Considering a hitch bike rack? With so many variables to consider, selecting the right rack can be a difficult job. Identifying what works best for your bikes is only the first step. How will it interact with your vehicle, how straightforward will it be to use, store, and how secure will it be? We've invested years addressing these and other questions. Our team of bike enthusiasts tested 15 of the most common hitch racks on our cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs. We've hauled every type of bike, taken them on epic road trips, bumpy trail-finding missions, and driven them around town. We made notes on how easy or difficult it was to use them, what felt intuitive, and how well they worked, steadfast in our quest to discover the best hitch rack.We've been testing and publishing detailed bike reviews for many years. From trail mountain bikes to the top bike helmets, we have recommendations on the bike gear you need to help improve your ride. Once you're done riding, we have garage bike storage suggestions to help you stay organized, as well as a full review of the top-rated bike racks that covers all styles of racks.
The 7 Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2023
|Price||$1,389 at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
|$638.95 at Evo|
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|$599.19 at REI|
Compare at 4 sellers
|$399.96 at Backcountry|
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|$449.99 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Pros||No frame contact, easy loading/unloading of bikes, great security features, integrated brake lights, wide range of bike fit||Easy tilt release function, durable, fat bike compatible, tool-free installation||Sturdy and stable, high weight capacity, optional ramp for loading heavy e-bikes, security features||Reasonably priced, highly versatile, solid construction, user-friendly tilt release, comes with locks||Low loading height, easy tray adjustment, lightweight, tool free removal|
|Cons||Very expensive||Hefty, pricey||Expensive, heavy and bulky||Sits slightly closer to vehicle than some, some assembly required||High price, sticky tilt release handle, cable locks are difficult to use, questionable durability|
|Bottom Line||If you're willing to spend top dollar for the best, this model should be at the top of your list||Impressively easy to use and highly versatile, we think this is the best hitch-mount rack on the market||This heavy-duty hitch rack can handle any bike in your stable and is great for transporting heavy e-bikes with the optional loading ramp||A versatile hitch-mount rack that provides a high price to performance ratio||A lightweight hitch rack with unrivaled adjustability|
|Rating Categories||Kuat Piston Pro X||Thule T2 Pro XTR||Yakima StageTwo||RockyMounts MonoRail||Yakima Dr. Tray|
|Ease of EveryDay Use (20%)|
|Ease of Removal and Storage (20%)|
|Ease of Assembly (10%)|
|Specs||Kuat Piston Pro X||Thule T2 Pro XTR||Yakima StageTwo||RockyMounts MonoRail||Yakima Dr. Tray|
|Bike Capacity||2 (Up to 4 with add-on)||2 (Up to 4 with add-on)||2 (Up to 4 with add-on)||2 (Up to 3 with add-on)||2 (Up to 3 with add-on)|
|Lock?||Locking hitch pin, security allen cam, and 12mm security cable||Yes||Locking hitch knob and security cables||Yes||Yes|
|Rack Weight||63 lbs 11 oz||51 lbs||63 lbs 8 oz||44 lbs 2 oz||34 lbs|
|Max Weight Per Bike||67 lbs (42 lbs RV) - dedicated 2" receiver version only, 60 lbs per bike - 1.25" receiver version||60 lbs||70 lbs (60 lbs RV and 42 lbs Off-Road rated)||60 lbs||40 lbs|
|Min/Max Wheel Size||18" to 29"||20" to 29"||20" to 29"||20" to 29"||26" to 29"|
|Max Wheelbase||53" or 1,346mm||50" or 1,270mm||52" or 1,320mm||50" or 1,270mm||48" or 1,219mm|
|Max Tire Width||5"||5"||3.25" (up to 5" with fat bike kit)||5"||4.8"|
|Other Sizes Available?||Comes in 1.25" and 2" receiver sizes, 1 and 2 bike add-ons sold separately||Yes, 1.25" receiver and rack add-on for 2 additional bikes||Comes in 1.25" and 2" receiver sizes, 2 bike add-on sold separately||Yes, 1.25" reciever, single bike add-on sold separately||Yes, 1.25" receiver and rack add-on for 1 additional bike|
|Cross Bar Compatibility||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Best Overall Hitch Bike Rack
Thule T2 Pro XTR
The Thule T2 Pro XT is our favorite hitch-mounted rack. 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.
The T2 Pro XT isn't cheap, it's also large and heavy, making it a cumbersome rack to move around or store. The updated version of this rack Thule T2 Pro XTR is almost identical except for two small wheels that can be used to move the rack around in storage. We think this is one of the best hitch mount racks you can buy. The performance and user-friendliness offered by this rack make it feel like a great value.
Read more: Thule T2 Pro XT review
Best High End Hitch Bike Rack
Kuat Piston Pro X
Kuat went all out in building the Piston Pro X, and it's brilliant. While very expensive, you get a high-performance rack with features and technology that no other racks currently have. This tire-hold rack clamps the bike securely by the tires with no frame or rim contact with user-friendly piston-actuated ratcheting tire arms. The FastFit wheel chock system makes it possible to quickly fit bikes with wheels between 18" and 29" and tires up to 5 inches wide. The 67lb per bike weight limit means it can carry just about any e-bike on the market. Slick security features like a locking stainless steel hitch pin, integrated locking tool storage, and a flexible 12mm cable lock help keep the rack and bikes safe. Integrated LED lights help keep you safe by putting your brake lights on the back of the rack instead of being obscured by the bikes you're hauling. Durable powder coating, 99% metal construction, and Kashima-coated stanchions strive to make this rack pass the test of time.
The Piston Pro X is not only expensive, but it is also quite large and hefty, making it difficult to move or store. Nonetheless, we believe this is the absolute best hitch rack money can buy. This rack's safety, security, and features may just make it worth the cost. Make sure you have the required 4-pin electrical connector to use the integrated brake lights or you'll end up needing to purchase an adapter as well.
Read more: Kuat Piston Pro X review
Best Bang for the Buck Hitch Rack
Even lower-cost hitch racks can still be pretty expensive, but we feel the RockyMounts MonoRail is an excellent value. It costs significantly 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 tread. 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 a hitch pin lock that secures both the rack and the bikes it carries.
The MonoRail is quite well made with a sturdy metal receiver arm, main support arm, and bike trays. There is, however, a fair amount of plastic in its construction, including both the folding front wheel and pivoting rear wheel trays, which could pose long-term durability issues. It also employs a standard threaded hitch pin to attach the rack to the receiver on your vehicle. Although this works just fine, it's far less user-friendly than the tool-free tightening and locking designs found with some of the competition. Regardless, the MonoRail is an excellent rack that performs above its asking price.
Read more: RockyMounts MonoRail review
Best Hitch Rack for Heavy Bikes
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 does carry a weight penalty. This rack weighs 63.5 pounds, so it isn't the easiest rack to move around off the vehicle. It is also quite large and occupies 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 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.
Read more: Yakima StageTwo review
Best No Frills, Durable Rack
1Up USA 2" Heavy Duty Double
The 1Up USA Heavy Duty Double is a delightfully simple hitch mounted rack. 1Up has been steadily gaining fans thanks to the winning combination of durability and design. This model is a heavy-duty tray-style hitch mount rack built in the United States. The utilitarian design includes two tire clamps as opposed to the single clamp design found on the majority of other hitch racks we reviewed. The all-aluminum structure ensures long term durability and solid performance. We found this rack moderately heavy despite its all aluminum structure. The wheel trays fold to decrease its footprint for convenient storage. The design isn't as user-friendly as other racks tested and its lack of security features affected its score. Overall, the 1UP is a sturdy, well-made rack with a minimalist appearance, but its lack of adjustability and a difficult-to-use tilt mechanism detract from its overall rating.
The 1Up sells direct from the company's website for $650 and that seems like a good value should it be as durable and future proof as it appears. Fat bikers will need to purchase wheel adapters and since our review of this rack, 1Up has started to include a locking hitch pin with the rack.
Read more: 1Up USA 2" Heavy Duty Double review
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 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 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 on 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 more: North Shore NSR-6 review
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 the BackStage platform hitch rack that can swing out of the way and is made to meet the specific needs of the modern van-dwelling nomad or anyone who wants easier access to the rear of their vehicle. All other hitch-mounted racks that we tested interfere with the use of a van's rear doors, even when tilted down. While the Backstage has an impressive tilt mechanism that is accessed at the rear of the rack, the show-stopping feature is the arm that pivots 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 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.
Read more: RockyMounts BackStage review
Why You Should Trust Us
We've been real-world testing bike racks for the past seven years. Each year we research and buy the latest, greatest, and most intriguing racks to put through our rigorous side-by-side full comparisons. These aren't weekend warrior excursions, these racks are used by our full-time bike testers, employed in shuttle runs, sent on rescue missions and literally deployed daily. We put these on cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs, we haul every kind of bike they're intended to haul, and a few that are questionable. We take them on long trips, off-roading, and use them from snow melt until snowfall and even a little bit in between. We keep them on our vehicles folded up to see how well they interact with our doors, tailgates, and hatchbacks. Finally, we prop them up in our garages to see how well they store and inspect their connections and mechanical bits to understand how they wear. As we test, we take notes constantly to determine which products excel in which areas and how that might benefit a particular user group.We test hitch racks using the following six performance metrics:
- Ease of Everyday Use (20% of overall 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 an important purpose in transporting your beloved bike from point A to point B. You can spend quite a bit of money on a bike rack with some price tags approaching the value of a bicycle. Although we don't score products based on price, we know value is important. When you swipe that credit card at the bike shop or punch the digits into your favorite website, you want to feel like you are getting a solid bang for your proverbial buck.
Of all the hitch racks tested 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 those that don't mind paying for the best, who can buy and appreciate the nuances of fine gear, look no further than the Kuat Piston Pro X. With exceptional ergonomics, built-in brake lights, and solid security features, you'll be hard-pressed to find a nicer bike transport experience.
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. Hitch racks typically provide some level of interference with vehicle access. Some manufacturers have a swing-away or drop-down option and those conveniences are considered in our scoring of this metric.
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? 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 executed.
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 2 and Yakima OnRamp have 60+ lb per bike weight limits, and both come with 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 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. 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, and, in our opinion, is a much sturdier option with a simpler loading process and more secure bike hold than the above-mentioned racks. Kuat has also addressed this issue by offering aftermarket ramps that work with any of their NV or Piston racks. Adding a ramp to your existing rack is a cost-effective way to make loading heavy bikes much easier provided it has the carrying capacity.
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.
While hitch-mounted racks are generally heavy and cumbersome to move around, their benefits and ease of use once mounted are abundant. Despite their weight and size, many of the higher-end models, like the Yakima StageTwo, 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 counterclockwise, 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. Likewise, the 1Up Heavy Duty Quik Rack folds down smaller than other similar racks for storage.
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, Rocky Mounts MonoRail, Yakima StageTwo, and Kuat Piston Pro X 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 vertical-style racks, such as the Yakima HangOver 6 and North Shore NSR-6, are trendy amongst the mountain bike crowd. Yes, you can load these 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. 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 means that it is not capable of transporting electric mountain bikes or even some 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. The Yakima StageTwo is our favorite model for heavy bikes with a 70-pound per tray weight limit and the optional loading ramp (sold separately).
Unfortunately, bike theft is a problem in today's world, and expensive bikes attached to unattended vehicles can be enticing targets. Bike racks range in security from none to integrated locks that secure the rack to your car and the bikes to the rack. A determined thief, with the proper tools and enough time, can compromise even the most secure bike rack.
In addition to the features included with each rack, we suggest purchasing an aftermarket bike lock to add an extra layer of security. Another factor to consider is the value of the bike racks themselves, so use a locking hitch pin to prevent the rack, with or without bikes, from being taken.
It's our hope that if you've made it this far in our article, you've created some opinions of your own and you'll find the selection of a hitch rack a little less daunting. Hopefully, you'll also understand that we couldn't possibly test every vehicle with every rack but seeing some of the issues we raised will give you a good idea of what to look out for when outfitting your vehicle. Finally, we hope that our testing metrics and process will allow you to select a rack that works for your needs regardless of how it scored in our tests.
— Joshua Hutchens
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