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The Guide To Vehicle Bicycle Racks

If you’ve been swept up in the growth of cycling over the last few years you’ll love this guide on vehicle bicycle racks and which are best l CarsForSale.com 

What Are The Best Vehicle Bike Racks? 

Bikes have exploded in popularity over the last few years and with them, the technology surrounding their transport has improved too. Whether you want to take your bike or bikes on a cross-country trip to ride some of the fanciest trails or roads or you just need to get from your home to your local riding group you’ll need a way to transport the bike there. For all the times when actually riding to those locations is out of the question we’ve put together a guide on vehicle bicycle racks. We’ll consider the different types available, what additional considerations one needs to take into account, and we’ll also tell you about a few of our personal favorites.

Types of Vehicle Bicycle  

Vehicle Bike Racks
Vehicle Bike Racks

To get things started let’s talk about the most popular styles of bike racks and how they attach to the vehicle and to the bike.

Hitch Style Mounts

Hitch Style Mounts
Hitch Style Mounts

These bike racks require a receiver hitch to be attached to the vehicle. Once affixed to the vehicle, the racks typically come in two main versions which each secure the bike in a different way. The most popular hitch-mounted bike racks are called “Tray style” and they physically support the bike from the tires. Above that, the rack will secure the bike through various methods including strapping the tires to the rack, using a hook-like device to cinch down the wheels to the rack, or a clamp of one style or another to grab onto the bike frame.

The other style is often called the “Hanging style” and much like its name suggests it supports the bike by letting it hang, typically by the frame. The bike is most often also secured at the top tube from which it hangs. Some hanging bike racks incorporate a way to limit the wheels and tires from swinging back and forth as well. Bike rack brands often offer racks for both 1 ¼-inch and 2-inch receiver hitches but even if you find a rack that you like that’s not available in the hitch size you have, an adapter could solve the problem. While very rare, some vehicles install hitch-style racks on the front of the vehicle instead of the rear.

Trunk Rack Mounts

Trunk Rack Mounts
Trunk Rack Mounts

Trunk rack mounts are affixed through the use of straps that hold the rack in place once they’re tightened down. They have a separate attachment that allows the bike to be supported and secured by the top tube of the frame just like the aforementioned hanging style hitch mount. Aside from being very light and typically quite compact, trunk rack mounts can typically be moved from one vehicle to another in just a few minutes.

Truck Bed Mounts

Truck Bed Mounts
Truck Bed Mounts

Pickup truck owners have a bunch of different ways that they can carry their bikes in the bed of their truck. One of the most popular systems uses a protective pad to cover the tailgate. Then the bike sits with its front wheel hanging over the tailgate and is typically secured with a strap or lock inside of the bed itself. Another method sees the front wheel of the bike removed and the front fork secured to a mounting point that’s affixed to the bed. Finally, another method uses mounting points installed on the inner side of the bedside to reach out and clamp onto the wheels or frame during transport.

Roof Rack

Roof Rack
Roof Rack

Many vehicles have the option to use roof-mounted bike racks as well. This type of rack is most commonly attached via a long rail that supports the bike via both tires or through the front fork much like the truck bed version mentioned above. The rail that the bike sits on is typically attached through a pair of roof rails and crossbars atop the vehicle in question. One big benefit of the roof rack style is that it allows full access to every door including the trunk at all times. Vehicles that don’t have a roof rack or a trailer hitch can use a product called the Sea Sucker which utilizes suction cups to secure the mount to the vehicle. The bike is then fixed to the mount through straps and the front fork skewer. These types of mounts can be especially nice for off-roading and car camping as they won’t hinder approach, departure, or breakover angles.

What to Consider When Buying a Vehicle Bike Rack 

Bicycle Racks
Bicycle Racks

While you might have a personal preference on which type of rack you’d like, it’s important to consider a number of factors before choosing which one you’ll buy.

How Many Bikes Do You Transport and How Often?

These questions can steer a buyer away from one type to another. For example, those who plan to transport bikes regularly often prefer a system that’s extremely secure but perhaps somewhat heavy or bulky over one that’s lighter but less secure. In that case, a hitch-mounted tray-style rack would be a better choice compared to a trunk-mounted rack. In addition, those who need to transport more than two bikes regularly will benefit greatly from using a hitch-mounted or trunk-mounted rack.

What Types of Bike Racks Work on Your Vehicle?

Bicycle Racks
Bicycle Racks

Your vehicle might be excluded from using a number of different racks. For example, a very low sports car might not have the clearance for a hitch-mounted bike rack and it might not have the physical space to place a trunk-mounted rack either. Another example would be vehicles that don’t have roof racks. Aside from the Sea Sucker mentioned above, they’re incompatible with roof-mounted bike racks. Either roof rack could be a problem though if you’re concerned about forgetting that your bike is on your vehicle before entering any area with low overhead clearance like a garage or a drive-through. Review which types will work for you before trying to pick one out.

How Much Weight Can A Vehicle Bike Rack Hold?

Most modern bikes weigh well below 40 pounds which is roughly the average weight limit per bike among most bike racks. Despite that, you’ll find that many electric bikes or large-tire bikes can be over that limit. Consider how much your bikes weigh before purchasing so that you can be sure they won’t cause damage or get damaged during transport.

Some Of Our Favorite Vehicle Bike Racks 

Kuat Transfer V2 Hitch Style Mount

Kuat Transfer V2 Hitch Style Mount - kuat.com
Kuat Transfer V2 Hitch Style Mount - kuat.com

This hitch-mounted tray style of bike rack is a little heavier than some of its more expensive counterparts but its low price is a big asset in our eyes. Not only does it do a great job of keeping bikes secure but buyers can add on additional accessories. For instance, you can buy it as a single bike carrier and then add on a second or third bike should you need that. In addition, Kuat will also sell integrated locks that are simple to use and effective.

RockyMounts Tomahawk Roof Rack

RockyMounts Tomahawk Roof Rack - rackwarehouse on youtube.com
RockyMounts Tomahawk Roof Rack - rackwarehouse on youtube.com

The Tomahawk roof rack is one of our favorites because it can handle just about any size of bike. From small BMX or kids bikes to hardcore full-squish (full suspension) mountain bikes with 29 inch wheels, this rack can handle it. It’s not very flashy looking though so if brand and style matter to you perhaps look elsewhere.

Saris Bones EX 3 Bike Trunk-Mount

Saris Bones EX 3 Bike Trunk-Mount - saris.com
Saris Bones EX 3 Bike Trunk-Mount - saris.com

Among all of the trunk-mounted bike racks, the EX 3 is by far the most versatile that we’ve seen. Not only is it light and strong but it’s got one big trick up its sleeve. First, it arches far away from the car which means that it’ll avoid spoilers or odd proportions with ease. In addition, that arch pushes the bikes further away from the vehicle so the bikes are less likely to scratch or damage either themselves or the vehicle.

Thule Insta-Gater Pro Truck Bed Mount

Thule Insta-Gater Pro Truck Bed Mount - thule.com
Thule Insta-Gater Pro Truck Bed Mount - thule.com

Much like the RockyMounts Tomahawk, we love the versatility of the Insta-Gater Pro from Thule. Affixed to the tailgate, this bike rack is perfect for just about any sized bed and holds fast to the rear wheel of the bike in question. That makes it a solid choice regardless of whether you own a huge dually or an overlanding Jeep Gladiator.

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Stephen Rivers

Stephen Rivers is a car enthusiast who loves all things built with passion, extending to nearly all car cultures. After obtaining an occupational studies degree in sports medicine, Stephen turned his attention to sports cars. He was employed as an auto shop manager, spent time in auto sales, and worked as a software developer for a racing company, but Stephen began writing about cars over 10 years ago. When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's racing his own Bugeye Subaru WRX in as many autocross and rallycross competitions as he can.

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