Which bike rack is best?

Whether you love speeding down busy city streets on slick racing tires or barreling down the side of a mountain, sometimes being a cyclist means taking your bike to a different location. To do this, you’ll need a bike rack that’s safe, stable and easy to install on your vehicle.

Like a 13% grade, the price of the Thule T2 Pro XT/XTR Hitch Bike Rack is not for the faint of heart, but it’s the best bike rack when you need to haul heavy bikes.

What to know before you buy a bike rack

Style

Bike racks come in three basic styles.

  • Roof: Roof-mounted racks use either a fork or upright mount fastened to the top of your car. In the first, the front bike wheel is removed. Because you need to lift the bike over your head to mount it to the roof, these racks can be difficult for the vertically challenged. 
  • Trunk: These are most common, strapping under the trunk lid and around the rear window. Trunk mounts are the least expensive option, but they can block your view and may lead to damage to your vehicle, no matter how well padded. 
  • Hitch mount: This requires a trailer hitch and comes in one of two styles (hanging and platform). These keep your car free from scratches or dents, but not every vehicle comes with a trailer hitch. 

Material

Bike racks can be made of varied materials, including stainless steel, steel, PVC or thermoplastic. Straps are usually woven nylon but can also be made of rubber or sturdy cloth.

Whatever material you choose should be rustproof and able to withstand the weather. Steel racks are heavier and hard to attach and remove. 

What to look for in a quality bike rack

Anti-sway features

Whenever you add an extension to your vehicle, you alter the way it performs. This holds true of even the best bike rack, so look for one that has anti-sway and stability features. These keep bikes from moving excessively in the rack. 

High weight capacity

If you and your heavy mountain bike routinely go for rides with a friend who has the same, you’ll need a rack with a high weight capacity. Pay close attention and look for something that holds 50 pounds or more. 

Foldable

Even die-hard bikers take a break now and then. A foldable bike rack is easier to store and can fit in compact spaces. 

Fits a wide variety of vehicles

Bike racks fit some vehicles better than others. Some vehicles, especially those with rear spoilers, have designs that make doing so more difficult. However, some bike racks are more versatile in their design. The best bike racks are flexible enough to accommodate everything from small sedans to SUVs. 

Easy installation

Many racks boast tool-free installation. This is a great feature that is perfect for those with little mechanical aptitude. Regardless of the type of installation, make sure your rack comes with a clear and easy-to-read instruction manual. This will make the installation go more smoothly. 

How much you can expect to spend on a bike rack

The cost of a bike rack depends on the type of material, the brand name and the number and weight of bikes that it can accommodate. Expect to spend $200-$800. 

Bike rack FAQ

Is there a trick to properly installing and using a bike rack?

A. There are a few tips that can help you protect your bike and make installing and using the rack easier. 

  • With a trunk or hitch mount, check to make sure it’s installed high enough to keep the tires of the bike from hitting the ground. 
  • Tires should also be well above the car’s exhaust pipe.
  • Protect your wheel bearings by securing the bike’s tires with bungee cords. This will prevent them from spinning as you drive. 
  • Double-check the tightness of straps and bolts at each installation. These connections loosen with use.
  • Make sure that pads and bumpers have plenty of spring to protect both your bike and your vehicle. 

Can you use a bike rack for anything else?

A. Generally speaking, It’s best to transport bikes only with your bike rack. They are not designed to haul lumber or other types of recreational equipment and may not be secure enough. 

What’s the best bike rack to buy?

Top bike rack

Thule T2 Pro XT/XTR Hitch Bike Rack

Thule T2 Pro XT/XTR Hitch Bike Rack

What you need to know: It’s perfect for dedicated cyclists who like to ride with a friend.

What you’ll love: Two bikes ride safely on this rack that’s secured by a 2-foot cable lock. It can stay attached to your car between rides. It holds bikes up to 60 pounds with plenty of space between bikes. No tools are needed for installation.

What you should consider: No tools are needed to install, but some found it challenging. It’s also very expensive.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Top bike rack for the money

Thule Gateway Pro Trunk Bike Rack

Thule Gateway Pro Trunk Bike Rack

What you need to know: This is a no-frills rack for bikers on a budget.

What you’ll love: It’s lightweight and stores easily. It fits up to three bikes on anti-sway cradles with 7 inches between bikes for no contact. The arms fold down for easy storage.

What you should consider: This may not fit larger vehicles.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Worth checking out

Saris Bones 805 2 Bike Trunk Mount Rack

Saris Bones 805 2 Bike Trunk Mount Rack

What you need to know: This is the best option for cyclists who drive SUVs.

What you’ll love: It features strong injection-molded arms and legs made from 100% recyclable materials that won’t rust. It adjusts easily to hold two bikes and has anti-sway straps for stability. It can also fit over spoilers with bikes separated on different levels.

What you should consider: Maximum weight capacity is 35 pounds.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
 

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