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While cyclists and automotive enthusiasts aren’t always on the same page when it comes to sharing the road, one thing is certain: The car is a great conveyance for bicyclists. Sure, hardcore riders can just hop on and ride 60 miles to wherever they’re going. The rest of us are going to need a bike rack when we want to hit up somewhere special to ride.
There are dozens, nay hundreds, of bike-rack options out there for all types of vehicles and applications. I even had the trunk-mount style rack for my 1993 Mustang. When I was in the market for a COVID-era — meaning get me out of this house now — bike transportation system, I went with an Allen Sports four-bike hitch rack. Its relatively small size and sturdy mounting location were a big draw. I used an Amazon review to validate my purchase, but would it live up to expectations?
To see if Amazon’s reviews are full of it as well as find out if the Allen could stand up to my cycling needs, I put it to the test and purchased it for $149.99 on, you guessed it, Amazon. For now, let’s establish a temporary detente between automobile owners and cyclists — y’all should really just get along — and see if this Allen Sports four-bike hitch rack is worth mounting to your vehicle.
Unboxing the Allen Sports Bike Rack
Sorry, fam, no unboxing video here. That happened after I brought it home a while back. The rack does require some assembly, but it’s only a couple quick bolts. Instead of unboxing shots, here are some more pics of the hitch rack. Behold!
Getting After It With the Allen Sports Bike Rack
- Good: Budget-friendly, four-bike solution that is relatively easy to use.
- Bad: The straps might make you go crazy, no quick-release tilt mechanism.
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Naturally, you’ll need a receiver to use this rack. A two-inch hitch receiver is probably the most commonly used, but if your car, truck, or SUV doesn’t have one, there are aftermarket solutions that bolt onto factory anchor points for most vehicles.
The Allen Sports rack is relatively light compared to other models, weighing about 24 pounds. Hoisting it up shouldn’t be too challenging for most folks, and the install was relatively simple. Just slide it in there! (Ed. Note: We’ve already called HR on William.) There isn’t the usual locking cotter pin; it uses a built-in spring-loaded alignment "pin" to hold it in place with a tension mechanism. Just depress as it goes in, and it pops out when it reaches the opening in the receiver. Super easy.
As for sturdiness, the only areas made of plastic are the red triangular locking handle and the cradles for each bike. The handle is attached to a metal mechanism at the other end seems robust, however, the plastic cradles ended up bent after a long trip from DC to Cape Cod and back. Each cotter pin can be secured in place with a cotter key attached to the rack by a safety cable, which is nice.
Like a lot of racks, the Allen rack can be secured into a few positions. If you aren’t using it, you can leave it in the “down” position. Pop out the top cotter pin and rotate it up to carry your bikes. With or without bikes, it also rotates forward, giving you access to the cargo hatch, which is done via another cotter pin you remove.
Once the rack is on, the locking feature on Allen’s rack is pretty easy to use. Turn the red dial on the front of the rack and it rotates towards the back. Once it expands to the open position, you’re ready for bike installation.
You can bring up to four bikes, and each spot has two tie-down cradle positions to secure each one. I have used better systems to tie down a bike, but more on that in a bit. That’s essentially it, as once you’ve maneuvered each bike into position, stow the rack mechanism, and it’s time to head out.
What’s Good About the Allen Sports Bike Rack
First and foremost, this is a pretty cost-effective bike transportation solution. There’s a sea of options out there, many ringing in at two to three times the price of this Allen. So, it’s a good budget-conscious option for those who need to haul around multiple bikes.
While I’m not a fan of the straps, the tie-downs do rotate and that helps to get them in the right position. If you are trying to secure the tie-down to a part of the bike’s frame that is angled a bit, you can usually find a spot that works.
While Allen claims that it has a “no-wobble hitch installation,” there is some shimmy on the road, which is the case with just about every bike rack. I still bungee the bikes together, especially the front tires, so things don’t sway too much and damage my ride or bikes.
What’s Not Great About the Allen Sports Bike Rack
Using the Allen rack isn’t without some headache. First, getting the bikes on is challenging from a spacing perspective. At 26 inches long, there are only about four inches of space between each bike. I’ve only ever had two adult bikes and one kid bike on ours. I couldn’t imagine trying to cram four big-people bikes on there.
The biggest issue, however, is that the straps are a royal pain. Back when I was in shape and used to do off-road duathlons, my buddy Bob had a more expensive Thule rack. It used a rubber strap that could be quickly and securely wrapped around the frame. The company now uses a ratchet strap. Of note, Allen does offer a Premier model with the rubberized straps similar to the original Thule. Getting this particular Allen rack’s straps around the bike, through the opening, and back through the other opening to tighten isn’t easy, especially once you already have a bike or two on the rack. It will stay in place; it’ll just take you some wrangling.
It’s not much of a gripe, but the cotter pins can be hard to remove, too. And, yes, I know being secure is the point, but when bikes are onboard, the weight means that the top pin used to rotate the rack down isn’t really usable. The result is that there isn’t a quick way to just hit a release button and rotate the rack forward to open your hatch. My neighbor has a rack that he leaves on his Jeep Grand Cherokee all the time as it rotates forward quickly with a quick-tilt handle, which I dig. So, if you plan to permanently mount this to your vehicle, understand that it won’t be a quick proposition to access the cargo area.
The more expensive Allen racks do have a rapid-tilt feature.
Our Verdict on the Allen Sports Bike Rack
It works, but that’s not the best answer to whether you should buy it. The Allen is one of the less feature-rich options you have, even within the Allen lineup. However, it comes with a no-frills price, so that definitely puts it in contention. Better yet, it’s relatively light, easy to install, and will hold your bikes. The long trip we just went on didn't bode well for its long-term usability, but the bikes remained securely fastened on the rack for the duration of the trip.
If you need a budget-friendly hitch rack, priced at $149.99 on Amazon at the time of writing, that fits four bikes and isn’t going to blow your savings like some Tour de France carbon-fiber unit, the Allen is one you should definitely check it out.
FAQs About the Allen Sports Bike Rack
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q. What is the weight limit on this rack?
A. Allen claims 140 pounds, so I would be just over the limit to be carried on this rack (by about 60 pounds or so). Not that you’d buy this to transport me. That would be weird. If you don’t want to do the math, that’s a 35-pounds-per-bike average.
Q. Can this rack lock your bikes in place?
A. Nope, it just straps them down. You would have to purchase a lock that winds through each bike and then around the rack or the vehicle.
Q. How big is this rack?
A. The entire apparatus is 36 inches tall, and the bike rack itself measures 13.25 inches wide by 26 inches long. The bottom two-inch insert is 15.25 inches long.
Q. Will this fit all bike types?
A. Well, maybe not one of those weird recumbent bikes, but other than that, yeah. I’ve had my men’s mountain bike, my wife’s mountain bike, our 7-year-old’s bike, and even a tagalong bike attached, all without issue.
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