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?
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How to Properly Use a Hitch Rack
While the hitch rack is a fantastic way to make sure you are finally able to take your bike just about anywhere you want to go on your vehicle, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how to properly use the rack. In this section, we will be providing you with some information that can help ensure that you understand just how to use the hitch racks you are considering buying.
You will find that the tips below will be relevant regardless of the hitch rack you eventually choose.
Always Read the Instruction Manual
Many people overestimate their skills when it comes to putting things together. This is true whether it is furniture from Ikea, building a computer, or assembling and installing a bike rack on their vehicle. They do not bother reading the instruction manual or the assembly instructions, and they end up frustrated when the build doesn’t go as planned.
Therefore, it is important for your safety, your vehicle’s safety, and the safety of your bikes to ensure that you read through your manuals.
The instructions will let you know all of the tools that you are going to need, and they will walk you through the steps to building the hitch rack. In addition, you will find that the manual will likely also include some information about the care and maintenance of the bike rack for the car, as well as safety tips.
Read through the instructions at least once before you actually start to assemble the hitch rack. This will ensure that you have a basic understanding of the instructions, and it should make the assembly that follows easier.
Properly Assemble the Carrier
It’s now time that you assemble the bike carrier. You will want to make sure that you have all of the tools that are listed in the instruction manual before you get started. Don’t try to “wing it” with the tools you have around the house. If you don’t have everything that’s needed, buy it or borrow it before beginning, as it will make the assembly process much easier.
Carefully follow all of the instructions in your manual step-by-step. Check your work as you complete each step to ensure that you have done it properly. If you’ve ever put together a piece of furniture, such as a bookcase, only to realize that you have the back on incorrectly after you’ve assembled it, you will appreciate double-checking as you go.
Once you have the hitch rack fully assembled, you will then be able to install it on your vehicle.
Mount the Bike Carrier to the Vehicle
Keep in mind that different hitch racks and different vehicles may have different instructions and requirements for proper mounting. If you are having trouble finding specifics for your vehicle and hitch rack, consider checking YouTube or online forums for some advice on the mounting process. However, the best course of action would be to contact the manufacturer if you are having issues.
Make sure that the rack is properly mounted and affixed to the vehicle, and make sure everything is tight. Once you are sure you have the bike rack installed correctly, you can move on to the next step.
Add the Bikes to the Rack
Add the bikes to your hitch rack and make sure they are secured properly. Read the instructions again on properly securing your bike to ensure that you’ve done so correctly. Once you have done this a few times, it will become second nature to you.
After they have been mounted and secured properly with the fastening system, they should be ready to be transported safely.
Take a Short Drive
However, before you simply head off on a long drive to your favorite biking location to ride with mountain bikes, you want to make sure everything is working properly. This means taking a short drive with the bikes in tow around your neighborhood.
This will give you a chance to make sure everything is fully secure and that you will not have any problems once you are out on the open roads or climbing the mountains to get to the mountain bike trail you want to explore.
If you don’t want to risk your bikes on that initial test drive, take a drive with just the rack in place to see how it does. Once you are certain that it’s properly mounted, then you can add your bikes and take another drive.
Practice Removing the Bikes from the Rack
Once you get home from your test drive with the bikes, practice taking them off the rack. Remove the cable lock, or any other locks you have for the bike, as well as the restraining system. Practicing while you are at home will ensure that you don’t get frustrated trying to figure out how to put on and take off the bikes when you are at your destination.
Don’t worry; it’s easy. You will be a pro at using your hitch rack in no time.
While some of these might seem like tedious steps, they will ensure that you are installing and using your hitch rack properly. It’s always better to be safe than sorry and taking a few extra precautions along the way can be beneficial.
Benefits of a Car Bike Rack
Do you really need to have a bike rack? If the only place that you ever ride your bike is around your own neighborhood, then maybe you don’t need to invest in a bike rack. However, most people who have bikes and who love the hobby want to do more than just travel around the block.
While your bike is a nice option for easy transportation in your area, wouldn’t it be great if you could get out and enjoy other locations? Whether you are a mountain bike enthusiast, or you simply like the idea of taking your bike to other towns and locales on a road trip, having a bike rack for the car is a necessity.
Most vehicles today aren’t capable of holding a bicycle inside. While you might be able to remove the front wheel of your bike and fit it into the truck, you aren’t going to be able to hold more than one bike in most cases. If you have an SUV, you might be able to hold two bikes, but you probably won’t have too much room left over to carry other gear.
What if you have even more bikes for a family trip? The best option is to choose a quality bike rack for your vehicle that you can use to hold the bikes on the outside. This ensures that you will have more space within your vehicle for passengers, a cooler full of snacks and cold drinks, perhaps some camping gear, and whatever else you might need.
A good hitch rack that has been installed properly can make your life much easier when it comes to transporting your bikes. You will be able to plan out some great trips that you would not have been able to take without one of these racks.
Types of Bike Racks for Vehicles
You will find a wide range of different types of bike racks available today in addition to the hitch rack. Even though there are many great options out there, the hitch rack has become one of the most popular choices because it is easy to use and versatile. Still, let’s look at some of the other types of bike racks before getting into why the hitch rack is a top choice.
Roof Mounted Racks
One of the other types of car racks for bikes you have likely seen is the roof mount. It is important to keep in mind that while this is an option for some, you will need to have a base roof rack already installed on the vehicle. This could be installed by your vehicle’s manufacturer as a basic part of your vehicle or an add-on, or you could have an aftermarket one installed on your own.
There are a number of types of roof-mounted racks available today in different styles, and they will generally have a locking system that will help to keep the bikes secure to your rack. Let’s look at the pros and cons of a roof rack system.
- The bikes will not obscure your visibility
- You can easily change out the bike racks with other types of racks, such as cargo racks, when needed
- You will still have access to the back of the vehicle whether it is a hatchback or a trunk
- You can often carry several bikes on the roof easily
- You will find that these racks can create more drag
- You have to lift the bikes up onto the top of the vehicle
- Adding more height to the car or SUV means that you might not be able to go through the drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant, and you could strike low-hanging branches while driving
Trunk Mounted Racks
If you have a truck, then you might have looked at some of the truck-mounted bike racks that are available. These will typically have a rack that clamps onto the truck using metal hooks that have been coated in rubber. In some cases, they are covered in foam.
- One of the main reasons these are popular is because they tend to be inexpensive
- They can be added and removed easily, so you can use them with different vehicles
- Because the systems tend to be small, it will be easy to store them away when you don’t need them
- There are a lot of contact points with the vehicle, and if you aren’t careful, you could cause scratches
- They do not have much in the way of security features, so the bikes may be stolen more easily
- You will likely only be able to carry two to three bikes at most using this type of system
Spare Tire Mounted Bike Racks
Another option that you may have seen is spare tire mounted bike racks, but they are limited in who will be able to use them. Since they will mount to the spare tire, they will only work for vehicles that have a tire mounted on the back.
- These racks tend to be easy to install
- They are priced low
- They aren’t a permanent attachment to the vehicle
- You will only be able to hold two bikes at most with these racks
- You need to remove the tire cover whenever you are using them, which can be a hassle
Now that you have seen some of the other types of bike racks for cars that are available, let’s take a closer look at the hitch bike rack and see why it could be the best option for you.
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.
Types of Hitch Bike Rack
We’ve mentioned different types of hitch bike rack throughout the roundup, including the platform and the hanging hitch rack. Now, it’s time to take a closer look at each of these options to see what they offer, so you can decide which type might be the best solution for your bike transportation needs.
Platform racks tend to be the most popular option when it comes to hitch bike racks. You will find that the platform racks are often compatible with a wide range of different types of bikes, which means that more people will find them usable.
In addition, these types of racks will sit lower to the ground, which means it will be easier for loading and unloading the bikes. They are also quite stable, which is important when you are traveling whether you are on the highway or going down a bumpy dirt road.
These types of bike racks will often have two attachment points, as well. They will have a ratcheting arm that will help to keep the front wheel secure, and they will have a strap that will hold the rear wheel in place.
Another reason so many bike lovers prefer this type of rack system is because the points of contact with the bikes are limited to the tires. This means there is a lower risk of causing and damage to the paint on the bike’s frame.
Overall, this is a simple and elegant system that makes it easy to access your bikes and reduces issues with wobble that you might feel from other systems while you are driving.
However, you also have to consider some of the elements of the platform racks that may not be as appealing to some users. For example, these types of racks are large, and they are on the heavier side, which means that they might be more difficult for some people to mount and to take off. They are also more expensive, but most people do not mind spending on the quality design of these racks.
Hanging racks are not as prevalent as the platform racks, but they are still popular. They are not as expensive as the platform racks, and they still allow for nice and easy transport of the bikes. Since it’s a hitch mount, you will not have to worry about lifting the bikes to get them onto the vehicle. Loading and unloading are easy.
You will also find that these options tend to be lighter than the platform racks, and they are more compact. This could make them a good option for those who plan to add and remove the rack with any frequency.
You will want to keep in mind that many of the hanging bike racks are not able to accommodate all shapes of bike frames. If you have an irregularly shaped frame, it may simply not work with the hanging rack. For example, they might not work with step-through bikes, kids’ bikes, or even with some mountain bikes unless you buy an adaptor, as well.
While these systems can hold the bikes safely, you will find that they are not as stable as the platform hitch rack. Also, the straps that are used with the systems could cause scrapes on the frame of your bike over time.
Which of the options is right for you? Should you choose a platform mount bike rack or a hanging mount bike rack? It will often depend on your budget and how often you are going to be using the rack. You will want to find a solution that works best for you.
Safety Tips for Hitch Bike Racks
Safety should always come first when you are using a bike rack for your vehicle. This is true of any type of rack, including hitch racks, even though they are a very safe option. Following a few basic safety tips can help to ensure that you have a worry-free time with your rack. Let’s look at some of the basics tips you should use.
First, you have to think about the size of your vehicle. You have been accustomed to driving, parking, and backing up based on the actual size of your vehicle. However, now that you have added a hitch rack to the back of the car, you have added several feet to the vehicle.
Whether you have one bike or several on the back of the car, you will need to change the way that you are driving. You have to think about the new size of the vehicle when you are pulling into a parking spot when you are backing up, and more. It can take some time to get accustomed to driving with what is essentially a longer car.
You should also make sure that you always double-check the safety mechanisms on the rack and ensure that all of the straps are nice and tight. You do not want the bikes rattling around any more than necessary while you are driving. Get into the habit of checking them before you take off and whenever you stop, even if you are just getting gas or stopping for lunch.
Another safety tip that you will want to keep in mind is the security of your bikes when they are on the rack. You want to make sure that they are safe, and even though they might be affixed to the rack that has a lock, you can’t be too careful. It may be a good idea to add another cable lock for each of the bikes you are carrying.
Doing so will make it far more difficult for a thief to take off with your bikes in the middle of the night when you are at a hotel or when you are inside having lunch on your way to the trails. A little bit of extra precaution is always worth it. After all, you do not want to have to replace your bikes.
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 bike 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.
Care and Maintenance Tips for Your Bike Rack
Getting out on the trails, taking your bikes on a road trip, or just heading to the beach to ride along the bike paths near the lake or ocean is a freeing feeling. Naturally, you take the time to make sure that your bikes are always in good condition and ready to ride at a moment’s notice. However, some people do not put as much care and attention into their hitch rack. Instead, they treat it as an afterthought.
This could be a big mistake.
If you do not take good care of your bike rack, even having the best bike in the world won’t do you much good. After all, you won’t be able to go anywhere with it except around your neighborhood.
Fortunately, you will find that care for your bike rack tends to be easy. Below are some of the most important considerations for keeping the rack in tiptop condition.
Consult Your Instruction Manual
It may have been several months since you last thought about your bike rack, and in that time, your memory might have become fogged on how to install it and use it properly and safely. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to give the manual a once-over before you put on the rack for the first time during the new season.
It will also serve as a refresher for safety and basic maintenance that might be needed.
Check for Damage
This is important to do each and every time that you are going to be heading out with your hitch rack attached to the car. Take the time to look for any sort of wear and tear that might be apparent on hooks, straps, and all of the other components of the rack. If there is any sign of damage, you will not want to use the rack. Instead, get it replaced.
How often should you check for damage? While some might feel that it’s overkill, we recommend that you do a quick inspection every time you head out with the rack, as well as on your way home from the trails. You do not want to deal with any nasty surprises while you are on the road.
Keep It Clean
Unfortunately, there are many who don’t keep their bike racks as clean as they should. When you let the rack get too dirty, you will find that it can end up causing a substantial number of problems for you. It’s possible that the dirt, grime, salt, and other elements from the road could start to erode parts of the rack if you aren’t cleaning it regularly.
In addition, grit and dirt could end up getting into the locks on the rack, as well as the additional locks that you use, which could render them inoperable. After you get home after each of your trips, wipe it down with some soap and water. It shouldn’t take you long at all, and you will be able to check for damage at the same time.
Check the Locks
If you haven’t used your locks in a while, they might not be working as well as you remembered. There is a chance that the lock core could seize up if you are not using it occasionally. This means that even during the off-season when your bikes are put away for winter, you should cycle the locks. Doing this every couple of weeks or even every month can help to keep them in good working shape.
This is also a good time to check to see that they aren’t rusted and that they are still functioning as intended. It is easy enough to do, but you will want to add it to your calendar so you don’t forget.
When you aren’t using your bike rack, what are you doing with it? It is important that you have a safe place in the garage or another part of your home where you can keep it while it isn’t being used. You never want to leave the rack outside, as it could be stolen, or it could be damaged due to the weather.
Place it in a location where nothing will fall onto and damage the rack and consider getting a cover. This will help to keep away the dust from the garage and provide some extra protection.
Getting a New Bike Rack
There will come a time when your old bike rack just doesn’t work any longer. Even when you have a high-quality rack, years of use and time on the road can cause damage along with wear and tear. If you notice that there is any sort of issue with the hitch rack, large or small, your best course of action is to replace it as soon as possible.
Driving around with rack that has problems is a danger to yourself and others, not to mention the bikes that you are carrying. It’s well worth the time and cost to check out the options we’ve provided on the list above, so you can get the rack that’s right for you.
In addition, if you have recently bought a new vehicle, you will want to make sure that your current bike rack will fit properly. Some racks don’t work with some types of vehicles, so you will want to know this as soon as possible, so you don’t start getting ready for a biking trip only to find out that your car doesn’t accommodate the old rack you have.
Below, you will find some of the most important elements you will want to think about when you are making your purchase.
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.
Weight Capacity: When you are choosing your bike racks, you will also want to consider the amount of weight they are rated to carry. Make sure that the bikes you own and that you will be transporting are not too heavy for the hitch rack you are considering buying.
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, 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.