Types of Bike Racks

Types of Bike Racks

“DSC_0263”by sacratomato_hr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

There are several different types of bike racks available on the market. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages which you should consider before purchasing a bike rack.

The 5 different types of bike racks are:

  1. Hitch-Mount Bike Racks
  2. Trunk-Mount Bike Racks
  3. Roof-Mount Bike Racks
  4. Spare Tire Bike Racks
  5. Truck Bed Bike Racks

This article discusses the pros and cons of each type of bike rack and what scenarios they are best used for.


Hitch-Mount Bike Racks

A hitch-mount bike rack attaches to the hitch on the rear of a car. They come in two main styles, hanging and platform, but have many variations.

Hanging style bike racks suspend the bikes by the frame. They weigh less than platform style bike racks and are typically less expensive. They often require additional straps to prevent the bikes from swaying. They may require an adapter bar for some bikes, such as women’s bikes.

Platform style bike racks support the bikes from the bottom. Although they can be more expensive than hanging style racks, they prevent swaying and can hold many different types of bikes. They can also be easier to unload than hanging-style bike racks.

Pros Cons
  • Simple to install
  • Easy to load/unload
  • Some models provide trunk/hatch access
  • Comes in many different styles
  • High carrying capacity
  • Fits a wide variety of vehicles
  • Great for frequent use
  • Requires a hitch
  • Can be expensive
  • Cheaper models may block the trunk/hatch
  • Bikes may need extra tie-downs

Should I Buy a Hitch-Mount Bike Rack?

A hitch-mount bike rack is best if you’re going to be using it a lot. It is great for vehicles with a hitch already installed and if you need a high bike capacity. It’s also great for long road trips because of their stability and access to the rear cargo door on certain bike rack models.

Shop for hitch-mount bike racks on Amazon.


Trunk-Mount Bike Racks

A trunk-mount bike rack attaches to the rear trunk or hatch of your car. It is secured with straps and has foam contact points that sit on the surface of the car. The bikes are attached by the frame and strapped in to prevent sliding and swaying.

They are inexpensive and best for occasional use, especially for shorter trips. This is a popular option for cars without a hitch or roof rack. They work best when installed and secured properly.

Recommended: Best Trunk-Mount Bike Racks (2020)

Pros Cons
  • Inexpensive
  • Fits most cars
  • Doesn’t require a hitch
  • Less stable and secure
  • Lower capacity than hitch-mount racks
  • May not fit some bike frame styles
  • Can be difficult to install properly
  • May damage your vehicle’s paint

Should I Buy a Trunk-Mount Bike Rack?

A trunk-mount bike rack is best if you won’t be using it frequently, but just need a way to transport bikes on occasion. It’s best for short trips, since the straps may become loosened over long trips.

It’s also best for less frequent use because they are inexpensive. A high-quality, expensive trunk-mount rack may be a good solution for vehicles without a hitch that wish to use the rack frequently.

Shop for trunk-mount bike racks on Amazon.


Roof-Mount Bike Racks

A roof-mount bike rack attaches to crossbars on top of your car to hold the bike securely. They come in three main styles: fork-mount, wheel-mount, and frame-mount.

Fork-mount racks require the front wheel to be removed from the bike. The fork (where the wheel attaches to the frame) is used to hold the bike securely. This style reduces the weight of the bike, making it easier to lift onto the roof and improves clearance of the car.

Wheel-mount racks hold the bike securely using the wheel. This means you won’t need to remove the front wheel to mount it. It also won’t need to be attached to the frame.

Frame-mount racks (pictured above) use an arm to secure the bike by the frame. This style holds most types of bikes but should not be used for bikes with delicate frames.

Pros Cons
  • Won’t interfere with trunk/hatch access
  • Fits many different types of bikes
  • Comes in various styles
  • Very stable and secure
  • Rack can be left installed when not in use
  • Bikes must be lifted onto the roof
  • Raises clearance of the vehicle
  • Less aerodynamic (reduces gas mileage)

Should I Buy a Roof-Mount Bike Rack?

A roof-mount bike rack is best if you want easy access to the rear of the car without spending a lot on a foldable rack. It’s also great if you only have 1 or 2 bikes to transport. This type of bike rack is ideal for frequent use since it doesn’t need to be removed when not in use. This rack works great if you can easily lift bikes onto the roof.

Shop for roof-mount bike racks on Amazon.


Spare Tire Bike Racks

A spare tire bike rack integrates a rear-mounted spare tire to hold and transport bikes. The bikes hang from a support arm and are strapped in. The rack can be bolted on for maximum sturdiness or strapped on for quick and easy use.

Since there are many different styles and dimensions of spare tires, you must confirm that the rack is compatible with your car by reading the product details and fit guide for the specific bike rack.

Pros Cons
  • Doesn’t requre a hitch
  • Fits most bikes
  • Allows you to tow while using a bike rack
  • Very sturdy when using bolt-on method
  • Low capacity
  • Bikes must be strapped down
  • Can be difficult to find a compatible rack for some vehicles

Should I Buy a Spare Tire Bike Rack?

A spare tire bike rack should only be used for vehicles with a rear mounted spare tire, like a Jeep. It’s great if you don’t have a hitch or need to use the hitch for towing while still using a bike rack. It’s provides great stability if bolted on, which is ideal for off-roading.

Shop for spare tire bike racks on Amazon.


Truck Bed Bike Racks

A truck bed bike rack attaches to the bed of a pickup truck to hold bikes. There are a couple different styles to choose from depending on your situation. Some truck bed racks attach to the bed rails on the truck to hold several bikes, although this takes up a lot of space.

If you’re trying to save space, you can use a tailgate bike carrier that allows you to mount bikes on top of the tailgate. This saves space and can sometimes hold up to 7 bikes.

Pros Cons
  • Easy to install and use
  • Very high capacity (especially for tailgate style carriers)
  • Secure and stable
  • Easy to access bikes
  • Takes up a lot of space

Should I Buy a Truck Bed Bike Rack?

A trunk bed bike rack is best if you have space to use in the bed of the trunk or if you need to transport a large number of bikes. They’re great if you want a simple and quick installation. Although, if you need more room in the bed of your truck, this type of bike rack may not be for you.

Shop for truck bed bike racks on Amazon.


How Much Do Bike Racks Cost?

Bike racks prices vary depending on the mounting style, design, features, quality, and more. The most common types of bike racks can cost anywhere from $25 to $1,000.

Read the full article: How Much Do Bike Racks Cost?

Cheaper bike racks are made of lower quality materials and have less features. Some ultra-cheap bike racks often lack stability and safety, therefore should be avoided. They may also have a low carrying capacity.

More expensive bike racks are made of strong, high-quality materials and can come with various features. If you will be using a bike rack frequently, it’s worth spending the extra money to buy a safe, high-quality bike rack. Higher-priced bike racks may feature anti-sway devices or locking systems which can be very useful.


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