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Bike Rack Insider’s Guide

Bike Rack Insider’s Guide

Are you planning to take a trip to the mountains over the weekend, and you fancy exploring some new trails on your bike while you’re up there ? You shouldn’t let the little details of how to get your bike there interfere with your grand plans. Or should you?

Damage to your bike while on transit can be a real deal breaker, and you may want to review how you carry it on your sedan, SUV or pickup truck. This is where the bike rack (or carrier) comes in handy, and the great thing is that there’s a broad variety available in the market, custom made to suit your particular type of vehicle.

But before you whip out your credit card to make that purchase, a few things are important to consider regarding your bike rack.

Let us first look at the types of bike racks that are available in the market and how they can best suit your purposes.

Types of bike carriers and their applications

Bike carriers vary in design depending on the use for which they are applied. They are normally defined by the part of the vehicle where they are mounted. Bike carriers are therefore referred to as: roof, tow bar (hitch), rear and in car based on this type of categorization.

Roof Mounted Carriers

Roof Mounted Carriers

There are three kinds of bike racks that can be fixed onto the roof of a car – frame holding, fork holding, and tire holding. They have to be fitted against a set of roof bars running across the car’s rooftop.

You may first want to check on the suitability of the bars on your vehicle before fitting the carrier as the dealer supplied bars are sometimes incapable of supporting roof mounted racks.

Rear Mounted Carriers

Rear Mounted Carriers

These particular bike carriers are fitted onto the vehicle’s rear, and although they are often marketed as “universal” carriers, they should actually be taken as vehicle specific; this means they should only be used on vehicles where approval is specifically given for that model or brand.

One must take great care when using these carriers as they can be dangerous if fixed the wrong way, and not to mention they can cause damage on the tailgate. They should also not be used on cars with rear spoilers to avoid touching the fixing straps.

Tow bar Mounted Carriers

Tow bar Mounted Carriers

Buying a tow bar requires some mulling over not only due to cost implications, but also because of the need to adhere to road safety rules. Most tow bars accommodate any standard 50mm tow ball, including the removable type. Most vehicles can take weights not exceeding 4 bikes; these include SUVs with spare wheels mounted on the rear.

Apart from tow balls, ‘hang on’ racks provide another option for mounting bike carriers. Here the bike is hung from its crossbar. Still, ‘Wheel support racks’- where the bikes stand on their wheels – can also be used on the tow bar mounting. Most wheel support racks are easy to fit and load with some adjustment to the handlebars- usually a 90 degree turn.

In Car Mounted

In Car Mounted


These bike carriers are designed for multipurpose cars and large four wheel drive vehicles. They work well in cycle races to ferry bikes for competing teams. Thule has a product designed just for this.

What bike rack fits my car?

When choosing which type of rack to buy for your vehicle, you must consider these four things:

Compatibility of your car

Consider how securely the bike rack can be mounted on your vehicle. The shape of the roof rack, the bumper shape and placement of the spare tire are all important aspects of compatibility.

Compatibility of your bike

Fitting the bike onto the bike rack becomes tricky if the two are not compatible. Bikes with alternative frames such as women’s- which come with a Y frame- may require some extra measures such as using an artificial cross bar to provide the necessary support.

Accessibility of your vehicle

Assessment of the rear cargo area is necessary before placing any load on it. As we have seen, the rear mounted racks can limit your accessibility of its boot area. You may therefore be forced to go for a style which optimizes your accessibility the most.

User Compatibility

You should select a bike rack with features that make handling easy and hustle-free. Specifically the rack should be easy enough to install, easy to store and easy to load the bikes.

How To Put Bike Rack On Car

Bike racks available in the market

The most respected manufacturers of bike racks are Thule, Allen Sports and Yukima to name a few. In terms of bike rack solutions available in the market place, it is difficult to give a blanket recommendation as the bike rack that you buy should be tailored for your specific needs.

We have tried to narrow down bicycle carriers you might find suitable for your use based on quality, design and convenience when using. Take a look at our picks:

1. Hollywood Racks HR1400

This rack carries two to four bikes at a time. It features heavy-duty rack mounts on a 2 inch hitch and comes with a 9 foot long security cable that helps secure the bikes. It also features wheel holder which the bikes can drop into.

2. Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Mount Rack 

This carrier is popular for its stability and durability which comes at a pocket-friendly price. It is take a load of up to four bikes at a time thanks to its long carry arms.

3. Thule 2 Bike Platform Hitch Rack

This rack comes with a reinforced tray to give more stability and strength. It can fit 2 to 4 bikes of 20-29 inches diameter wheels.

4. Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack

This rack can fit 2 bikes at the same time, and comes with an adjustable quick release tire hoop that allows for different bike models.

5. Thule 9031XT

It comes with an arc design that’s unique and which simplifies loading and unloading. Its swing-away design is simplified and eases access to the vehicle’s rear.

6. Saris Bones 801 3-Bike Trunk Mount Rack

It has an arc-based design which allows it to fit over most spoilers and keeps bikes on different levels separate. Its coated straps and rubberized feet protect both the bike and vehicle.

7. Yakima RidgeBack 4-Bike Hitch Rack

This rack can carry 4 bikes, is compatible with 1.5 and 2-inch receivers. It has a handy lever which tilts down for easy access to the rear of your vehicle.

8. Pro-Series 63124

This rack fits 2 inch receivers and is popular for its tilt feature which eases trunk access. Its hook and loop straps make bike loading and unloading quick, while its rubber cradles protect the bike from damage.

9. Allen Sports 3-Bike Hitch Mount Rack with 1.25/2-Inch Receiver

This rack comes with 16-inch long carry arms designed to individually secure bicycles using a tie-down system. It also has folding carry arms which can be moved out of the way whenever rack is not being used. It is also easy to install, and has a sturdy steel design which comes with a lifetime warranty.

10. Yakima Products Hold Up Tray Style Bike Rack

The Yakima Hold Up provides a fast and easy way to load bikes thanks to its StrongArm design which can accommodate bicycle wheel diameters of 20-29 inches. It can carry up to 4 bikes with zero contact against the bike frame so you don’t have to worry about scratches.

Where to buy bicycle racks

There is a multiplicity of places you can buy bike racks. The best place to start looking is online as you can start by doing some research to see what options are available and best suited for you.

Online shopping

Online shoppingYou can go directly to the dealer web sites to find out which stores are available near you for purchasing your bike rack, or you can go to other sites like Amazon where they have many different products under one roof.

You will find that the products come with descriptions of the various features and will also include photographs showing the item on sale.

You can also go to the product review section to find out what previous shoppers have to say about the product; this is important as it is a good indicator of the product’s quality and performance.

Examples of great shopping sites include:


Yes, of course the manufacturer owned sites such as

Where to rent a bike rack

for rentThere are vendors who rent out bike racks for short term use and you can check them out online or in your local yellow pages listings.

Here are some rental sites we found quite useful:

  • Rent Luggage –

Rent luggage currently has the Thule rooftop bicycle carrier at a price of $49.99–$79.99, which compares favorably with a buying price of $179

  • Hertz Rent a Car –

Hertz is a reputable car hire firm that offers bike rack hiring services for its clients

  • SixT Rent a Car services also offers bike racks on rent but it is based on the location and availability at a time.

With any rental car service, you should always call and confirm that they have the equipment you would like before you set-off on a trip.

Precautions when mounting bike racks

PrecautionWhen loading your bike or bikes onto the rack it is important to take care not to damage your vehicle, especially by scratching off the paint, which is a common problem that arises particularly with rear mounted bike racks.

Below are some tips on how to do this securely and safely.

  • Check for grit or sand on the car or rack feet that can cause abrasion on the vehicle’s surface when you mount the rack
  • Once you load the bikes ensure the lower straps are well tightened to avoid excessive slack which can damage the bikes (as they bang against each other) while on transit
  • Allow for enough ground clearance so that the bicycle wheels don’t touch the ground when you’re driving on rough or steep roads where the vehicle may bob up and down
  • Avoid positioning your bike tire too close to the vehicle’s exhaust pipe as it can melt the tire
  • Be careful how you swing the straps during fastening to avoid scratching off the paint.
  • Before you drive off ensure the rack is properly fastened on to the vehicle’s rear and that the bikes are also tightly fixed on the rack. This will help you avoid serious damage to your bikes that may come when they come off the vehicle as it speeds down the highway.

Bike rack accessories

Bike racks sometimes need to be customized to match your particular bike model. They include locks, adapters, cross-bars, lighting boards, straps, wall hangers, just to name a few. They come as optional extras when ordering bike racks especially when shopping online.

  • Locks and adapters are important for fixing the bike in place when fitted against the rack and therefore secure it from damage while on transit.
  • Other items such as cross bars enable bikes with a different frame (y-frame to fit onto the rack securely).
  • Pads cushion bikes against one another where more than one bike is placed on the rack.

So now you know that the next time you make a road trip with your bike there are many convenient and stylish ways to do it to ensure your bike – and vehicle reach their destination in one piece free from damage that can ruin your fun weekend.

About the Author Nick Soros

Hi, I'm Nick Soros. I have been an cycling enthusiast from 2006. is my personal blog where I share my pedaling experience. No matter you are a new cyclist or skillful one, you would find useful topics in my site. Have a great cycling...