As an avid cyclist, I find that I’m often loading up my bike onto the back of my car, and thanks to using a bike rack it’s a lot easier to drive somewhere, take it off, and start riding.
When I first began to look for the best bike rack I debated whether or not it would be better to mount it on the roof instead.
The problem with the roof is that it would be harder for me to get my bicycle down and I just didn’t feel that my bike was as safe up top as it is mounted at the back of my car.
These days bike racks come with a variety of different features and are typically much easier to install than roof racks.
Not only can they be used for carrying more than just one bicycle but they can be removed whenever they’re not needed while protecting the back of your car from getting scratched or having the bike bump into it all the time when you’re driving.
When it comes to choosing a suitable rack to carry your bicycles on the back of your car there are quite a few options to choose from.
So in this post, I wanted to share a few of my recommendations for a few of the different models that I came across during my own hunt for the best bicycle rack for the car.
In A Hurry? This Is The Best:
- Premium platform hitch bike rack for 2-4 bikes
- Carry up to 4 bikes with the Thule XT Pro XT Bike Add-on (sold...
- Fits 20 - 29 " wheels, fat bikes with up to 5" tires, and hub spacing...
- Ideal for carbon frames, mountain, downhill and fat bikes (does not...
- Load capacity: 120 lbs (60lb max per bike)
The T2 Pro XT is Thule’s premium tray-style, hitch-mount bike rack. It’s pricey but offers best-in-class features in a very user-friendly build. Front-wheel ratcheting arms and rear-wheel straps secure bikes that weigh up to 60 pounds without any frame contact. If you need to access the trunk space while the bikes are on the rack, the double-jointed mechanism can tilt your load away so that your car door is free to swing up and open. Best of all, if your crew is more than two people you can get an extension that adds two more bikes.
The Thule T2 Pro XT sets the standard for hitch mounted tray style racks. It’s the winner of our Editors Choice award for hitch racks. The original version of this model was the previous winner of our Editors’ Choice award, and despite an aggressive influx of new models from competitors, the T2 Pro XT maintains its position as the best hitch rack on the market. Smart features like an easy to reach tilt release handle at the end of the rack and a tool-free vehicle mounting system show Thule’s commitment to user-friendly design. The design of the T2 Pro XT isn’t perfect, but the execution of the design principle is superb, every feature works as intended, and the result is a hassle-free rack that will handle nearly any bike on the market.
- The Thule T2 Pro XT includes all the features you’d expect from a rack in this price range, including a premium build, robust attachment system, and integrated locks.
- One of the easiest-to-use tilt features on the market.
- The rack proved to be extremely durable and sturdy over two years of hard testing.
- This fully-featured hitch rack comes at a steep cost: $600 to be exact.
- Platform-style racks are heavy and the T2 Pro XT is no exception, weighing in at 52 pounds.
- The integrated cable locks are a bit short to run through both the frame and wheel of the bikes we tested.
Best Mount Bike Rack
I mentioned Thule back in my article about the best cargo carrier for cars and since then I’ve been very pleased with the quality of products that they’re able to offer.
When it comes to a well-designed and durable bike rack it’s the Thule Passage Trunk Mount Carrier would be one of my recommendations for checking out if you’re looking to travel with your bike by car.
There are two main models to choose from, one that can carry 2 bikes and the other that can carry 3 bikes, and this rack is quite easy to install unlike some of the roof-mounted options.
It comes equipped with rubber cradles that help to keep the bike frame protected while you’re driving around and holds them securely in place so that it’s not bouncing around or scratching the car while you are driving.
As long as your car comes with a standard factory-installed spoiler then it’s very likely that this bike rack will fit and thanks to the systems of straps it’s quite straightforward to get this rack set-up on the truck and secured in place.
There is a series of anti-sway cages that help to keep the rack steady when you’re driving and the padding also help to prevent any parts of it from bashing into the car during any bumpy movements.
You’ll want to weigh the bikes beforehand as this rack has a carrying capacity of 70 pounds and especially if you’re traveling with mountain bikes or heavier bikes you definitely want to check to see that you don’t exceed the maximum weight capacity before loading it up.
For storage the arms of the rack can be folded down and it can be placed in the trunk or in the garage so that it can be left out of the way when there is no use for it.
Overall, I would definitely recommend checking out the Thule Passage Trunk Mount Carrier and it’s the one that I ultimately settled on during my own search for the best bike rack.
Allen Sports 2-Bike Trunk Mount Rack
- Patented design fits sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, and SUV's : consult...
- Individual tie downs secure and protect bicycles
- Padded lower frame keeps bicycles away from vehicle
- Side straps for increased lateral stability
- Ships in Certified Frustration Free Packaging
I found that the Allen Sports 2-Bike Trunk Mount Rack was quite reasonably priced and it’s a suitable choice for those looking to travel with up to 2 bicycles at a time.
This rack has been designed to fit a wide range of different sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, and even SUVs and it takes advantage of 2 side straps that offer great lateral stability to help keep everything in place while your bikes are mounted.
Straps on the upper and lower part of the rack also add more stability once it has been installed and the frame itself comes with padded areas where it comes into contact with the vehicle to help prevent any scratching or damage.
The tie down system helps to keep the bikes secure once they’re mounted on the rack and the system also rotates so it’s able to accommodate a range of different frame sizes and bicycle styles depending on what it is you’re riding.
The Allen Sports 2-Bike Trunk Mount Rack has a maximum weight capacity of 70 pounds so if you’re traveling with 2 bicycles it’s a good idea to weigh them to make sure that they don’t exceed the capacity limit and out of the box it comes fully assembled so you don’t have to screw around with any tools or components to get it going.
Saris 805 Bones 2-Bike Trunk Rack
- Awarded 4.5 out of 5 stars from Bicycling Magazine
- Safely carries 2 bikes up to 35lbs each
- Compatible with most vehicles (see Saris Fit Guide for approved fits)
- Arc-based design fits over most spoilers and separates bikes on...
- Injection-molded arms and legs are the strongest on the market
The Saris 805 Bones 2-Bike Trunk Rack comes with the ability to carry up to two bicycles at a time and the straps feature a ratcheting design so they can be ratcheted into a secure and stable position while the rack is mounted on the trunk.
I really like being able to take advantage of the ratcheting feature because it allows for greater adjustment when it comes to finding the right security and stability of the strap system while it’s mounted.
The rack takes on an arc design so that it’s able to fit over most standard spoilers and while mounted keeps the bikes at a different level so there is less interference with the pedals and handlebars.
There are rubber feet at the parts of the rack that come into contact with the car and this helps to keep the finish protected while ensuring that the rack doesn’t sway or slide around while you are driving.
The rack part itself is made from a 100% recyclable plastic and the build quality is quite heavy duty with a company boasting that this is one of the strongest racks available.
Thanks to the plastic design the arms and legs aren’t going to rust and aren’t as susceptible to bending or bumps as the aluminum or stainless steel models.
Thule T2 Classic Bike Rack
The Thule T2 Classic Bike Rack is designed to be fitted to the trailer hitch and is well-suited for vans, trucks, and SUVs that come with a trailer hitch for towing and other capabilities.
The rack comes in two sizes, 1.25-inches and 2-inches depending on the size of your hitch receiver, and can be used to carry up to two bikes at a time (there is an add-on you can grab to carry up to four bikes if you’re traveling with your friends or family)
When it’s not being used the rack can be folded so that it’s kept out of the way while mounted and it even tilts away from the rear of the vehicle for access to the trunk while it’s mounted.
This rack is able to hold bikes with wheels between 20-inches and 29-inches as well as being suitable to carrying bikes with tires up to 5-inches without needing any adapters to get it on the rack.
Thanks to the ratcheting arm the bicycles are secured without any frame contact and the hitch keeps them mounted away from your vehicle to prevent any bashes or accidental bumps.
I would recommend checking out the Thule T2 Classic Bike Rack if you’re traveling a lot with your road bike, hybrid, and even downhill bike.
Keep in mind that the rack itself is quite heavy and at around 50lbs in weight you might want to ask for help installing it if you’re not comfortable lifting and working with such an amount.
Yakima RidgeBack Hitch Bike Rack
Another suitable bike rack to use for attaching to the trailer hitch of your vehicle is the Yakima RidgeBack Hitch Bike Rack.
This rack is designed to carry up to 2 bikes at a time and there are also other models that can carry four or even five bikes at a time depending on how many people you’re traveling with.
The rack itself weighs just 32 pounds so it’s much lighter than the previous one that I just mentioned from Thule and it comes fully assembled while being easy to install without having to use any tools or special equipment.
As for its design, it will fit onto both a 1.25-inch and 2-inch hitch receiver and thanks to the anti-sway cradles you don’t have to worry about bike to bike contact while you’re driving around.
Securing the bikes is done via the ZipStrips that can be adjusted to fit different frames and can also be removed depending on how many bikes that you are traveling with.
There’s even a lever that can be used to tilt down the rack so that the rear of the vehicle can be accessed as well as fold the rack flat for storage when it’s not being used.
So far I have been very impressed with the different Yakima products that I’ve used for my car and if you’re looking for a well-designed bike rack for your trailer hitch then it’s the Yakima RidgeBack Hitch Bike Rack that I would recommend checking out.
Bicycle Racks 101
Who Should Buy a Bike Rack
One of the best parts of owning a bike is being able to ride down scenic trails. However, in order to ride down these trails, you have to get your bike there. While it can be fun to simply ride around the block, seeing the same things over and over again can get rather dull and take the spark out of your bike rides. Eventually, you are probably going to want to seek out a bike trail or visit a different location for your rides. However, this means you’re going to have to transport your bike, and that is often more difficult than it sounds. Taking your bike apart and shoving it into your trunk risks damage to both your car and your bike. Instead of risking the damage, you’re better off simply purchasing a bike rack for these excursions.
If you are planning on going on vacation and want to take your bike, you are probably going to need a bike rack as well. Trying to shove your bike into your trunk or back seat is just a bad idea, and if you’re going on an extended vacation, you’re probably not going to have the room inside your car for your bike anyway. It is simply just in your best interest to invest in a good bike rack.
The Types of Bike Racks
While there are a wide variety of different bike racks available the majority of them will fall into three main categories with the difference in each category being how the rack is attached to your vehicle.
This type of rack is designed to be mounted to the roof of your vehicle and typically requires there to be some type of pre-existing rail on the roof as well as crossbars.
Many different vehicles come equipped with factory rails and crossbars on the roof but it’s possible to add your own if you’re looking to get a rack-mounted up there.
There are many advantages to using roof racks versus the other types of bicycle carrying systems with the main advantage being their capacity to hold more than just one or two bikes per vehicle.
The extra capacity of this type vs. the other types is one of the main reasons why you see roof racks prevalent in cycling races with the follow cars since they can carry a few different bikes with ease.
Another advantage is that the racks can be removed from the rails and crossbars so that the crossbars can be used for carrying other items depending on what you’re travelling with and where you’re going.
For those that are driving the vehicle that already comes equipped with a dedicated roof rack then only the bicycle roof rack needs to be purchased and there’s no need to worry about installing any rails or crossbars.
I would definitely recommend the roof mounting systems for those travelling regularly with more than two bikes or anyone that already has a vehicle with a roof rack installed.
The way that hitch mounts work is by fitting onto the hitch receiver that has already been mounted to the underneath of a vehicle.
There is a wide range of different vehicles that come equipped with hitch receivers and it’s also easy to find an aftermarket receiver to install.
This type of rack is quite easy to load and many of them don’t even require any tools for installation on the vehicle.
Another advantage is that they keep the bicycles mounted at the rear of the vehicle out of the wind and away from any debris that might be blown down the road from a vehicle ahead of you.
One of the main drawbacks is that this type of carrying system can be quite heavy and usually the capacity is limited to anywhere between 2 to 4 bicycles at a time.
Trunk mounts are one of the most popular ways of mounting a bicycle to the car and they’re well-suited for anyone that doesn’t have a car or truck that comes equipped with a hitch receiver or roof bar system.
These types of racks tend to be lightweight, easy to install, and are designed to fit a wide range of different vehicles.
When it comes to installation these are attached to the trunk using a system of cables or straps along with padded bars (cage) that help keep everything in place while you’re driving around.
Because of their design, this type of rack doesn’t offer as much of a weight capacity as the rooftop mounted or hitch style ones but they’re a suitable choice for anyone looking for a reasonably priced and easy way to transport their bicycles around.
Cyclists who want to go on road trips inevitably face the challenge of how to best carry the bike in the car. Some bikes are just too big to carry in a trunk. Placing the bike in the backseat will inconvenience the passengers.
If you want to carry your bike in the car securely and safely, you will need a darn good bike rack. Use the bike rack to secure your bicycle to the exterior of your car. Once you do, you can drive without worrying about anything.
Of course, the actual buying process can be challenging considering the number of products available on the market. Avoid hours of research by reading our reviews for the best bike racks for cars currently available. Our reviews detail both advantages and downsides with the most popular bike rack products. You can also read about what to look for when shopping for a bike carrier.