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Are you looking for a new bike rack? We've spent the past six years purchasing and testing over three dozen models to bring you this evaluation of the 16 best bike racks on the market today. We understand how difficult it can be to locate a rack that works for your bike, vehicle, and budget, so we're here to assist. For months, our bike-obsessed testers carried bikes on hitch, trunk, and roof-mount racks. We switched between cars, trucks, and SUVs, driving up dirt roads, down freeways, and parallel parking around town. We were impressed by how simple it was to load and unload our bikes and how securely they kept our prized possessions. Continue reading to discover the ideal rack for your needs, budget, and vehicle.
Style: Hitch | Capacity: 2 (add-ons available for up to four)
REASONS TO BUY
User-friendly tilt mechanism
Fits tires up to five inches wide
Ample space between trays
Tool-free attachment and removal
3" of lateral tray adjustment
REASONS TO AVOID
The best hitch-mounted rack in our review is 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 loading height and a ratcheting wheel clamp that you can adjust one-handed, Thule designed the T2 Pro XT with keen attention to detail. It features wide wheel trays that offer compatibility with virtually 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, which was our favorite option for carrying four bikes.
This rack's speed and user-friendliness do not come cheap. The T2 Pro XT rack is relatively expensive, as well as large and heavy, making it difficult to transport or store. Nonetheless, we believe this is one of the finest hitch mount rack on the market.
Style: Hitch | Capacity: 2 (add-on available for up to 3)
REASONS TO BUY
User-friendly tilt release
REASONS TO AVOID
Some assembly required
Less clearance from the vehicle than some
Monorail RockyMounts. It is considerably less expensive than the most expensive hitch racks while offering comparable features and performance. The MonoRail, like most excellent platform racks, holds the bike by the wheels, so there is no frame contact. It's highly adaptable, with well-designed wheel trays and included ladder strap extenders that can accommodate everything from narrow road tires to 5-inch fat bike behemoths. The user-friendliness of this rack, which includes a one-hand tilt release mechanism at the end of the primary support arm that can be used with bikes loaded, was also praised by testers. It includes a long noose-style cable lock as well as a hitch pin lock to secure the rack and the cycles it transports.
The MonoRail looks to be well-built, with a solid metal receiver arm, main support arm, and bike trays. However, it is made of a reasonable amount of plastic, including the folding front wheel and pivoting rear wheel trays, which could cause durability issues if used carelessly. It also uses a common threaded hitch pin to secure the rack to your vehicle's receiver. Although this functions perfectly well, it is far less user-friendly than some of the competition's tool-free tightening and locking designs. Regardless, we believe the MonoRail is an excellent rack that outperforms its price.
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 to roof height 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.
Style: Trunk | Capacity: 2 (3 bike version also available)
REASONS TO BUY
Folds very small for transport or storage
More stable than other trunk racks
More security features than other trunk racks
REASONS TO AVOID
Some assembly required
33 lbs per bike weight limit
May not work with all frame styles and designs
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 we've tested when in use and loaded with bikes. The horizontal support arms support up to 33 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 suffers from the same constraints as most other trunk racks. Most notably, it has a maximum weight limit of 33 pounds per bike and works best with bikes that have horizontal top tubes (unless you buy the Thule Frame Adapter). This rack fits a variety of vehicles, but it does not function with all vehicles, so it is critical to consult Thule's Fit my car feature on their website. Bike-on-bike interference, like any trunk rack, may be unavoidable based on the sizes and styles of bikes you carry. Regardless, we believe this is the best trunk rack on the market if it suits your vehicle and bikes.
Style: Hitch | Capacity: 2 (up to 4 with 2-bike add-on)
REASONS TO BUY
70-pounds per bike weight capacity
Stable and sturdy
Optional ramp for loading heavy bikes
REASONS TO AVOID
The Yakima StageTwo is a hitch-mount tray rack that boasts a class-leading 70-pounds per bike weight limit, a high level of versatility, and impressive ease of use. This rack can fit a huge range of wheel sizes, wheelbase lengths, and tire widths, so you can carry virtually any size and type of bike. The loading process is simple with a sturdy front wheel clamp and rear-wheel ratchet strap, and a remote tilt-release handle makes folding the rack up and down a snap. For riders with heavy electric bikes, the optional RampUp ($99) loading ramp makes it easy to roll bikes up into place on the trays. The tiered bike trays can also be centered or offset to avoid bike-on-bike contact. Installing and removing the StageTwo is a quick and easy process thanks to a SpeedKnob that tightens an anti-wobble cam for stability and locks the rack to the vehicle. Integrated cable locks in the clamp arms secure the bikes to the rack and a welded lock loop provides a convenient place to attach an additional lock. It is available in 1.25-inch and 2-inch receiver sizes, 2 color options (2-inch only), and a 2-bike add-on can be added to carry up to 4 bikes (2-inch only).
While we love the StageTwo for its sturdiness, it comes with a bit of a weight penalty. This rack weighs 63.5 pounds, and it isn't the easiest rack to move around off the vehicle. It is also quite large and it will take up a good amount of storage space when not in use. The 70-pound weight limit will be more than adequate for most users most of the time, although for RV use that limit drops to 60 lbs, and for off-road use, Yakima reduces that limit to 42 lbs per bike. The loading ramp is also an awesome feature for e-bike users, but it is sold separately and will set you back an additional $99 on top of the already high price of the rack. Those concerns aside, this is the best Yakima hitch rack we've ever tested and a highly versatile, heavy-duty option that won't disappoint.
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, so locking the rack to your vehicle or the bikes to the rack isn't possible. All that said, we feel this is a good option for the infrequent user searching for a simple and very affordable trunk-mount rack.
Style: Hitch | Capacity: 6 (2 and 4 bike versions available)
REASONS TO BUY
Huge carrying capacity
Ample ground clearance
Bikes sit relatively close to the bumper
No seatpost/handlebar interference
REASONS TO AVOID
Only compatible with bikes with suspension forks
Heavy and large
No security features
Fork cradles can damage paint over time
If you need to haul around a whole lot of mountain bikes, the North Shore NSR-6 is an 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 little 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 eccentricities. The NSR-6 has a much narrower variety of applications than other racks. It's geared directly toward mountain bikers. Enduro and downhill mountain cyclists will be thrilled, but roadies and hybrid bikers will be disappointed because this rack only works with mountain bikes with suspension forks. BMX, road, gravel, and rigid hybrid cycles are not supported. Furthermore, shorter cyclists may have difficulty loading this rack. It's also quite heavy, which, coupled with its bulky size and awkward shape, makes it difficult to move and store when not in use.
If you've been bitten by the travel bug or drawn into the "van life" scene to chase endless biking adventures, you're already aware of (or will soon be aware of) the possible difficulties of transporting bikes on your travel rig. RockyMounts has you covered with the BackStage platform hitch rack, which can swing out of the way and is designed to meet the specific requirements of the contemporary van-dwelling nomad or anyone who wants easier access to the back of their vehicle. All of the other hitch-mounted racks we tested interfered with using the back doors of a van, even when tilted down. The Backstage has an impressive tilt mechanism that can be reached at the back of the rack, but the star of the show is the arm.
We still have some gripes with the Backstage, though. The tray clearance from the vehicle is somewhat cramped, so bikes with very wide handlebars 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.
You have to remove the front wheel to load the bike
Kuat maintains the top spot on our podium for fork-mount roof racks 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 found 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.
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, and it's quite small when not in use, making it easy to store. 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 heavier 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 sedan, hatchback, or wagon. Even small crossovers proved to be a little too tall to use this rack easily.
Our bike gurus conducted extensive research before purchasing and testing this fleet of racks, in addition to keeping an ear to the ground on what's new in the cycling world. Testing bike racks isn't rocket science; basically, we loaded and unloaded as many bicycles as feasible. We tested each rack on drop bar road cycles, hardtail mountain bikes, full-suspension bikes, and e-bikes to see how it worked with each style. Following that, we drove around… a lot. We drove on a variety of roads, from fast and straight freeways to bumpy mountain roads leading to trailheads and distant gravel excursions. We thoroughly evaluated each rack based on a set of performance metrics, such as ease of use and removal.
Our testing of bike racks is divided across six rating metrics:
Ease of Everyday Use (20% of total score weighting)
Ease of Removal and Storage (20% weighting)
Versatility (20% weighting)
Security (20% weighting)
Ease of Assembly (10% weighting)
Durability (10% weighting)
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 22-year Lake Tahoe resident, Benson races and rides mountain and gravel bikes obsessively in the summer months. Curtis spent many years racing 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 also provides his expertise 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.
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 type of vehicle they're attached to. 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.
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 mount racks, we believe the RockyMounts MonoRail is the best 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 USA 2" Heavy Duty Double, 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 standout features of 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 very easy. The Yakima StageTwo also tops the charts for its impressive ease of use. Much like the Thule, the StageTwo is incredibly easy to load and it has an easy-to-reach tilt-release handle for folding the rack up and down. 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? Vertical hitch racks like the North Shore NSR-6 are made for the task. Vertical racks orient loaded bikes in a hanging fashion, 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 most user-friendly of the vertical racks we've tested. This rack also boasts a huge 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.
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 even a low hitch rack can be difficult for some riders. Several of the hitch racks we review have started to offer high weight capacity racks and loading ramps. The Yakima StageTwo boasts a truly impressive 70 lbs weight limit and it works with the optional RampUp ($99) loading ramp to roll bikes up onto the rack. Kuat has also addressed this issue by offering an aftermarket ramps that works with most of their hitch racks. 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 (though it varies depending on frame shape), 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 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 without the need for any tools. 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 which 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. One of the notably easy to store racks was the 1Up Heavy Duty Quik Rack as it's wheel trays fold in half to reduce its footprint.
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. 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 Kuat Piston Pro X 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, Rocky Mounts MonoRail, and Yakima StageTwo are capable of accommodating tires up to five inches wide. 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 Front Loader, 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 North Shore NSR-6, are trendy amongst the mountain bike crowd. Yes, you can load these style racks with many mountain bikes, but versatility is surprisingly 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 fit given the reduced clearance between the fork crown and the tire.
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 can be adjusted 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.
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 addition to the included features on a given rack, we recommend adding an aftermarket bike lock to add another layer of security
In our opinion, the most secure bike racks are those that utilize cable locks like the Kuat Piston. The long rubber-coated steel cable on the Piston locks into the rack itself. 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 StageTwo use shorter cables that are only long enough to loop through the frame or fork. The StageTwo does have an additional welded metal loop between the bike trays, however, that is a convenient spot to attach an additional cable or chain lock. 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 and Yakima StageTwo, 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, we'd recommend adding a locking hitch pin, long cable and sturdy lock to this set up.
The Kuat Piston Pro X locks at the hitch receiver and features an integrated cable, it's a very secure and clean way of keeping the bikes and rack secured.
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 bikes 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.
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-scoring hitch rack in this metric. The 1 Up features folding bike trays that are excellent for storage but also allow the rack to be shipped fully assembled. After removing it from the box and folding the trays to their open position, it is ready to mount on your vehicle and use.
Every other hitch rack in our test selection required varying levels of assembly. The Yakima Stage Two requires a fair amount of time and effort to make it ride-ready.
The 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. Make sure you set aside a solid hour for assembly and a 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.
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 Piston and the Kuat Trio 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.
Get the Wiggles Out
Many 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 and our favorite bike gear have resulted in this in-depth comparative analysis. There is no doubt that any of these bike racks can perform dutifully. That 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.
Joshua Hutchens, Jeremy Benson, Curtis Smith, & Pat Donahue
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.