Are you after a bike rack to carry your bikes?

If you’ve tried transporting your bikes inside your car, you probably know it can be quite a hassle and sometimes leaving a big mess to clean up.

Not only you’ll need to remove the wheels but you also risk staining your seats with mud, sand and dirty chain.

Getting a bike rack is the answer.

If you need to carry more than one bike, then you’ll definitely need one anyway.

Further Reading :

Unsure which one to get? 

Then first ask yourself these 5 questions about bike racks to determine your actual needs.

Otherwise, here are 8 of the best bike racks.

Best Roof Rack

Yakima High Road Roof Rack

Yakima High Road

Best Trunk Rack

Thule Archway XT

Thule Archway XT

Best Hitch Rack

Thule T2 Pro XT

Thule T2 Pro XT

1. Yakima High Road

Yakima High Road Roof Rack

The Yakima High Road is my top pick. 

While Yakima might not be as popular as Thule, the Highroad is certainly among the best in its class.

It’s secure, very stable and surprisingly easy to use with no tools needed. It can fit a wide variety of bikes with tire widths ranging from 23mm to 3.25” without any problems. No wheels are removed as the rack secures the bike by its wheels.

Ideal for : If you own an expensive carbon fiber bike, you want it to be contactless with the mount. The Yakima High Road does exactly so.

2. Thule T2 Pro XT

Thule T2 Pro XT Hitch Rack

The T2 Pro XT is Thule’s premium hitch rack offering.

The XT is an updated version where the lateral spacing between bikes are increase to avoid them coming into contact with each other.

As with all Thule’s products, you can expect a very solidly built rack that fits 2 bikes with tires as wide as 5”. There are add-on adapters to extend the carrying capacity to 4 bikes, if needed.

If you’re concerned about theft, you’ll be glad that there are integrated locks that secures the bike to the racks, and the racks to the hitch receiver.

Ideal for : This is without a doubt the best hitch rack available today and it comes with a hefty price tag too.

3. Kuat Trio

Kuat Trio

The Kuat Trio is a minimalist, fork mounted roof rack, which means you’ll have to remove the front wheels.

Even though Kuat might not be a household name, their products have been gaining traction and raving reviews in the past 1-2 years.

The Trio is definitely one of their top selling racks. It uses a 3-way mounting system; 2 at the fork and 1 at the rear wheel. The fork is intelligent enough to adapt to bikes of all types and sizes.

Ideal for : Look no further if you’re after a sleek and minimalist looking roof rack.

4. Kuat Sherpa 2.0

Kuat Sherpa 2.0 Hitch Rack

The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 has undergone major improvements over its predecessor and is now much sturdier thanks to an all-aluminum construction. 

The design is simplified for a minimalist look and is aesthetically pleasing with a powder coat finish. 

It carries up to 2 bikes (non-expandable capacity) with tires up to 3” and a maximum weight of 40lbs/18kg for each bike. If you’ve a heavier bike, consider the Kuat NV 2.0 which has a maximum weight of 60lbs/27kg per bike.

There are 3 color options to choose from black, grey and pearl metallic.

Ideal for : The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is the cheaper and lighter alternative to the Thule T2 Pro XT while still retaining all the key features a premium tray rack should have.

5. Thule Apex Swing 4

Thule Apex Swing 4 Hitch Rack

The Thule Apex Swing 4 is the best in class when it comes to swing-away hitch racks. 

It has an arm-style hitch where it can swing 180 degrees to the vehicle’s side for access to the trunk. It takes up to 4 bikes at once, with each bike weighing a maximum of 35lbs/16kg. The bike rests on the cradles with a rubber strap going over the top and down tube to secure it.

Security wise, there’s an integrated cable locking mechanism where the cable loops around the bike’s top tubes. The hitch rack itself is secured to the car via another lock at the hitch receiver.

Ideal for : If easy and immediate access to your vehicle’s trunk is a major consideration, you might want to seriously consider the Thule Apex Swing.

6. Thule Archway XT

Thule Archway XT Trunk Rack

Thule is the market leader in bike accessories. 

They continue to lead with the Thule Archway XT trunk rack and you definitely can’t go wrong with the Thule brand.

Depending on your needs, it comes with a 2-bike or 3-bike variation. There are 2 unique features that aren’t present in other trunk racks. 

The No Sway Cages that prevent the bikes from hitting each other and soft dampening cradles ensure the bikes don’t bounce too much and stay silent throughout your journey.

It also comes with anti-theft locks which lock the bikes to the rack, and the rack to the vehicle.

Ideal for : If you’re looking for a trunk rack with added security, the Thule Archway XT is a great choice.

7. Kuat Beta

Kuat Beta Hitch Rack

The Kuat Beta is the favorite among those who’re on a budget and want to carry 2 bikes.

It’s very light, weighing only 13lbs/6kg for the 2” hitch receiver version and can be folded up flat for storage especially if you’ve limited space in your garage or apartment. 

As with all hanging hitch racks, the bike’s top tube sits on the cradle and is secured by looping a plastic strap over the top and seat tubes.

Ideal for : If you’re on a budget and yet want to buy from a reputable brand, then the Kuat Beta could be for you.

8. Saris Bones 2

Saris Bones 2-Bike Rack

Saris is a U.S. brand based in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Though not as popular as Thule or Yakima, they do produce some of the best value for money racks.

With an arc-based design, the Saris Bones 2 can be fitted on almost all types of vehicles, even SUV’s with a vertical rear door. It can carry 2 bikes, with each bike having a maximum weight of 35lbs/16kg.

Securing the bikes on the rack is as easy as it can get using the 3 Velcro straps that go around the top tube and seat tube. And when it’s not in use, it can be folded up flat and stored away.

Ideal for : If you’re after the best value for money one, then I’d recommend to strongly consider the Saris Bones 2.

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying

Buying a bike rack can sometimes be a confusing and complicated process.

I’m sure you’ve seen many types of bike racks on other vehicles before. Some are on the roof while some are at the rear.

So, before you jump into buying the best bike racks, ask yourself these questions to determine your actual needs.

1. How many bikes will you be carrying?

Most racks will carry up to 2 bikes comfortably. Some have variations (different model or expandable capacity) that can go up to 3 to 4 bikes.

If you’re going to carry 4 or more bikes, you’ll probably need a combination of both hitch racks and roof racks.

2. How often will be you be using the racks?

If you find yourself using them often, you might want to consider a roof rack since they’re a permanent fixture on your vehicle. 

You can save the hassle of assembling and dissembling and finding a space in your garage to store them when not in use.

If you use them intermittently, give hitch racks a consideration as you can remove and store them when not in use.

3. Do you need easy access to your car's roof or trunk?

Roof racks is the recommended option if you need fast and easy access to your vehicle’s trunk.

If roof racks are not your thing, then consider hitch racks.

There are 2 common types of hitch racks:

They can either be swung sideways or tilted to allow you easy access to the trunk.

4. Does your car already have a hitch receiver?

If your vehicle already has a hitch receiver or you plan to install one, then go for hitch racks. Most hitch racks today use either a 1.25″ x 1.25″ or 2″x 2″ receiver.

Having a hitch receiver also allows you to transport other things such as a camper and boat.

Read More : Hitch Receivers Basics

5. Are you comfortable with your bikes coming into contact with the racks?

If you own an expensive bike or one with an oddly shaped tube, like aero bikes, then consider either a roof rack like the Yakima High Road roof rack or tray style hitch rack like the Thule T2 Pro XT hitch rack.

Most of them secure the bike by the wheels rather than the frame these days.

It’s not uncommon for the bike racks to damage the bike’s paint job at the points of contact, especially when it’s not secured carefully.

The 3 Common Types of Bike Racks

Today, the 3 most commonly found bike racks are:

Many of the leading brands like ThuleYakimaKuat and Saris have all 3 types in their product lineup.

In recent years, hitch racks are gaining popularity among cyclists mainly due to its ease of loading the bikes. Roof and hitch mounted racks are more expensive while trunk mounted racks are more affordable.

Let’s take a deeper look into each one of them.

1. Roof Mounted

Thule Roof Rack

This is the all-time favorite type of racks. 

You’ve probably seen them everywhere all these years including at professional bike races.

Roof racks require your vehicle to have a base rack. Some vehicles, especially SUV’s come with them factory installed. If your vehicle doesn’t have one, you can always get the aftermarket ones.

Pros

  • Visible rear window. Since the bikes are on the roof, you’ll have an unobstructed view of the rear window for safer driving.
  • Contactless. Securing the bike via the wheels protect your bike’s paint job and carbon fibre.
  • Uncompromised access to the trunk. Useful if you need to access the vehicle’s trunk mid journey.

Cons

  • Height. You’ll need to lift the bike over your vehicle in order to mount it. This requires some effort especially if the bike is heavy.
  • Vulnerable to bike damage. Keep in mind the extra height your vehicle has when driving through overhangs. Otherwise, you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Mounting the Bikes. The bikes are mounted to the roof rack via 3 clamping methods:

  • On the downtube
  • Fork
  • Upright

These days, the upright style is the preferred method as the bike frame doesn’t come into contact with the racks, greatly reducing the risk of damaging the bike. For example, the Yakima High Road or the Kuat Trio.

If you have an aero bike, you’ll appreciate the upright mount since the aero bike’s downtube is non-rounded, which isn’t compatible with most downtube clamps.

Bikes Damaged on Roof Racks

2. Hitch Mounted

As I mentioned earlier, hitch mounted racks are quickly gaining popularity in recent years because it’s much easier to load the bikes due to its low height.

The hitch rack mounts directly into a hitch receiver at the bottom rear of your vehicle. Unlike the roof racks, you can easily remove and store away the hitch racks when not in use.

Pros

  • Versatile. They can carry all types of bikes. Ideal for CX, gravel, mountain and fat bikes.
  • Easy to Load. Hitch racks sit low and makes it easier to load the bikes especially if you’ve a heavy and/or dirty bike.

Cons

  • Hindered access to the trunk. You’ll need to either tilt or swing the racks sideways to access the vehicle trunk.

There are 2 common types of hitch racks: 

Tray Hitch Racks

Thule Tray Hitch Rack

For a try hitch rack, the bikes sit on a tray rack or platform with their weight on the wheels.

Mounting the Bikes. The bikes are mounted onto the tray with one of the two clamping methods:

  • On the downtube
  • Wheels

The latter is more popular as it doesn’t come into contact with the bike frame. Both are equally secure, so it’s more of a personal preference especially if you have an expensive carbon fibre bike or a custom paint job which you don’t want to risk damaging it.

Trunk Access. To access your vehicle’s trunk, you can tilt the tray or swing it sideways. I’d recommend the Kuat Sherpa 2.0 for the tilting option and the Thule Apex Swing 4, which can be swung 180 degrees sideways.

Some models such at the Thule T2 Pro XT even have options where you can expand the carrying capacity with additional accessories.

Hanging Hitch Racks

Hanging Hitch Rack

The bikes’ top tube sits on the rack, hence it’s referred as hanging. A good example if the Kuat Beta hitch rack.

The hanging hitch rack are not suitable for bikes with odd shaped top tubes especially aero bikes.

I also wouldn’t recommend using them for carbon bike either since you’ll need to clamp the top tube which is vulnerable of cracking if overdone.

3. Trunk Mounted

Thule Trunk Bike Rack

If roof and hitch racks are not suitable for your vehicle, then consider trunk mounts. Generally, trunk mounted racks are cheaper as well. A good option for those on a budget is the Saris Bones 2 trunk rack.

Trunk mounts are by far the most versatile among all bike racks.

Due to their design use a simple pull straps to hold the mount in place, they can fit a wide range of vehicles, from small to large SUVs and even those with a vertical rear door.

Pros

  • Very versatile. Fits most vehicles without needing additional accessories.
  • Inexpensive. Great option for those who are just starting out.

Cons

  • Complicated access the trunk. The bikes and racks need to be removed before you can access the vehicle’s trunk.​
  • Lacks security. The trunk rack is clipped and strapped on to the vehicle without any locking mechanism, making it prone to theft.​

Hitch Receivers

Hitch Receiver

In order to use a hitch rack, you’ll need to have a hitch receiver installed at the bottom rear of your vehicle.

Pay particular attention to the type of hitch, especially the compatibility between your vehicle’s hitch receiver and the rack’s hitch.

Hitch Classes

There are 5 hitch classes and they are classified according to their maximum weight capacity and the size of the receiver opening.

The higher the hitch class, the larger its opening to support a heavier load, commonly referred as the tongue weight.

For hitch mounted racks, they’re either Class 2 or Class 3.

Hitch Classes Comparison Table

Hitch Classes Description

  • Class 1. The hitches are 1.25” x 1.25” in size with a maximum weight capacity of 200lbs/90kg. They’re generally installed on small to medium sedan cars and used for towing light load such as small utility trailers.
  • Class 2. The hitches are meant for moderately heavy load with a maximum weight of 350lbs/159kg. The size of the hitch receiver is 1.25″ x 1.25″.
  • Class 3. Typically found on pickup trucks, SUV’s and minivans to tow campers, trailers and small boats. The receiver size is a square 2” x 2” and has a maximum weight capacity of up to 600lbs/272kg.
  • Class 4. These are heavy duty hitch receivers with 2” x 2” in size. They can carry a load up to 1000lbs/453kg such as large campers and boats.
  • Class 5. The heaviest duty among all hitches with a size of 2.5” x 2.5” usually found on trucks. It can carry up to 1200lbs/544kg of weight for a full-sized camper and large boat.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will the bikes be safe and secure during transport?

Yes they’re safe for use when the bike are securely mounted. But don’t leave anything to chance.

Always remember to check and re-check that your bikes are mounted securely before you start your drive.

If possible, always go for reputable bike rack brands as they’re better built with high quality materials.

2. Can bike racks be stolen?

Yes they can, especially the hitch and trunk mounted ones. 

Cheaper models usually don’t come with a lock that secures the rack to your vehicle.

Mid to premium models usually come with a two locks; one to lock the rack to the vehicle, and the other the bike to the rack.

3. Which type of racks are suitable for SUV?

Hitch racks are ideal for SUV. Since they’re low in height, it’s easier to load the bikes.

If your SUV already has a base rack or roof rails, you can also consider roof racks.