Biking has become more popular over the years. New trails open up regularly and you can easily find awesome locations online to take your bike for a spin. If you’ve ever tried taking your bicycle on a road trip, you know how hard it can get if you don’t have the proper equipment. That’s why getting a bike rack is an awesome idea.
These car accessories make loading up your bike onto the car a piece of cake. Not only that, but you can rest assured that everything will get to your destination in one piece. No damage done to your expensive bike or vehicle.
Today, we’re reviewing the best bike rack items of 2020. We’ll go over the pros and cons of each. Then, you’ll find a buying guide that will help you find the best bike rack for your needs. We’re sure you’ll feel much more confident about choosing the bike rack of your dreams on your own.
What Are Bike Racks Used For?
Bike racks, no matter what kind, are pretty self-explanatory. They help you transport bikes on a car. Not everyone has the room (or patience) to load up bikes into their car. What if you want to go on a long family road trip and take the bikes with you? This is the most useful invention that will get you there all in one piece.
Another thing to point out is that you should never transport unstable loads on your car. Strapping a bike to the roof of your car with cables, for example, could lead to an accident. Not to mention that, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles, it’s illegal to add unstable loads to a car or truck!
Different Types of Car Bike Racks
There are many kinds of racks for bikes out there. We’re even willing to bet there’s a rack for every kind of vehicle driven in the United States. Yup, that’s how diverse this product really is.
Hitch Mount Bike Rack
These may be the most popular rack style for bikes. Hitch mount bike racks attach to the hitch (or “ball”) at the back of your vehicle. You can then load up the bikes on top of the tray-like bicycle carrier attachment and secure them in place.
The most recent hitch mount racks can be folded up and out of the way when you’re not using them. This is particularly handy if you don’t want to frequently mount and dismount the rack.
Their only disadvantage is that they elongate the length of your vehicle. Thus, if you’re parking, you have to be mindful of the added cargo you have at the back.
Roof Bike Rack
Roof mount racks are also very popular and come in three types. The first is known as a complete rack system, meaning that you attach it to the bare roof of your vehicle. The second looks like a tray and you should mount it on your vehicle’s factory roof crossbars. The third and last type has suction cups to hold it in place.
No matter which one you choose, roof racks are incredibly useful. You can place your bike up there wheels-first, normally, or upside down. Either way, there are locking systems to keep it from falling off as you drive.
There are only two downsides to getting this rack, in our expert opinion. The first is that you’ll need some muscles to load it on top of your vehicle’s roof. The second is that, when you’re driving into a garage with a low ceiling, you will need to remember you still have the bikes up there. But these things aren’t really dealbreakers.
Trunk Mounted Rack
There are also trunk mounted racks. They attach to your vehicle using a system of straps and hooks. Together, they create enough tension to hold the rack (and the bikes) safely in place. These are typically the cheapest and most hassle-free options.
Since they’re the most temporary racks, they come with a fair amount of disadvantages. For starters, they don’t lock to the car, which puts your bikes more at risk of getting stolen. Secondly, when the rack is mounted you lose access to your vehicle’s trunk. It will also be harder to see through your rear-view mirror (which a backup camera should take care of). Lastly, if the bike shifts around while you’re driving, there’s a chance it can scratch your vehicle.
All that said, they’re still a great low-investment alternative to carrying your bikes inside your car. They may not be the best racks but they get the job done.
Obviously, carrying your bike in your truck bed is an option. But if you want to keep that brand-new expensive bike intact, you would do well getting a tailgate pad.
Installing them is a piece of cake: you simply drape it over the tailgate and place your bicycle in the truck bed with the front wheel hanging out. Then, you loop the security straps around the metal bar connecting the two bike wheels and that’s that.
The clear disadvantage is that tailgate pads don’t offer as much protection and support as propper racks. They also put your bike at a higher risk of being stolen. Yet, these pads are still a very solid way of driving several bikes around.
What Bike Rack to Buy?: Buying Guide
Now that we’ve shown you our favorite bike racks, it’s time for you to learn what features to be on the lookout for. After all, only you can answer the question “What bike rack do I need?” Different people use their racks for different things. The best bike rack you will ever find is the one that perfectly caters to your needs.
Type of Installation
Firstly, ask yourself, “Will a bike rack fit my car?” With all the different types that exist (hitch, roof, trunk, and pad), you need to find the one that works with your vehicle’s design. This is the first step in finding the best bike rack for you.
For example, if you drive a hatchback without a hitch, hitch mount racks and truck bed pads are out of the question for you. You’ll have to narrow down your search to roof or trunk racks.
Number of Bike Slots
How many bikes will you need to take with you on the go? Most bicycle rack companies make products that accommodate anywhere between two and four bikes at a time.
If you plan on taking your whole family camping and want to ride your bikes while you’re there, you should look for a spacious rack. Tailgate pads are the roomiest and they usually hold up to seven bikes in place at once.
Ease of Use
It’s also important to think of how easy it will be to use the rack you get. You don’t want one that’ll give you a headache every time you try to mount your bike on it. Simplicity always rules.
Some racks are more convenient than others. By that, we mean that putting them on your car and going about your day is much easier with some models than with others.
For example, getting to your vehicle’s trunk while a trunk mounted rack is installed is a huge pain. That isn’t a problem when your hitch rack allows you to angle down the bikes, freeing up your trunk.
Think of how much these things would affect you and keep that in mind. You may not find a perfect solution, but at least you’ll be aware of the problems you could run into.
Sturdiness and Stability
This is one of the most important things to look out for. You need to have a rack that’s stable and holds in place. The last thing you want is a swaying bike on a highway!
Sturdiness is another thing to take into consideration. You want to get a rack that will hold its shape for years and years to come. Thus, look for one made from heavy-duty materials that look durable.
Padded Security Points
In order to keep your bike pristine, you’ll need a rack with padded security points. This will ensure the security points don’t eat away your precious bike’s paint job.
The locking cables are the built-in devices that wrap around your bike to keep it in place. They can either be made from fabric, plastic, or metal. Invest in durable, sturdy locking cables to lower the chances of a thief stealing your bike.
Lastly, don’t forget to stay within budget. We’re firm believers you can get amazing bike racks for a car at low prices. Although we feature higher-end products, know that there’s a budget pick worth considering, too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are bike racks universal?
Bike carriers are not universal. Depending on what kind of vehicle you have, you’ll need a specific rack. For instance, if you have a pickup, you can’t expect a trunk-mounted rack to work.
Does your car have a hitch? What about roof crossbars? That is to say, you need to think of your vehicle’s design before committing to a purchase.
Can bike racks damage cars?
If you aren’t careful when installing the rack, yes, a rack for bikes could damage your car.
Putting too much cargo on a hitch mount rack will damage the hitch. Not mounting a roof rack correctly can make your bike slip off and fall on your vehicle’s roof. Your bike can swing forward and break the rearview window if you don’t ensure there is enough tension in the straps on a trunk mounted rack.
As you can tell, all racks can damage your car. That’s why you should follow the installation guide to a T.
Can bike racks be stolen?
Technically, thieves can always steal bike racks, as long as they have the right tools. They can unscrew the bolts keeping the rack in place and take off with them.
Some racks do come with a locking mechanism that attaches the rack to your vehicle. You can only open it with a key. It’s the best way to keep bikes safe when on the road.
Can a bike rack rest on glass?
This is usually a question that comes up when talking about trunk mounted racks. If you install them correctly and ensure the tension on the straps is correct, then you don’t have to worry about the rack resting on glass.
In these cases, the weight of the bike rests mostly on the lower portion of the rack, meaning the glass barely has any pressure applied to it.
Can a bike rack hold a wheelchair?
The answer to this question is that it really depends on the kind of rack you own. Some (most notoriously the ones made by Thule) can hold a wheelchair safely in place. But most cannot.
Can you put a bike rack on a rental car?
Yes, you can. None of the bike racks for bikes we have reviewed need you to drill any holes anywhere. They’re all installed using simple tools that cause no damage to a car’s frame. If you mount a bike carrier on a rental car, our guess is that no one will ever know.
Where to buy a bike rack?
All the racks we reviewed are available on Amazon. Is there a more convenient retailer out there? You’ll also find these items at Home Depot, bike shops, Walmart, Target, and other similar retail stores. Alternatively, you can order them directly from the brand’s website.