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The Best Bike Racks for Hitches, Cars, and SUVs

Despite challenges from other manufacturers the Thule T2 Pro XT holds onto our coveted Editors Choice Award.
Monday June 22, 2020
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We've invested six years and purchased 33 bike racks to bring you this review of the 24 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.

Top 24 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 24
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Best Overall Bike Rack


Thule T2 Pro XT


Thule T2 Pro XT
Editors' Choice Award

$620 List
List Price
See It

82
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 9
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 7
  • Versatility - 20% 9
  • Security - 20% 8
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 9
Style: Hitch | Capacity: 2 (can add up to four)
User-friendly tilt mechanism at the rear of rack
Heavy-duty construction
Fits tires up to five inches
Lots of space between trays
Tool-free attachment and removal
3" of lateral tray adjustment
Heavy
Expensive

The Thule T2 Pro XT is far and above the best hitch-mounted bike rack. And it's not even close. It has held 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're 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 the combo also took home an 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 that give fat bike enthusiasts a viable hitch mount option, and compatibility with all sizes of tires and wheels. Thule has further enhanced this rack's overall ease of use by moving the tilt-release mechanism out to the end of the main support arm. It's now a one-handed task 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 Trio


Trio
Editors' Choice Award

$198 List
List Price
See It

72
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 7
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 5
  • Versatility - 20% 7
  • Security - 20% 9
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 9
Style: Roof | Capacity: 1
Durable
Lower profile than racks that clamp the tire
Standard 9mm and through-axle compatibility
Compatible with a variety of crossbar styles
More difficult to assemble
Boost adapters not included

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's ready to handle the three most common axle configurations right out of the box. An improvement over 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. They also made a convenient cut-away to supply clearance for disc brake calipers that are common on many modern road, mountain, 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 you have to buy them as an aftermarket accessory.

Read review: Kuat Trio

Best Overall Trunk Rack


Thule Raceway Pro 2


Thule Raceway Pro 9001
Editors' Choice Award

$380 List
List Price
See It

62
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 7
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 6
  • Versatility - 20% 6
  • Security - 20% 5
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 7
Style: Trunk | Capacity: 2
Durable
Most secure trunk-mount rack available
Steel cable attachments
Compact storage design
Limits access to the vehicle
Expensive
Holds bike via direct contact with the frame

This is the best trunk-mounted bike rack we tested. Thule has broken the mold by being the only trunk-mount rack in our test group to utilize rubber-coated steel cables for mounting instead of the more standard nylon straps found on other models. These steel cables boost security and durability and make it easy to adjust length and tighten with built-in, user-friendly knobs. Setting up the Raceway Pro 2 is easy with Thule's Fit Guide. Simply set it to the number designated for your compatible vehicle.

The support arms are adjustable in both angle and lateral spread, which increases the ability to carry a variety of frame types and sizes. You can use the Fit Dial on the rack to select the appropriate number and set the optimum support arm angle for your vehicle, which basically eliminates any guesswork. The Raceway Pro is also the only trunk-mount in our test selection that comes standard with a retractable cable lock system for the bikes and similar locking cables to secure the rack to the vehicle.

Read review: Thule Raceway Pro 2

Best Value for a Hitch Rack


RockyMounts MonoRail


Best Buy Award

$430 List
List Price
See It

78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 8
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 7
  • Versatility - 20% 9
  • Security - 20% 8
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 6
  • Durability - 10% 8
Style: Hitch | Capacity: 2
Reasonably priced
Highly versatile
Solid construction
User-friendly tilt release
Comes with locks
Some assembly required
Less clearance to the vehicle than some

Although lower cost hitch racks can still be pretty expensive, we recently discovered a new hitch-mount rack that's worthy of a Best Buy Award: 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 and included ladder strap extenders it can handle everything from skinny road tires up to 5" fat bike behemoths. Testers were also 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 comes with a long noose-style cable lock and hitch pin that secures 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, including both the folding front wheel and pivoting rear wheel trays which could pose durability issues if used carelessly. It also employs a standard threaded hitch pin to attach the rack to your receiver. Although this works just fine, it's 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 more than deserving of our Best Buy award.

Read review: RockyMounts MonoRail

Top Pick For Versatility and Capacity


Yakima Dr. Tray


Yakima Dr. Tray
Top Pick Award

$600 List
List Price
See It

77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 7
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 9
  • Versatility - 20% 9
  • Security - 20% 6
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 7
Style: Hitch | Capacity: 2 (can add one additional)
Innovative tray mount design
Option to increase capacity with the EZ+1 adaptor
Tool-free tray adjustment
Lighter than the competition
Tool-free attachment and removal
Expensive
Tilt release handle is difficult to use
Poorly designed cable lock system

The highly anticipated Yakima Dr. Tray is the best hitch mount tray rack offered by this well-known brand. Make no mistake; this isn't an updated version of the Yakima's HoldUp rack. The Dr. Tray is a completely new design incorporating innovative features that we really like. Attached to the main body of the rack, the trays are adjustable with tool-free clamps that allow quick and easy fore, aft, and lateral adjustment to avoid bike to bike contact. We found the Dr. Tray to offer incredible versatility, and it also boasts one of the lightest weights in its class.

The recently released EZ+1 accessory easily increases this racks carrying capacity to three bikes, something we feel is a bonus to this excellent performing rack. Some updates have been made to the product since we tested which are reported to address some of the cons we mention above. The tray has been lengthened and the sticky release mechanism has been redesigned. Yakima's Dr. Tray only narrowly missed out on our Editors' Choice award and was a favorite among our testers for its light weight, versatility, and user-friendly adjustability.

Read review: Yakima Dr. Tray

Best for High Capacity


North Shore NSR-6


Top Pick Award

$750 List
List Price
See It

61
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 8
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 5
  • Versatility - 20% 5
  • Security - 20% 5
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 5
  • Durability - 10% 10
Style: Hitch | Capacity: 6
Huge carrying capacity
Lots of ground clearance
Bikes sit relatively close to the bumper
No seatpost/handlebar interference
Only works with bikes with suspension forks
Not so versatile
Heavy and expensive
No security features

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, using the newer vertical/hanging orientation. This is a slick bike rack suited for larger SUVs or pickup trucks. North Shore did an excellent job designing this rack to eliminate virtually all interference between bicycles. There is no need to worry about handlebars bumping into saddles or a dropper seat post. Ground clearance is excellent, which makes it a great choice for shuttle laps. It can carry a chunky 360-pounds of bicycles. That means you can load this thing up with downhill or electric mountain bikes and have no need to worry about maxing it out. The sturdy construction is all metal that feels like it's built-to-last.

This bike rack is not without its quirks. The range of applications for the NSR-6 is far narrower than for other racks. It's aimed squarely for the gravity mountain bike crowd. Enduro and downhill mountain bikers will be stoked, but 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


Kuat Highline


Best Buy Award

$219 List
List Price
See It

57
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 7
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 6
  • Versatility - 20% 6
  • Security - 20% 3
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 7
  • Durability - 10% 6
Style: Trunk | Capacity: 2
Affordable
Lightweight
Collapses small for storage
User-friendly adjustments
No security features
May inhibit trunk access
Bike frame contact

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 guard between the rack and your vehicle's paint. You attach it 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-releases that secure the bike by the top tube supplemented 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 that hold the bikes do make frame contact, and they work best with traditionally-shaped frames on road or 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 want to keep their bikes locked. Beyond that, we feel this is a well designed and quality trunk-mount option for the occasional user.

Read review: Kuat Highline

Best Swing Away Rack


RockyMounts BackStage Swing Away Platform


RockyMounts BackStage Swing Away Platform
Top Pick Award

$650 List
List Price
See It

69
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 7
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 5
  • Versatility - 20% 8
  • Security - 20% 8
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 5
  • Durability - 10% 8
Style: Hitch | Capacity: 2
Swing-away design
One-handed tilt mechanism at rear of rack
3" of lateral tray adjustment
Locks included
Heavy
Expensive
Tools needed for removal and installation
Limited tray/vehicle clearance

If you've caught the travel bug or been drawn into the "van life" lifestyle to pursue endless biking adventures, then you already know or will soon 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 that's made to meet the specific needs of the modern van-dwelling nomad. All other hitch-mounted racks that 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, but the show-stopping feature is the arm that articulates out and away from the rear doors, positioning both the bikes and the rack clear of the door's range. However, we don't believe 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 can be 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


Thule UpRide


Top Pick Award

$240 List
List Price
See It

77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 6
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 8
  • Versatility - 20% 7
  • Security - 20% 9
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 10
  • Durability - 10% 7
Style: Roof | Capacity: 1
Extremely secure hold on your bicycle
No frame or fork contact
Very little chance of failure
Easy installion
A little complicated
Functions better on smaller vehicles
Lock cores not included
Not the best choice for shorter riders

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. With this design, the hold is exceptionally secure and there is little risk of the bike flying off of your roof. Perhaps more importantly, the absence of frame or 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 pristine on the UpRide.

Although we love how secure the hold is and your bicycle is certainly safe, the design feels a little over-engineered. We appreciate the desire to think outside the box and come up with a new approach to the roof-mounted bike rack, but the loading process seems to be unnecessarily complicated. When you're carrying bikes with different wheel sizes, you need to adjust the rack to the appropriate wheel size before 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 because loading is definitely a two-hand endeavor. Heavier bikes can be problematic as well. Nobody wants a 45-pound bike tipping over on their head or vehicle roof.

Read review: Thule UpRide

Best for Easy Installation and Removal


Yakima HighRoad


Top Pick Award

$249 List
List Price
See It

77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Ease of EveryDay Use - 20% 6
  • Ease of Removal and Storage - 20% 10
  • Versatility - 20% 7
  • Security - 20% 7
  • Ease of Assembly - 10% 10
  • Durability - 10% 7
Style: Roof | Capacity: 1
Extremely easy to install/remove
Arrives completely assembled
Secure hold of bicycle
No frame contact
Functions better on smaller vehicles
Not best option shorter riders or heavier bikes
Lock cores not included

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 convenient perk is that this bike rack arrives completely assembled. When in use, it's is a relatively user-friendly rack that supplies a solid hold to your bicycle.

The High Road isn't quite perfect. This rack could 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, this can be awkward. This rack is really only feasible on small vehicles like a hatchback or wagon that sport a low roof. Even small crossovers proved to be a little too tall to use this rack easily.

Read review: Yakima High Road


Our testing began with purchasing the racks we selected  then using them on many outings.
Our testing began with purchasing the racks we selected, then using them on many outings.

Why You Should Trust Us


Bike Editor Jeremy Benson and multi-discipline bike racer Curtis Smith supply 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 that 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 at evaluating 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 while driving on smooth, fast, highways, as well as bumpy dirt roads. We ranked these racks of five metrics to determine the final score for each product. These metrics are ease of everyday use, ease of removal and storage, security, durability, and ease of installation.

Related: How We Tested Bike Racks

Add on the two bike extension  the the Thule T2 Pro become our favorite 4 bike carrier.
The XC2 come partially assembled  and is relatively easy to put together.
The Swagman Chinook works well for everyday use on smooth roads.

Analysis and Test Results


We used these bike racks on a plethora of vehicles types from small hatchbacks to giant van life-vans and everything in between. This variety in vehicles was important because these racks can offer dramatically different performance based on the style of vehicle. We paid attention to the obvious characteristics and nitty-gritty details to rate these bikes on predetermined metrics. Their performance in each area is discussed below.

Related: Buying Advice for Bike Racks

Value


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, some price tags approaching the value of a bicycle. Although we don't score products based on price, we know value is important. When you swipe that credit card at the bike shop or punch the digits into 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 a solid, tray-style mount and an easy-to-use tilt release that's complete with locks. For the folks who dig trunk mounts, the Kuat Highline is our favorite model at a nice price. It doesn't off any security features, but it is 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 you more time to shred. We feel that ease of use breaks down to two principle things: how easy it is to load bikes, and whether the rack interferes with access to your vehicle. (We will 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, vehicle access issues are typically a problem for hitch mount and trunk mount racks, so the method and effectiveness of manufacturers' efforts to mitigate these problems 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, but you've 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. Both of these 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 keep in mind that they only work on bikes with suspension forks. The NSR-6 is the more user-friendly of the two. This rack has a higher payload that can accept e-bikes or heavy downhill steeds. 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.

The awesome tilt release lever on the Thule T2 Pro XT can be manipulated with one hand.
The awesome tilt release lever on the Thule T2 Pro XT can be manipulated with one hand.

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 the close-to-the-ground convenience of a hitch-mount rack. That said, roof-mounted models can possess their own quirks, but 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. However, 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.

The Thule UpRide is a high-end roof-mounted rack and riders hoping to achieve the most secure hold of their bike will likely 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 anything falling off the rack on the freeway. In addition, there is no contact with your frame or fork. The problem with the UpRide is that it's not very user-friendly. The loading and unloading process is clunky and quite involved, so he Ease of Everyday Use metric hit this rack quite hard. 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 orange piece on the Kuat Trio is removable  allowing different axle adaptors to be inserted to accommodate virtually any type of bike.
The orange piece on the Kuat Trio is removable, allowing different axle adaptors to be inserted to accommodate virtually any type of bike.

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. This is the only trunk rack we tried 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 bike's frame.

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. Therefore, bike racks are often mounted and removed from our vehicles as needs or as seasons change, and how easy that process is 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 is frighteningly easy to remove (or install) on your vehicle. A few things are 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 really dialed, it can be done significantly quicker. With 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 someone to help you remove and store 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 can stand them up in a corner or lay them on the floor when not in use.

The hand knob on the Yakima FrontLoader makes for easy removal and installation.
The hand knob on the Yakima FrontLoader makes for easy removal and installation.

A typical advantage of trunk-mount racks is that they 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.

The Thule Raceway Pro folds up into a nice compact size when not in use.
The Thule Raceway Pro folds up into a nice compact size when not in use.

Versatility


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 contact point 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 larger amount of adjustability and can 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 a rack extension.

The Yakima Dr Tray is easy to remove and store due to its low weight and tool free attachment system.
The Yakima Dr Tray is easy to remove and store due to its low weight and tool free attachment system.

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 possibility of putting multiple units on the roof increases your total 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 were clearance, the shape of the crown is problematic. The North Shore NSR-6 scored slightly higher because it has a higher payload capacity and can carry 360-pounds, which makes it E-bike friendly. The Yakima HangOver 6 has a weight limit of 37.5-pounds per bike, which limits its usefulness for E-bikes or 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. It's only 10 percent of the overall score. That said, we do feel that it is worthy of your attention. Some models of racks were simple to set up with easy to follow instructions and quality craftsmanship. Others left us frustrated and confused.


Hitch Racks


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 that 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 to fit in a box to ship. The Yakima HangOver 6 is an easier task, while the North Shore NSR-6 is far more difficult. Make sure you set aside a solid hour for assembly. In addition, a second set of hands is beneficial.

This is how the  1Up USA Heavy Duty Quik Rack comes out of the box. No assembly required.
This is how the 1Up USA Heavy Duty Quik Rack comes out of the box. No assembly required.

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 put on a vehicle.

The Yakima Front Loader comes fully assembled.
The Yakima Front Loader comes fully assembled.

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.

Security


Unfortunately, bike theft is an issue in our modern world, and fancy bikes attached to the outside of vehicles can be tempting 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. However, 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.

Although 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, not even 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.

The Kuat Sherpa has a semi-integrated noose style cable lock that can be looped through frames and wheels.
The Kuat Sherpa has a semi-integrated noose style cable lock that can be looped through frames and wheels.

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 tests 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 significant when compared to other trunk-mount racks in our test selection.

Durability


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 falter.


Thankfully, none of the racks completely failed and we never had a carbon fiber bike skid down the highway or tumble 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.

The 1Up USA Heavy Duty Quik Rack is nearly impervious to corrosion with all aluminum construction.
The 1Up USA Heavy Duty Quik Rack is nearly impervious to corrosion with all aluminum construction.

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, so 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 resistant to 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.

Get the Wiggles Out
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.

Hitch tightener on a Kuat bike rack.
Hitch tightener on a Kuat bike rack.

Conclusion


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 best rack.

Jeremy Benson & Curtis Smith