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Best Bike Racks and Carriers: Say Goodbye to Stressful Bike Transport

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We looked at every car bike carrier on the market and quickly identified the best. It can be a bit tricky to choose the right bike rack for you, as the type of car you drive will affect the size of the rack.

There are three options when you need to transport your bike. You can either disassemble the bike and then fold it down in your car. If you have an SUV or truck, you can also put it in there. Or you can just hang the bike on a rack or bike carrier. A bike carrier or rack is something almost every cyclist will want to have.

We’ll share some of the criteria that you can use when choosing a bike rack and then we’ll show you our top picks for each category.

Based on personal experience, our Recommended Car Bike Rack

Let’s get to the point. A hitch-mounted bike rack is the best choice if you have a vehicle hitch and the funds to do so. It holds bikes using fixed wheel mounts. This is the Thule T2 Series ( >on Amazon) which is probably the best example. The Saris Bones 2 is an excellent trunk-based rack if your vehicle does not have a hitch-based carrier ( Check latest price here).

The hitch-based option is the best choice if you’re serious about bicycling. This is safer for long drives. You may need to install an aftermarket hitch receiver.

We will explain any terms that are unfamiliar to you.

Bike rack / CarrierStyleBest forOur RatingCheck the Price
Thule T2 XT ProHitch-mountAnyone who has a reliable hitch receiver and is looking for the best rack. Fixed wheel mounts are available for the bike.Excellent Overall. Excellent.>Find Here
Rockymounts Backstage 2.Hitch-mountMounted Hitch-rack customers looking for trunk accessExcellent>Find Here
Yakima HighroadRoof-mountShoppers looking for a high-end, plug-and-play roof rackExcellent>Find Here
Thule ProRide XTRoof-mountA mid-priced roof rack is needed by someone who needs it.Very good>Find Here
Allen Deluxe 2Trunk-mountFor budget-minded shoppers, a good rack is essentialGood>Find Here
Saris Bones 2Trunk-mountA person looking for the best trunk- or hatch-based rackGood. It’s best to use a trunk-mounted rack if you have limited space.>Find Here

What are the key features to look for when buying a bike rack

You can add a bike rack to any type of vehicle. Some are better suited for certain models than others. They are usually attached to the trunk, trailer hitch, or back of the car. However, some models can be mounted on the roof or in the rear of a pickup truck. We’ll take a look at each type.

Bike racks are available in a variety of sizes, which can hold anywhere from 2 to 4 bikes. You will end up securing your bikes together if the rack’s capacity is exceeded. We recommend buying a carrier that can hold 3-4 bikes if you plan to carry 2 bikes. This will ensure that you don’t have to worry about a steel component getting into the carbon frame next to your bike, or similar problems.

The following are the top things we think you should consider when looking at bike racks:

  • Durability. You will waste your money if you buy a cheap bike rack. You should choose a quality carrier with welds and not screws. It will also feel firm when you hold it.
  • Size. Choose a rack that is suitable for the number of bikes you plan to transport. As we mentioned, if you need to safely and comfortably transport 2 bikes, you might need 3-4 bike carriers.
  • Contact Person. Make sure the carrier attaches securely to your vehicle. You don’t want a trunk carrier that moves and leaves marks on your vehicle, or a hitch-based rack which wobbles side-to-side, moving your bikes. A hitch-mounted rack should be attached to your hitch using a threaded bolt.
  • Convenience.Does it have the features you want, such as a swing-out option or a fold-up option?
  • Flexibility. You also want the rack to fold into a compact unit for storage. If you choose to use a hitch rack, the carrier should be able to swing to one side or down to the side while mounted so that you have access to the trunk or hatch.
  • Compatibility for your vehicle. This should be obvious. However, if you’re getting a hitch-based rack make sure that your vehicle has the right hitch receiver. Make sure that the trunk-based rack will fit your vehicle.
  • Locking ability. A bike rack that can create a locking mechanism for your bicycle will increase security for times when you have to pull over to eat lunch or leave the house for a while. We recommend that you use a cable lock while the rack is parked.
  • Reliable Manufacturer. We aren’t brand snobs but we like to know that the company producing our gear has been around for a while. We prefer to stick with established brands such as Thule or Yakima because of the flood of cycling gear that has been made in China.
  • Stability. You might also consider wheel stabilisers straps (here at Amazon) for a carrier that doesn’t mount to your wheels. The wheels of a bike hanging from a trunk rack or hitch can spin too much while you drive, which can be quite distressing and possibly cause unnecessary wear.

Racks for hitch bikes

A hitch rack is a great idea.

Thule T2 Pro Carrier

Hitch racks are great for storing your bike in a secure place, attached to your car’s hitch so it doesn’t rub on the hatch. Although they can be a bit more difficult to attach, they are very stable once attached. Make sure you get a rack that is compatible with the size of your vehicle’s hitch. The US has two main types of racks: 1 1/4 inch for cars and small SUVs, and 2 inches for trucks.

If you have the option, the 2 inch hitch receiver should be preferred for bike racks. This provides you with more options to transport your bike.

The hitch rack is often the most versatile rack option. If secured properly, this rack will allow you to transport multiple bikes or fatter bikes.

The hitch-mounted rack, which attaches the bike to the rack at its wheel, is the most universal rack. It doesn’t matter if the bike has a strangely-shaped frame or is too big or small. It’s the same that transit buses allow riders on bikes to mount them, as they must be able to hold anything.

It is recommended that the hitch-mount bike rack use threaded bolts to connect to the receiver. This means that the bolt you use to attach your rack to the hitch should look more like a screw rather than a bolt. This will make a big difference in keeping your bike stable while you drive. Both models are recommended to have a threaded bolt.

You can often have an aftermarket hitch installed in a few hours at a Uhaul dealer or shop if your vehicle doesn’t have one. It is a good idea to have a hitch installed.

While we’re at it, we prefer racks that allow you to set your bike on a tray, and then lock it in, rather than the ones where your wheels are suspended from the rack. These are the best and only type we recommend.

Thule T2 Pro XT

Thule is a combination of convenience (like this super-easy handle for folding the unit) and quality construction.

We love the Thule T2 line of hitch-mount and wheel-mount racks. It is well-built and easy to use. After just a few minutes of playing with it, we were pretty confident in its use.

It has enough space to carry two bikes comfortably and not jam them together. You can choose between a 1.25-inch or a 2 inch hitch. The frame-free ratcheting arms allow you to fast secure your bikes. It is only 60 lbs in weight, so it is easy to transport and set up. However, once mounted, the bike rack will give your bikes a stable ride. The bike rack folds easily when not in use to make it accessible to the trunk. The rack comes with an easy-to-use AutoAttach system that is non-tool dependent. It can hold larger tires such as fat tires and tricycles. You can also increase the capacity of this bike rack from 2 to 4 bikes.

The Thule T2 lineup was actually the subject of our deep-dive. We actually did a deep-dive on the Thule T2 lineup.

Since over a decade, we have been a Thule fan and would recommend their products, including the T2. Thule has been around ever since 1942 and the Swedes are very adept at design. Although it would be easier to handle and store, it is still worth knowing that your bikes will stay in place once they are mounted.

The Thule T2 Series rack is often compared with the Yakima Hold-Up. The Thule is easier to use and more stable on the car than the Yakima Hold-Up.

This is our top-of the-line bike rack if you have the money.

>Find Thule T2 Here

RockyMounts – Backstage 2

Rockymount Backstage

RockyMounts Backstage 2 was the first model that allowed access to the trunk to store cargo. It tilts 180 degrees when bikes are loaded. It is designed to securely hold your bikes without any frame contact. It is extremely strong and will hold your bike in all conditions. The Backstage 2 comes with a two-spot capacity. You can upgrade to a 4-spot. It is one of our favorite models on the market because it has a high quality-price ratio. An extension can be added to your existing system, which is very easy.

It is heavier than the Thule T2 and weighs in at 60 lbs. It will mount securely to your bike and provide a smooth ride. It also has the threaded hitch bolt we are looking for, which makes it easier to attach to your hitch. It is their “anti-wobble technology”.

RockyMounts Backstage 2 offers a secure solution for your bike rack. Many like the fact that it is lower than other options so you don’t have to worry about parking garages or similar.

Backstage 2 (on Amazon)

Roofbike carriers and racks

What’s the point of a roof rack?

Sometimes your best option for carrying something is to put it on top of the vehicle. If your hitch isn’t being used by any other items (trailer or camper), this can be an excellent option. People who need to be able to access their cars from the back and don’t want a bike rack or rack to block the way can use a roof rack. A bike mounted on the roof of your car will pick up more road grime/dirt/salt than one that is hung from the back.

Two things to remember if you choose this route. Your bike will add 3-4 feet to your car …. so you won’t be able to go under low awnings and into parking garages as you once could. One time, we saw someone smash their beautiful bikes when they tried to enter a parking garage. They forgot that they had bikes on the top. It takes more effort to place a bicycle on top of your vehicle than just to throw it on the back.

You might want to measure and do research so that you can be certain the dimensions of your roof rack will work with your vehicle. We’ve had great success mounting them on all kinds of vehicles, from Toyotas to Suburus and Jeeps. However, unlike a hitch rack having the right dimensions can make a big difference in compatibility.

Yakima Highroad Rooftop Bicycle Rack

Yakima High Roller Rack

Yakima is a trusted brand in this market. They make two great roof rack models: the Highroad and the Front Loader. The Highroad is our favorite. Highroad can transport any type of bike of any size. Because it offers a brace against which the front wheel can be wedged, the Highroad is one of our most stable roof racks. It supports the front wheel and holds the rear wheel. The bike’s frame is not affected. It is not necessary to remove the wheel.

It weighs in at 18 lbs and is easy to mount.

Although it may not be the most affordable option on the market, it will provide quality for a price that is completely worth it. Yakima is the best choice.

Yakima Highroad

Thule ProRide XT

We like Thule products. The ProRide XT rack is one that we have had great success with. Thule has improved upon the popular ThruRide and the ProRide XT is a great rack. The ProRide is a practical, secure, and easy-to-install model. It can also be used with many axle standards. You may need to buy a lock cylinder if you are using the ProRide. It is not included in this model.

You don’t need any tools to mount your bike on your roof once it is installed.

Thule has the correct equipment and adapters for mounting bikes through the axle. It can fit a variety of frames from 22 to 80mm. It weighs in at 11 lbs and can carry a bike up 35 lbs (which would be quite heavy). If you are looking for a roof rack that is practical and affordable, the ProRide is a great choice.

Thule ProRide XT

Although it is only one carrier, we believe you could fit two of them side-by-side on most cars, provided the roof rack and vehicle specs allow.

>Get Thule ProRide Here

An honorable mention goes to the Kuat2.0 bike rack. This is an excellent unit that has been built with great quality. Its high price is what kept it off the formal list. But, if you have the funds, the Kuat 2.0 bike rack is worth a look.

Trunk bike carriers and racks

A trunk bike carrier is a great choice.

Sometimes, you want it to be simple. You don’t need anything mounted on the top of your vehicle and you don’t need a hitch receiver. A trunk or hatchback carrier is the best option. The advantage is its simplicity and ease of use. The trunk bike carrier is the most portable and lightest, making it the easiest to transport and store. You can also fit it on almost any vehicle without modification or assembly.

They aren’t very stable and the bike can move around. You usually only have one or two bikes per carrier. If the contact points are worn or hard, the rack could scratch or scrape your car. You can prevent this by applying electrical tape to the contact points.

Allen Sports Deluxe 2

Allen Sports Carrier

If budget is your main concern, the Allen Sports Deluxe bike rack is one of the most affordable on the market. This rack is ideal for SUVs, minivans, and sports cars. It is made from aluminum so it is lightweight and easy to install. Although it can hold two bikes, it is best when only one bike is being carried. It comes completely assembled, which we like.

Nylon straps secure the bikes to the rack. You may need to purchase an Allen accessory if you have a women’s bike.

You might place some tape or cloth on the trunk-based racks to protect it from being scratched or scraped.

Get Allen Deluxe 2 Here

Saris Bones 2 Bike Rack

Our favorite trunk-based rack is the Saris Bones Trunk Bike Rack. It’s well-known for its versatility, practicality, design, and style. It can be used over most spoilers, and the arc-based design distinguishes bikes at different levels. You’ll be helping the environment by purchasing this model made with 100% recyclable materials. It protects the paint with rubber feet that are articulated and anti-sway straps to ensure a secure hold.

For a deeper dive, take a look at our Saris Bones Review.

It is almost overwhelming when you first see it. It is simple, straightforward, but strong and works. It is easy to mount on your vehicle and provides a very stable ride for your bicycles.

Search Saris Here (on Amazon).

Bike Carrier FAQs

Are Bike Carriers a Scratch for a Car?

They shouldn’t. The carrier rack shouldn’t cause damage to your car if you buy a high-quality one (the ones that we recommend) and install it correctly. There are common wear points, such as when the straps or bikes rub against your car, or if the carrier isn’t fitted properly and there is movement. Both of these things should not happen. You can expect some wear and tear to your hitch rack if you use it.

What should I know about bike racks and hitch sizes?

Some vehicles are equipped with receivers. Others will require one to be installed.

This is very important. This is very important. This is the part of your vehicle that can be used to attach a bike rack or hitch.

The options available to you will depend on your vehicle specifications. If you are given the option, always choose the 2” or 1 1/4” option. This will allow you to access far better bike carriers. You can use 1 1/4 if that is all you have, but it will not work if you need a smaller rack.

We don’t believe that installing an aftermarket receiver hitch receiver can be done by anyone. It’s best to hire a professional and leave it on for as long as you need, then put your bike rack on whenever you need it.

Can you carry Electric Assist and Kids Bikes on a bike rack?

You can fit an electric assist bike on a standard rack if it is a newer model. A wheel-mount style is recommended if your bike doesn’t have enough space to allow you to attach the arms to a rack that hangs from it. This is another reason why you will love the wheel-mount, hitch based style.

A wheel-mounted rack is great for kids bikes. A kids bike may have a too small or compressed frame to hang on a rack. You can secure your bike with the rubber bands and cords that come with the rack if it is not too heavy. Make sure the rack is secured. You don’t want to cause an accident on the roads. To ensure safety, you must follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

How do I attach a bike to my carrier or rack?

Some vehicles have a roof bar system. Most do not.

If your carrier has a locking mechanism, it is important to attach your bike to the rack with more than the provided straps. While the brackets and straps can keep your bike steady, many bikes don’t have the ability to protect it from theft. To add to your lock rack, you can purchase a simple cable lock or a coil. This will act as a deterrent to ensure that your bike is not stolen by someone who pulls over for a quick stop at a gas station, rest stop or other place.

Are there additional parts required to mount a bike rack on my car?

Probably. The trunk-based racks, which are inexpensive, can be attached to your vehicle without any additional parts. A hitch receiver is required for the hitch-base racks. This receiver is standard on most vehicles, but not all. Roof-based racks will need roof bars. This is standard on certain vehicles, but not all. These parts, the roof bars and hitch receiver, are not included with the bike racks. They should be installed by a car shop.

Are bike carriers and racks universal?

Yes, generally speaking. There are no specific bike racks that are made for mountain bikes or road bikes. All types of bikes can be accommodated by racks.

Some bikes with unusually shaped frames won’t fit on a hanging-style rack. This is the one that mounts to the bike rack. It is usually the bike that is the problem, not the rack. A wheel-mountain rack is the best option for maximum compatibility.

How do I install a hitch on my car?

It is best to have it done by a professional. It is not recommended to do this yourself, as you may also be trying to pull a trailer or boat with the hitch. It is important to do it right.

The hitch receiver attaches to your frame. It is quite complicated. Visit a body shop or Uhaul dealer. They will usually sell and mount car hitches.

Where were these bike racks built?

It depends on the brand. Thule racks can be made in the USA. Yakima racks made in China are called Yakima racks. Saris are made in America. Rockymounts is manufactured in China. Manufacturers are always changing their manufacturing locations and processes, so any information could be corrected.

Summary

Saris Bones Trunk Rack

There are many types of bike racks available, with different sizes and prices. Before you buy your bike rack, make sure to know your vehicle’s capabilities and the purpose of the rack. This will help you make the best purchase. You should learn how to install the carrier to get the best performance.

You can also check out our pieces for intermediates and beginners if you’re just starting to cycle.

It doesn’t matter what bike rack model you choose or how big your car is, a bike rack can make a huge difference in your ability to cycle, exercise, and explore. It will also make it easier to get your bike to the triathlon in safety.