Best Bike Racks of 2021
|Price||$259.00 at REI|
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|$595 List||$849.95 at REI|
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|$249.00 at REI|
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|$249.95 at REI|
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|Pros||Comes fully assembled, available in 2 and 3 bike versions, security features, lightweight, folds small for storage, Yakima sells replacement parts||Durable, small storage size||Ramp design allows for easy loading of heavy bikes, compact storage size, easy to move and store||Secure hold, easy rack installation/removal, no bike frame contact||Very secure hold, no frame or fork contact|
|Cons||Doesn't work with all frame shapes and styles, webbing straps can easily be cut, a little heavier than other trunk racks||Lacks security features, difficult to tilt, heavy||Expensive, questionable durability, tedious loading process, bikes with long wheelbases don't play well||Works best on lower vehicles, harder to load bike, lock cores not included for integrated lock||Design seems a little over-complicated, limited to vehicles with low roof height, you have to lift bike to height of roof to load|
|Bottom Line||A quality rack that is relatively easy to use, though suffers from the same limitations as other trunk-mount models||An industrial-grade hitch mount bike rack that packs up small for easy storage||A complicated but functional rack outfitted with a ramp to assist in loading heavyweight e-bikes||A quality roof-mount bike rack that is particularly easy to install and remove and works best with lower vehicles and lighter-weight bikes||A roof-mount rack with an exceptionally sturdy and secure hold of your bicycle with no frame contact|
|Rating Categories||Yakima FullBack 2||1Up USA 2" Heavy Du...||Thule EasyFold XT 2||Yakima HighRoad||Thule UpRide|
|Ease Of EveryDay Use (20%)|
|Ease Of Removal And Storage (20%)|
|Ease Of Assembly (10%)|
|Specs||Yakima FullBack 2||1Up USA 2" Heavy Du...||Thule EasyFold XT 2||Yakima HighRoad||Thule UpRide|
|Style||Trunk||Hitch (tray)||Hitch (tray)||Roof||Roof|
|Lock?||Yes||No||Yes, locks for hitch and bikes||Available but not included||Available but not included|
|Rack Weight||21 lbs 10 oz||46 lbs||45 lbs||18 lbs||17 lbs|
|Max Weight Per Bike||35 lbs||50 lbs||65 lbs||not specified||44 lbs|
|Other Sizes Available?||Yes, 3 bike||Yes, single bike version and rack add-on for one additional bike||Fits both 1.25" and 2" receivers||No||No|
|Cross Bar Compatibility||N/A||N/A||N/A||T-slot compatibility with additional SmarT-Slot Kit||Round, Square, Aero, Most Factory|
Best Overall Hitch Bike Rack
Thule T2 Pro XTR
The best hitch-mounted rack in our review is hands down the Thule T2 Pro XT. For several years running, this rack has floated to the top of the pack thanks to its winning combination of user-friendliness and versatility. From downhill mountain bikes to lightweight carbon fiber road bikes, it will haul your bike from point A to point B safely and with ease. Boasting many intuitive and ergonomic features such as a low load height and a ratcheting wheel clamp that can be adjusted with a single hand, Thule designed the T2 Pro XT with a keen attention to detail. The rack also features wide wheel trays that offer compatibility with all sizes of tires and wheels, including fat bikes. 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, making it easier to access the rear of your vehicle. We also tested the T2 Pro with the 2 Bike Add-On, and it turned out to be our favorite option for carrying four bikes.
The performance and user-friendliness offered by this rack doesn't come cheap. The T2 Pro XT has a premium price tag, and it's also large and heavy, making it a cumbersome rack to move around or store. Still, we think this is the best hitch mount rack on the market.
Read review: Thule T2 Pro XT
Best Bang for Your Buck Hitch Rack
Even lower-cost hitch racks can still be pretty expensive, but we recently discovered a new hitch-mount rack that we feel is an excellent value: the RockyMounts MonoRail. It costs a significant amount less than the highest-priced hitch racks, yet it provides 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 the included ladder strap extenders that can handle everything from skinny road tires up to 5-inch fat bike behemoths. Testers were also impressed with this rack's user-friendliness, including a one-hand 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 lock 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. However, there is a fair amount of plastic in its construction, 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 receiver on your vehicle. Although this works just fine, it's far less user-friendly than the tool-free tightening and locking designs found on some of the competition. Regardless, we feel the MonoRail is an excellent rack that performs above its asking price.
Read review: RockyMounts MonoRail
Best Overall Roof Rack
The Thule UpRide is a high-quality bike rack that has a lot going for it. For those who are used to more traditional fork-mount roof racks, the UpRide may seem like an odd design. There is no wheel removal necessary, and the bike is secured by two counteracting cradles, or hoops, that squeeze the front wheel from both directions. This wheel holding design ensures that there is no contact with the frame or the fork of the bicycle and the hold is exceptionally secure. Perhaps more importantly, the absence of frame or fork contact makes this an excellent choice for riders with fancy carbon frames or those who take pride in the cleanliness or appearance of their bike. While other designs can lead to some scuffing on the fork or top-tube, your beloved bike will be safe and pristine on the UpRide.
Although we love how secure the hold is, you may need to adjust the rack to the appropriate wheel size before loading if you switch between bikes regularly. This is a minor inconvenience that does detract slightly from its user-friendliness. Given the rooftop location, this rack obviously involves lifting your bike up high to load it. This makes it best suited for lower vehicles and lighter-weight bikes. Lock cores also aren't included but are available as an aftermarket purchase.
Read review: Thule UpRide
Best Overall Trunk Rack
Thule Outway Hanging 2
Thule impressed us with the Outway Hanging 2 trunk rack with clever design features that help to address some of the issues that plague most other trunk-mount models. At 18.3 lbs, it is lightweight and it folds down small for transport or storage. After the initial setup, it is very easy to install and remove thanks to its unique attachment system which also helps to make it the most stable and secure trunk rack when in use and loaded with bikes. The horizontal support arms support up to 35 lbs per bike, and they feature lateral adjustability for a wider range of bike fit. The ratcheting straps provide a secure bike hold, with anti-sway stabilizers to keep the bikes steady in transit. Instead of nylon webbing straps, the Outway uses locking steel cables to attach to the vehicle along with a locking cable for the bikes to deter theft of both the rack and the bikes. It also comes in a 3 bike version.
While we loved the Outway Hanging 2, it does suffer from the same limitations as most other trunk racks. Most notably, it is limited to a maximum weight of 33 lbs per bike, and it works best with bikes with horizontal top tubes (unless you purchase the Thule Frame Adapter). This rack does fit a wide range of vehicles, but it doesn't work with all vehicles, so it is important to reference Thule's Fit my car feature on their website to find out. Like any trunk rack, bike-on-bike interference may also be unavoidable depending on the sizes and styles of bikes you carry. Regardless, if it fits your vehicle and bikes, we feel this is the best trunk rack on the market.
Read review: Thule Outway Hanging 2
Best Trunk Rack on a Tight Budget
Allen Deluxe 2-Bike Trunk Carrier
The Allen Deluxe 2-Bike is an impressively inexpensive trunk-mount rack. This basic design fits on a wide variety of cars and SUVs and can support two bikes and up to 70 lbs of total weight. It comes fully assembled, only requiring one simple step to ready it for use. Five straps secure it to the back of the vehicle with rubber-coated hooks that attach to the top, sides, and bottom of the trunk. Rubber frame cradles support the bikes by the frame and secure with nylon straps and plastic buckles. Due to its support arm design, it works best with bikes that have traditional frame shapes. This lightweight rack weighs just 7 lbs and 9 oz, and it folds up very small for storage when not in use.
Considering the staggeringly low price of the Allen Deluxe 2-Bike, it didn't surprise us that it was incredibly basic. The rack itself is in a fixed position, as are the bike support arms, so it has virtually no adjustability to fine-tune the fit for your vehicle or bike frame. The fixed support arms may not work with all bike frame styles, particularly some full-suspension mountain bikes. It also has no security features of any kind, so locking the rack to your vehicle or the bikes to the rack isn't possible. All that said, we feel this is a serviceable option for the infrequent user in search of a simple and very affordable trunk-mount rack.
Read review: Allen Deluxe 2-Bike Trunk Carrier
Best Ramp-Loading Hitch Rack
Electric bikes are incredibly popular, yet there are only a few bike racks on the market that provide solutions for transporting them. With the OnRamp, Yakima aims to address some of the challenges of loading and transporting heavier-weight e-bikes. Since heavy bikes can be challenging and awkward to lift into position, the OnRamp has a removable ramp system to roll the bike on and off the platform. This rack also has a 66 lbs per bike limit, ensuring it can handle the weight of virtually any bike in your stable. It has a highly adjustable design, and the trays, wheel straps, and frame clamps can all be moved independently for a secure hold of your precious cargo. The loading process is a little more involved and time-consuming than some other racks, though it becomes quicker and easier with a little practice. The rack itself only weighs 43 lbs, and it can be purchased in both 1.25-inch or 2-inch receiver versions.
While it does get easier with practice, the OnRamp undoubtedly has a more fiddly and complex loading process that can feel a bit cumbersome. There are simply more steps in the process, especially when using the ramp. Since the bikes are supported with ratcheting straps that hold the frame, there is no way to avoid frame contact, which may be a concern for some users. Another consideration is that the 66 lbs per bike limit applies to paved roads, and Yakima recommends a maximum of 40 lbs per bike when used off-road. Beyond those concerns, we feel the OnRamp is a decent value compared to its direct competition and is the best ramp-loading bike rack we've tested.
Read review: Yakima OnRamp
Best for Mountain Bike Shuttles
North Shore NSR-6
If you need to haul around a whole lot of mountain bikes, the North Shore NSR-6 is the obvious choice. This rack can carry six (yes, six) bikes, using a vertical/hanging orientation. This is a slick rack best suited for larger SUVs or pickup trucks. North Shore did an excellent job designing this product to eliminate virtually all interference between bikes. Even on super bumpy roads, there is no need to worry about handlebars bumping into saddles or a dropper seat post. Ground clearance is excellent too, which makes it a great choice for shuttle laps or use on rough roads. It can carry up to a whopping 360-pounds, which means you can load this thing up with downhill or electric mountain bikes with no need to worry about maxing it out. The sturdy construction is all metal, and it feels like it's built to last. It also comes in 2 and 4 bike versions that cost less than the 6-pack we tested.
This 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 at the mountain bike crowd. Enduro and downhill mountain bikers will be stoked, but roadies or folks with hybrid bikes are out of luck since 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. It's also very heavy, and this weight, combined with its bulky size and awkward shape, makes it challenging to move around and store when not in use.
Read review: North Shore NSR-6
Best Swing-Away Rack
RockyMounts BackStage Swing Away Platform
If you've caught the travel bug or been drawn into the "van life" scene 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 hitch rack that can swing out of the way and is 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. The Backstage does have an impressive tilt mechanism 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, moving both the bikes and the rack clear of the door's range. The rack itself is quite versatile with a 60 lbs per bike weight limit and wheel cradles that can fit a huge range of bikes and tires up to 5-inches wide.
We still have some gripes with the Backstage, though. The tray clearance from the vehicle is somewhat cramped, so bikes with 800mm bars need to be placed in the outside tray, and the rack itself can be cumbersome due to its weight and size. Despite its imperfections, we still think this is a great option for those who want or need easier access to the back of their vehicle. We also feel it is a good value, as other brands sell pivoting swing-away accessories that can add several hundred dollars to the price of an already expensive rack system.
Read review: RockyMounts BackStage
Best Fork Mount Roof Rack
Kuat maintains the top spot on our podium for fork mount roof 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 devised an innovative solution that can carry bikes with any axle standard at the fork. It's ready to handle your 9mm, 15mm, or 20mm size axles. 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 strengths, and it can be mounted to almost any crossbar style using a U-bolt style clamp. They also designed 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 fork mount roof rack we've tested.
Read review: Kuat Trio
Best Roof Rack for Easy Installation and Removal
We recommend the Yakima HighRoad for anyone who knows they will need to remove their rack from their vehicle frequently. This roof-mounted option is super easy to install and remove, requiring no tools — simply flip a lever, tighten a thumb roller, reclamp, and you're in business. After we got this process down, we were able to do it in under three minutes. We also appreciate that this rack comes pre-assembled. It's a user-friendly option that provides a solid hold to your bicycle.
The HighRoad isn't quite perfect. This rack can 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, and it makes the rack only feasible for small vehicles that sport a low roof like a hatchback or wagon. Even small crossovers proved to be a little too tall to use this rack easily.
Read review: Yakima HighRoad
Why You Should Trust Us
Our mountain bike review 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 20-year Lake Tahoe resident, Benson 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 experience with 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 particularly adept at evaluating durability.
Testing bike racks is not rocket science. Essentially, we loaded and unloaded a wide range of bicycles as much as possible. We used drop bar road bikes, hardtail mountain bikes, full-suspension bikes, and e-bikes. We evaluated how each rack plays with each style of bicycle. Next, we drove around… a lot. We traversed all kinds of roads, from fast and straight highways to twisty mountain roads. We carefully evaluated each rack on a set of performance metrics, including ease of everyday use, ease of removal and storage, security, durability, and ease of assembly.
Related: How We Tested Bike Racks
Analysis and Test Results
We used these bike racks on multiple vehicle types, from small hatchbacks to giant vans and everything in between. This variety of vehicles was important because these racks can offer dramatically different performances based on the style of the vehicle. We paid attention to the obvious characteristics and nitty-gritty details to rate these racks on the chosen metrics. Their performance in each area is discussed below.
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 a bike rack, and some price tags even approach 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, we believe the RockyMounts MonoRail is the most outstanding value. While it requires a little more assembly than some other models, your efforts are rewarded with a solid, tray-style mount and an easy-to-use tilt release that's complete with locks. For the folks who prefer trunk mounts, the Allen Deluxe 2-Bike is also an outrageous value. It may be relatively basic, but it costs a mere fraction of the price of the competition.
Ease of Everyday Use
Generally speaking, the easier something is to use, the more likely you are to use it. With bike racks, it means you'll waste less time loading and unloading bikes, leaving you more time to ride. 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. (locking systems will be discussed in our security metric). The primary aspects we considered while evaluating loading the bikes are the loading height and attachment method. In general, vehicle access issues are 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 this rack 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 ensure there are no awkward moments when 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 simpler 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.
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 racks orient loaded bikes vertically, so they pack up to six bikes while keeping them 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 with bikes with suspension forks. The NSR-6 is the more user-friendly of the two. This rack also 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.
Electric bikes, or e-bikes, are exploding in popularity. The need to transport these heavy-weight bicycles presents a challenge that some rack manufacturers are beginning to address. Lifting a 50+ pound bike onto a tray-style hitch rack can be difficult for some riders, ourselves included. Both the Thule EasyFold XT and Yakima OnRamp have 60+ lb per bike weight limits, and both utilize a ramp system that allows you to roll the bike up onto the rack instead of having to perform a deadlift. These two racks are a little complicated in the way you secure your bike to the rack, but the ramp feature has obvious appeal for those who find it difficult to lift their heavy bikes into place on the rack. Of the two options, we found the Yakima OnRamp to be a bit more user-friendly with a more confidence-inspiring hold, while also being a fair amount less expensive. Kuat has also addressed this issue by offering an aftermarket ramp that works with any of the racks in the NV series. Adding a ramp to your existing rack is a cost-effective way to make loading heavy bikes much easier.
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 still be user-friendly, 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 must be removed. The Trio's innovative system that makes it compatible with through-axle forks without the need for additional adapters also helped it outscore other fork mount racks.
The Thule UpRide is a high-end roof-mounted rack. Riders hoping to keep the most secure hold of their bike will likely love this model. It grips the front wheel in an extremely secure manner via two cradles with counteracting forces. This results in a firm, safe hold that leaves little chance of a bike falling off the rack on the freeway. In addition, there is no contact with your frame or fork. Loading the UpRide does involve lifting the bike to roof level, so it works best on lower vehicles and with lighter-weight bikes.
None of the trunk-mount racks score particularly well in this metric, but some fared better than others. They aren't particularly difficult to load, but there is almost always some kind of bike-on-bike interference, and there are numerous steps involved to attach them securely for transport. Of the trunk racks we tested, the Yakima FullBack and the Thule Outway Hanging were the most user-friendly.
Ease of Removal and Storage
It sure would be nice if we could leave our bike racks on our vehicles all the time, but unfortunately for most of us, riding bikes is a hobby rather than a full-time job. Therefore, bike racks are often mounted and removed from our vehicles as needs or seasons change. The ease of that process depends on various factors, including a rack's size, weight, and the method of attachment.
In the case of roof-mounted racks, manufacturers assume that you're less likely to remove them regularly. Roof racks are more of a set-it-and-forget-it item that consumers often choose to just leave on the roof for extended periods after the initial installation. An exception is the Yakima HighRoad which is impressively easy to remove or install on your vehicle. 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 and loosening a screw. When the rack is unattached, it is light and easy to haul off your roof. It only weighs 18 lbs and can be conveniently shoved onto a high shelf or tucked into a tight space in the garage. Other models in our test selection, such as the Kuat Trio and the RockyMounts BrassKnuckles, require hex keys to take on and off, but they are mostly long and skinny, so you can stand them up in a corner or lay them on the floor when they're not in use.
Despite their bike fit and weight limitations, trunk racks are fairly easy to install and remove, and they are typically lightweight and fold down small for storage. The Thule Outway Hanging 2 has a unique attachment system that includes steel cables with torque limiting knobs to adjust their tension that makes it quick and easy to put on or take off the vehicle. At just 18.3 lbs and with a small collapsed size, it can also be stowed in the trunk and won't take up much room in your storage space. Likewise, once you get used to the installation and removal process, the Yakima FullBack is quick on and off the car and is easily storable. They may not be the most elegant or refined way to carry bicycles, but their low weight and small size make them quite convenient for the infrequent rack user.
Hitch-mounted racks are inherently less convenient to install/remove and store due to their heavier weights and larger size. Many of the higher-end models, like the Yakima Dr. Tray, Thule Pro XT 2, and Thule EasyFold XT are quite easy to work with. They use a tool-free system to install/remove the rack from the hitch and lock it. Simply unlock a knob, turn it counter-clockwise, and pull the rack off. All of these racks are somewhat heavy and large, so moving them around can be a chore, although the EasyFold XT folds up into a neat little package making it an exceptionally compact hitch rack.
The two vertically-oriented hitch racks scored exceptionally poorly in this metric, and the reasoning is simple: these racks are gigantic and very, very heavy. The North Shore rack tips the scales at a whopping 70 pounds while the HangOver is even heavier, nearing 80 pounds. Not only are they weighty, but their shape makes them cumbersome and awkward to carry. Once you have these racks pulled off your hitch, you might have to try and lug them through a garage door, shed door, or alley without smashing into anything. Getting someone to help you remove and store these racks makes life a lot easier and could save you a trip to the chiropractor.
We assessed 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 frame 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 via other means, such as wheel-mounted trays, typically offer a larger amount of adjustability and can accommodate a larger variety of wheel sizes and tire widths. The Yakima Dr. Tray scored among the highest in versatility due to its massive range of tray adjustments and the ability to carry bikes with tires up to five inches wide.
The Thule T2 Pro XT is also capable of accommodating tires up to five inches wide, but its tray adjustments are somewhat limited compared to the Dr. Tray. Ratcheting arms that clamp down on the bike's front wheel are used by most of the hitch-mounted tray-style racks we tested, eliminating frame contact and boosting 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 the tray-style hitch racks that 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 peak capacity for many vehicles can be attained by using a roof mount setup with multiple individual roof racks. Please note that roof-mount racks, such as the Kuat Trio, can only hold one bike per unit, but the potential to add 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 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 are only compatible with bikes with suspension forks. That means bikes with rigid forks such as road/gravel bikes, BMX bikes, rigid kids' bikes, or 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 lbs, making it E-bike-friendly. The Yakima HangOver 6 has a weight limit of 37.5 lbs per bike, which constrains its usefulness for E-bikes or downhill bikes.
Speaking of e-bikes, the Yakima OnRamp and Thule EasyFold XT are both reasonably versatile racks. They are rated to carry heavy e-bikes and work with most regular bicycles. They aren't the most user-friendly racks, but they both offer a ramp system to load heavy e-bikes. This is an attractive feature for anyone who has difficulty loading heavy bikes onto a rack.
Trunk-mount racks have limitations for weight and bike fit due to the nature of the horizontal arms that support the bikes. They all work best with traditional bike frames with horizontal top tubes. Of the trunk mount racks we tested, the Thule Outway Hanging proved to be the most versatile with support arms that move laterally and can accommodate a wider range of fit. Both the Thule and the Yakima FullBack can also fit non-traditional frames with the use of their aftermarket frame adapters, though they are limited to 33 lbs or 35 lbs per bike, respectively.
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 racks were simple to set up with easy-to-follow instructions and quality craftsmanship. Others left us frustrated and confused.
The 1 Up USA Heavy Duty Quick Rack proved to be our highest scorer hitch rack in this metric. The 1 Up is one of only two hitch racks we tested that have folding bike trays, but it was one of the two racks to be shipped fully assembled. We removed it from the box, folded the trays to their open position, and it is ready to mount on our vehicle and use. The Thule EasyFold XT also arrived completely assembled. This is a thing of beauty, and it really doesn't get any better from an ease of assembly standpoint.
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 while you're putting it together. The Kuat NV 2.0, on the other hand, is a bear to assemble that took us a fair amount of time and effort.
The two vertical-mounted hitch racks were also 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 for shipping. 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. Also, the second set of hands is quite helpful.
Roof Mount Racks
Our highest scoring roof racks posted a perfect 10 in this metric. The Yakima HighRoad 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 also a cinch to put on a vehicle.
Trunk Mount Racks
The Saris Bones 2-Bike, Yakima FullBack 2, and Allen Deluxe 2-Bike were ready to use straight out of the box. These racks are small and are easily shipped fully assembled. Simply take them out of the box, fold them into position, and they are ready to be mounted on your vehicle. The Thule Outway Hanging had a small amount of assembly that took approximately 15 minutes to complete.
Unfortunately, bike theft is an issue in our modern world, and fancy bikes attached to an unattended vehicle 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, a determined thief can compromise even the most secure bike rack.
In our opinion, 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 anti-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 fared 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 Thule EasyFold XT locks at the hitch receiver and at the bicycle-holding clamp. There are no cables to clumsily loop around your frame. They lock at the clamp, and when locked, you cannot spin the knob to loosen the bikes. This is reasonably effective and very tidy.
Roof Mount Racks
The most secure roof-mounted racks we tested use a cable lock to attach the rear wheel and also offer the ability to lock the fork mount—both the Kuat Trio and the RockyMounts 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 vulnerable to theft.
Trunk Mount Racks
Of all the racks in our test fleet, the trunk mount style racks seem the most vulnerable to theft. Most trunk racks are attached to the vehicle with nylon webbing straps that can be cut easily with a knife or a pair of scissors. The Yakima FullBack does have a small cable lock to secure the bike to the rack. The Thule Outway Hanging goes a step further with locking steel cables to secure the rack to the vehicle, along with a cable lock to secure the bikes to the rack.
To evaluate durability, we used each rack as much as humanly possible. By our logic, this repeated use gave us real insight into the durability of each rack. Also, we tested on rowdy roads with some pretty darn heavy bikes 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 several factors to consider when evaluating the potential durability of each rack. This includes material, design, and the linkages 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. The 1 Up also doesn't have any plastic parts; it's constructed entirely of aluminum with stainless steel hardware. 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 worth noting; it may scratch, but since there is no paint to chip and it won't rust, the rack's overall appearance 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 harder to scratch and resistant to the elements.
The North Shore 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 seem very unlikely to give out. The fork cradles are strong, and the rope rear-wheel fasteners are simple and far more durable than rubber or plastic ratchet systems. If the rope breaks, simply replace it. The tilt mechanism may be 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 hitch's durability, and if it's really loose, the bikes will jostle around. An effective quick fix is a hitch tightener.
Years upon years of buying and testing bike racks have resulted in this in-depth comparative analysis. There is no doubt that any of these bike racks can perform dutifully. That being said, there are inherent strengths and weaknesses of each rack. In addition, some of the designs we have tested truly are superior to others. Our best piece of advice for finding your bike rack soulmate is to start by evaluating your vehicle and bicycle type. Certain vehicles and bicycle types play much better with certain styles of racks. We hope this review helps you make a confident purchase decision.
— Jeremy Benson, Curtis Smith, & Pat Donahue
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