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How to Choose a Bike Rack: A Simple Guide

Do you live in a crowded area and cannot ride your bike to school or work? Do you need to take your bike to a risk-free location to be able to ride without worry? Fitting a bike inside the car can be quite a struggle. This is why bike racks exist.

You can transport your bike using bike racks while saving space inside your vehicle. Read on to learn more about how to choose a bike rack.

How to Choose a Bike Rack

Bike racks offer a practical, safe, and simple solution for moving your bike(s) to those lovely country roads, peaceful bike pathways, or secret forest trails you have longed to explore. However, picking the right bike rack can be a complicated process. In this article, we’ll discuss what the different types of bike racks are and how to choose a bike rack that is perfect for you.

Types of Bike Racks

There are numerous bike racks for cars, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The two main ways car racks differ from one another are how they attach to your vehicle and support your bicycle. Here are some of them.

Tray or Platform Style Hitch Bike Racks


Tray or platform-style hitch bike racks are practical and effective, which makes them among the most popular. The advantages of these hitch bike racks are their ease of loading, the fact that you don’t have to raise your bike over your head, and they do not significantly impact your fuel economy.

Look closely at the particular model you want because some restrictions apply to the size of wheels that fit in tray bike racks. Though some variants can hold up to four bikes or just one, tray-style racks typically hold two bikes.

  • The ease of loading
  • Little difference in petrol mileage
  • No frame contact or rubbing
  • It needs a trailer hitch
  • Not all wheel sizes and widths can fit.

Rooftop Mounted Bike Racks

Compared to other racks, rooftop-mounted bike racks are less pricy. It is one bike rack you can use without a trailer hitch. Additionally, two designs are available: upright bike roof racks and fork mount rooftop racks; both require you to remove your front wheel.

This adds a step to your routine and requires space inside the vehicle for your wheel. Due to the drag your bike or bikes produce, rooftop-mounted bike racks typically have the most impact on your fuel economy.

  • Reasonable price
  • No need for a trailer hitch
  • Works on sedans and other vehicles with low ground level
  • The front wheel must be removed and kept inside the vehicle.
  • You must raise your bike overhead.
  • Carries just one bike
  • Greatest influence on gas mileage

Pickup Truck Tailgate Pad Bike Racks


Pickup trucks are an excellent choice for moving bikes. However, your bikes could get damaged if you leave them hanging free in the back of the truck. For that reason, we suggest using a tailgate pad. For a safe ride and maximum capacity, tailgate pads allow you to hang the front wheel of your bike over the (covered) tailgate.

Adult-sized mountain bikes work best with tailgate pads; road cycles with high head tube angles will also work, but they won’t fit as comfortably in the truck bed.

  • Relatively cheap
  • High capacity
  • Secure
  • Need a pickup truck
  • Pad can rub on the frame

Vertical Hanging Bike Racks

Vertical hanging bike racks originated from mountain bikes, but they are now offered in designs that may be used with any bike. Some of these racks support the front wheel by latching onto the suspension forks, while others include a tray.

One of the most adaptable racks available, the vertical hanging racks with a tray can hold almost any wheel size. These racks are excellent for transporting many bikes.

  • Minimal effect on fuel economy
  • A large capacity
  • Place bikes closer to the vehicle than with high-capacity tray racks
  • Only work with suspension forks
  • Expensive

Hatchback, Sedan, and Trunk Bike Racks

Rather than requiring a trailer hitch, trunk bike racks are adjustable racks that attach to the trunk of your car. These racks may be removed easily when not in use and are among the least priced options. Most of these racks hold bikes from the top tube.

Because mountain bike frames are distinctly designed, it is challenging to transport them with these kinds of racks. Because there is no way to lock your bike down with these racks, it is crucial to set them up appropriately.

  • Affordable
  • Simple to remove from a vehicle
  • Can be adapted to a wide range of vehicles
  • Not as safe as other rack models
  • Mountain bikes with strange shapes frames do not fit

Horizontal Arm Hitch Racks

These racks are excellent for transporting classic bicycle frames with a flat top tube. They may also be attached to a trailer hitch, including horizontal arms that hang bikes by their top tubes. They frequently accommodate enough bikes for an entire family and can swing out to access the trunk.

They cannot, however, transport mountain bikes or other bikes, such as cruisers, with unusually shaped frames. Additionally, because these racks contact the frame, there is a chance of rubbing and scratching.

  • High capacity
  • Can fit kids’ bikes
  • Can’t fit mountain bikes, or unusual frame shapes
  • Contacts frame

Other Factors You Should Consider When Choosing a Bike Car Rack

There are also some factors that you should consider before you buy a bike car rack such as the type of car you drive, the number of bikes you need to transport, frame contact, ease of loading and unloading, security and locks, and trunk access.

The Type of Car You Drive

Whatever car you drive- sedan, pickup truck, or SUV-you must purchase a bike rack that is tailored to your particular vehicle. You can use vehicle fit guides provided by the major car rack manufacturers to figure out which racks are best for your specific situation.

The Number of Bikes You Want to Transport


When choosing a bike rack, you need to consider two essential factors about your bike. The flexibility required of the bike rack depends on its weight and size. Almost all bike racks specify the maximum bike weight in their guidelines to protect you, your car, your bike, and everyone else on the road.

Additionally, regardless of the model, every bike rack has a different number of cradles that can only hold one bike at a time. So, once you decide the number of bikes you need to transport, think about a rack that can handle the task.

Frame Contact

While some bike owners do not mind if their bike’s frame is in contact with the bike rack, others might not feel comfortable with that because it may rub and damage the paint, or even the frame of your bike. As a result, bike racks accommodate both viewpoints: those that transport bicycles by their wheels and those that hang bicycles by their frames (hanging or mast-style) on vehicle racks (platform or tray-style).

Ease of Loading and Unloading


One of the most crucial features of any bike rack is the ease of loading and unloading. This determines whether you take your bikes or leave them in the garage. Consider how high you’ll have to lift the bike to load it onto the car.

Some riders may find it quite challenging to lift their bikes above their heads when using roof racks. The simplest bike racks to load and unload are those with a tray design.

Security and Locks

It is well known that cycling can be a costly activity. The costs add up for the bike, the rack, and the other equipment. Once you decide on the bike rack, you will want to ensure that both the bike and bike racks are secured.

Examine the locking mechanisms used to secure the bikes on the rack and the rack to the car. Not all truck racks lack the dual security of locking bikes to the rack and the rack to the vehicle. However, it is always important to double-check.

Trunk Access

The bike rack you select will affect truck accessibility. It would be best if you based your choice of the bike rack on whether you leave your riding equipment in the truck and need to access the trunk. If your bike is on a trunk rack, you should not try to open the trunk because doing so could damage your car.

On the other hand, several rack designs let you access your trunk even with bikes on the rack. Those that tilt the rack away from the vehicle or swing the entire system away make this possible.

The Best Bike Rack for Different Types of Vehicles

You should also consider the type of vehicle before making a purchase. Here are some of the best bike racks for various types of bikes:

The Best Bike Racks for Sedans

Most bike rack designs will fit on sedans, but there are a few factors to consider, mainly related to ground clearance. Although a Sedan can be equipped with a trailer hitch, the longer bike rack and the normal lower ground clearance of sedans can cause the vehicle to bottom out and strike the ground.

The ideal bike racks for Sedans are roof mount racks, which necessitate mounting crossbars to the roof. On Sedans, trunk mount racks will function, but they are less secure and restrict access to the trunk.

The Best Bike Racks for SUVs and Minivans

You have many alternatives because practically any bike rack may be used with SUVs and minivans. The ideal bike racks for SUVs and minivans are vertical hanging racks or any other type of hitch-mounted rack.

Choose one of these options based on the capacity, simplicity of trunk access, and compatibility with the types of bikes you’ll be carrying.

The Best Bike Racks for Pickup Trucks

Trucks can use almost any type of bike rack, much like SUVs. A tailgate pad is the greatest bike rack for trucks and is the easiest to use. Tailgate cushions are effortless to use and can stay on your truck throughout the entire biking season.

Hitch-style racks are your best bet if you need to make room in your truck bed. However, some truck and rack combinations won’t let you open your tailgate all the way, so keep this in mind when you make your purchase.

The Bottom Line

And there you have it! Choosing the right bike rack might seem like a complicated process. However, we hope that through this article, we have managed to help you learn more about different styles of bike racks, factors to consider when making the purchase, and what bike rack is the perfect fit for you.



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