Best Bike Racks of 2021
|Price||$494.99 at Amazon|
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|$619.95 at REI|
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|$800 List||$549.00 at REI|
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|$399.00 at Amazon|
|Pros||Versatile, easy-to-use, great tilt system||Easy tilt release function, durable, fat bike compatible, tool-free installation||Carries up to six mountain bikes, 300-pound carrying capacity, no seatpost/handlebar interference||Lightweight, simple, foot pedal tilt mechanism||Durable, versatile|
|Cons||Cheap feeling, durability concerns, a little expensive||Hefty, pricey||Only works with bikes with suspension forks, works best on large vehicles, hard to move and store||Lacks versatility, expensive||Lacks refinement, some tire and wheel fitment issues|
|Bottom Line||A functional and versatile rack with some durability concerns||A thoughtful design makes this versatile rack incredibly user-friendly and we think its the best hitch mount rack available||A high-capacity bike rack that performs well within its niche, but lacks versatility||As the lightest hitch rack we tested, the Sherpa was a favorite for its good looks and simple design||The less refined sibling of the Dr. Tray; it gets the job done but is more difficult to use|
|Rating Categories||Inno Tire Hold||Thule T2 Pro XT||North Shore NSR-6||Kuat Sherpa 2.0||Yakima HoldUp|
|Ease Of EveryDay Use (20%)|
|Ease Of Removal And Storage (20%)|
|Ease Of Assembly (10%)|
|Specs||Inno Tire Hold||Thule T2 Pro XT||North Shore NSR-6||Kuat Sherpa 2.0||Yakima HoldUp|
|Style||Hitch (tray)||Hitch (tray)||Hitch (hanging)||Hitch (tray)||Hitch (tray)|
|Lock?||Locking hitch knob and security cables||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Weight||62 lbs 14 oz||51 lbs||68 lbs||32 lbs||49 lbs|
|Other Sizes Available?||Yes, 1 bike and 4 bike||Yes, 1.25" receiver and rack add-on for 2 additional bikes||Yes, 2 and 4 bike versions||Yes, 1.25" receiver||Yes, 1.25" receiver and rack add-on for 2 additional bikes|
|Cross Bar Compatibility||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Best Overall Bike Rack
Thule T2 Pro XT
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 fat bike enthusiasts a viable hitch mount option and compatibility with all sizes of tires and wheels. Thule has further enhanced this rack's overall ease of use by moving the tilt-release mechanism out to the end of the main support arm, 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 type of performance and user-friendliness this rack offers 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. These caveats aside, we think this is the best hitch mount rack on the market.
Read review: Thule T2 Pro XT
Best Overall Roof Rack
Kuat maintains the top spot on our podium for roof mount racks for the second year in a row with their Kuat Trio. True to its name, it'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 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.
Read review: Kuat Trio
Best Overall Trunk Rack
Thule Raceway Pro 2
The Thule Raceway Pro 2 takes the crown as our favorite trunk-mounted rack. Typically, this style of rack utilizes nylon straps to mount to the trunk. Thule beefed up the durability of this classic design by instead using rubber-coated steel cables, which have built-in, easy-to-adjust knobs that allow you to customize their length. Setting up the Raceway Pro 2 is easy with Thule's Fit Guide. Simply set it to the number designated for your compatible vehicle. The support arms are adjustable in both angle and lateral spread, which increases its ability to carry a variety of frame types and sizes. It is also the only trunk-mount in our test selection that comes standard with a retractable cable lock system for the bikes and similar locking cables to secure the rack to the vehicle.
Like all trunk-mounted models, the Raceway Pro 2 does have its limitations. If you have an oddly-shaped frame, it may be difficult (or in some cases, impossible) to mount your bike. Therefore, traditional frame shapes are best for this type of rack. You'll also have limited access to your trunk, particularly when there's a bike or two attached to your rack. Barring these issues, the Raceway Pro 2 is still a convenient and well-made trunk-mount option.
Read review: Thule Raceway Pro 2
Outstanding Value for a Hitch Rack
Although lower cost hitch racks can still be pretty expensive, we recently discovered a new hitch-mount rack that presents a real bargain: the RockyMounts MonoRail. It costs a significant amount less than the highest priced and highest-rated competitor 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 it 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 that secures both the rack and the bikes it carries.
The MonoRail appears very well made with a sturdy metal receiver arm, main support arm, and bike trays. There is a fair amount of plastic in its construction, however, including both the folding front wheel and pivoting rear wheel trays, which could pose durability issues if used carelessly. It also employs a standard threaded hitch pin to attach the rack to 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 Trunk Rack on a Tight Budget
Allen Deluxe 2-Bike Trunk Carrier
The Allen Deluxe 2-Bike is an impressively inexpensive trunk mount rack. Its design is quite basic, but this model fits on a huge number of cars and SUVs and can support two bikes and up to 70 lbs of weight. It comes fully assembled with only one simple step needed 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. 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 won't 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 affordable trunk mount rack.
Read review: Allen Deluxe 2-Bike Trunk Carrier
Best for Adjustability
Yakima Dr. Tray
Yakima's Dr. Tray is the best hitch mount tray rack from this highly-regarded brand. This rack has some innovative design features that we appreciate. In an effort to eliminate bike to bike contact, the trays are adjustable via tool-free clamps and can move forward, backward, and laterally. This versatile rack is also one of the lightest racks of its kind.
Yakima makes an EZ+1 accessory, which increases the Dr. Tray's capacity to 3 bikes. Since we last tested this rack, there have been some updates that apparently address some gripes we had with the previous model, specifically in regards to the tray length and release mechanism that tended to stick. Even without these updates, this rack thoroughly impressed and was a tester favorite for its lighter weight, versatility, and intuitive adjustability.
Read review: Yakima Dr. Tray
Best for High Capacity
North Shore NSR-6
If you need to haul around a whole lot of bikes, the North Shore NSR-6 is the obvious choice. This rack can carry six, yes six, bikes, using a vertical/hanging orientation. This is a slick rack suited for larger SUVs or pickup trucks. North Shore did an excellent job designing this product to eliminate virtually all interference between bicycles. There is no need to worry about handlebars bumping into saddles or a dropper seat post. Ground clearance is excellent too, which makes it a great choice for shuttle laps. It can carry a chunky 360-pounds of bicycles. That means you can load this thing up with downhill or electric mountain bikes and with no need to worry about maxing it out. The sturdy construction is all metal, and it feels like it's built to last.
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 for the gravity mountain bike crowd. Enduro and downhill mountain bikers will be stoked, but roadies or folks with hybrid bikes are out of luck because this rack only works with mountain bikes with suspension forks. BMX, road, gravel, and rigid hybrid bikes will not fit. In addition, shorter riders may have a hard time loading this rack.
Read review: North Shore NSR-6
Best 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.
Of course, 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. However, we don't believe the Backstage is entirely perfect. The tray clearance from the vehicle is somewhat cramped, so bikes with 800mm bars need to be placed in the outside tray, and the rack itself can be cumbersome due to its weight and size. Despite its imperfections, we still think this is the best swing-away rack.
Read review: RockyMounts BackStage
Best for Really Expensive Bikes
The Thule UpRide is a high-quality bike rack that has a lot going for it. For those who are used to more traditional roof-mounted bike racks, the UpRide may seem like an odd design. There is no contact with the frame or the fork of the bicycle. The bike is secured by two counteracting cradles, or hoops, that squeeze the front wheel from both directions. With this design, the hold is exceptionally secure and there is little risk of the bike flying off your roof. Perhaps more importantly, the absence of frame or fork contact makes this an excellent choice for riders who take pride in a clean, scuff-free bicycle. 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, and your bicycle is certainly safe, the design feels a little over-engineered. Though we appreciate the desire to think outside the box and come up with a new approach to the roof-mounted bike rack, the loading process seems to be unnecessarily complicated. If you're carrying bikes with different wheel sizes, you need to adjust the rack to the appropriate wheel size before loading. This is a hassle and only further detracts from user-friendliness. Given how involved the loading process is, this rack isn't a great option for shorter riders or taller vehicles because loading is definitely a two-hand endeavor. Heavier bikes can be problematic as well. Nobody wants a 45-pound bike tipping over on their head or vehicle roof.
Read review: Thule UpRide
Best for Easy Installation and Removal
We recommend the Yakima High Road for anyone who knows they will need to remove their rack from their vehicle frequently. This roof-mounted option is mega easy to install and remove, requiring no tools — simply flip a level, tighten a thumb roller, and 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 High Road 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 High Road
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 19-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 great at evaluating durability.
Bike racks were an easy product to test. We loaded a huge variety of bicycles on each rack as frequently as possible. We used each rack on multiple vehicles while driving on smooth highways, as well as bumpy dirt roads. We ranked these racks of five metrics to determine the final score for each product. These metrics are ease of everyday use, ease of removal and storage, security, durability, and ease of installation.
Related: How We Tested Bike Racks
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 performance based on the style of vehicle. We paid attention to the obvious characteristics and nitty-gritty details to rate these bikes 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 shred. We feel that ease of use breaks down to two principle things: how easy it is to load bikes, and whether the rack interferes with access to your vehicle. (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 the T2 Pro XT couldn't be easier with its low loading height and well-designed front wheel clamps that help take the awkwardness out of balancing a bike while trying to place it in the rack. Other models we tested, like the 1 Up Quick Rack, require a more choreographed approach to bike loading to 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 on 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.
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 and its 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. The problem with the UpRide is that it's not very user-friendly. The loading and unloading process is clunky and quite involved, so the Ease of Everyday Use metric hit this rack quite hard. Loading heavier bikes on mid-large sized vehicles is also quite difficult, especially for shorter riders. Yes, this rack functions well, but its design makes it inherently hard to use.
The Thule Raceway Pro 2 topped the charts for trunk-mounted racks in ease of use. Thule has intelligently employed a ratcheting dial system to take up slack in the steel attachment cables. This is the only trunk rack we tried that uses rubber-coated steel cables, which makes mounting easy. Their unique Fit Dial system makes it simple to attain the perfect fit for your vehicle. It takes the guesswork out of the process by listing the appropriate dial measurements for almost all vehicle models. It also has support arms that are laterally adjustable to let you dial in the fit to your bike's frame.
Ease of Removal and Storage
It sure would be nice if we could leave our bike racks on our vehicles all 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. How easy that process is depends on a variety of factors, including a rack's size, weight, and the method of attachment.
When evaluating ease of removal and storage, one bike rack scored a perfect 10. The Yakima HighRoad is frighteningly easy to remove (or install) on your vehicle. A few things are going on here. First, the removal (and installation) is completely tool-free. There are no cheap wrenches or funky integrated tools in this rack. Everything can be done with your fingers and fingers alone. Removing this rack is as simple as flipping a switch on three different contact points on the rack. Use your thumbs to loosen a screw, and then you can unhitch the straps that are securing the rack to the vehicle. It's as simple as that. This can easily be achieved in under three minutes once you understand the process. Once you have it really dialed, it can be done significantly quicker. 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.
The Yakima Dr. Tray and Thule Upride were two other notable racks that scored well in this metric.
The two vertically-oriented hitch racks scored exceptionally poorly in this metric. You may be wondering, why? Well, the answer is simple: these racks are gigantic and very, very, heavy. The North Shore rack tips the scales at a whopping 70 pounds while the Dr. Tray is closer to 80 pounds. This is a good bit of weight, and that makes them difficult 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.
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. Due to the more permanent nature of this rack style, 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 the other roof mount racks require tools and a little bit of time to install and remove.
At the front of the Yakima FrontLoader, you turn a knob until the clamping jaws make firm contact with the crossbar, while a clamp with another tensioning knob takes care of the rear crossbar attachment. Other models in our test selection, such as the Kuat Trio, rely on a U-bolt system that requires hex keys to take on and off. Regarding storage, none of the roof racks we tested fold up, but they are mostly long and skinny, so you can stand them up in a corner or lay them on the floor when they're not in use.
A typical advantage of trunk-mount racks is that they are quite easy to remove from your vehicle, and they usually take up less space when stored. Our top-rated trunk mount rack, the Thule Raceway Pro, packs up small, and with their Fit Dial system and ratcheting cables, it was the easiest to mount and remove from a vehicle. Likewise, the Allen Deluxe 2-Bike weighs just 7 lbs and 9 oz and collapses down very small for storage when not in use.
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 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, but its tray adjustments are somewhat limited compared to the Dr. Tray. Ratcheting arms that clamp down on the front wheel of the bike are used by most of the hitch mounted tray style racks we tested, which eliminates frame contact and boosts 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. This is a big deal. 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.
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 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. We removed it from the box, folded the trays to their open position, and it is ready to mount on our vehicle and use. From an ease of assembly standpoint, it couldn't get any better 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 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 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, a second set of hands was helpful.
Roof Mount Racks
Our highest scoring roof racks posted a perfect 10 in this metric. The Yakima High Road knocked it out of the park. This rack arrived completely assembled and had a ridiculously easy, tool-free installation. The Thule UpRide also scored perfectly. It came out of the box completely assembled and was insanely easy to put on a vehicle.
Trunk Mount Racks
Our top trunk-mounted rack, the Thule Raceway Pro 2, arrived fully assembled. Similarly, the Saris Bones 2-Bike and the Allen Deluxe 2-Bike were ready to use straight out of the box.
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 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.
Roof Mount Racks
Of the roof-mounted racks we tested, the most secure use a cable lock to attach the rear wheel, as well as having the ability to lock the fork mount. Both the Kuat Trio and the RockyMount SwitchHitter feature this more secure design. Lower scoring racks in our tests only allow the fork mount to be locked and leave the rear wheel unsecured and 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 only trunk-mounted model we tested with any security features is the Thule Raceway Pro. It 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 measures on the Raceway Pro are significant compared to the other trunk-mount racks in our test selection.
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.
Several months of extensive testing resulted in this in-depth comparative analysis. Yes, all of these bike racks could work on your car, truck, or SUV, but there is no doubt that some designs are superior. Our best advice is to carefully consider your vehicle type, your bicycle type, and where you live when making a purchase decision. The culmination of these factors should help steer you to the best rack.
— Jeremy Benson, Curtis Smith, & Pat Donahue