We've invested six years and purchased 33 bike racks to bring you this review of the 27 best racks available today. We know just how daunting it is to find a rack that works for your bike, vehicle and budget, which is why we're here to help. For months, our team of bike-loving testers hauled bikes around on roof racks and hitch mounts. We rotated them from cars to trucks to SUVs and drove up dirt roads, down highways, and parallel parked around town. Through it all, we noted how easy it was to load and unload our bikes onto each and how securely they held our beloved rides. Read on to find the perfect rack to support your bike-loving lifestyle.
The Best Bike Racks for Hitches, Cars, and SUVs
Best Overall Bike Rack
Thule T2 Pro XT
The Thule T2 Pro XT was far and above the best hitch-mounted bike rack. It wasn't even that close. It has had top honors in this review for a few years now. This rack effectively blends a supremely high level of versatility with a tremendous level of user-friendliness. Whether you are hauling around carbon fiber road bikes or downhill rigs, this rack gets it done in a hassle-free and safe manner. We also tested this with the Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Add-On and found the combo was also our Editors' Choice for carrying four bikes.
Overall, we found the ergonomics to be excellent, with ratcheting wheel clamp arms that adjust with one hand, and a low loading height. Thoughtful design features are everywhere, including the wide wheel trays, giving fat bike enthusiasts a viable hitch mount option and compatibility with all sizes of tires and wheels. Thule has further enhanced the overall ease of use of this rack by moving the tilt-release mechanism out to the end of the main support arm. It's now a one-handed operation to tilt the rack up or down, making it easier than ever before to access the rear of your vehicle. Add the tool-free attachment (trust us, you will not miss fiddling with a threaded hitch pin and lock) and you have our clear winner.
Read review: Thule T2 Pro XT
Best Overall Roof Rack
Kuat maintains the top spot on our podium for roof mount racks for the second year in a row with their Kuat Trio. True to its name, it comes out of the box ready to handle the three most common axle configurations. An improvement on the tried and true design of the fork mount rack, Kuat has come up with an innovative solution that can carry bikes with any axle standard at the fork. It's ready to handle your 9mm, 15mm, and 20mm size axle forks. The Trio does not require an expensive adapter to hold your through-axle equipped bike, although an additional adaptor can be purchased to accommodate the wider fork spacing of fat bikes and bikes with plus-sized tires.
Versatility is high on the list of the Trio's attributes and it can be mounted to almost any crossbar style, using a U-bolt style clamp, and they also made a convenient cut-away for clearance of disc brake calipers that are common on many modern mountain, road, and gravel bikes. A cable lock that extends from the back of the rack rounds out the great design, making the Trio the most versatile, secure and easy loading roof rack available. We think it would be great if Kuat included Boost compatible components with the Trio, but they are available as an aftermarket accessory for purchase.
Read review: Kuat Trio
Best Overall Trunk Rack
Thule Raceway Pro 2
This is the best trunk-mounted bike rack we tested. Thule has broken the mold with the only trunk-mount rack in our test group that utilizes rubber-coated steel cables for mounting as opposed to the more standard nylon straps found on other models. The steel cables increase both security and durability and are easily adjusted to length and tightened with built-in, user-friendly knobs. Setting up the Raceway Pro 2 is easy, using Thule's Fit Guide, which has number designations for all compatible vehicles.
Using the Fit Dial on the rack to turn to the corresponding number achieves the optimum support arm angle for your vehicle, basically eliminating any guesswork. The support arms are adjustable in both angle and lateral spread, which increases the ability to carry a variety of frame types and sizes. The Raceway Pro is also the only trunk-mount in our test selection that comes standard with locking cables to secure the rack to the vehicle and a retractable cable lock system for the bikes.
Read review: Thule Raceway Pro 2
Best Value for a Hitch Rack
While even lower cost hitch racks are still pretty expensive, we recently discovered a new Best Buy Award-winning platform hitch-mount rack in the RockyMounts MonoRail. It costs a significant amount less than the highest priced and highest-rated competitor hitch racks, yet it boasts similar features and performance. Like most great platform racks, the MonoRail holds the bike by the wheels, so there is no frame contact. It offers a high level of versatility, with well-designed wheel trays that can fit everything from skinny road tires up to 5" fat bike tires with the included ladder strap extenders. Testers were impressed with this rack's user-friendliness, including a one-handed tilt release mechanism at the end of the main support arm that can be used with bikes loaded. It also comes with a long noose-style cable lock and hitch pin that locks to secure both the rack and the bikes it carries.
The MonoRail appears very well made with a sturdy metal receiver arm, main support arm, and bike trays. There is a fair amount of plastic in its construction, however, in both the folding front wheel and pivoting rear wheel trays that could pose durability issues if used carelessly. It also uses a standard threaded hitch pin to attach the rack to your receiver, which works just fine but is far less user-friendly than the tool-free tightening and locking knob designs found on some of the competition. Regardless, the MonoRail is an excellent rack that performs above the asking price and is the winner of our Best Buy award.
Read review: RockyMounts MonoRail
Best for High Capacity
North Shore NSR-6
If you need to haul around a whole lot of bikes, the North Shore NSR-6 is the obvious choice. This rack can carry six, yes six, bikes, and it uses the newer vertical/hanging orientation. North Shore did an excellent job designing this rack to have virtually no interference between bicycles. There is no need to worry about handlebars hitting saddles or cutting up a dropper seat post. This is a slick bike rack suited for larger SUVs or pickup trucks. Ground clearance is excellent, making this a great choice for shuttle laps. It has the ability to carry a chunky 360-pounds of bicycles. That means you can load this thing up with downhill bikes or electric mountain bikes and not need to worry much about maxing it out. The sturdy construction is all metal and has a built-to-last feel.
This bike rack is not without its quirks. The NSR-6 has a far narrower range of applications compared to other racks. This is aimed squarely at the gravity mountain bike crowd. Enduro and downhill mountain bikers will be stoked; roadies or folks with hybrid bikes are out of luck. This rack only works with mountain bikes with suspension forks. BMX, road, gravel, and rigid hybrid bikes will not fit. In addition, shorter riders may have a hard time loading this rack.
Read review: North Shore NSR-6
Best Value for Trunk Rack
The Kuat Highline falls right in the middle of the range of trunk-mount racks we tested in terms of price. It is significantly less expensive than our Editors' Choice trunk rack yet quite a bit more expensive than the super basic low-end models. Regardless of the price, Kuat has designed a sleek looking and relatively user-friendly rack that can fit on a huge range of vehicles. The Highline is highly and easily adjustable to fit on your sedan, wagon, van, or SUV, and it comes with a protective film to place between the rack and your vehicle's paint. It is attached to the vehicle with six webbing straps and sturdy cam locking buckles. Like most trunk-mount racks, the Highline has two horizontal support arms and shallow cradles that hold the bikes by the top tube of the frame. Kuat has employed adjustable ladder straps with quick-release that secure the bike by the top tube with an additional anti-sway strap. The Highline weighs a mere 13 lbs 15 oz and folds up small for storage or transport when not in use.
As with any trunk-mount style rack, the Highline is limited in its versatility due to the nature of the design. The support arms hold the bikes by their frame and make frame contact, and they work best with traditionally shaped frames on road and hardtail mountain bikes. Oddly shaped tubing or full suspension designs may be challenging to fit. The Highline also lacks security features of any kind, so this is not a great option for those who need to lock their bikes. Beyond that, we feel this is a well designed and quality trunk-mount option for the occasional user.
Read review: Kuat Highline
Best Value for a Roof Rack
The RockyMounts JetLine is the winner of our Best Buy award for a roof-mounted rack. The Jetline isn't the cheapest roof mount rack in our test selection, but we feel you get a lot for your money. The JetLine is a rooftop, fork mount rack, and we found that it will fit both Thule, Yakima, Aero, and many vehicle's factory-mounted crossbars with the included hardware. An easy to use quick release lever clamps any bicycle fork with 9mm dropouts, and the addition of the Drive Shaft (through-axle) adapter from RockyMounts, make this rack compatible with bikes equipped with 15mm and 20mm through axles.
The tray is designed with a cutout to accommodate disc brake calipers, and a sliding, ratcheting strap used to secure the rear wheel on the tray. If security is a concern, the JetLine requires two lock cores, one secures the rack to the crossbars, and one locks the quick release lever to secure the bike to the tray. We think the JetLine is a good value that offers security and versatility, along with aftermarket add-ons you can purchase as funds permit.
Read review: RockyMounts JetLine
Best Swing Away Rack
RockyMounts BackStage Swing Away Platform
If you've caught the travel bug and have been drawn into the van life circle and purchased a van to embark on your biking adventures, then you already know or are about to discover the potential challenges of transporting bikes on your travel rig. Fortunately, RockyMounts has you in mind, with a well-designed platform swing away hitch rack made to meet the specific needs of the modern van-dwelling nomad. All other models of hitch-mounted racks we tested interfere with the use of a van's rear doors, even when tilted down.
Of course, the Backstage does have an impressive tilt feature that is accessed at the rear of the rack; the show-stopping feature is the arm that articulates out and away from the rear doors, putting both the bikes and the rack clear of the door's range. We don't feel that the Backstage is entirely perfect. The tray clearance from the vehicle is somewhat cramped, so bikes with 800mm bars need to be placed in the outside tray, and it is cumbersome due to its weight and size. Despite its imperfections, we still feel it's the best swing-away rack.
Read review: RockyMounts BackStage
Best for Really Expensive Bikes
The Thule UpRide is a high-quality bike rack that has a lot going for it. For those who are used to more traditional roof-mounted bike racks, the UpRide may seem like an odd design. There is no contact with the frame or the fork of the bicycle. The bike is secured by two counteracting cradles, or hoops, that squeeze the front wheel from both directions. Given this design, the hold is exceptionally secure and there is little risk of the bike flying off of your roof. Perhaps more importantly, the lack of frame and fork contact makes this an excellent choice for riders who take great pride in a clean, scuff-free bicycle. While other designs can lead to some scuffing on the fork or top-tube, your beloved bike is safe and sound on the UpRide.
While we love how secure the hold is and your bicycle is safe, the design feels a little over-engineered. We appreciate the idea of thinking outside of the box to come up with a new approach to the roof-mounted bike rack, but we find the loading process to be complicated. When you are carrying bikes with different wheel sizes, you need to adjust the rack to the appropriate wheel size prior to loading. This is a hassle and only further detracts from user-friendliness. Given how involved the loading process is, this rack isn't a great option for shorter riders or taller vehicles as this is definitely a two-hand endeavor. Heavier bikes can be problematic as well. Nobody wants a 45-pound bike tipping over on their roof or their head.
Read review: Thule UpRide
Best for Easy Installation and Removal
The Yakima High Road is a rock-solid roof-mounted bike rack with an incredibly easy installation process. If you will be taking your bike rack off of your vehicle with any frequency, this is a fantastic choice. The installation process requires no tools and is as simple as flipping a lever, tightening or loosening a thumb roller, and reclamping. Once you understand the process, it can be completed in as little as three minutes. Another user-friendly fact is that this bike rack arrives completely assembled. When in use, this is a relatively user-friendly rack that has a solid hold of your bicycle.
The High Road isn't quite perfect. This rack might be very difficult to use for shorter riders, especially those with heavy bikes. The loading process requires two hands; users need to hold the bike up with one hand while tightening a knob with the other. Believe us, it can be awkward. This rack is really only feasible on small vehicles like a hatchback or wagon with a low roof. Even small crossovers proved to be a little too tall to use this rack easily.
Read review: Yakima High Road
Why You Should Trust Us
Bike Editor Jeremy Benson and multi-discipline bike racer Curtis Smith bring the experience and know-how behind this review. Jeremy is the author of two books - Mountain Bike Tahoe and Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes: California. A 17 year North Lake Tahoe resident, Jeremy races and rides mountain and gravel bikes obsessively in the summer months. Curtis races for the Bikes Plus/Sierra Nevada team in road, mountain, and cyclocross. He has placed first overall in the Sierra Cup. Both Benson and Smith travel with bikes regularly and are very familiar with bike racks of all kinds. Pat Donahue is a newcomer to this review. He is a mountain bike fiend and has used all types of bike racks from trunk racks to hitch racks over his cycling career. He is also skilled in the art of breaking things, which makes him a great evaluator of durability.
Bike racks were an easy product to test. We loaded a huge variety of bicycles on each rack as much as possible. We used each rack on multiple vehicles and drove on smooth, fast, highways ,as well as bumpy dirt roads. We ranked these racks of five metrics that deliver a final score for the products. These metrics are ease of everyday use, ease of removal and storage, security, durability, and ease of installation.
Related: How We Tested Bike Racks
Analysis and Test Results
We used these bike racks on a wide variety of vehicles from small hatchbacks to giant van life-vans and everything in between. This variety in vehicles was important as these racks can offer dramatically different performance based on the style of vehicle. We paid attention to the nitty-gritty details and huge obvious characteristics and ranked these bikes on predetermined metrics. These include versatility, durability, user-friendliness, ease of assembly, and ease of removal and storage.
Related: Buying Advice for Bike Racks
A bike rack serves the important job of transporting your beloved bike from point A to point B. You can spend quite a lot of money on these bike racks as price tags can approach the value of a bicycle. We don't score products based on price, but value is important. When you swipe that credit card at the bike shop or enter the card number on your favorite website, you want to feel like you are getting a solid bang for your proverbial buck.
Of the hitch mounts, the RockyMounts MonoRail is the best value. While it requires a little more assembly than some other models, your efforts will be rewarded with solid, tray-style mount with an easy-to-use tilt release, complete with locks. When it comes to roof mounts, the RockyMounts Jetline is a great way yo stretch your dollar. You'll need adapters for through-axle bikes, and you'll need to use your own bike lock, but you'll have the ease of a roof mount at a low price. For the folks who dig trunk mounts, the Kuat Highline is our favorite model at a nice price. This design has no security features, but it lightweight and user friendly.
Ease of Everyday Use
Generally speaking, the easier something is to use, the more likely you are to use it. With bike racks, you'll waste less time loading and unloading bikes, leaving more time to shred. We feel that ease of use breaks down to two things: how easy it is to load bikes, and whether or not the rack interferes with access to your vehicle. (We discuss locking systems in our security metric). The primary aspects we considered while evaluating loading the bikes are the loading height and the method of attachment. In general, issues with vehicle access are typically involved with hitch mount and trunk mount racks, and the method of mitigation the manufacturer uses and its effectiveness led us to our score. The highest-rated hitch rack we tested is the Thule T2 Pro XT.
Loading bikes on the T2 Pro XT couldn't be easier with its low loading height and well designed front wheel clamps that help take the awkwardness out of balancing a bike while trying to place it in the rack. Other models we tested like the 1 Up Quick Rack require a more choreographed approach to bike loading to prevent those awkward moments where the bike is teetering, and you have run out of hands. In our opinion, one of the most standout features on the T2 Pro XT is the well-executed one-handed tilt release lever located on the end of the rack that makes lowering the rack or raising the rack more simple than we ever could have imagined. A similar system is employed on the Yakima Dr. Tray, but we found the lever to be sticky, often requiring two hands and some rough treatment to release. RockyMounts has also joined the user-friendly tilt release handle club with their MonoRail and BackStage racks. Thule was the first to market with a rack with this feature, and their expertise shows with this new design.
Looking to carry a lot of bikes? And we mean a LOT of bikes. The North Shore NSR-6 and Yakima HangOver 6 do just that. These two racks have vertical bike orientation and pack up to six bikes while remaining close to the bumper. These vertical-mounted racks are a great option for the gravity and enduro crowd, but it should be noted that these racks only work on bikes with suspension forks. The NSR-6 is the more user-friendly of the two. This rack has a higher payload and can accept e-bikes and heavy downhill bikes. In addition, there are no awkward straps to fuss with, only a small length of rope to secure the rear wheel. The HangOver 6 is overall a little less user-friendly, although the tilt mechanism is better.
Roof-mounted racks are, as the name suggests, mounted on the roof of your vehicle; consequently, the loading height is invariably higher. This higher and less convenient loading height automatically lowers the ease of use score compared to hitch racks with their closer-to-the-ground convenience. That said, roof-mounted models are certainly not all created equal, and we found the Kuat Trio to be the leader of the pack. The fork mount design is slightly easier to load than a wheel mount roof rack like the Yakima FrontLoader or the RockyMounts BrassKnuckles due to the fact the bike doesn't need to be lifted quite as high, although the front wheel does need to be removed. The Trio and the innovative system that makes it compatible with through-axle forks without the need for additional adapters also helped it to outscore other fork mount racks like the RockyMounts Jetline.
The Thule UpRide is a high-end roof-mounted rack and riders concerned with achieving the most secure hold of their bike might love the UpRide. The front wheel is gripped in an extremely secure manner by two cradles with counteracting forces. This results in a firm, safe hold that leaves little chance of this rack falling off on the freeway. In addition, there is no contact with your frame or fork. The problem with the UpRide is it is not very user-friendly. The Ease of Everyday Use metric hit this rack quite hard. The loading and unloading process is clunky and quite involved. In addition, loading heavier bikes on mid-large sized vehicles is quite difficult, especially for shorter riders. Yes, this rack functions well, but it is inherently hard to use.
The Thule Raceway Pro 2 topped the ranks for trunk-mounted racks in ease of use. Thule has intelligently employed a ratcheting dial system to take up slack in the steel attachment cables, the only trunk rack that uses rubber-coated steel cables, which makes mounting easy. Their unique Fit Dial system helps you achieve the perfect fit for your vehicle by listing the appropriate dial measurements for almost all vehicles to take the guesswork out of the equation. It also has support arms that are laterally adjustable to help dial in the fit for your bikes.
Ease of Removal and Storage
It sure would be nice if we could leave our bike racks on our vehicles all of the time, but unfortunately for most us, riding bikes is just a hobby and not a full-time job. Bike racks are often mounted and removed from our vehicles as needed or as seasons change, and how easy that process depends on a variety of factors. A rack's size, weight, and method of attachment are the primary factors that impact their ease of removal and storage.
When evaluating ease of removal and storage, one bike rack scored a perfect 10. The Yakima High Road was frighteningly easy to remove (or install) on your vehicle. There are a few things going on here. First, the removal (and installation) is completely tool-free. There are no cheap wrenches or funky integrated tools in this rack. Everything can be done with your fingers and fingers alone. Removing this rack is as simple as flipping a switch on three different contact points on the rack. Use your thumbs to loosen a screw, and then you can unhitch the straps that are securing the rack to the vehicle. Simple as that. This can easily be achieved in under three minutes once you understand the process. Once you have it dialed, it can be done significantly quicker. Once the rack is unclipped, it is light and easy to haul off of your roof. It only weighs 18-pounds and can be easily shoved onto a high-shelf or tucked into a tight space in the garage.
The Yakima Dr. Tray and Thule Upride were two other notable racks that scored well in this metric.
The two vertically-oriented hitch racks scored exceptionally poorly in this metric. You may be wondering why? Well, the answer is simple: these racks are gigantic and are very, very, heavy. The North Shore rack tips the scales at a whomping 70 pounds while the Dr. Tray is closer to 80 pounds. Yes, this is a good bit of weight, and they can be difficult to carry. Once you have these racks pulled off of your hitch, you need to try and feed it through a garage door, shed door, or alley without smashing into anything. Having an additional person to help you with removing and storing these racks makes life a lot easier and can save you a trip to the chiropractor.
In the case of roof-mounted racks, manufacturers assume that you're less likely to be removing them on a regular basis. Roof racks are more of a set-it-and-forget-it item that consumers generally choose to just leave on the roof for extended periods after the initial installation. Due to the more permanent nature of this style of rack, most of them take a fair bit of effort to install and remove. Of all the contenders we tested, the easiest to take on and off the car proved to be the Yakima FrontLoader. All of the other roof mount racks require tools and a little bit of time to install and remove.
At the front of the Yakima FrontLoader a knob is turned until the clamping jaws make firm contact with the crossbar, while a clamp with one tensioning knob takes care of the rear crossbar attachment. Other models in our test selection, such as the Kuat Trio, employs a U-bolt system that requires hex keys to take on and off. Regarding storage, none of the roof racks we tested fold up, but they are mostly long and skinny, so you will need a place with some space to stand them up or lay them on the floor when not in use.
A typical advantage of trunk-mount racks is that they typically quite easy to remove from your vehicle, and they usually take up less space when not in use. Our top-rated trunk mount rack, Thule Raceway Pro, packs up small and with their Fit Dial system and ratcheting cables, was the easiest to mount and remove from a vehicle.
We rated the versatility of the different models of bike racks by their ability to carry multiple different types of bikes. Wheel size, tire width, bicycle frame shape, and size can present issues for some racks. Racks that use a bike's frame as the primary point of contact and security often suffer in this metric due to the variety of frame shapes and sizes on the market. Racks that secure the bikes through other means, such as wheel-mounted trays, typically offer a wide range of adjustability and the capability to accommodate a variety of wheel sizes and tire widths. The Yakima Dr. Tray scored highest in versatility due to its massive range of tray adjustments, and the ability to carry bikes with tires up to five inches wide.
Running a close second in the versatility rankings, the Thule T2 Pro XT is also capable of accommodating tires up to five inches wide, although it's tray adjustments are somewhat limited compared to the Dr. Tray. Ratcheting arms that clamp down on the front wheel of the bike are employed by most of the hitch mounted tray style racks we tested, eliminating frame contact and increasing versatility. A small sliding strap secures the rear wheel and can be adjusted based on the wheelbase of the bike being carried. With this design, the shape or size of the frame is inconsequential. All of the tray-style hitch racks we tested have a two-bike capacity, but many of them can be increased to three or four bikes by purchasing an extension for the rack.
The peak capacity for many vehicles can be achieved by using a roof mount setup with multiple individual roof racks. Please note that roof-mount racks, such as our Editors' Choice Kuat Trio, can only hold one bike per unit, but the ability to put multiple units on the roof obviously increases your carrying capacity. Other roof mount racks, like the RockyMounts BrassKnuckles and the Yakima FrontLoader are standouts for versatility due to their ability to accommodate bikes with differing axle standards by clamping onto the front tire rather instead of attaching to the bike's front axle.
The vertical-style racks such as the Yakima HangOver 6 and North Shore NSR-6 are trendy in the mountain bike world. Yes, you can load these racks with a lot of mountain bikes, but versatility is very low. These racks only work with bikes with suspension forks. This is a big deal. Bikes with rigid forks such as road/gravel bikes, BMX bikes, rigid kids' bikes and rigid hybrid bikes will not work. There simply isn't enough space between the fork crown and tire. Even if there was clearance, the shape of the crown is problematic. The North Shore NSR-6 scored slightly higher as it has a higher payload capacity and can carry 360-pounds, making it E-bike friendly. The Yakima HangOver 6 has a weight limit of 37.5-pounds per bike, which limits its use with E-bikes and downhill bikes.
Ease of Assembly
Assembling and setting up your bike rack is typically a task that only needs to be completed once, so we don't weigh this rating metric as heavily as some of the others, only 10 percent of the overall score. That said, we do feel that it is worthy of your attention. Some models of racks were easy to set up with easy to follow instructions and quality craftsmanship, while others were not, leaving us frustrated and confused.
The 1 Up USA Heavy Duty Quick Rack, proved to be our highest scorer in this metric. The 1 Up is one of only two hitch racks we tested that have folding bike trays, but it was the only rack to be shipped fully assembled. Remove it from the box, fold the trays to their open position, and it is ready to mount on your vehicle and use. From an ease of assembly standpoint, it couldn't get any easier than that. Every other hitch rack in our test selection required varying levels of assembly. The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 requires a fair amount of assembly but scores well due to a notably well-designed shipping box that you can use to support the trays during assembly. The Kuat NV 2.0, on the other hand, is a bear to assemble and takes a fair amount of time and effort.
The two vertical-mounted hitch racks were quite involved in terms of assembly. Given the sheer size of these racks, they need to be disassembled to a greater extent in order to fit in a box to ship. The Yakima HangOver 6 was an easier task, while the North Shore NSR-6 was far more difficult. Make sure you set aside a solid hour for assembly. In addition, a second set of hands is beneficial.
Roof Mount Racks
Our highest scoring roof racks posted a perfect 10 in this metric. The Yakima High Road knocked it out of the park. This rack arrived completely assembled and had a ridiculously easy, tool-free installation. The Thule UpRide also scored perfectly. It came out of the box completely assembled and was insanely easy to assemble.
Trunk Mount Racks
Our Top Pick trunk-mounted rack, the Thule Raceway Pro 2 arrived fully assembled and is, therefore, our highest scoring trunk-mount rack in this metric. The other trunk-mount racks in our test selection required tools, although assembly was minimal.
Unfortunately, bike theft is an issue in our modern world, and fancy bikes attached to the outside of vehicles can be easy targets. Bike racks come with varying levels of security, from none at all to integrated locks that secure the rack to your vehicle and the bikes to the rack. Given the right tools and enough time though, a determined thief can compromise even the most secure bike rack.
It is our opinion that the most secure bike racks are those that utilize cable locks like the Kuat Sherpa. The long rubber-coated steel cable on the Sherpa locks to a metal stud on the rack. The cable is long enough to loop through wheels to help deter theft. A similar system is employed on the Rockymounts BackStage and MonoRail. Both the Thule T2 Pro XT and the Yakima Dr. Tray use shorter cables that are only long enough to loop through the frame, leaving the wheels vulnerable to theft. Most of the hitch mount racks in our test selection have a locking hitch pin or a lock that secures the wobble knob, like on the Thule T2 Pro XT, to prevent would-be thieves from making off with the rack itself.
While they can haul a half dozen bicycles, the vertical-mounted hitch racks faired poorly in this performance metric. The North Shore NSR-6 doesn't have any security features, it doesn't even have a locking hitch pin. The Yakima HangOver 6 fared only slightly better with a locking hitch pin. It is best to carry a long cable lock if you plan on stopping for groceries after a ride.
Roof Mount Racks
Of the roof-mounted racks we tested, the highest scorers for security use a cable lock that secures the rear wheel, as well as having the ability to lock the fork mount. Both the Editors' Choice Kuat Trio and the RockyMount SwitchHitter feature this more secure design. Lower scoring racks in our test selection only allow the fork mount to be locked and leave the rear wheel unsecured and susceptible to theft.
Trunk Mount Racks
Of all the racks we tested, the trunk mount style racks are most vulnerable to theft. The majority of trunk racks are attached to the vehicle with nylon webbing straps that can be cut easily with a pair of scissors or a knife. The only trunk-mounted model we tested with any security features is the Thule Raceway Pro that attaches to the vehicle with steel cables and features a tensioning system with keyed locks to prevent unwanted removal of the rack. Additionally, the support arms that hold the bikes feature a cable lock to secure your bike to the rack. While this cable is relatively thin, the security features of the Raceway Pro are quite significant when compared to other trunk-mount racks in our test selection.
To evaluate durability, we used each rack as much as humanly possible. By our logic, this repetition of use has a significant influence on the durability of each rack. Also, we used some pretty darn heavy bikes and rowdy roads to see if any bike rack would stutter.
Thankfully, none of the racks completely failed. We didn't have any carbon fiber bikes skidding down the highway or tumbling into a roadside ditch. There are a high number of factors when evaluating the potential durability of each rack. This includes material, design, and the linkage of any moving parts.
From a durability standpoint, the 1 Up USA Heavy Duty Quick Rack stood out to our test team with a robust, if not overbuilt, design. A claimed weight capacity of 50 pounds per tray means you'll be hard-pressed to overload it. Constructed entirely of aluminum with stainless steel hardware, the 1 Up doesn't have any plastic parts. Despite some unfortunate contact with a tree while backing up that resulted in a bent ratchet mechanism, the Heavy Duty Quick Rack continued to function without issue. The aluminum finish of the 1 Up is also of note, it may scratch, but there is no paint to chip, and it won't rust, the overall appearance of the rack doesn't change much over time. Both the Kuat NV 2.0 and the Kuat Sherpa are also top-performing products; with powder coat finishes that are hard to scratch and particularly resilient against the elements.
The NorthShore NSR-6 is another rack that has a built-to-last feel. The NSR-6 is constructed entirely of metal. It is assembled with wide-gauge bolts that are not going to give out. The fork cradles are strong and the rope rear-wheel fasteners are simple and far more durable than the rubber or plastic ratchet systems. If the rope brakes, simply replace it. The tilt mechanism maybe a little more involved than other models, but the durability factor is sky-high.
Most hitch racks will have a little play in them. This is not ideal for the durability of the hitch, and if it's really loose, the bikes will jostle around. A quick fix is a hitch tightener.
Well, there you have it. Several months of extensive testing have produced this in-depth comparative analysis. Yes, all of these bike racks are serviceable for your car, truck, or SUV, but there is no doubt that some designs are better. Our best advice is to carefully consider your vehicle type, where you live, and your bicycle type when making a purchase decision. The culmination of these factors will help steer you to the correct rack.
— Jeremy Benson & Curtis Smith