The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024 (2024)

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Whether you’re riding solo or bringing along the whole crew, these are the best hitch bike racks to safely haul your bike wherever you're going.

Written by Morgan Tilton, Chelsey Magness and Jeremy Benson

The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024 (1)Mountain biker and Senior Editor Morgan Tilton opens hitch rack on back of truck; (photo/Eric Phillips)

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Hitch bike racks are one of the best ways to transport your bikes safely to any destination. The best hitch racks are easy to use, stable, and can carry a range of bike sizes and styles securely and with little fuss.

Choosing a hitch bike rack, however, isn’t that simple. There are so many models on the market that finding the right one isn’t as straightforward as it should be. Factors like bike compatibility, weight limits, bike attachment style, and the number of bikes they can carry all play a role in finding the right rack that suits your needs and meets your budget.

That’s where we come in. Our team of hitch bike rack testers use bike racks daily and have been testing and reviewing them for years. From outings with the family, daily trips to trailheads, and frequent weekend getaways, we’ve put these racks through their paces while examining the performance characteristics and features that matter most.

After months, and sometimes years, of testing the racks included here, we’ve chosen our favorites and highlighted others that stand out for specific reasons. So, whether you need to carry one bike or four, we’ve got recommendations across all hitch bike rack styles. Our handy comparison chart shows all the models we tested and their specs at a glance. And, if you aren’t sure what you need, our comprehensive buyer’s guide has all the info you need to help you decide, while our FAQ section provides answers to common questions.

Editor’s Note: We updated our hitch bike rack buyer’s guide on March 29, 2024, with the addition of the excellent Lolo Racks 6-Bike Rack with Foot Activated Tilt, the high-end Kuat Piston Pro X, and the affordable Kuat Transfer V2.

The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Best Overall Hitch Bike Rack

Thule T2 ProXTR

Specs

  • Weight52 lbs.
  • Number of bikes2 (4 with add-on)
  • Carry capacity60 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options1.25", 2"
  • LocksIntegrated bike lock, included receiver lock
  • TypePlatform

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Secures bikes with no frame contact

Cons

  • Pricey

Morgan Tilton

Almost every piece of gear we’ve tested from Sweden-based Thule always elicits the same thought: “Wow, they really thought this through!” It’s obvious that Thule gear is designed by people who use it — from the pleasing aesthetic to the little details that make it easier and more convenient to use. The Thule T2 Pro XTR 2-Bike Hitch Rack ($750) is no exception. The generous bike spacing and range of tire widths it accommodates make this one of the best racks we’ve used (for two bikes) for several years running.

The T2 Pro XTR will work with virtually any bike you have. It fits wheels from 20″ to 29″ in diameter and tire widths up to 5 inches, meaning it accommodateseverything from road bikes to fat tire bikes too. It holds up to 60 pounds per bike, which is handy for gear-laden or heavyweight electric bikes. The only bikes it doesn’t fit are those with wheelbases longer than 50″ (1,270 mm), which only really excludes some super long enduro or downhill mountain bikes.

The wide spacing and side-to-side tray adjustments make sure your bikes don’t bang against each other while you drive. Plus, the ratcheting arm secures the bike without contacting the frame at all, so it’s great for carbon fiber bikes. The rear wheel cradle slides along the tray to fit different-sized bikes and a ratcheting ladder strap holds it in place. Integrated cable locks extend out of each ratcheting arm and can be looped through the bike’s frame or fork for an added layer of security.

This bike rack tilts away from the vehicle easily with the large tilt-release handle so you can have easy access to the rear. When not in use, the rack folds neatly up and out of the way. The AutoAttach system installs quickly and easily without tools — we had our rack on and secured in minutes — and prevents rack wobble while also locking the rack to the vehicle. When you’re ready to stow the rack, two small, integrated wheels help make it so you can roll the 52-pound T2 Pro XTR across hard surfaces with ease.

Bringing some friends along? Thule’s got you covered with a 2-bike add-on that can expand capacity up to four. Either way, the Thule T2 Pro XTR is a great rack that is versatile, user-friendly, and will last for years to come.

Best Budget Hitch Bike rack

Kuat Transfer V2

Specs

  • Weight37 lbs. (2-bike, 2" receiver size)
  • Number of bikes2 (up to 4 with add-ons), also comes in 1-bike and 3-bike versions)
  • Carry capacity60 lbs. per bike (2" receiver size), 40 lbs. per bike (1.25" receiver size)
  • Hitch receiver options1.25" and 2"
  • LocksSemi-integrated cable lock and FlatLock Hitch Cam (2" receiver size)
  • TypePlatform

Pros

  • Comparatively affordable
  • Wide range of bike fit
  • Lightweight
  • Add-ons available to increase capacity

Cons

  • Lots of plastic parts
  • Less refined than more expensive options
  • Quite a bit of assembly required

Morgan Tilton

If you’re looking to save a little cash while still getting a well-performing hitch rack, then the Kuat Transfer V2 (2-bike: $489) is a great option to consider. This rack functions much like its more expensive competition, but with a simpler design that helps to keep the cost and the weight of the rack a bit lower.

Unlike most platform-style hitch racks, the Kuat Transfer has a somewhat unique design with a U-shaped bar that supports the bikes. Front and rear wheel cradles are attached to the opposing sides of the bar with wheel hooks that pivot up to capture the front wheels. These ratcheting hooks clamp the front wheel down in the large front wheel cradle, while the rear wheels get secured by a ladder strap.

The Transfer V2 is quite versatile in terms of bike fit. Right out of the box it works with wheel sizes between 18″ and 29″ and most normal tires on road or mountain bikes. It can handle fat bike tires up to 5″ in width too, but that requires a special Phat Bike Kit strap for the rear wheel. It has a max wheelbase length of 50″ (1,270 mm), which means it can handle most bikes except for some super-long enduro or downhill mountain bikes. And, despite this rack’s 37 lb. weight, the 2″ receiver version we tested is rated to handle bikes up to 60 lbs. each. The bike weight limit goes down to 40 lbs. per bike, however, for the 1.25″ receiver size and for the 2″ size when used on an RV.

For security, the Transfer V2 comes with a semi-integrated cable lock that’s long enough to loop through two frames and two wheels easily. The end of the cable clicks into a lock on the rack itself and it comes with two keys. The rack comes with a hitch pin, but no hitch pin lock (you could add your own). The anti-wobble FlatLock cam feature, however, tightens the rack within the receiver and requires the use of a security allen wrench that makes it hard to take off the vehicle.

Putting the Transfer V2 together is slightly more involved and time-consuming than some other options, but it’s fairly straightforward if you follow the directions. Compared to higher-end models, there are quite a few plastic parts that could pose some durability issues long-term, the wheel clamp arms occasionally squeak when you move them, and the ratcheting noise is quite loud. The tilt-release lever is also in a position that makes it somewhat awkward to reach with bikes loaded.

Otherwise, the Kuat Transfer V2 is a more cost-effective rack that carries just about any bike securely and with little fuss. It also comes in 1-bike ($389) and 3-bike ($589) versions, each of which is compatible with a 1-bike add-on ($189) to expand your capacity.

We recently learned of a recall that affects up to 80 thousand Kuat Transfer V2 hitch bike racks. You can find more information in our Kuat recall article or on Kuat’s website.

Runner-Up Best Hitch Bike Rack

1UP USA Equip-D Single

Specs

  • Weight27-28 lbs.
  • Number of bikes1 (3 with add-ons)
  • Carry capacity50 lbs. per bike (35 lbs. for the third bike)
  • Hitch receiver options1.25" and 2"
  • LocksNone
  • TypePlatform

Pros

  • Doesn't shimmy in the hitch receiver thanks to an integrated anti-wobble mechanism
  • Quick to install
  • Versatile bike fit
  • Super durable all-metal construction

Cons

  • No integrated lock for bikes
  • The release lever can freeze in super-cold weather, usually below zero degrees F

Morgan Tilton

Introduced in the fall of 2020, the 1UP USA Equip’D Single ($525) is already proving to be one of our favorite racks on the market. One of our testers used the previous model of the Equip-D for over 10 years and 100K+ miles without replacing a single part. After this great experience with the old model, we were excited to try out the new version. So far, it has fully lived up to our high expectations.

Durability is the name of the game with this and any rack from 1UP. It is built entirely from metal and features all stainless hardware. There are simply very few breakable parts and the entire rack is built to last forever. Literally. If something does break, 1UP sells replacement parts for the Equip-D and all of its other racks on its website.

Loading a bike onto the rack is a breeze, and it’s also plenty adjustable. This rack is compatible with tiny kids’ bikes and fat bikes alike. The total carry capacity is 50 pounds per bike (but with two add-ons, the third bike can only be 35 pounds). The wheel clamps fit 16″ to 29″ wheels and tires up to 4.5″ wide, and the trays can handle bikes as long as 56″ (1,422 mm). The dual wheel clamp design only makes contact with your bike’s tires, so it won’t scratch your bike’s paint or even make contact with the rims.

Opening the wheel clamps is a two-handed operation — not quite as straightforward as the Kuat Piston Pro X — but it becomes second nature with a little practice. They are also incredibly secure, as is the whole rack for that matter. Once mounted into a hitch receiver, this rack does not wobble at all. Installation takes less than 30 seconds thanks to a simple single-bolt system. When you need to access your trunk, the updated tilt-release handle on the newer 1UP USA Equip-D Single is easier to drop out of the way than the old model, even when a bike is loaded on.

Our complaints are very few, but in super-cold weather, the release lever can freeze. We found that this isn’t a major issue unless the temperature is below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Also, we’d be glad if this rack included an integrated lock.

Overall, though, the 1Up-USA Equip’D Single is a stellar bike rack that might be the last one you ever need to buy. We tested the single version, but 1UP also sells the 2-bike Equip’D Double. Both models can add up to two more bikes with add-ons.

Best Swing-Away Hitch Bike Rack

RockyMounts BackStage Swing Away Platform

Specs

  • Weight63 lbs.
  • Number of bikes2
  • Carry capacity60 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options2"
  • LocksIntegrated hitch lock and bike cable lock
  • TypePlatform

Pros

  • 180-degree arm swing for full use of the back of the vehicle even with bikes loaded
  • Less expensive than a swing-away extension plus bike rack
  • User-friendly rack with versatile bike fit

Cons

  • Complicated assembly takes some trial and error to get right
  • Add-on for additional bikes not available

Morgan Tilton

Most quality hitch racks have a tilt feature to allow limited access to the rear of the vehicle, but for truly unfettered access a swing-away rack is where it’s at. Aftermarket extensions are available to convert just about any rack to a swing-away, but those typically add significant weight and cost to an already expensive rack. The RockyMounts BackStage Swing Away Platform 2-Bike Hitch Rack ($770) is an exception, as this quality rack comes pre-mounted to a swing-away arm and costs less than some racks do on their own.

The BackStage essentially consists of a RockyMounts MonoRail rack with the addition of the swing-away feature. As such, it’s a quality 2-bike rack that fits a wide range of wheel sizes (20″ to 29″), tires up to 5″ wide, and wheelbases as long as 50″ (1,270 mm). Bikes are attached to the rack with front wheel hooks that clamp them down and ratcheting straps that secure the rear wheels. It’s rated for bikes up to 60 lbs. each, so it can even handle heavy e-bikes.

A convenient tilt-release handle makes it easy to tilt the rack up, flat, or down and can be operated with one hand. But, the standout feature is really the pivoting arm that allows the rack to articulate out 180 degrees to allow for complete access to the back of your vehicle — even with bikes loaded. This is a great feature for anyone, but it is particularly nice for those with vans or campers on trucks and need better access than a tilt-feature affords.

Another nice thing about the swing-away feature being integrated into the rack is that it doesn’t add as much weight as an aftermarket extension. The BackStage weighs just 63 lbs. This rack also has an anti-wobble cam integrated into the receiver bar and a threaded hitch pin. It comes with a hitch pin lock and a cable lock for the bikes.

The only real drawbacks we’ve found are that the assembly takes a bit of time and effort, it is not compatible with add-ons to expand capacity, and it only comes in the 2″ receiver size. Otherwise, the RockyMounts BackStage is a great rack that adds considerable convenience through its integrated swing-away feature.

Best Vertical Hitch Bike Rack

Lolo Racks 6-Bike Rack With Foot-Activated Tilt

Specs

  • Weight76 lbs.
  • Number of bikes6 (also comes in 4-bike version)
  • Carry capacity240 lbs. total (roughly 40 lbs. per bike, suitable even for a heavy 55-lb. e-bike positioned in the middle)
  • Hitch receiver options2"
  • LocksYes, locking hitch bolt and the option to use your cable and U-lock.
  • TypeVertical, handlebar hang

Pros

  • Impressive carrying capacity
  • Foot-activated tilt
  • Accommodates all types of bikes (and even snowboards and skis!)
  • Durable and proudly made in the USA
  • Avoids bike compatibility pitfalls of some other vertical racks

Cons

  • Does not come with an integrated lock for bikes
  • Heavy and requires significant storage space when taken off car
  • Expensive

Morgan Tilton

The Lolo Rack 6-Bike with Foot Activated Tilt ($1,150) is the ultimate choice if you love riding with family and friends. This vertical, steel rack not only boasts bomb-proof durability but also stands out for its ability to carry up to 6 bikes of any kind with its versatile handlebar cradles. Crafted in the PNW of the USA, it’s perfect for big families, shuttles, event directors, or anyone who enjoys riding in good company.

Adaptable to various bike styles, this rack accommodates mountain bikes, gravel bikes, e-bikes, kid bikes, downhill bikes, road bikes, and even fat bikes with an impressive carrying capacity of 240 lbs. total. That’s 40 lbs per bike, but it can also handle heavier e-bikes if they’re positioned in the spots closest to the support mast (and you don’t exceed the rack’s weight limit). Any vehicle equipped with a 2″ receiver hitch can get the job done — fitting best on SUVs or trucks but also compatible with smaller cars. We tested it on both a Nissan Leaf and a full-size double-cab pickup truck and both vehicles were able to handle it.

While waiting for the snow to fall in Bend, Oregon, our testers were impressed by how easy it was to load bikes and how well it handled on bumpy mountain roads. Unlike other vertical bike racks that hold bikes by the fork or wheel, the Lolo’s handlebar cradles make it easy to fit all kinds of different bikes and sizes, making loading a snap.The design also leans slightly toward the vehicle, providing better ground clearance and minimizing bounce. Looking through the rearview on a rough gravel road, the only thing our testers noticed moving were the front wheels (which can spin from the wind if not strapped down).

For convenience, the 6-Bike Rack with Foot-Activated Tilt allows the user to press a lever with the foot to tilt the rack away from the vehicle for easy access — even with bikes loaded (or all the way to the ground without bikes). It also comes in a 4-bike version ($1,080), and both sizes are also available with “standard tilt” — a hand-operated pin system — at a lower cost. While the rack lacks an included cable lock for the bikes, it does have an integrated metal loop to attach the lock of your choice and it comes with a locking hitch bolt to secure the lock to your vehicle.

At 76 lbs., the Lolo 6-Bike isn’t light but does weigh less than some similar options we’ve tried. The rack’s size also makes it a little cumbersome to store when not in use. To that end, Lolo provides instructions on how to mount the rack to your wall, and it can even be used to store your bikes. Or you can leave it on and use it all winter for skis and snowboards by mounting a ski rack right onto it.

The Lolo 6-Bike with Foot-Activated Tilt is crafted from quality materials including US-made steel, and it’s welded and assembled in Portland, Oregon, by fellow riders. It’s big, and yes, it’s expensive, but it’s impressively well-made and can carry up to six bikes of all types and sizes. Transporting that many bikes can be a chore, but the Lolo Rack makes it easy.

Best Splurge Hitch Bike Rack

Kuat Piston Pro X

Specs

  • Weight63 lbs.
  • Number of Bikes2 (up to 4 with add-ons)
  • Carry capacity67 lbs. (2" receiver size), 60 lbs. (1.25" receiver size)
  • Hitch receiver options1.25" and 2"
  • Locks12mm steel cable lock and locking hitch pin
  • TypePlatform

Pros

  • Sleek design
  • Holds bikes with tire contact only
  • One-handed clamp arm operation
  • Integrated brake lights
  • All-metal construction
  • Versatile bike fit
  • High weight capacity

Cons

  • Expensive!

Morgan Tilton

If budget isn’t a concern and you want the best-looking and highest-performing hitch rack available, the Kuat Piston Pro X ($1,389) is it. Not only does it have a super-sleek design, but it boasts a high weight limit, incredibly versatile bike fit, hydraulically-actuated wheel clamps, LED lights, and robust security features that make it arguably the best rack on the market. That is, if you’re willing and able to afford it, of course.

The Piston Pro X shares a design popularized by 1UP-USA, with flat bike trays and opposing front and rear wheel clamps. These ratching wheel clamps hold the bikes impressively securely while only making contact with the tires, ensuring that they won’t damage the finish of high-end bike frames or even scuff up your rims. This rack also features its namesake, the OneTap hydraulic piston arms that open with a touch of a lever, and the ratchet closes easily to snug them up on the bike’s tires. This feature makes it a one-handed operation and by far the most user-friendly of all the platform-style hitch racks we’ve ever used.

On top of that, it can handle wheel sizes between 18″ and 29″, tires up to 5″ wide, and wheelbases up to 53″ (1,346 mm) without the need for adaptors or modifications. Switching between wheel sizes is also quick and easy with a tool-free system and it can be done in just a few seconds. The 67 lbs. per bike weight limit (60 lbs. for the 1.25″ receiver size) means it can also handle heavy electric bikes and Kuat sells an aftermarket loading ramp that connects to the rack to roll them up into position. The Piston Pro X can carry two bikes, and its capacity can be expanded to three or four by purchasing the 1-Bike ($749) or 2-Bike ($1,289) add-ons.

A tilt release lever located by the pivot point of the support arm can be operated by foot or hand to easily adjust the rack’s platform up or down. In either position, the bright, integrated LED lights are clearly visible and function as turn signals and brake lights for added visibility. The rack is constructed almost entirely of metal, and the powder coat finish is not only durable, but it looks great too. An anti-wobble cam keeps the rack super stable on the road, a locking hitch pin keeps it secured to your vehicle, and the included 12mm thick coated steel cable lock adds a layer of security for your bikes.

Like similar racks, the Piston Pro X is fairly heavy (63 lbs.), and fairly bulky, so storing it when not in use can be a bit cumbersome. That said, its classy looks make it more reasonable to leave on your vehicle all the time. The price of the Kuat Piston Pro X is certainly nothing to scoff at either, but if you’ve got the cash to splash, this is the best hitch bike rack you can buy.

Read Review: Kuat’s Piston Pro X Hitch Bike Rack is One Hand Operable, Extra Safe.

An Affordable Option for 4 Bikes

Yakima RidgeBack

Specs

  • Weight35 lbs.
  • Number of bikes4
  • Carry capacity40 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options1.25" and 2"
  • LocksSpeedKnob locks rack to vehicle, cable lock for bikes sold separately
  • TypeHanging

Pros

  • Ease of use
  • Lightweight and easy to store
  • Affordable
  • Integrated bottle opener

Cons

  • Cable lock not included
  • Impossible to avoid frame contact
  • Frame adapters are separate purchases

Morgan Tilton

We’ve often felt that the best features are the ones you don’t notice, and the Yakima RidgeBack ($379) for four bikes is an excellent example of this. It strikes a perfect blend of features and simplicity. It comes assembled right out of the box, and the locking, tool-free SpeedKnob lets you mount it in minutes.

While it has a much simpler, hanging design that supports bikes by the top tube of the frame, it is among the most economical ways for people to transport 4 bikes at a time. The two support arms have eight padded, anti-sway cradles — two per bike — that aim to prevent your bikes from banging into each other during transport. The zip strip ratcheting straps are fast, easy to use, and removable.

As a hanging-style rack, there is no way to avoid frame contact, so this isn’t the best option for those with super fancy carbon bikes. It also works best with traditionally shaped bikes with horizontal top tubes that rest on top of the support arms. You can jimmy curved tubes or full-suspension mountain bikes into place, but it can be awkward. Thankfully, Yakima sells the TubeTop adapter ($39), which can be attached for an easier fit.

The rack tilts away from your car via an easy-to-use UpperHand lever, and the whole rack folds flat for easy storage when not in use. All the adjustments on the main joints are via button or lever, which makes adjusting it a breeze. There’s the HandCuff lock ($49), a proprietary cable lock designed to work specifically with the RidgeBack (as well as Yakima’s SwingDaddy rack). Bonus: The brand’s signature bottle opener is on the end of the swing arm of the Yakima RidgeBack, which is handy for post-ride celebrations.

While hanging racks aren’t our preferred way to transport our expensive bikes, they do make a lot of sense for less frequent rack users who need an affordable way to carry up to 4 bikes for the occasional weekend getaway without emptying the bank account. While it is nearly impossible to avoid rack-to-frame and bike-on-bike contact, the Yakima RidgeBack can reliably get your bikes from point A to point B with little else to worry about.

Best of the Rest

Best Hitch Bike Rack on a Tight Budget

Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Bike Rack

Specs

  • Weight23 lbs.
  • Number of bikes4
  • Carry capacity35 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options1.25" and 2"
  • LocksNone
  • TypeHanging

Pros

  • Very inexpensive
  • Lightweight and easy to store
  • Easy installation

Cons

  • No security features
  • Frame contact carry
  • Rack and bikes wobble around

Morgan Tilton

If you’re on a tight budget or can’t justify spending lots of money on a fancy bike rack, the Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Bike Rack ($130) can carry up to 4 bikes at a time for a fraction of the price of the competition. Four bolts make up the entirety of the assembly, and the light weight (23 pounds) makes it easy to lift and fit into your hitch, so you’ll be ready to roll in minutes. It’s far from the most elegant solution, but it is functional and very affordable.

Two arms sport four sets of padded cradles, while Allen’s individual tie-down system holds the bikes in place. These cradles can be spaced out or rotated to fit a wide array of bikes, from your roadie to your kid’s mountain bike. Just be aware that the hanging design of this rack means that it relies on frame contact to support the bikes, there will likely be some bike-on-bike contact, and it will work best with traditional frame styles. A top-tube adapter can be used to attach bikes that might otherwise be challenging to fit.

The Allen Deluxe is rated to carry bikes up to 35 lbs. each, for a maximum of 140 lbs. on the 4-bike version. Considering its low price and simple design, it’s not too surprising that the rack tends to wobble a bit, especially with bikes loaded. Yet, it still has a couple features that make it more user-friendly. The pin-locking tilt function swings the rack down, so you can reach your gear in the back without removing the whole system — as long as you take your bikes off first (four bikes crashing to the ground is a horrifying thought). And the folding carry arms give the rack a low profile when it’s not in use.

There are no security features or locks, and the front tires aren’t secured in any way. A pair of bungee cords or straps and a good cable lock are ideal add-ons. However, combining the cost of the rack, straps, and cable lock, this setup still costs less than half the price of even moderately priced four-bike carriers on the market.

Overall, the Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Bike Rack gets the job done at an impressively low price, even with the recommended added purchases.

A Good Option for Heavy E-Bikes

Yakima OnRamp

Specs

  • Weight42 lbs., 9.6 oz.
  • Number of bikes2
  • Carry capacity66 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options1.25" and 2"
  • LocksIntegrated bike and hitchreceiver lock
  • TypePlatform

Pros

  • Includes loading ramp for heavy e-bikes
  • 66 lbs. per bike weight capacity
  • Works with bike with fenders and large tubes

Cons

  • Bike attachment takes some getting used to
  • Fatter tires require a different set of straps (sold separately)

Morgan Tilton

Electric bikes are booming in popularity but transporting them can be a challenge given their heavier weight. Lifting a 50+ lb. bike up onto a hitch rack can be difficult for just about anyone. Yakima had this in mind when designing the OnRamp e-bike rack ($699). This rack includes a loading ramp to help roll bikes up into position on the trays and it has a unique bike attachment system that works with all types of bikes, including those with thick tubes or fenders.

With a weight limit of 66 lbs. per bike, the OnRamp can handle heavy e-bikes. It also comes with a loading ramp that can be attached to either end of the bike trays. It takes a little extra time to use it, but it means you don’t have to strain to lift a heavy bike up onto the rack. It’s a little fiddly in practice, but it works and makes it so that those with limited strength or mobility can still load and transport their bikes.

On the rack, a central support arm folds up with adjustable attachments that grab hold of the bikes by the frame. The cradles have straps for both the front and rear wheels to secure them for three points of attachment per bike. The loading process isn’t the most intuitive, but it gets easy with a little practice. It fits wheel sizes between 20″ and 29″, tires up to 3.25″ wide, and wheelbases as long as 50″ (1,270 mm). It’ll also work with your fat tire bikes and tires up to 4.5″ wide by adding the FatStrap Kit ($20).

Despite the OnRamp’s high weight limit, this rack weighs just 43 lbs., so it is relatively easy to install, remove, and move around when it’s off the vehicle. It also comes with an all-in-one cable lock that locks both the hitch pin and the bikes on the rack at the same time. The Yakima OnRamp is a novel solution that can carry all kinds of bikes but is particularly well-suited to making transporting e-bikes easier.

Another Good Heavy-Duty Rack

Yakima StageTwo

Specs

  • Weight66 lbs.
  • Number of bikes2
  • Carry capacity70 lbs. per bike on road; 42 lbs. per bike off-road
  • Hitch receiver options1.25" and 2"
  • LocksIntegrated bike lock and hitch receiver lock
  • TypePlatform

Pros

  • Accommodates a wide range of bike sizes and types
  • High weight limit – good for e-bikes
  • Ramp add-on available for loading heavy bikes
  • Durable and secure while driving off-road
  • Integrated bike lock is streamlined

Cons

  • Tilt lever needs mindfulness – make sure it’s fully latched
  • Significant max weight difference between paved and off-road use
  • Heavy and bulky – difficult to move around and store

Morgan Tilton

By the end of road-tripping more than 600 miles throughout Southwest Colorado, we were impressed with the durability and streamlined style of the hitch-mounted Yakima StageTwo ($749) bike rack. Despite wind-ridden hairpin turns through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, rowdy mud-and-snow-packed conditions on Kebler Pass, and chalky dust clouds blasting out to Fruita’s 18 Road, the bikes stayed put even when passengers jostled in the cab.

Every aspect and step of this rack is approachable, which is what makes the premium design. That and the fact that the rack doesn’t glaze your frame one bit, even when the roads are rough. The sculpted front wheel hook avoids contact with the frame and fork, and the back security strap wraps around the wheel to secure the bicycles.It’s also burly and well-made with an impressive 70 lbs. per bike weight limit that can easily handle most heavy electric bikes and Yakima sells an aftermarket loading ramp to roll them up onto the trays. Factor in its versatile bike fit that includes 20″ to 29″ wheels, tires up to 3.25″ (up to 5″ with Fat Bike Kit), and wheelbases up to 52″ (1,320 mm), and this bike can handle just about any bike you own.

That 30-minute assembly and installation process is virtually tool-free — the kit includes a 6 mm security allen wrench to tighten down the bolts and you’ll need your hands. After sliding the spine into your rig’s receiver, insert the safety pin, and then tighten the SpeedKnob (which both tightens and locks the rack in place) until you meet resistance. Next, use the included SKS (Same Key System) key to completely lock the rack in, after which, the glistening knob spins freely. We also appreciate the integrated cable locks — which use the same SKS key as the receiver lock — that extend from the top of each pivot arm to wrap around the bike.

Whether we were loading up heavy old-school Schwinn rides or high-end mountain bikes with 27.5 or 29er wheels, the size of the load didn’t affect the ease of use. This is thanks to stadium-tiered trays for handlebar clearance, which can also be adjusted laterally (but this involves tools and little time). Also, while the tilt factor seems herculean, it couldn’t be easier to operate with the forward-facing remote tilt lever (meaning, you don’t need to reach behind the bikes) for fast access to the back of your vehicle.

The Yakima StageTwo is fairly heavy at 66 lbs. and is quite bulky when off the vehicle, so like similar racks, you’ll need a bit of space to store when not in use. Otherwise, this is a rugged and user-friendly hitch bike rack that feels like it should provide years of faithful service and look pretty good doing it too. Need to carry more than 2 bikes? Yakima sells a 2-bike add-on to expand capacity to four.

Lightweight and Best for Smaller Bikes

Kuat Sherpa 2.0

Specs

  • Weight32 lbs.
  • Number of bikes2
  • Carry capacity40 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options1.25", 2"
  • LocksHitch pin lock and cable lock for bikes
  • TypePlatform

Pros

  • Easy install
  • Lightweight and low profile
  • Good-looking
  • Tilts away from vehicle while fully loaded

Cons

  • Lower weight capacity- 40 lbs.
  • Limited wheelbase length – doesn't work with longer bikes
  • Not compatible with add-ons

Morgan Tilton

The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 ($689) is a streamlined hitch rack that scores points for its lightweight and ease of use. It sports tool-free installation — just hand-tighten the hitch cam, and you’re set — and a foot-activated tilt-away feature to let you get at your gear in the back of the vehicle, even when it’s loaded with bikes. It loses a little ground due to its lower weight limit and comparatively limited bike compatibility but is still a great option for many users.

It holds wheelbases up to 47″ (1,194 mm) and can handle tires up to 3 inches wide, with a load capacity of up to 40 pounds per bike. This means it works best with road, gavel, and smaller mountain bikes, as many larger mountain bikes will be too long to fit. The folding arms lock down on the front tires without any frame contact, and the rear tire cradle sports a molded strap to keep your bikes safe while you drive.

The lighter weight — just 32 lbs. — makes it easy to install or remove, but thanks to the low-profile foldaway design and nice-looking finish, you won’t be taking it off. You’ll hardly know it’s there until you need it. It also comes with a hitch pin lock to keep it secured to the vehicle, as well as a user-friendly cable lock to add a little security to your precious bikes.

The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is a very lightweight and sleek hitch bike rack that’s a great option for transporting lighter, smaller bikes. While it may have some limitations in terms of bike fit, it looks great and is among the most user-friendly racks on the market.

INNO Tire Hold Bike Hitch 4

Specs

  • Weight85 lbs.
  • Number of bikes4
  • Carry capacity60 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options2"
  • LocksIncluded for hitch and bikes
  • TypePlatform

Pros

  • Frameless contact
  • Rock-solid stability
  • High weight capacity

Cons

  • Very pricey
  • Doesn’t fit fat bikes
  • Heavy and very bulky

Morgan Tilton

This low-profile INNO Tire Hold Bike Hitch 4 ($1,000) can carry up to four bikes up to 60 pounds each, but this monster looks like you could strap an ATV to it (you can’t). Also known as the IH142, the aluminum construction is strong but keeps the weight of the rack itself low. And the pull handle at the end of the rack makes it a breeze to fold up the rack against the vehicle when not in use.

Besides its intimidating presence, the most notable aspect of the Tire Hold is its completely frameless securing system. Combining a full-length cradle with locking wheel clamps on both tires, the rack locks in bikes and keeps them from banging against each other during transport. It prevents any contact with the frames or forks, which is ideal for users who own carbon frames, bikes with large forks, or those who want to treat their bikes like polished china.

The arms hold 20″ to 29″ wheels and tires that are up to 3″ wide. One feature we absolutely love is the ability to tilt down for rear access when fully loaded thanks to the handle on the end, which makes it easier to lift the rack, even with four bikes on it. There are four different angles accessed with the tilt. And the included locks for the hitch and bikes are a huge plus.

Overall, the weight capacity of the INNO Tire Hold Bike Hitch 4 makes this a great choice for e-bikers, as well as road trippers who may need to access the back of the rig without unloading all four bikes first.

Yakima HangOver 6

Specs

  • Weight70 lbs.
  • Number of bikes6
  • Carry capacity37.5 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options2"
  • LocksYes, a hitch lock and integrated lock loop for use with aftermarket locks
  • TypeVertical, fork cradle

Pros

  • Huge carrying capacity
  • Less expensive than most vertical racks
  • Lighter weight than most vertical racks

Cons

  • Only works with bikes that have suspension forks
  • Comparatively low weight limit – doesn't work with e-bikes

Morgan Tilton

If you roll deep, the Yakima HangOver ($799) for up to six bikes is the best way to haul your crew’s bikes around. Great for big families, group rides, or tour guides, Yakima’s beastly bike rack loads up to six bikes at up to 37.5 pounds each with its vertical carry system. It’s a great SUV bike rack for hauling your bikes and gear.

The bikes are secured by the rear tire and crown of the fork, with the front tire pointing toward the sky. The HangOver manages to carry half a dozen bikes while taking up minimal space and keeping the bikes from making contact with one another. Yakima also sells a 4-bike version ($649) for those with lower capacity needs.

It’s very important to note that the fork cradle design of the HangOver only works with bikes with suspension forks. This is great if you only need to transport mountain bikes, but limits its versatility and compatibility with road, gravel, and other bikes with rigid forks. The 37.5 lbs. per bike weight limit is also noteworthy, as it can’t carry your electric mountain bikes either.

The vertical tower has two adjustable tilt angles that are operated via a pedal at the base. This allows you to adjust the bikes’ distance from your car (the tires may bump the rear windows of Sprinter vans at the vertical setting) and to access the rear of your vehicle without taking the bikes off the rack.

Soft padding in the cups protects the forks’ finish, keeping them clean until you and your buddies thrash them on the trails, and they’re adjustable enough to accommodate fat bike suspension forks. The hitch lock on the Yakima HangOver is included, an integrated lock loop lets you secure your bikes, and, of course, the built-in bottle openers are a plus.

While the HangOver may be limited to mountain bikes 37.5 lbs. and under, it’s still a great solution for those who need to move lots of bikes at a time, and it costs less than most other vertical racks on the market.

Swagman XC2

Specs

  • Weight28 lbs.
  • Number of bikes2
  • Carry capacity35 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options1.25" and 2"
  • LocksNone
  • TypePlatform with wheel cradles and frame hooks

Pros

  • Secure cradle system
  • Great price point
  • Lower weight

Cons

  • No access to the rear of your vehicle when bikes are on the rack
  • Hold bikes by frame contact
  • Somewhat cheap overall feel

Morgan Tilton

Of all the bike racks we’ve seen under $200, the Swagman XC2 ($150) is easily one of the best. Instead of the hanging mount you usually see with racks at this price point, the XC2 combines a cradle system with arms that clamp down on the frame. This not only keeps bikes more secure, but it also stops the front tires from swinging around and banging against your car or other bikes while you drive.

The cradle hoops are adjustable, so they can fit a variety of wheelbases as well as 20″ to 29″ wheels. The push-button ratchet arms adjust easily, and the upright bar folds down to let you get to gear in the back of your car (but only when the bikes are off the mount). That said, there is no avoiding frame contact with this rack, so it’s not ideal for carbon bikes or anyone who values the finish of their bicycle.

It will hold bikes up to 35 pounds, so e-bikes and some cruisers may not work. But, most non-electric mountain and road bikes will hold just fine.

Lightweight and compact, the Swagman XC2 only weighs 28 pounds. You can take it off when you won’t be riding for a while, and it folds down flat for easy storage when you’re not using it. It’s a solid option for budget-conscious buyers, occasional rack users, and weekend riders.

Saris SuperClamp EX 2-Bike

Specs

  • Weight35 lbs.
  • Number of bikes2
  • Carry capacity60 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options1.25", 2"
  • LocksLocking hitch pin, integrated bike lock cables
  • TypePlatform

Pros

  • Slender footprint
  • Zero frame contact

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Not the most refined look or feel

Morgan Tilton

Combining strength with a small footprint, the Saris SuperClampEX 2 ($580) is a solid platform hitch rack that weighs just 35 pounds. This puts it on the lower half of the weight scale and makes it much easier to handle off the vehicle than heavier options.

Dual wheel hooks lock the bikes into the cradles without any frame contact, supporting bikes up to 60 pounds each, wheelbases of up to 50 inches, and tires up to 4 inches wide (adapters for fat tire bikes are available as add-ons). A variety of wheels are compatible with the rack from 20″ to 29″ diameters.

The hooks and cradle are adjustable to accommodate almost any kind of bike as well — from road bikes and mountain bikes to bikes with fenders and lightweight e-bikes. And, thanks to a design that allows for two bikes on a single bar, the platform’s footprint is notably streamlined, with a tilt feature that allows you to tilt the fully loaded rack away from the vehicle.

The Saris SuperClampEX 2 doesn’t just rest on its lean profile and unique design, though. The thoughtful design extends to the details. Little things like reflective logo stickers, an integrated bike locking system, and the built-in bottle openers show that Saris has both the big picture and small touches dialed. It also comes in a 4-bike option.

Saris MHS DUO 1-Bike Tray

Specs

  • Weight105 lbs. (2 33-lb. trays, 39-lb. base hitch)
  • Number of bikes2 (3 bikes with add-on)
  • Carry capacity80 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options2"
  • LocksLocking hitch pin, integrated bike lock cables
  • TypePlatform

Pros

  • Easy to operate
  • Quick load time
  • Modular system to dial it in to your needs
  • High weight limit

Cons

  • Cost-wise the pieces add up
  • On the arms, the release levers can get a tad stubborn
  • The rack and bikes wobble on rocky, bumpy terrain

Morgan Tilton

If you’re looking for a more customizable approach, the modular MHS (Modular Hitch System) rack from Saris is worth checking out. There are three base hitch options that can be combined with a sleek, strong tray system, which is quick and easy to operate.

We recently combined the Saris MHS 2+1 Base ($200) stacked with two MHS DUO 1-Bike Trays ($350), which adds up to $900. There’s also a menu of options. The MHS 3+1 Base is also compatible with a 2-inch hitch and carries up to four bikes. The MHS 1+1 Base Universal Hitch fits both 2-inch and 1.25-inch hitch receivers but is limited to two bikes max. They also sell a cargo basket that can be attached to the Base that can hold coolers or luggage. This allows you to configure your rack to meet your needs and make adjustments when those needs change.

To load up, you simply lift your bike onto the tray and sandwich the wheels between the opposing wheel clamps — giving a slight bump to make sure it clicks as snugly as possible. If you have multiple trays, alternate the direction of the bike handles, and make sure the seats are lowered to not bump another bike’s components. The dual wheel clamp design only makes contact with the tires and holds bikes very securely.

The design also accommodates e-bikes (up to 80 lbs.), fat-tire bikes (as wide as 5 inches), and 20″ to 29″ wheels plus bikes with wheelbases up to 52″ long. Bikes with fenders are also welcome here.

One thing — with the Saris MHS 2+1 Base, you can’t be afraid to muscle the release levers at times when they’re a bit stuck. The same goes for closing each arm around the back and front tires: give it a push.

Hitch Bike Racks Comparison Chart

RacksMSRPRack WeightNumber of BikesCarry Capacity (per Bike)
Thule T2 ProXTR$80053 lbs.2 (4 with add-on)60 lbs.
Kuat Transfer V2$489 (2-bike)37 lbs.2 (up to 4 with add-ons)60 lbs.
1UP USA Equip-D Single$52528 lbs.1 (up to 3 with add-ons)50 lbs. (35 lbs. for third bike)
RockyMounts BackStage
Swing Away
$77063 lbs.260 lbs.
Lolo 6-Bike Rack with Foot Activated Tilt$1,15076 lbs.6 (4-bike version available)240 lbs total capacity
Kuat Piston Pro X$1,38963 lbs.2 (up to 3 with add-ons)67 lbs. (2″), 60 lbs. (1.25″)
Yakima RidgeBack$37935 lbs.440 lbs.
Allen Sports Deluxe
Hitch Bike Rack
$13023 lbs.435 lbs.
Yakima OnRamp$69943 lbs., 9.6 oz.266 lbs.
Yakima StageTwo$74966 lbs.2 (up to 4 with add-ons)70 lbs. on road, 42 lbs. off-road
Kuat Sherpa 2.0$62932 lbs.2 (4 with add-on)40 lbs.
INNO Tire Hold
Bike Hitch 4
$1,00085 lbs.460 lbs.
Yakima HangOver 6$99970 lbs.6 (4-bike version available)37.5 lbs.
Swagman XC2$15028 lbs.235 lbs.
Saris SuperClamp EX 2-Bike$58035 lbs.2 (4-bike version available)60 lbs.
Saris MHS DUO
1-Bike

& Base
$200 and $350105 lbs. (2-bikes)2 (3 bikes with add-on)80 lbs.

Why You Should Trust Us

The folks at GearJunkie spend a lot of time in the saddle. From daily office commutes to singletrack joyrides, bikes play a major role in our lives. Like most cyclists, we often use our vehicles to haul bikes around. We plug our hitch-mounted bike racks into sedans, SUVs, and everything in between. Though it’s always nice to start pedaling right out of the front door, like you, we often have to drive before we can ride.

Our team has been testing all sorts of outdoor gear for years, putting products through their paces to see how they perform in the real world and compare to each other. While testing new gear is undoubtedly fun, we do it with the goal of providing honest and trustworthy product recommendations to inform our readers so they can make better purchase decisions.

Two of our lead testers, Senior Editor Morgan Tilton and professional photographer and gear writer Eric Phillips, live in Crested Butte, Colorado, where more than 750 miles of mountain bike trails exist in the Gunnison Valley and surrounding area. They also drive to other trail systems in the Southwest, racking up hundreds of miles on each hitch rack per road trip. The pair has tested nearly all of the racks you see in this guide in the past few years, and in doing so, they have developed a keen sense of what sets the best racks apart from the rest.

Chelsey Magness also contributes to this buyer’s guide. Chelsey is a professional adventure racer, parent, and event organizer who travels frequently with bikes to trailheads, races, and weekend getaways with family and friends. She’s been using and abusing hitch bike racks for many years — even before testing and reviewing them for GearJunkie — and knows the importance of having the right rack to make transporting bikes easy and stress-free.

GearJunkie Editor Jeremy Benson also lends some experience and expertise to this review. Jeremy has been professionally testing bikes, accessories, and related gear for 8 years, and has personally tested over 20 different hitch bike racks in that time. He is constantly using bike racks to transport his expensive bikes to local trailheads, gravel and mountain bike races, and on weekend getaways to mountain bike destinations across the west. Having tested virtually every bike rack currently on the market, he knows exactly how they perform, compare, and their best applications.

How We Tested Hitch Bike Racks

After researching the best hitch bike racks on the market, we chose the models included in this guide to put through real-world testing. We aren’t just concerned with specs, rather, we put them through an extended period of rigorous testing to see how they actually perform. From daily trips around to local riding spots to weekend adventures with the whole crew, we use each of these racks as any consumer would. We assemble the racks ourselves, install and remove them from our vehicles, and load and unload our bikes countless times. While testing, we examine bike compatibility, bike attachment systems, ease of loading/unloading, rack stability, bike stability, and security features. From highways to rough gravel roads and hot summer days to cold, rainy, and snowy conditions, these racks have seen it all with the goal of exposing their strengths and weaknesses.

Many of the racks featured here have been with us for many years. Even after regular exposure to the elements and many miles of rough roads, they’re still going strong. Whether you’re pedaling a mountain bike, e-bike, or commuter, we’re confident you’ll find a rack to help transport your steed. As new racks roll out in the future, we’ll be sure to test them too, and update our list to reflect the current market.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Hitch Bike Rack

There’s a lot to consider when searching for the right hitch bike rack to suit your needs. The different styles of hitch bike racks all have their pros and cons but you’ll also want to consider the type of bikes you have, how much they weigh, and how many bikes you need to carry. Those factors should help you narrow down the choice to find the best rack for you. If you’re looking for alternative ways to transport your bikes, check out our comprehensive guide to the best roof bike racks.

Types of Hitch Bike Racks

These days, hitch bike racks come in three basic styles. Platform racks are the most common, holding the bikes horizontally and supporting them from the bottom on a “platform” or tray. Hanging racks carry the bikes horizontally, but as the name suggests, they hang the bikes from a support arm by the top tube of the frame. Vertical racks are a bit newer on the scene, but this style hangs the bikes vertically from either the front wheel, fork, or handlebar. We’ll explain the different types of racks in more detail below.

Platform

Platform-style racks use a platform, or tray, that the bike rests on. Compared to other styles of hitch racks, platform racks typically have the lowest loading height, making it fairly easy to lift bikes up into position. The bikes are held in place using various methods, the most common of which is the front wheel clamp/hook.

Most platform racks have the benefit of not touching the bike frame at all — they only touch the tires or wheels. This makes them ideal for people who don’t want to risk damaging their bike frames. Plus, thetrays can often be adjusted to avoid or minimize bike-on-bike interference. This also allows platform racks to fit all kinds of bikes regardless of overall size, suspension style, or wheel size.

This combination of versatility and ease of use makes platform-style racks very popular among serious cyclists. The downsides are that they’re typically more expensive than hanging-style racks, and they are often heavy and quite bulky. They also usually only carry two bikes at a time, but often have the option to increase capacity with add-ons for an additional cost.

Hanging

Hanging racks typically have two support arms that hold bikes by the frames, letting the bikes hang down. The advantage here is that many of these racks can hold up to four bikes without added hardware and they are typically less expensive than platform racks. Hanging racks are usually lighter weight as well, making them easier to install, remove, and store when not in use.

The main disadvantage is that contact with the frame can lead to abrasion and, in some cases, damage. This is a huge consideration when carrying a bike with a carbon fiber frame. Hanging racks also may not accommodate bikes with unusual frames (like step-through bikes) or full-suspension mountain bikes. You may also want to secure the front tires to the frame with a bungee cord or a strap. This helps prevent the wheels from rotating and bumping into other bikes.

Vertical

Vertical racks are a newer style that initially came about as a way to carry numerous mountain bikes for shuttle runs. By hanging the bikes vertically, it is possible to transport as many as six bikes at a time. While the early models held bikes by the crown of suspension forks and were limited to carrying mountain bikes only, more recent designs carry bikes by the front wheel or handlebar and are compatible with other types of bikes too. Vertical racks are a solid choice for families, people who ride with lots of friends, and mountain bike shuttles.

The main benefit of vertical racks is being able to transport more than four bikes at a time. The drawbacks are that they are heavy, bulky and difficult to store, and they are often quite expensive. That said, they end up being less expensive than many platform racks with add-ons.

Platform vs. Hanging vs. Vertical: Which Is Best?

Choosing between the rack styles really comes down to considering the type and number of bikes you need to carry. If you’re an infrequent rack user and you simply need to transport some older bikes to and from a vacation home a couple of times a summer, then an inexpensive hanging rack may suit your needs just fine.

If keeping your bikes stable, secure, and in pristine condition is important to you, platform racks are ideal. Most platform racks secure the bikes via the tires and/or wheels, avoiding frame contact entirely. They’re also easy to load and use, especially platform racks with a roll-up feature (or those compatible with aftermarket ramps). This is ideal for people transporting heavier bikes like cruisers or e-bikes. Platform racks also win out if you transport bikes with unique frames (like a step-through bike) or full-suspension mountain bikes. You won’t have to find a way to weave any hanging arms through the frames.

Generally speaking, platform racks as a whole typically come with bigger price tags than hanging racks. And, if you want to carry more than two bikes at a time, you’ll need to factor in the cost of add-ons too. If the price is no object and keeping your bike looking new is your priority, choose a platform rack. If you want to save money and aren’t concerned about wear, a hanging rack is a great choice.

Vertical racks are often the best choice for those who need to transport a larger number of bikes. While the upfront cost may seem high, they cost less than many platform racks with add-ons and are typically the only option for carrying more than four bikes at a time (other than tailgate pads). And, while they used to be more limited in terms of bike fit, some of the newer models that hold bikes by the wheels or handlebars (like the Lolo Racks) will work with most bikes including kids, road, gravel, etc. Bear in mind that they are much larger and will dominate the back of your vehicle a bit, so they may look a little out of place on smaller vehicles.

Bike Attachment

Bike attachment systems feature various ways to secure your bike to the rack. It varies depending on the style of the rack, but even then, there are often multiple different attachment systems within each style.

Straps

The first and most basic is the strap system which is most common on hanging racks. Small cradles on the support arms support the weight of the bike while a zip strip or cam strap holds the bike down in the cradle. While it’s a solid and secure system (user error is the most common issue), straps can degrade and break. Because of this, many strap systems secure the bike with two straps at each attachment point as a contingency.

Most riders’ main concern with a hanging rack is that it could potentially damage the bike’s finish over time through contact and abrasion. We’ve heard horror stories about hanging racks wearing the paint down to the metal or carbon beneath on long road trips. While that’s an extreme case, slower wear over years of use isn’t. Because of this, hanging racks tend to feature padded cradles to minimize frame damage, but the best way to guarantee your frame is safe is to eliminate frame contact altogether.

Wheel Hooks and Clamp Arms

Most platform racks use a front wheel clamp that is also often referred to as a shepherd’s hook. On these racks, a pivoting arm with an adjustable hook captures the front wheel and presses it down into a cradle while the rear wheel is secured with a ratcheting strap that wraps over the rear rim. This attachment system avoids frame contact by using the front tire and rear rim to secure the bike on the rack. Not only is this system easy to use, but in our experience, it holds bikes very steady while preventing them from making contact with each other (if carrying multiple bikes).

Other platform racks use opposing clamp arms that essentially sandwich the bike from both ends. This style of attachment was popularized by 1UP-USA and has since been employed by most other major rack manufacturers. By holding bikes with contact to the tires only, these racks won’t even scuff up your fancy carbon rims. This system also allows for a huge range of bike fits along with the ability to shift the bikes laterally to avoid bike-on-bike interference.

Vertical

Vertical racks support bikes by the fork, front wheel, or handlebar and typically have a strap or bungee that holds the rear wheel in place. Regardless of attachment style, vertical racks hold bikes in such a way that the bikes don’t contact each other. Fork mount vertical racks, like the Yakima HangOver, capture bikes by the crown of a suspension fork, and as such, they only work with mountain bikes, but they can cause abrasion damage to the paint on the fork crown over time.

Vertical racks with front-wheel cradles hang the bike by the front wheel and only make contact with the tire. These are a bit more versatile as they don’t rely on a suspension fork, so they can often be used with bikes with rigid forks (road, gravel, kids, and fat bikes) but you may need different cradles for different wheel sizes and tire widths.

Handlebar mount vertical racks, like the Lolo Racks, hang bikes from the handlebar and are surprisingly versatile as a result. They can fit a wide variety of bike styles regardless of wheel and tire size, fork type, or handlebar style.

Number of Bikes

One of the first things to consider when choosing the style of rack that will work best for you is how many bikes you need to transport. Racks generally carry anywhere from two to six bikes, so you have some options. Remember, you can always carry fewer bikes than a rack’s capacity, but never more than a rack’s capacity. And you never know when you’re going to pick up a few more buddies to ride with.

Platform racks come in varying capacities, with most providing two spots for bikes (some come as single or three bike racks too). Many platform racks can also be expanded with add-ons that can be attached to increase capacity by one or two bikes to carry up to four.

Hanging racks also come in various carrying capacities, typically between 2 and 5 bikes. The Yakima Ridgeback and Allen Sports Deluxe can both carry up to four but can also be purchased for two bikes.

Vertical racks can typically handle the most bikes with the models we tested being offered in 4-bike and 6-bike versions.

Bike Weight

Most good hitch bike racks can handle the weight of regular, non-electric bikes without any issues. Many modern racks are now rated to handle bikes up to around 60 lbs., which is great news for everyone who has e-bikes, which often weigh upwards of 50 lbs. It is very important to know how much your bike(s) weigh when considering a new rack and make sure that the rack you choose is capable of handling the weight.

In general, platform racks often have the highest weight capacities, with models like the Yakima StageTwo, Kuat Piston Pro X, and the Yakima OnRamp claiming up to 70 lbs., 67 lbs., and 66 lbs. per bike, respectively. Other racks, like the Thule T2 Pro XTR and the RockyMounts BackStage can handle bikes up to 60 lbs. each.

Another thing to consider is loading heavy bikes. The Yakima OnRamp is specifically designed to carry e-bikes, and it includes a loading ramp that can be used to roll them up into position on the trays. Other racks, like the Kuat Piston Pro X, the Yakima StageTwo, and the 1Up-USA Equip’D are all compatible with aftermarket loading ramps sold by their respective manufacturers.

Tilt and Swing-Away Features

The “tilt” and “swing-away” features refer to how the rack adjusts to allow access to your vehicle. Tilt features are super common and allow the rack to be tilted away from the vehicle at an angle to open a hatchback or drop down a tailgate. This makes it possible to lean in and grab a backpack or let your dog hop out. It also makes it possible to fold the rack up when not in use to keep it out of the way.

One thing to consider is whether you can tilt the rack while the bikes are still on it. It can be a pain to take the bikes off when you need to get into your car. Also, consider how far it tilts away. This will make a huge difference if you’re pulling out something unwieldy, like a cooler.

“Swing-away” refers to racks with the ability to pivot away from the vehicle to allow completely open access to the rear of the vehicle. This feature is available on some platform and hanging racks and many brands sell swing-away attachments that can be added to the rack of your choice. These attachments can be expensive and add to both the price and weight of an already expensive and heavy rack, but the convenience can be hard to beat for some users.

Our favorite swing-away rack is the BackStage from RockyMounts. It swings a full 180 degrees away from your vehicle — even with bikes loaded — giving you unobstructed access to whatever’s back there. This is a great option for those with camper vans or who use their trucks for camping.

Wheel Size, Tire Width, and Bike Length Compatibility

A bike rack is useless if it can’t hold your bike, so make sure your bike will fit. Important things to consider here are the size of the wheels, the width of the tires, and the wheelbase length of your bike(s). Most platform racks fit a range of tire widths and wheel diameters, but some are more versatile than others.

Because platform racks secure the bike via the tires, it’s important to make sure that your bike’s tire width, wheel size, and wheelbase all fall within the rack’s parameters. When shopping for a platform rack, check the technical specs listed on the rack brand’s website. Most companies will list a range of wheelbases, tire widths, and wheel sizes that fit that rack’s specs. In some cases, brands will also sell adapters or kits to accommodate fatter tires.

Since hanging racks support bikes by the frame, their tire width, wheel size, and wheelbase are not an issue. The bigger concern with hanging racks is unique frame types like BMX bikes, step-through frames, and full-suspension mountain bikes. These can prove a pain (or impossible) to hang on a hanging rack.

Fortunately, several of the racks we mention will work with fat tires and long wheelbases. Peruse our list and make sure that the one you’re considering will work with your bike.

Hitch Receiver Size

Hitch receivers on passenger vehicles will be either 1.25″ or 2″ sizing. It’s important that you verify which size your vehicle has prior to purchasing a bike rack. The two sizes are visually very different, so it is fairly obvious which is which. If in doubt, measure!

The larger, 2″-inch hitch” receiver is generally preferred because it can handle heavier loads, which is great if you plan to carry several heavy e-bikes. It’s also worth noting that some racks come with an adjustable system to fit either size.

Don’t have a hitch receiver? They can be ordered online to fit most vehicles and be installed at home if you’re willing or able to do it yourself. Otherwise, check out a local U-haul or vehicle mechanic who will probably be able to take care of it for you.

Security

Bike racks have two main points of vulnerability when it comes to theft: the bikes can be stolen off the rack, and the rack itself can be removed. This isn’t just an issue if bikes are on it; the racks themselves can be coveted items for potential thieves.

Remember, if you have to head into a store or you’re spending the night away from home, it only takes a few seconds for a thief to pull your bike off the rack and pedal off with it. If they’re prepared with tools (or not, for mounts with hand-tightening hitch mounts), someone can take your entire rack. This can be a huge issue if you don’t have a garage to park in, particularly if you don’t want to put on or take off your rack every time you ride.

Fortunately, many racks come with a locking hitch mount, which makes it impossible to unscrew when engaged. If your rack doesn’t come with one, many companies sell mount locks separately. There are also plenty of aftermarket hitch locks available for purchase.

As for your bikes, integrated or included locks are a nice feature to have and are often found on higher-end racks — companies like Thule, Kuat, and Yakima usually offer this. The lock is integrated into the rack itself, retracting into the rack when not in use. When you need it, simply pull it out and thread it through the bikes. It then locks to another part of the rack, so you can lock and unlock your bikes in seconds.

Even if a rack has integrated locks, they are still little more than a theft deterrent, so we always recommend adding an aftermarket lock as another layer of security.

Ease of Use

If you’ve ever had to wrestle a full-suspension mountain bike onto a hanging rack or find a way to Tetris four bikes onto a poorly designed rack, you know that ease of use is a huge factor in choosing the right bike rack.

For a traditionally shaped frame — triangular in shape — hanging racks provide a simple option. Lift the bike, slide it onto the rack, strap it down, bungee the front wheel, and you’re good to go. (Plus, it gives you a chance to get some bicep curls in before your ride).

However, if you’ve got a heavier bike or one with a unique frame style, a platform rack may be the better option for mounting bikes. Because it has a lower loading height, you don’t have to lift the bike as far. And once you have it on, you don’t have to lift it much to adjust. Hanging racks can take a bit of fiddling to get the bike into the cradle.

It’s also important to consider other factors like tilt-release and swing-away features that may impact your experience, as well as the bike attachment systems themselves.

Durability

Durability is a huge consideration when it comes to hitch racks. The single attachment point puts a lot of pressure on racks as they carry loads over rough roads. Because they’re usually made from sturdy material like steel, breaks very rarely occur at the hitch’s attachment point.

Issues usually occur at the attachment point of the bike — the shepherd’s hook or the straps. Fortunately, the most common failure is the least disastrous and easiest to fix — the straps. Elastic straps tend to dry out, especially if exposed to the sun, which leads to cracking and eventually snapping.

The same goes for the hard plastic straps on ratcheting systems. Though they tend to be more sun-resistant than elastic ones, hard plastic straps can also dry out and crack. Again, it’s not usually a huge issue, as they’re inexpensive and easy to replace.

Shepherd’s hook breaks, meanwhile, are very rare. These systems use one hook per wheel, so if one breaks, you’ll be dragging your bike to your destination. Replacement shepherd’s hooks are much more expensive and more complicated to replace. They’re also much bigger than a strap, so it’s not likely you’ll have a spare sitting in your car.

The most durable racks typically have more metal in their construction. Racks made by 1UP-USA are renowned for their durability, mostly due to their all-metal constructions. And, if something should break, they sell every part you could ever need to replace it.

When shopping for a bike rack, do your research. Check out the user reviews or talk to your local shop pro to see what experiences others have had.

Price

The price of bike racks varies from less than $100 to more than $1,000, depending on the model and features. The trend we’ve seen is that the more expensive the rack, the easier it is to use, the more durable it is, and the safer it’ll keep your bikes.

Pricier racks also tend to offer features that make them easier to use. Generally, hanging racks are less expensive than platform racks.

Lower-end racks often offer minimal protection and features. Higher-end racks usually offer more padding and protection. They also offer more features that make your bikes secure and easy to access.

How much you spend depends on your needs (as well as your bank account). If you just want a way to get your bike to a trailhead without disassembling it and stuffing it in your trunk, a good $100 hanging rack is the way to go.

If you’ve spent a couple of grand on a killer road bike and want to keep it in mint condition as long as you can, go for a higher-end platform rack (assuming you can afford it after spending all that cheddar on a carbon fiber rocket).

Generally, we’ve found that the sweet spot in racks is somewhere around the $400-600 range. For that money, you can find a rack that is easy to use and will keep your bike safe. Plus, you’ll have some money left over for a decent pit stop on the way to the trail.

FAQ

Which hitch bike rack is best?

The best hitch bike rack varies from person to person. With so many variables between each rider, it’s nearly impossible to choose one bike rack for every situation.

The best option is to decide what your needs are and pick a rack that works best for you. If your priority is finding a good, cost-effective rack, and you can pick up your bike and move it around without struggle, you can get a functional hanging rack for $100-200.

If keeping your bike safe and scratch-free is your main concern, a platform rack is a good choice. Platforms also sit lower to the ground, so it’s good for people who struggle to pick up their bikes.

The higher you go in price, the more features you get. High-end racks add security features, levers, and buttons that make them easier to use. They usually also offer ways to let you access your trunk without removing the bikes.

When choosing a rack, consider the features you’re willing to do without and which ones you need. Balance those needs with how much you’re willing to spend, and you’ll find the perfect rack for you.

What is the best bike rack for four bikes?

Both hanging and platform racks have versions that can hold four bikes. Hanging racks require a little bit more finesse to keep your bikes safe, as they secure your bikes from the top. This makes it possible for the bikes to swing and hit each other during travel.

Fewer bikes can be spaced out, which minimizes the risk. But space is limited with four bikes, so ensure that the cradles are spaced out enough that the bikes won’t hit each other, even with minimal swing.

This is less of an issue with platform racks, as the bikes are locked into place via both wheels, adding a good amount of stability. It’s also easier to put the bikes on platform racks because the cradles are set so much lower. That aid, they cost a bit more, but we feel it is usually worth it.

Do bike racks damage your car?

One of the reasons that so many people choose a hitch-mounted rack over a trunk-mounted rack is that the hitch doesn’t have any contact with the body of the car. This decreases any rubbing against the paint. It also generally keeps the rack away from anything on the body that it can dent or shatter.

However, no matter what precautions a company makes when designing a rack, there’s always the issue of user error. Opening your hatchback while the rack is on and upright can drive the hatch right into the rack.

This can cause denting and scratching to the rack or the car. Make sure the rack is out of the way when you access the rear of your vehicle.

Bikes can also contact your vehicle if you’re not careful. Platform racks sometimes carry the bike close to a vehicle’s back window. This can increase the odds of the handlebar going through that window on an especially bumpy road.

You can solve this by adjusting the cradles to make the bike sit farther away from the window. Hanging racks let the front tire hang free, which can lead to bumping and grinding up against your car.

It’s not as dire an issue as breaking a window, but it can damage the finish over time. It’s an easy fix, though. Secure the wheel with a strap or bungee cord to solve the problem.

What is the easiest bike rack to use?

All types of hitch racks have their advantages. That said, platform-style racks are generally the easiest to use. They have a lower loading height and the attachment systems are typically straightforward, secure, and user-friendly.

Overall, we’ve found that brands like Thule, Yakima, Kuat, and 1Up tend to include little tweaks like lever-adjustable tilting and integrated locks. Details like these go a long way in making a rack easier to use. Of all the models we’ve tested, the Kuat Piston Pro X is the easiest to use, but it’s also the most expensive.

Are hitch bike racks better?

If your vehicle has the capability, hitch racks are arguably the best option. Having the mount attach to your hitch receiver versus trunk racks or roof racks not only protects your car’s finish from damage, but it’s also extremely secure, as the mounts are made of heavy-duty steel.

They’re also much easier to install than other options, which is a huge perk for people who don’t want a rack on their car every day. Because it’s secured with a steel pin, it only takes one step to put it on a trailer hitch when you are going out for a ride, and one step to remove it when you’re done.

Other types of racks require more steps to attach them to a vehicle and may require you to lift the bike higher to load them.

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Morgan Tilton

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Based among the awe-inspiring peaks of Crested Butte, Colorado, Morgan Tilton is a Senior Editor for GearJunkie honing the SnowSports Buyer’s Guides alongside warmer coverage. More broadly, she’s an adventure journalist specializing in outdoor industry news and adventure travel stories, which she’s produced for more than a decade and more than 80 publications to date. A recipient of 14 North American Travel Journalists Association awards, when she’s not recovering from high alpine or jungle expeditions she’s usually trail running, mountain biking, or splitboarding in Southwest Colorado, where she grew up and lives today. From resort to backcountry and human-powered to motorized travel, she loves sliding across snow.

Chelsey Magness

50 articles

Chelsey Magness is a contributor for GearJunkie.

She has been writing about adventure racing, mountain biking, trail running, and being a mother for 15 years.

Born and raised in Alaska, Chelsey has always been in love with the outdoors. She was always either covered in dirt or high up in a tree. Nothing much has changed, except now she calls Bend, Oregon her home and instead of being high up in trees, you can find her climbing up giant cliff faces, adventure racing on Team BendRacing, putting on races with her husband atwww.bendracing.com or playing in the dirt with her two little boys. For a look into her other more “mother/athlete” focused writings, check outwww.endurancemama.com

Jeremy Benson

16 articles

Jeremy Benson is a Managing Editor at GearJunkie. He has been professionally testing and reviewing mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and all of the accessories that go along with them for 8+ years. Prior to GearJunkie, he worked for other outlets like Bikerumor and OutdoorGearLab, as a freelance writer, and was sponsored ski athlete for 15 years. Benson is also the author of two guidebooks, Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: California, and Mountain Bike Tahoe, both published by Mountaineers Books. Based in Truckee, CA, he can usually be found in the woods riding mountain or gravel bikes or climbing mountains with skis when there’s snow on the ground.

The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024 (2024)

FAQs

Are hitch bike racks worth it? ›

If you're searching for the best way to transport bikes, hitch-mounted racks are the way to go. Securely attaching to the receiver hitch of your vehicle, they offer unmatched versatility and ease of use.

Why are Thule bike racks so expensive? ›

Thule bike racks may be higher in price compared to some competitors, but they often come with added features and benefits that justify the cost. Consider factors such as warranty, customization options, and customer support to determine which option provides the best overall value.

How do I choose a hitch mounted bike rack? ›

Each bike rack has its own specifications regarding how much weight it can carry, how many bikes, tire and wheel size and the hitch receiver size. Make note of your bike's wheel and weight specs and your hitch receiver size before you begin shopping for a bike rack so you don't end up with a poor fit.

What is the difference between Yakima and Thule bike racks? ›

Thule's rear wheel tray uses a diagonal strap that works better than Yakima's simpler left-to-right strap configuration. Once the bikes are locked into the front part of the racks, the rear wheel is secured in place. The Yakima features a simple straight ratchet strap, which can be configured for left or right use.

Do hitch bike racks get stolen? ›

Thieves can detach your rack from the hitch or cut the locks and cables that secure the bikes to the rack. To prevent theft, we recommend: Using a high-quality bike rack lock and cable.

Should a hitch bike rack wobble? ›

A small amount of horizontal movement may be possible, depending on the style and wear on the vehicle's tow hitch, but the rack should be mostly stationary in that direction. Some troubleshooting may help in ensuring a secure attachment between the hitch and bike rack.

Is Rhino Rack as good as Thule? ›

There few differences between Rhino-Rack products and Thule products and there are also similarities. Let's go over how they compare. Both systems are designed to work on vehicle's that have the flush mounted rail system and both systems will be about the same in terms of effort for installing and removing.

How fast can you drive with a Thule bike rack? ›

Care should be taken in all driving conditions to maintain control at a safe speed, but must, under no circ*mstances, exceed 130 km/h. Applicable speed limits and other traffic regulations must always be observed.

How do I choose a bike rack? ›

Making a good bike-rack choice will depend partly on how often you plan to use the rack and how many bikes you need to transport, as well as what type of vehicle you drive, the type of bicycles you're looking to carry, and, of course, how much money you're willing to spend.

What size hitch do most bike racks use? ›

Start this process by measuring the size of the hitch on your car (the width of the receiver opening). There are four different sizes, so yours will either be 1 ¼”, 2”, 2 ½”, or 3”. The two most common hitch sizes are 1 ¼” and 2”. Although some newer vehicles use a 2.5” which we have an adapter for.

What are the disadvantages of bike racks? ›

Bikes do not move or sway easily. Cons: Lifting and reaching are required to secure bikes, so this might not always be a great option for taller vehicles or people who have difficulty with heavy lifting. Racks are not as easily removed as the hitch- or trunk-mounted systems and often require some tools.

How much to install a hitch for a bike rack? ›

Outside of the cost of the trailer hitch itself, installation charges range from $150 to $200 for simple class 1 or 2 installations up to $250 to $500, or even $650, for more complicated installations like class 4 and fifth wheel hitches. At an hourly rate, trailer hitch installation costs $50 to $225 per hour.

Is Yakima better than Rhino Rack? ›

The first aspect to compare is materials, Rhino use a reinforced nylon and aluminium combination while Yakima use steel and aluminium, both are powder coated for better longevity. Yakima has used additional steel in the corners of the rack to make sure that there is less flex with uneven and heavy loading.

Are Yakima bike racks made in USA? ›

Still, the short answer is that the production of Yakima's cargo boxes happens in the USA in the state of California, and most of the output of Yakima's other components happens in Taiwan or China.

Where are Thule bike racks made? ›

Thule has a number of factories across Europe, Brazil, and the US. But no matter where they are, we'll make sure of climate-smart and efficient manufacturing, in a workplace where our employees feel positive and safe.

Do hitch bike racks affect gas mileage? ›

There is a small impact on fuel economy at highway speeds (1 - 2 mpg), but significantly less than a roof mounted carrier.

Do I need a hitch for a bike rack? ›

Roof mount racks require a roof rack with crossbars to mount the bike rack, and hitch racks require a hitch receiver.

Are towbar bike racks safe? ›

Towbar Mounted Cycle Carriers are a safe and secure way of carrying up to 4 cycles on the back of your car. They are much stronger and more secure than carriers that strap to the tailgate of your car, any risk of damage to your car is virtually eliminated.

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