Are you seeking a new bike rack for your car, truck, or SUV? We spent an absurd amount of time researching the best options on the market and purchased a whopping 28 models for our comparative analysis. It is essential to find a quality bike rack that meets your needs while working well with your vehicle, budget, and bicycle. If you are hauling your bike around often, it is critical to get a user-friendly and secure option. We tested all types of racks from roof-mounted to hitch-style racks on several different vehicles. Each rack is scored on predetermined metrics while carefully analyzing every design aspect. Continue reading to find the best bike rack for your car, truck, or SUV.
The Best Bike Racks of 2019 for Hitches, Cars, and SUVs
|Price||$599.95 at REI|
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|$599.00 at REI|
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|$498.00 at REI|
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|$399.95 at Competitive Cyclist|
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|$229.95 at REI|
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|Pros||Easy tilt release function, durable, fat bike compatible, tool-free installation||Low loading height, easy tray adjustment, lightweight, tool free removal||Lightweight, simple, foot pedal tilt mechanism||Reasonably priced, highly versatile, solid construction, user-friendly tilt release, comes with locks||Very secure hold, no frame or fork contact|
|Cons||Hefty, Pricy||High price, sticky tilt release handle, cable locks are difficult to use||Lacks versatility, expensive||Sits slightly closer to vehicle than some, some assembly required.||Complicated, over-designed, not a great option for shorter riders or taller vehicles.|
|Bottom Line||The Thule T2 Pro XT is the best all around tray style hitch rack on the market.||An awesome lightweight hitch rack, with unrivaled adjustability.||The Sherpa is a lightweight hitch rack with some nice features and a good looking powder coat finish.||The RockyMounts MonoRail combines a solid performance with a reasonable price and takes home our Best Buy Award.||A very complex bike rack that delivers an exceptionally secure and safe hold of your bicycle.|
|Rating Categories||Thule T2 Pro XT||Yakima Dr. Tray||Kuat Sherpa 2.0||RockyMounts MonoRail||Thule UpRide|
|Ease Of EveryDay Use (20%)|
|Ease Of Removal And Storage (20%)|
|Ease Of Assembly (10%)|
|Specs||Thule T2 Pro XT||Yakima Dr. Tray||Kuat Sherpa 2.0||RockyMounts MonoRail||Thule UpRide|
|Style||Hitch (tray)||Hitch (tray)||Hitch (tray)||Hitch (tray)||Roof|
|Lock?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Available but not included|
|Weight||51 lbs||34 lbs||32 lbs||44lbs 2oz||17 lbs|
|Other Sizes Available?||Yes, 1.25" receiver and rack add-on for 2 additional bikes||Yes, 1.25" receiver and rack add-on for 1 additional bike||Yes, 1.25" receiver||Yes, 1.25" reciever, single bike add-on sold separately||No|
|Cross Bar Compatibility||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Best Overall Hitch Mount Bike Rack
Thule T2 Pro XT
We think this is the one. The Thule T2 Pro XT is hands down, the best all-around hitch mount bike rack in our test selection. A repeat offender, the T2 Pro XT holds down the top spot in our review for the second year in a row with this updated version of the T2 Pro. There was undoubtedly some strong competition from other new models on the market, yet it remained the highest scoring product in nearly every rating metric and again proved to be all we could hope a bike rack to be, and then some. The "XT" is the newest iteration of Thule's popular T2 with notable changes in tray spacing and lateral adjustability that reduce the likelihood of bikes coming into contact with each other during transport. 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 can be adjusted 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 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 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
The Thule Raceway Pro 2 is our Top Pick for a trunk-mounted bike rack. 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 Buy Hitch Rack
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 competitors, 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 some 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
Top Pick For High Capacity
North Shore NSR-6
The North Shore NSR-6 rack is a high-capacity vertical/hanging style hitch rack. This rack is best suited for hauling lots of enduro bikes and blasting shuttle laps. You can pack six bikes on this bad boy with little to no interference between bikes. With tray-style hitch racks, handlebars and seatposts with similar approximate heights can damage one another. The NSR-6 places bikes in a very safe and secure position. It has the capacity to haul E-bikes and downhill bikes with the 360-pound capacity. There is plenty of ground clearance for nasty, rutted out roads. The sturdy construction is 100% metal and has a built-to-last feel.
The NSR-6 is far from perfect. This is definitely a niche bike rack targeted squarely at the mountain bike crowd. Not only is it geared towards mountain bikers, it is aimed at the gravity and enduro demographic. This bike is not so versatile and only works with bikes with suspension forks. Road bikes, most hybrids, BMX bikes, rigid kids bikes will not work. Given the lofty price tag, this rack is not very versatile. There are no security features, either. In addition, shorter riders may find it difficult to load this rack.
Read review: North Shore NSR-6
Best Bang for the Buck Trunk Rack
The Kuat Highline is new to our bike rack test and 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 protective film to place between the rack and your vehicle's paint. It is attached to the vehicle with 6 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 Bang for the Buck 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
Top Pick for #Vanlife
RockyMounts BackStage Swing Away Platform
If you've caught the travel bug and have been drawn into the #vanlife 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 the swing-away convince makes it the most appropriate option on the market for the #vanlife crowd.
Read review: RockyMounts BackStage
Top Pick For Really Expensive Bikes-Roof-Mounted
The Thule UpRide is an impressive roof-mounted bike rack that delivers an exceptionally secure hold on your bicycle. This rack uses two counteracting cradles that exert opposing forces on the front wheel. This squeezing of the front wheel bike is extremely secure and there is very little chance of failure. In addition, the cradles have no contact with the bike frame or the fork. As a result, there is no chance of your bike scratching or having paint rub. This is a great choice for owners of really expensive bikes who are protective of their rig.
The UpRide isn't quite perfect. The dual-cradle design is a little overcomplicated. Loading a bike is a much more time-consuming endeavor compared to other roof-mounted options. The whole system feels a little over-engineered and isn't the best choice for constantly transporting your bike. 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.
Read review: Thule UpRide
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.
Five performance metrics were defined as the scoring criteria for evaluating our bike racks. We feel these criteria adequately rank each rack's most important qualities. The metrics are Ease of Removal and Storage, Versatility, Ease of Assembly, Security, and Durability. We used each bicycle rack as much as humanly possible and loaded/unloaded bicycles on/off them countless times. In addition, we had persons unfamiliar with how the products work use the racks to evaluate how intuitive the process is for newcomers. Yes, the process was tedious, but it is all in the name of finding the right rack for you, your bike, and your wallet.
Related: How We Tested Bike Racks
Analysis and Test Results
Throughout testing, we used these bike racks on a wide range of vehicles. We used them on wagons, trucks, SUVs, and vans. We carefully evaluated each rack with an eye for the small details as well as the bigger, more obvious attributes. We carefully evaluated each model's versatility, durability, user-friendliness, ease of assembly, and ease of removal and storage. We kept detailed notes on the inherent strengths and weaknesses of each model. Once the dust settled, we scored each rack on our predetermined metric to get our final scores. While the scores do a fantastic job of ranking these products, be sure to read the details of each rack as overall scores can be a little deceptive at times. Even if a bike rack scored in the middle of the pack, it still may be the best option for you and your needs.
Related: Buying Advice for Bike Racks
Bike racks come in a wide range of price points. Some users may want to shell out for the best of the best, while others may just be looking for the best value for their dollar. The RockyMounts Jetline, Kuat HighLine, RockyMounts MonoRail took home our Best Buy Awards, while the Kuat Trio, is the winner of an Editors' Choice Award.
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 is it 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 a 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 was employed on the new 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 Yakima 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.
We feel that the Thule UpRide is a high-end roof-mounted rack. Riders who are 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, and 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.
Our highest scoring hitch rack in this rating metric, the Yakima Dr. Tray is the only rack we tested that earned a perfect 10. At a featherweight, for a hitch-mounted bike rack, 34 pounds it weighs only half what the RockyMounts BackStage does; testers were even able to carry it around with one hand. Yakima's SpeedKnob locking system makes attaching the Dr. Tray to your vehicle as easy as it can be, while also removing wobbles and locking the rack onto your hitch. The Kuat Sherpa also scored well here, primarily due to its impressively lightweight of 32 pounds and Kuat's use of a knob and cam system that removes wobble, although locking the rack to your vehicle requires a hitch pin. The 1 Up USA Heavy Duty Quick Rack impressed us with its small collapsed size, one of only two racks we tested that feature folding bike trays for storage. If you need a hitch rack that you can pull off and fit in the trunk the 1 UP is worth a look.
The two vertically oriented roof racks both scored quite low in the ease of removal metric. Why? Well, these racks are gigantic and very heavy. The North Shore weighs 70-pounds while the Yakima is almost 80-pounds. When you add in the sheer size of these racks, they can be quite difficult to maneuver in and out of a doorway into a shed or garage. Having a second set of hands makes the process significantly easier. These are not racks that you are going to want to take on and off weekly or even monthly…your back will thank you.
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 rack, 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 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 weight 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, the second set of hands is beneficial.
Roof Mount Racks:
Our highest scoring roof racks, the Yakima FrontLoader and the Thule UpRide bested the competition by coming fully assembled and ready to mount on virtually any crossbar. Simply pull the rack out of the box, lay it on the roof rails, clamp it on there, and you're ready to ride. This is a breath of fresh air. Other models of roof racks in our test selection required tools to assemble before mounting.
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, and 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 easily be cut with a pair of scissors or a knife. The only trunk-mounted model we tested with any security features is the Thule Raceway Pro which 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 are quite significant when compared to other trunk-mount racks in our test selection.
To test durability, we tried our hardest to put all the products through their paces. During testing, we attempted to take each model to the brink of their performance to see how they stood the test of time and heavy use.
Luckily for our bikes, we did not have any catastrophic failures during our test period. All the models we tested came with the fine print warning of "not for off-road use." While we respect the manufacturers need to protect themselves legally, we did not heed this warning of keeping these racks and our vehicles on the pavement. That said, some of the products in our test selection really shouldn't be used off-road, and we've provided details about that in our test results.
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.
After several months of ultra-thorough testing, we believe or bike rack review is one of the most extensive reviews out there. We loaded bikes hundreds, if not thousands, of times onto these racks, drove on the jankiest of roads, and paid attention to all of the little details that are ever so important. Some may say our testing process is overkill. We believe the countless hours spent examining the most minor feature is well worth it to find the right bike rack for you, your wallet, your bicycle, and your vehicle.
— Jeremy Benson & Curtis Smith