for up to four bikes, each of which has its own individual cradles on each arm. The rack features Allen Sport’s innovative tie down system to secure bikes during transit, as well. Note that this rack only works with two-inch hitches (Class III and Class IV). Installation takes just minutes, and the rack slides smoothly into the hitch on your vehicle. It secures with a nut and bolt.
When not in use, the arms fold down out of the way. Even when fully loaded, the rack tilts outward with the removal of the locking pin, giving you access to the rear of your vehicle. It is also made from steel, features a durable powder coated finish, and comes with a lifetime warranty from the manufacturer. Note that some assembly is required, but the tools needed ship with the rack.
Bike Rack Buying Guide: What You Need to Know
Owning a bike is a freeing experience. You can take your bike almost anywhere just by pedaling. However, if you want to go farther afield with it, you’ll need to find a way to carry your bike with you on your vehicle.
Bike racks allow you to do just that, but there are several styles on the market, and they are not all the same. With that being said, if your vehicle has a trailer hitch, or you’re considering having one installed, then a hitch bike rack is the simplest, most convenient option.
What Is a Hitch Bike Rack?
If you’ve never purchased a bike rack before, or you’re just beginning to research your options, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. There are several different bike rack types on the market, including roof racks, truck racks, hitch racks, spare-tire racks, and more. Each type of rack differs from the rest, and offers unique benefits and drawbacks. So, what is a hitch bike rack?
Really, this is nothing more than a bike rack that attaches to your vehicle’s trailer hitch. You remove the ball and hitch, and install the rack into the receiver. Generally, they lock into place with a nut and bolt, as well as safety chains. Depending on the model you purchase, the rack itself may be L-shaped, or it might be straight. It may also hold two, three, or even four bikes depending on its configuration and capabilities.
Most of these racks have defined saddles for resting the frame of each bike, as well as straps with lockdown tabs that allow you to secure the bikes in place. Some use Velcro in addition to tension tabs.
You’ll also find that there are basic and advanced hitch bike racks on the market. The most basic racks allow you to carry your bike with you securely, but may prevent access to the tailgate or truck of the vehicle. More advanced models offer a swing-out feature that allows you to fold the rack down or to the side so you can access the tailgate, trunk or rear door of the vehicle.
So, now that you know what a hitch bike rack is, why would you choose this style over something else? Given that there are multiple types of bike racks on the market, what makes this a better choice than something else?
Why a Hitch Bike Rack?
Why consider a hitch bike rack, rather than a roof-mounted bike rack, or a strap-on rack that fits across the back of your vehicle? There are actually quite a few reasons that hitch bike racks are the better choice.
Carrying Multiple Bikes: One of the most important reasons to consider a hitch bike rack, rather than a roof rack, a spare-tire rack, or a truck rack is that you can carry multiple bikes at the same time. Yes, many types of rack can carry up to two bikes at once, but that’s often the limit. You’ll find a number of hitch racks on the market that can carry three, or even four bikes at one time, all without putting the rack in danger of reaching its max load capability.
No Worries about Loose Straps: Most types of bike rack require straps to secure the rack to the vehicle. This is particularly true with strap-based systems that fit over the back of a minivan, or over the back end of your trunk. These systems are only as secure as the straps that you use to hook them in place. A loose strap, or damage to a strap behind the securement hook, could spell disaster for your bikes, and could even cause an accident should the worst happen while you’re on the road.
Keep Your Vehicle Clearance the Same: Roof racks allow you to carry two bikes, but they are required to be in an upright position. That can add several feet to the top of your vehicle, which could put you in danger of encountering low-clearance obstacles, particularly with restaurant drive through lanes and the like.
No Need to Break Down Bikes: Several different bike rack styles on the market require you to take at least the front wheel of the bike off in order to secure it within the rack (we’re looking at you, roof racks). This requires additional time and effort, plus the hassle of storing those wheels in your vehicle. A hitch bike rack allows you to simply slide your bikes over the rack, strap them in place, lock it down and go.
Maximize Bed Space: If you own a truck, then chances are good that you have at least considered purchasing a bed bike rack. These are great options, allowing you to carry your bikes upright in a relatively protected area. However, it can eliminate important storage space for other items, like your luggage. This is particularly true for shorter bed trucks, or those who have in-bed toolboxes, in-bed storage boxes and more. A hitch bike rack allows you to maximize the use of your truck’s bed while still carrying your bike (or bikes) wherever you want to go.
As you can see from the above information, there are plenty of reasons to consider choosing a hitch bike rack, rather than another type of rack available on the market. However, there are both good and bad things about these racks, and it is important to go into a purchase with your eyes open. Below, we’ll explore the pros and cons of hitch bike racks in general.
Pros and Cons of Hitch Bike Racks
Hitch bike racks offer sturdy, convenient bike carrying capacity. They can fit on trucks, SUVs, minivans, and even on passenger cars in some instances. However, there are both benefits and drawbacks to these racks, and it’s vital that you are able to make an accurate decision based on all the pertinent information.
- Often more stable than other types of bike rack
- Simplest installation
- Easy to load and unload bikes
- Can carry more bikes than most other rack options
- Wide range of styles available to fit your particular needs, budget and vehicle
- Advanced functionality with some racks allows access to tailgates/trunks/rear doors
- Strong and durable enough for frequent use
- Available in both hanging and platform styles
- Can be expensive, particularly for larger capacity racks, or racks with more advanced features
- Requires that your vehicle has a tow hitch
- Only usable with Class II and higher hitches (no Class I)
- Bikes often sway back and forth, affecting your ride and handling quality
- Low-cost, basic racks may prevent you from using your trunk, tailgate or hatch door
- Your hitch may have a “stop” hidden within it that prevents the bike rack from being fully inserted
- Adds to the length of your vehicle, which may make it more difficult to maneuver in some instances
- Can compromise visibility out of the back window/rear of your vehicle, requiring you to rely on your side mirrors rather than your rearview mirror
As you can see, there are both positive items, as well as some potential drawbacks. It’s important to realize that while there are some possible downsides, they do not all apply to every use situation. For instance, you may have no problem adjusting to the greater vehicle length. You may drive a vehicle with a hitch installed by the manufacturer or the dealer, and you may not rely much on your rearview mirror in the first place.
Top Brands of Hitch Bike Racks
For many consumer purchases, the name behind the product is well known. For instance, most people are familiar with company names like Nike and Apple, or Samsung and HP. However, that familiarity fades when it comes to less frequently purchased items. Chances are good that you don’t know any of the names involved with hitch bike rack manufacturing, much less which companies are considered at the top of the industry, and which ones are considered “budget” options. Some of the brands in hitch bike rack manufacturing that you should know include the following:
- Critical Cycles
- Allen Sports
Hitch Bike Rack FAQs
Just as you might not be aware of the hitch bike rack brands on the market, chances are good that you have quite a few questions when it comes to sorting through your options, how these racks work, and more. In this section, we’ll address some of the most frequently asked questions regarding hitch-based bike racks.
Q. Can I use a hitch bike rack without a trailer hitch?
A. No. A hitch is required. The good news is that hitches can be purchased from most authorized dealerships, as well as through aftermarket vendors.
Q. Can I use a Class I hitch?
A. No, you cannot use a Class I hitch with any bike rack. They require at least a Class II hitch. This is due to the limited tongue weight capacity of a Class I hitch (200 lbs. is the max).
Q. How do I know what class my vehicle’s hitch is?
A. You should be able to find this information in your owner’s manual, but the hitch may also have the class rating on a stamp, or printed on a sticker.
Q. Do I need a special adapter to use one of these racks with my hitch?
A. As long as you have a Class II or higher hitch, you should not need an adapter to use a hitch-based bike rack. However, this may not be true in all cases, as manufacturer offerings can vary greatly. When in doubt, consult your rack instructions and documentation.
Q. Will the bikes block my brake lights or license plate?
A. It’s possible that they will. This will depend on the size and number of bikes you are transporting, rather than anything to do with the rack itself. Most racks are designed so that they do not block lights or license plates, but bike tires, frames and pedals may do so.
Q. Is a platform rack better, or should I buy a hanging bike rack?
A. Neither is “better” than the other. It depends on your needs. Platform racks usually only carry two bikes, and will require extenders to carry more. Hanging racks can carry two to five bikes, depending on the make, model and capacity of the rack in question.
Q. What is the weight limit of my bike rack?
A. This varies from bike rack to bike rack. It should be noted in the documentation that came with your bike rack.
Q. Is there a warranty on my bike rack?
A. Most bike racks do come with at least some warranty protection, although this varies significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some of the better quality racks actually come with limited lifetime warranties.
Q. Is there a hitch bike rack style that will carry every style bike I might own?
A. No, there is not. Some rack styles are better suited for specific types of bikes, and some bikes should not be (or cannot be) carried on specific styles or bike rack. You will need to make sure that the rack is capable of carrying your bike before making a purchase.
Q. Do I have to drill holes in my car to mount the rack?
A. No, the rack should mount directly into your existing hitch. There should be no need for drilling or any other type of modification.
Q. Is my vehicle able to have a hitch installed on it?
A. This will depend on your specific make and model. Most vehicles can have a trailer hitch installed by an aftermarket auto shop, but not all of them can. It is best to check with an experienced mechanic first.
Most Important Considerations When Buying a Hitch Bike Rack
Now that we’ve answered some of the questions you might have about hitch bike racks, it’s time to consider some of the most important areas of comparison, features and selling points of the racks. Below, we’ll explain each and explore some of what you’ll need to know to make an informed purchase.
Type and Style: While you might have decided that a hitch-style bike rack is the best option, you must still decide on the actual style of the rack you will ultimately purchase. There are three common types on the market. These are platform (a “tray” holds your bikes secure in travel), hanging (the bikes hang suspended from arms by their frames), and wheel only (the bike is suspended by the wheels, not the frame).
Bike Types: You will need to make sure that the rack you are considering is able to fit the type of bike(s) that you own. For instance, a standard men’s bike will usually fit easily on almost any type of hitch-based rack, but women’s bikes and children’s bikes may need special adapters, particularly with some of the hanging racks on the market. There is also the possibility that you have a racing bike with a carbon fiber frame, which might be damaged by hanging from a rack’s arms.
Weight: The weight of the rack is an important consideration for several reasons, but most notably for installation and removal. How heavy is the rack you are considering? Can you easily install it and remove it on your own? Is it light enough to stow away in the trunk or back of your vehicle?
Hitch Size: Most hitch bike racks should fit a one to two-inch receiver. If you have a larger receiver (a Class V for instance), you may need an adapter, or might need to consider purchasing a different rack. If you have a Class I hitch, it might be better to buy a different type of rack entirely.
Bike Capacity: How many bikes can the rack accommodate? If it’s just you, or you and one other person, you have a lot of choices. However, if you’re carrying bikes for the whole family, your options are more limited.
Folding/Storage/Additional Features: What other features and benefits does the rack offer? Does it fold out of the way so that you can access the trunk/tailgate/rear door? Does it have large pads to protect the frame of your bike from rub-related wear? What sets the rack apart from others on the market?
Tips to Follow When Shopping for Hitch Bike Racks
We’ve covered a great deal thus far, from answering your most frequently asked questions to providing you with an overview of important considerations to make when buying a rack, and even why a hitch bike rack might be better for your needs than others. However, there are some important tips that you should bear in mind while shopping around. These will help ensure that you’re not only able to find a quality bike rack, but that you’re able to make a purchase you’ll be happy with for years to come.
- Buy More Than You Need: It’s always advisable to buy a rack slightly larger than what you think is absolutely necessary. If you’re considering a one-bike rack, opt for one that can carry two. If you’re thinking about a three-bike carrier, go for one that can hold four. This ensures that you have ample wiggle room. You’ll find that the maximum capacity leaves your bikes tightly packed together. A little extra space is not a bad thing.
- Know Your Payload Capacity: When adding a bike rack to your vehicle, you need to start paying closer attention to your total payload capacity. For instance, adding a rack, plus four bikes, plus four additional people, plus all their associated luggage could put you well beyond what your vehicle is rated to carry. Know your limits and buy/plan accordingly.
- Always base your hitch purchase on your vehicle’s towing capacity, plus the hitch’s allowable tongue weight. These two figures will determine a great deal about your experience and whether or not the rack holds up.
- If you have a bike that is shaped unusually, or that has more than one seat (tandem) or an extra-long frame, it may need special consideration to be transported. Depending on the bike, you may need to consider a roof rack, rather than a hitch rack.
- Most hanging bike racks only secure the frame of the bike to the rack. This can leave the tires free to spin and the handlebars to turn while you’re riding. It’s smart to invest in additional bungee cords or tie down straps to prevent unwanted motion.
- Some bikes do not fit well on hanging bike racks. If possible, test your bike before the day comes to pack up and leave. Depending on the situation, you may need nothing more than an adapter to allow the hanging arm to fit the narrower frame.
In the end, whether you choose a platform style, hanging style, or platform/wheel style rack, each of the options we’ve listed above gives you the ability to safely and securely transport your bike(s) anywhere you want to go. They’re excellent for families heading out for their annual vacation and eager to bring their bikes along, but work equally well for camping trips, or just a weekend away with the bikes.
By this point, you should have the information necessary to begin finding the right hitch bike rack for your needs. Determine how many bikes you’ll need to transport, and then decide whether frame contact is a bad thing (it’s fine for most metal frame bikes, but carbon fiber frames need additional care and protection). You’ll also want to consider how important it is that you’re able to access the trunk or rear hatch of your vehicle, how much your bikes weigh, and the type/style of bikes you will need to transport.
Based on that information, you can then begin comparing your options. While we have presented 10 of the best hitch bike rack options on the market for 2018, there are plenty of others out there with varying features, benefits and bike capacities. A little time spent comparing your options can yield excellent results, even if you choose something other than one of the racks we’ve compared for you.
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