LAST UPDATED: May 6, 2019
Best Hitch Bike Racks: Bring Your Favorite Bikes Anywhere on the Road
Transport your bikes around with a top-quality hitch bike carrier
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PUBLISHED ON May 6, 2019
The ability to carry around bikes is often taken for granted. Unless you just ride your bike around town, your vehicle needs a rack to secure and transport bikes around. While roof racks are very common, hitch mounts are growing in popularity for a few reasons. To learn more and see some of the best hitch racks you should check out, read on for our handy guide on some of the best bike racks you can attach to a trailer hitch to hold up nearly any bike.
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Why Buy a Hitch Bike Rack
- Transport bikes safely. When you want to tour and ride unseen places, it helps to have a safe and secure way to get your bikes to the destination. Hitch racks tend to offer plenty of protection while driving with your bikes. Keeping them stable during transport means keeping the frame, tires, wheels, seat, and handlebars together so nothing goes flying off at highway speeds.
- Mount bikes easily. The main challenge with most bike racks is getting the bikes on and off. With roof racks, you have to lift the bike over your head to get it placed. Hitch racks, however, offer more convenience since you don't have to lift as far.
- Transport other accessories and toys. A few hitch racks make it easy to carry other accessories and toys in addition to bikes. Sometimes, these accessories are just small items to carry along with the bikes like cable locks. Other times, the list of possibilities may include other types of bikes like recumbent trikes.
Types of Hitch Bike Racks
Hanging-style racks support the bike from the top tube, allowing it to hang in space. This keeps the tires and wheels free from obstruction, reducing the change of damage while in transit. The hanging style can generally hold between two and five bikes and tends to way less than other racks. Unfortunately, the frame may get damaged depending on the driving conditions.
Platform-style racks support a bike from the wheels. While some attach to the frame or wheel, most hold the wheels in place with tire cradles, straps, or clamps. Frame clamps attach to the bike's crossbar, while wheel clamps go over the bike's front or rear wheel, both to minimize frame contact.
Top Brands of Hitch Bike Racks
Allen Sports knows a thing or two about outdoor exercise and technology. Based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the company makes a line of strollers, trailers, and car racks that are sold throughout the world. The company has several popular hitch racks in its lineup, including the 4-Bike Hitch Rack.
What should you expect from a company that literally grew up in a rugged environment? A lot. That is the case with Thule. Established in Sweden in 1942, the company is one of the most recognized authorities in outdoor gear. When it comes to hitch racks, the company has a high-quality line with a steep price tag. Check out the Thule Helium Platform Hitch Bike Rack for a good example of this high quality.
Specializing in different ways to transport outdoor adventure toys, Swagman offers a lot of good budget-friendly alternatives to mainstream (and expensive) accessory manufacturers. The company's line of hitch racks is most notable for offering almost every type and style imaginable, including the XC Cross-Country Rack.
Hitch Bike Rack Pricing
- $150 and under: It can be difficult to get a lot of value in the budget range of hitch racks. Here, single and double racks are common, For carrying a lot of bikes in this range, your best bet would be a hanging rack with the capacity of four or five bikes.
- $150-$300: Hitch racks tend to increase in quality with a rising price tag. As a result, the midrange of hitch racks is home to a number of durable options with bulky frames and tubing. Conveniences like a folding frame also tend to be more common here.
- $300 and above: The upper range is where the best hitch racks live. More convenient and innovative features like wheel clamps, folding frames, and extra straps are common here in addition to the higher price tag.
In order to keep a bike on the rack, some type of cradle is required to maintain contact with the frame or wheel. Quite often, the cradle is where the rear and front wheels rest on the bottom of the rack and provide resistance for the clamps so everything is tight and secure.
To prevent the bike from sliding or falling off of the rack, clamps are used to tension everything down to secure bikes. The clamps rest on some part of the bike, keeping it from tipping over or falling off at highway speeds. They are often shaped like a hook and have padding to minimize the chance of damage if the vehicle or rack hits a rough spot. Many are tool-free, heavy-duty, and come with different designs for different hitch-mounted bike racks. Anti-sway clamps are the most common. For some hitch mount bike racks, clamps can also be an add-on purchase to expand the carrying capacity.
Bike racks sometimes lack enough stability to hold a bike frame with just the cradles and clamps. This is where straps come in handy. By securing the wheels to the cradle or rack itself, the straps offer extra support. Most straps are simple strips of Velcro you can position in different spots depending on the size of the bike.
- Bike Type: Most hitch racks are somewhat universal when it comes to the type of bikes they can carry, especially for road bikes, but there are some limitations. Unique bikes like recumbents and trikes, for example, often require a special hitch rack to fit. Fat bikes, mountain bikes, or larger tires, in general, can also provide a challenge that requires additional accessories to mount onto an existing hitch rack.
- Bike Capacity: The number of bikes a rack can hold will determine how many bikes you can actually carry. Two to three bikes is a common range. Hanging hitch racks tend to hold more bikes but offer less separation between the frames. Platform bikes hold less on average but offer more support and protection.
- Hitch Size: True to the name, hitch racks fit into the hitch receiver of a vehicle. The size of the receiver will determine which models of racks can fit securely since any rack needs a tight fit to work. In short, the main tube of the rack needs to fit into the receiver. If it's too small, there might be an adapter you can use to make up the size difference. If it's too big, on the other hand, you might be out of luck with that particular model. The hitch size may also determine what type of hitch pin you need for the trailer hitch.
- Folding Frame: The one major drawback of a hitch rack is the space it takes up in the rear. For trunks, truck beds, or hatchbacks, this can also block access to the rear cargo compartment, decreasing the ease of use of the vehicle and rack. To avoid this issue, some racks have a folding frame that tilts outwards with the bikes anytime you need to access the rear. This type of frame also comes in handy when you don't have bikes on the rack since you can often fold it up vertically to reduce the vehicle's overall footprint.
Best Hitch Bike Racks Reviews & Recommendations 2020
A simple frame and conventional clamp system are two of the highlights with the Swagman XC Cross-Country rack. Unlike more expensive options, this rack keeps the bulk down while still offering two secure mounting points for conventional, average bikes. Better still, it does a good job of folding up for storage or convenient driving when not carrying bikes around.
The design of the hitch rack is where this one shines the most. Although it's limited in carrying capacity, it does a great job of allowing you to secure most bikes down in several points without damaging the frame. Even smaller bike wheels, down to around 20 inches, can be secured with the included clamps and fasteners in just a short amount of time.
Installing the rack onto a vehicle's hitch presents a few problems, however. For one, the hitch set screen is somewhat difficult to move around. In part, the instructions don't offer good, specific details on how to set it up, so the "quick adjust" nature of the screw fails to really deliver on the same.
How's it possible to carry four bikes with a budget-friendly price tag? Allen Sports has managed it with its hitch rack using a sturdy metal frame and simple straps to keep the bikes together with the vehicle. Despite the low price tag, the rack still manages to offer a lot in terms of basic security when driving a garage's worth of bikes along for a road trip.
As a platform carrier, this hitch rack is pretty straightforward in use. The height isn't too much of an issue when lifting bikes over the support platform, and the built-in cradles make placement a breeze. An included tension bolt (instead of the traditional locking pin for the hitch) reduces the number of vibrations and rattles the hitch experiences as well.
On the downside, space quickly gets crowded if you are loading up more than two bikes on the platform. The separation between the bikes is small, meaning you won't have much room for extra padding or protection for long road trips. Larger bikes and wheels complicate this even further.
Retrospec's Lenox Hitch Carrier is a bike rack that is more than simple, it's bare-bones simple. Coming with two sets of bike straps in the most basic option, the rack is the one to choose when you want to save even more than most budget-friendly options can actually deliver.
As a value hitch rack, this one has the construction quality of a rack that's much more expensive. The steel construction and paint all survive the typical use and abuse that comes with transporting bikes large distances on the back of a car. Use is also fairly straightforward.
The included accessories, particularly the rubber straps, lack the same construction quality as the frame itself. The straps start to fatigue and crack after a few uses, so be prepared to replace them if you decide to go with this option.
You can carry two bicycles on this hitch rack. It has adjustable arms and trays so that you can carry bikes that are of different sizes. There’s padding on the arm to protect your bike frame from damage. The maximum weight capacity for the rack is 80 pounds. Included with the rack is a 2-inch hitch adapter and four straps.
What’s nice about this rack is that the center beam folds laterally, and the side beams fold up. This makes the rack a compact unit for easy storage. The rack is durable with steel construction and protective powder coating.
One downside to this rack is that you’ll need a wrench to attach and remove this rack from your hitch. This can make it more difficult to add and remove it. The rack also blocks the back of your vehicle, so you may not be able to open your rear door. You may also find that the rack wobbles while you're driving.
This simple and sturdy bike rack can hold up to three bicycles. The rack is made out of 1.2-inch steel tubes. The rack features a single configuration design to make for easy installation. The hitch mount fits a 32- and 50-millimeter hitch receiver. There are bright orange cushioning mounts to protect your bicycle frame from damage.
What’s nice about this rack is that you can tilt the rack down while it’s installed. This leans the bicycles away from your trunk so that you can quickly access it without completely removing the rack. The single-unit style frame makes the rack sturdy and lowers the risk of wobbling.
One downside of this rack is how compact it is. You may find it challenging to safely mount three bicycles on it. The straps and mounting brackets are made of plastic, which isn’t as durable as the metal frame.
You can use this hitch mount to carry two or four bicycles. The hitch mount will fit a two-inch receiver. It has a maximum weight capacity of 180 pounds. It has detachable arms that keep the bicycles secure in adjustable rubber cradles. The rack is corrosion-resistant with a durable black powder-coated finish.
What makes this rack stand out is that it has an integrated towable shank. This makes the rack versatile. The shank has a capacity of 2,000 pounds and has a standard ¾-inch trailer ball hole. This lets you transport bikes and tow a trailer. Another nice feature is the anti-rattle design. This is achieved with the threaded hitch pin to create a tighter seal and reduce vibration.
Unfortunately, the bar for the ball to allow you to tow is too low. This makes it unsafe for leaving the rack on your vehicle and driving. You may also find that the rack wobbles more than it should.
This rack holds up to three bicycles. It mounts in your hitch with a pin latch for a stable and secure hold. There are rubber pads to support each bicycle frame.
This rack tilts down to give you access to the rear of your vehicle. The rack system also comes with locks so you can secure your bicycles to the rack and the rack to your vehicle. This increased security is a nice touch to prevent theft.
However, the manufacturer does specifically note that this rack doesn’t work on vehicles that are going to be towed or on trailers. This may limit your use. This rack isn’t good if you need to carry more than three bikes. The tilting hinge can be a weak point in the rack.
This black bicycle bike rack mounts on your vehicle’s hitch and can carry two bikes. It’s a heavy-duty platform style that can support bicycles that weigh up to 50 pounds each. The rack locks on the bike’s frame to secure the bikes to the rack. There is an included keyed-alike locking hitch pin and security cable. This effectively prevents theft of the bicycles and rack. When not in use, you can fold the rack so that it’s flat against your vehicle.
What makes this bicycle rack stand out is its patented anti-wobble system. It requires no tools to tighten the hitch, which makes for a fast and secure installation. The rack is also adjustable, so you can hold bikes that have a wheelbase of up to 60 inches.
The downside of this rack is that you can only use it on vehicles with a 2-inch receiver. You cannot use it with adapters or on a trailer or towed vehicle. The cable lock isn’t very secure, so you’ll want to buy a separate heavier-duty one to secure the rack.
This bike rack gives you an option of a two-, four-, or five-bike setup. This lets you buy the rack that best suits your bicycle transport needs. It has a tool-free speed knob to make installation into your vehicle’s receiver fast and easy. It also has a tilt feature to allow access to the back of your vehicle. To store the rack, you can fold it flat. The manufacturer claims it has a maximum weight capacity of 150 pounds.
You’ll appreciate that this rack comes fully assembled. It also has ZipStrips that secure your bicycles to the rack. You can fully remove them when the rack isn’t in use. There’s an anti-sway cradle to prevent movement and wobble when driving.
The biggest problem with this rack is that the vertical tube is welded to the horizontal lower portion with two lines. This is a weak point in the rack and could cause it to fail. The rack’s metal pipes can also bend, which can damage your bikes.
This two-bike rack features a locking ratchet system. You can quickly slide the ratchet hooks to secure your bike. It also has a quick-release tilt design for access to the rear of your vehicle. There’s a patented anti-wobble design to prevent shaking while you’re driving. The rack is constructed of steel tubing that’s powder-coated.
What’s nice about this rack is its adjustability. It has 5-inch heavy-duty wheel holders. The tubes are powder-coated and can support bicycles that weigh up to 60 pounds each. It also comes with a locking key to secure the rack and your bicycles with the hitch pin.
Unfortunately, the locks that secure your bike to the rack are made of plastic. They can come loose while driving, which can cause your bike to come loose from the rack. The movement and functionality of this rack are more awkward than other rack designs on this list. The assembly instructions aren’t very clear, either.
- Always use a rack you know is compatible with your bike(s). Trying to get a bike to fit into a particular rack can be difficult so you can save yourself some headache by starting with the bike, then choosing the rack.
- You can use additional tie-downs and straps to keep your bike extra secure on the rack. This is handy for longer trips that will move the bike around more.
- Make sure you have a securing pin for the hitch receiver. This pin will keep the rack from sliding out as you drive forward. Some racks come with one, while others will require a separate purchase.
- On platform racks, you can often control the angle that the bike hangs at. If your rack has this adjustability, make sure the bike is balanced as much as possible. Neither tire should get too close to the ground.
- If possible, avoid parking in the garage with bikes on the hitch rack. While some garages are deep enough to hold a car and unfolded hitch, most will lack the same to clear the garage door.
Q. Is there a weight limit to using a hitch rack?
A. Yes. Most racks can accommodate bikes up to 50 pounds, but each one is different.
Q. Can any hitch rack fit onto my vehicle?
A. Compatible hitch racks will depend on the size of the hitch on your vehicle. A vehicle with a 2-inch hitch receiver, for example, will only be compatible with 2-inch hitch racks or smaller with an adapter.
Q. What if my vehicle doesn't have a hitch?
A. Hitches can usually be installed as an aftermarket purchase. The size of the hitch will depend on the size of your car since smaller vehicles will have weight limitations.
For a versatile and easy-to-use hitch rack, we recommend the Swagman XC Cross-Country as one of the best options to consider.
The Allen Sports 4-Bike Rack earns our pick as the best value pick when you want to save some money without sacrificing room.