If you are a serious rider and want to bring your hobby with you across the country then you probably have anticipated buying a hitch mount bike rack.
Even if you are not one of those serious riders and merely have a family full of bicyclists there is still a reason to keep reading.
Trailer hitch bike racks are the best way to move all of your bicycles far distances to where you need them to be. Hitch mount bike racks offer a variety of benefits, not the least of which is superb and safe carrying capabilities.
What I cover in this article:
- What is a hitch bike rack
- Why hitch mount is better
- The different styles of hitch mount racks
- How to pick the right one for you
- Top picks for the best hitch mount bike racks.
What is a Hitch Bike Rack?
So a hitch bike rack is a device that you can attach to your car in order to lug around your bikes.
Typically these are fairly heavy devices that can handle anywhere from one to four bicycles. There is a few top of the line brands that set themselves apart from the rest and then a bunch of other options that sort of blend together.
Are hitch mount bike racks the only kind of bike rack available? Nope. You can also buy roof mounted, trunk mounted, or hatch mounted bike racks as well, but because of the disadvantages of the others, I favor the hitch mount, the exception being the Toyota Prius.
Why Choose a Hitch Bike Rack?
Hitch bike racks are a great option for riders because of a few key reasons.
Attaching or removing a hitch mounted rack is incredibly simple and faster than the other options. To install, simply slide the connecting point of the rack into hitch receiver on the car. Then secure the rack from sliding back out with the hitch pin or hitch lock and it’s installed. All finished with using the bike rack? Removing it when not needed is just as fast.
It’s the ultimate in convenience.
Hitch bike racks are an aerodynamic option.
Putting your bikes behind your vehicle, instead of on the top, will help prevent unnecessary drag on your car while you are driving. This helps maintain fuel economy and keeps you paying less at the pump.
Hitch racks are sturdy.
Compared to the other rear of the car racks, hitch bike racks attach more securely. They do not rely on tightened straps and clips to keep the rack on or to keep the bikes level. With hitch mount bicycle racks, steel not fiber adjustable straps keep it securely attached. No matter how much of the bike weight shifts to one side or the other or how bumpy the ride, the rack does not loosen or tilt. Your bikes stay balanced and firmly attached.
Less likely to cause damage.
Trunk and hatch bike racks are in tight physical contact with your car’s painted surface and tend to shift on longer drives. Usually, the only protection from the steel tube and your car is a foam tube. As the rack shifts, the foam can move down the tube and around the bend. Now you have tight metal on paint grinding away with great force and vibration as you drive down the road. I speak from experience as this happened to me and I ended up with deep grooves carved into the back of my hatchback.
Roof mounted racks also present a clearance danger that hitch racks do not. It’s an out of sight, out of mind issue. On a long drive, you can forget that your bikes are up there. Not paying attention the clearance on a drive thru or driving under low hanging tree limbs could severely damage the bike, the bike rack and even the roof of your car. Also with roof mounted racks, imagine a bike slipping out of your hands while loading or unloading it while it’s above the top of your car.
What Styles of Hitch Racks Are There?
If you think that a hitch bicycle rack may be the right option for you then you will need to further distinguish between different hitch options.
The two most popular hitch racks are the ‘Arm Support’ and ‘Tray Style’ mounts. Let’s look into which one might be right for you!
Arm Support Style Hitch Mounts
Arm support styles usually secure the bike by placing the bikes top tube of the frame over the racks arms and then securing it with clamps or straps.
Some models are able to swing out for easy loading and unloading of hatches and trunks while keeping the bikes and bike rack mounted. The disadvantage to the arm style is that if you are trying to just remove a single bike on a rack with multiple bikes, you may have to remove other bikes that are further from the vehicle first.
Tray Style Hitch Mounts
In the tray-style hitch mount, it supports you bike from the bottom. You set your wheels in the grooves or rings and it usually secures the bike in place by clamps over the top of the wheels or going through the bottom of the wheels. This style of hitch rack is popular because it will hold basically any style of bike regardless of frame geometry. Another reason it is popular is that other than touching the wheels or tires, little to no contact is on the bike itself. Plus with a tray style, you can often remove the bike closer to the vehicle without having to remove all others first.
How Can I Pick a Rack?
So now that you are finally committed to getting a hitch bike rack it is time to delve into the technical details. As you probably understand, not all bikes and cars are made equally. This can create a bit of a headache when trying to decide which rack to purchase.
You should be able to look in your car manual or on a dealership’s website to find out this information or simply measure it if you are not sure. Most receivers are either 1 1/4″ x 1 1/4″ or 2″ x 2″. If your hitch is this size then you shouldn’t have an issue as most bike racks are specified to those sizes. If you really find a bike rack that you like but your car does not have the correct size receiver, in most cases you can buy a hitch adapter to overcome the issue.
Do you have a rear mounted tire?
For many jeeps and sporty vehicles, there will be a mounted tire on the back of their vehicle. This tire gets in the way of the hitch and will cause you to need a longer shank in order for the bike to clear the distance.
My Top 3 Picks:
1. MaxWorks 70387 Black Hitch Mount Platform Style Bike Rack
MaxWorks has always made competent and affordable bike racks for bicycling enthusiasts everywhere. This model will run consumers less than $100 while also providing them one of the simplest and sturdiest racks on the market. The 70387 complies with our specifications listed above. Being that it fits into 1-1/4″ and 2″ receivers means that your vehicle, provided it has a rear hitch, will accommodate it. Foam padded hooks, a locking platform, and generous wheel space means that you should have plenty of room for your bicycle.
2. Allen Sports Premier Hitch Mounted Bike Carrier
This carrier is hitch mounted and suspended. You can carry up to 4 bikes at a time from the sturdy grips. The hitch receiver fits 2″ models only due to the size and weight involved. If you plan on filling all four carrying slots you need to make sure that your per-bike weight isn’t too much for your weight class. Allen Sports has added tie down cradles and quick-setting straps to secure, protect, and reduce wobbling while your bicycles are strapped in. A little pricier, this model is perfect for the family ready to ride together.
3. Thule Vertex 9029 4 Bike Hitch Rack
If you want something a little simpler with the option to handle multiple bikes then you should probably check out the Thule Vertex hitch track. The Thule Vertex fits perfectly into 1-1/4″ or 2″ receivers. The foldable arms can be stashed away when you aren’t hauling your bike around which will make for a sleeker driving experience. The arm design makes for easy loading for a range of bikes. This is Thules top-selling model, which holds 4 bikes. They also have models that hold 2, 3 and 5 bikes as well. The Vertex also has cradle cushions and reinforced straps to keep your bike from swinging, rattling, or banging into any of the other bikes on the rack. This is one of the top of the line models and it is priced as such. It is also available in a swing away model for easy hatch or trunk access.
There are a lot more great bike racks available but we touched upon the major ones. When you decide to buy a bike rack you are really buying a whole new style of life. This bike rack will give you the room to transport your bikes anywhere you please. That sort of freedom will lead you to hitting up trails, paths, and cities that you would never have biked before. Before purchasing a bike rack, be sure to consult our guide to brush up on your knowledge. Happy riding!