If you’ve tried transporting your bikes inside your car, you probably know it can be quite a hassle. Not only you’ll need to remove one (or both) wheels, but you also risk staining your seats with mud, sand, and dirty chain.
This gets worse especially after a wet ride in the trails. Definitely not a smart way to transport the bike.
The solution? A bike rack.
Not only it’s cleaner and easier, but it also allows you to transport more than one bike for family outings or getaway with your buddies.
On this page, I’ll discuss the different types of bike racks, what you should be looking for, and share some of the popular models among cyclists.
A Quick Glance : Our Favorite Racks to Transport Your Bike
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3 Common Types of Bike Racks
Today, the 3 most commonly found bike racks are :
Many leading brands, such as Thule, Yakima, Kuat, and Saris, have all 3 types in their product lineup.
In recent years, hitch racks are gaining popularity among cyclists mainly due to their 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 type of bike rack.
1. Roof Mounted
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.
2. Hitch Mounted
Hitch mounted racks come in two varieties;
- Support arms
- Platform style
Both styles attach to your car through either a 1.25” or 2″ hitch mount. This, of course, means that your vehicle needs to have a trailer hitch receiver in order to use this type of rack.
If your car, SUV, or truck does not have a trailer hitch receiver, you’ll need to purchase and install one if you’re going to use this style of rack.
Support arm racks such as the Yakima DoubleDown 4 can carry up to four bikes through two support arms that cradle your bikes. These racks have a low supporting height, making them relatively easier to use than roof racks.
Because hitch racks are located at the rear of your car, your bikes are also protected from bugs, kicked-up rocks, and strong winds.
Platform style mounts also attach to your car’s hitch, but instead of supporting your bike by its frame, a platform hitch mount carries your bike in a tray, similar to rack mounts.
This style of hitch mount rack is a good option for carbon frame bikes, full-suspension mountain bikes, and other bikes with frames that are incompatible with support arm racks.
They also work well with heavier e-bikes due to their low loading heights. You do pay for these advantages though.
Platform hitch mount racks such as the Yakima Holdup are usually the most expensive racks on the market.
3. Trunk Mounted
Trunk racks mount to the back of your vehicle through a system of straps and hooks. Their advantages include quick attachment and detachment to your car.
These racks are also generally compatible with a wide range of cars allowing you to easily transfer them from vehicle to vehicle. Trunk racks are also the cheapest of the bike rack styles. One good example is the Allen Sports Deluxe that holds 2 bikes.
The downside is, they offer little in the way of security. Most of these racks can easily be cut loose from your car. And due to the fact that they attach to the back of your car, they prevent you from opening your trunk or tailgate when in use.
Bike Racks Buying Guide & Tips
You’ve decided you need a bike rack for your car, but you aren’t sure which rack to buy.
How much do you need to spend to make sure you get a quality rack that will securely hold your bike?
How many bikes should your rack hold and what racks will you be able to install and uninstall easily?
We’ll take you through the features you should consider before you make a purchase. We’ll also offer our list of the top racks on the market.
1. Number of Bikes
It doesn’t do you much good if you buy a rack that can’t carry all the bikes you need to haul.
While you might see upwards of eight bikes strapped to the roof of a pro tour car during a grand tour, the roof mount racks available to us civilians are generally limited to two.
2. Build Quality
Obviously, you don’t want the bike rack you choose to have a mechanical failure while your bike is attached to it.
Most bike racks are made of quality metal materials that are built to securely hold your bike to the rack and your rack to your vehicle.
But you also want to make sure the rack doesn’t harm. Quality racks use rubber and foam contacts to prevent damage to both.
3. Ease of Use
How easy the bike rack is to use is important on two levels.
First of all, how difficult is the rack to install and uninstall on your car?
If you plan on installing it and leaving it there forever, a time-consuming installation process is tolerable.
If the rack is going to be coming on and off periodically, then consider one that is easy to take on and off of your car.
It would be best if you also considered how easy it is to load and unload bikes. Roof rack cars, for example, will require more upper body strength to use than hitch mount racks, which are lower to the ground.
4. Storage Size
5. Bike Security
Roof Mounted Bike Racks
Yakima High Road
Our Top Pick for Roof Bike Racks
Yakima has made a name for itself over the years by designing and manufacturing high-quality bike racks for cars, trucks, and SUVs.
The Yakima Highroad is no exception. Drop your bike’s front wheel into the wheel holder, then turn the TorqueRight tightening knob to lock your wheel into place. A rear strap secures your rear wheel to make sure the bike rests securely in the tray.
Tool-free mounting brackets fit most roof racks. This rack is compatible with Yakima’s 2 SKS locking system, which locks your mount to the rack and your bike to the mount.
The Yakima Highroad is compatible with bikes with wheels ranging in size from 26” to 29” and tire widths up to 4”.
Swagman Upright Roof Mount
A Budget Friendly Bike Rack that Does the Job Well
Swagman is a company that has been specializing in bike racks for more than 20 years.
This tray-style rack doesn’t require any wheel disassembly for your bike. Just drop your bike in the tray, engage the locking arm to your down tube, tighten the wheel straps and you’re ready to go.
Swagman also has security in mind with this rack. A key lock keeps your bike secure while on the rack. The roof-mounted rack holds bikes up to 35lbs. and can be installed in minutes on both square and round roof rack bars up to 3” wide.
With a rock bottom price tag, the Swagman Upright Roof Mount is one of the best budget deals you can find in a roof rack.
Sea Sucker Mini Bomber 2
An Innovative and Minimalist Take on Roof Bike Racks
The innovative design of the Sea Sucker Mini Bomber 2 allows you to carry your bikes just about anywhere on your car that you can find a smooth surface.
This bike mount uses suction cup mounts that allow you to mount your bike on the roof, tailgate, or even back window of your car without any extra mounting hardware.
Just affix the giant suction cups for the front fork and rear wheel, lock your bike into the fork mount, strap the rear wheel down, and you’re ready to go.
Concerned about putting your faith in suctions cups? Don’t be. The Seasucker Mini Bomber 2’s suction cups are rated up to 210-lb. pull strength.
A Very Sleek Roof Rack with Wide Compatibility
If you don’t mind removing your front wheel to use this roof mount rack, then the Kuat Trio might be the option for you.
This fork mount roof rack fits 9, 15, and 30mm forks. The Kuat Trio will mount to most factory and aftermarket crossbars. Kuat also has security in mind with the Trio. An integrated cable lock keeps both your frame and rear wheel secure while in transit. Interested in transporting your fat bike?
An adapter kit is sold separately to accommodate wider tires. Kuat has been designing what it describes as lightweight and stylish bike racks since 2008.
With its slim and sleek design, you won’t mind keeping the Kuat Trio installed on your roof even when it’s not in use.
Trunk Mounted Bike Racks
Thule Raceway Pro
Top Quality from A Top Brand
Thule has become synonymous with quality and innovation when it comes to bike racks.
The Thule Raceway Pro is no exception.
This rack features a number of innovations that are sure to please cyclists willing to pay a premium for a trunk mount rack. Sure-tight ratcheting cables ensure this rack is securely attached to your vehicle with its patented FitDial while Thule’s No-Sway Cage prevents bike-to-bike contact while in transit.
Rubberized cradles with Thule’s Road Dampening Technology secure your bike to the rack.
Worried about someone making off with your bike rack and bikes?
The Thule Raceway Pro includes a lockable cable that secures the bike to the carrier and the carrier to the car.
Need to store the Raceway Pro when not in use? No problem. This rack folds flat for storage.
Allen Sports Deluxe 2-Bike Mount
An Affordable Trunk Bike Rack for the Budget Minded
Allen has made a name for itself designing and manufacturing bike racks that will get the job done without emptying your pocket.
The Allen Sports Deluxe 2-Bike mount is a simple bike rack that will attach to the trunk of most sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, and SUVs. Its 12″ long arms are designed to carry two bikes and a wide range of frame designs.
Installation is a breeze with the Allen Sports Deluxe. Strapping it to your car can be completed in just a few minutes. Allen’s individual tie-down systems secure your bike’s frame in individual rubber-coated cradles that strap down while thick foam pads protect your car’s paint job.
At Allen’s typical low price point, the Allen Sports Deluxe offers a solid trunk mount bike rack for budget-minded cyclists.
Saris Bones 3-Bikes Rack
Our Top Bike Computer Pick
Saris, a company that specializes in bike racks and bike trainers, offers this trunk-mounted rack that can handle up to three bikes.
This is one strong rack.
Saris touts its injection-molded arms and legs, which securely hold your bikes aloft. Four mounting straps with vinyl-coated hooks and rubberized feet keep the Bones strapped securely to your car. Ratchet straps securely hold your bikes to the rack while keeping them separated so they won’t rub together during transport.
With its arched design, the Saris Bones can fit most sedans, minivans, SUVs, and even cars with spoilers. Saris also believes that even trunk-mounted racks should be stylish.
This rack comes in four different colors including red, blue, yellow, grey, and black.
Hitch Mounted Bike Racks
Kuat NV 2.0
The Coolest Looking Hitch Bike Rack Around
Kuat is known as a pioneer in hitch-mount platform style bike racks.
The second version of the NV takes the already popular first version and makes improvements on it. The Kuat NV 2.0 features a new pivot system that allows you to tilt the rack for access to the trunk or tailgate of your car or SUV.
The NV’s cradle is also now adjustable to allow for fat bikes and longer wheelbases. The NV 2.0 features longer locking cables for better security and improved ratchet arms for securing your bike to the rack.
One of the coolest features of the Kuat NV 2.0 is its Trail Doc accessory, which turns this rack into a mobile repair stand for field repairs. The company focuses not just on quality and function, but also on style.
This might be the coolest looking bike rack you can put on your car.
Yakima DoubleDown 4
Your Answer to Hauling 4 Bikes At Once
When volume counts, you need to go with a bike rack that can haul a lot of bikes. The DoubleDown from Yakima is your answer.
This hitch-mount rack will carry up to four bikes with regular frame geometry. Rubberized cradles and straps keep your bike secure and separated while anti-sway technology keeps them from bumping into other bikes.
Yakima has also upped the game on the folding parts of this rack. No more pulling and reinserting metal pins. The lock pin system has been replaced by push-button releases for the arms and frame. The arms drop down when not in use while the rack tilts away from your car for access to your car’s trunk.
The Yakima DoubleDown 4 is compatible with both 1.25” and 2” hitch receivers. A locking system that secures the mount to your vehicle and bikes to the mount is sold separately.
A Versatile Platform Rack that Carries All Types of Bikes
The Yakima Holdup can carry all types of bikes from full-suspension mountain bikes to fat bikes and e-bikes, and even other bikes with irregular geometry won’t work with other types of racks.
Just drop your bike into the wheel cradles and engage Yakima’s patented StrongArm over the front wheel. This rack will fit bikes with wheel sizes ranging from 20” to 29”.
With no frame contact, this rack is also ideal for carbon fiber bikes. The Yakima Holdup boasts a weight capacity of 60lbs per bike, making it ideal for e-bikes.
And don’t worry about accessing the gear in your trunk. This rack tilts down with bikes loaded to give you access.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have questions about bike racks?
Will my bikes be safe and secure during transport?
Yes, the bikes will be safe if they’re securely mounted. But don’t leave anything to chance. Always remember to check and re-check before you start your drive.
If possible, always go for reputable bike rack brands as they’re better built with high-quality materials.
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 two locks; one to lock the rack to the vehicle, and the other the bike to the rack.
Which type of racks are suitable for SUV?
Will the roof racks damage my car?
No, they wouldn’t damage your car if they’re installed correctly. Ensure that you’re using the correct roof rack model for your car.
How many bikes can I fit on a roof rack?
A roof bike rack can fit one bike. If you need to transport more than 1 bike, you’ll need to get another roof bike rack. Generally, the roof of a sedan or SUV can fit up to 4 roof bike racks.
Can I go through car wash with roof racks?
It’s NOT recommended to go through a car wash with roof racks due to the risk that the car wash parts might snag your rook racks. Brands like Yakima have explicitly advised against doing so.