Best Bike Racks

Key decision making factors and our favorite models revealed

Gear

Here’s our best recommendations

When searching for the best bike racks for mountain bikers there is a lot to consider. Today’s market has a wide variety of options. To help you navigate these tricky waters, Mtbr has selected six options that have exceptional quality and functionality for carrying modern full suspension mountain bikes. The reason we mention modern and full suspension is that new frame designs don’t always play nice with all the options out there.

Hitch or Roof?

The three main styles of racks are receiver hitch mount platform, receiver hitch mount vertical hang, and rooftop. Trunk mount racks and hitch mount horizontal hanging racks are typically incompatible with full suspension mountain bikes and are thus not included here.

Mtbr’s first choice for transporting our precious trail slayers are receiver hitch mount racks. This rack style is more aerodynamic, shields bikes from road debris, and typically provides better security options because the bikes are closer to your vehicle’s frame.

Best Bike Racks for Mountain Bikers

This rack from 1UP USA holds bikes very secure and doesn’t impede ground clearance, which can be a critical consideration when shopping for the best bike racks for mountain bikers.

The primary cons of hitch mount racks are that they require a hitch receiver, and bike specific rather than serving a dual-carrying purpose. But if you have the need to regularly haul bikes, those negatives quickly fade away. It then comes down to which style makes the most sense: a horizontal tray or vertical hang?

Horizontal tray racks are far more common and are the optimal style for most riders. They support the bike on its own tires, generally, do not touch the frame, and can transport a wide variety of bike types. They also require a lower capacity receiver, so many options exist for cars and small SUVs. However, horizontal tray racks typically have less capacity than vertical hang racks.

With vertical hang racks, the type of bikes to be transported is an important consideration. Some styles are incompatible with road bikes and others don’t work with kid bikes. On the upside, this style of rack has a high capacity, usually up to six bikes, and shields them behind the vehicle. However, a robust receiver is required due to the dynamic forces that can overload lower capacity receivers. Thus, Mtbr recommends vertical hang racks for higher capacity receivers (2” Class II+), which generally restricts them to SUVs and trucks.

Best Bike Racks for Mountain Bikers

Access to the rear of your vehicle is another key consideration.

If a hitch receiver is either not available for your car, or you simply don’t want one, there are also lots of good roof rack options. Indeed, many riders supplement their rear tray rack with a couple roof-top slots for shuttle days. The disadvantage to roof racks include reduced fuel economy, bikes being pelted with road debris, and minimal security attachment points. And of course, they limit car clearance so beware of parking garages or low bridges. On the up side, roof racks do not require a receiver, support a wide variety of vehicles, and are also customizable for other gear carrying needs.

How to Decide

When it comes time to make the call on the best bike rack for you and your needs, consider the following questions:

  • Does your car have a hitch receiver or could you get one installed?
  • If so, what class is the receiver?
  • Does the rack also need to transport gear for multiple sports?
  • How many bikes need to be transported?
  • What types of bikes need to be transported?

In our opinion, if you have a vehicle with a hitch receiver then hitch style bike racks are the best bike racks for mountain bikers. Of course, there are many hitch tray racks available from major manufacturers such as Yakima and Thule. They typically a similar design with a single tire arm clamp plus trays for both tires and a strap for the rear wheel. Mtbr’s selections below are more boutique, favoring racks that use more advanced attachment methods, have impressive construction or both. Indeed, we feel that the following racks stand out, as Mtbr has used them all extensively and all get a positive review.

Saris SuperClamp EX 2-Bike
Best Bike Racks for Mountain Bikers

The Superclamp EX comes in 2-bike or 4-bike version pictured above

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Clamps for both front and rear wheels
  • Tilt handle easily accessible
  • Compact design
  • Low weight at 35 pounds
  • Also available in 4-bike option for $880

Cons

  • Bike interference can occur
  • Loading/unloading is not as easy since arms are shared
  • Reduces ground clearance

Bike Attachment: Front and rear wheel arms plus straps
More info: www.saris.com
Price: $490
Hot Deal: Shop Here

Thule T2 Pro XT

The T2 Pro XT is a highly evolved version of a tray mount classic.

Pros

  • Best in class tilt lever
  • Sturdy with smooth tilting action
  • Broad tire/wheel size compatibility
  • Reliable security system

Cons

  • Sliding arms could be tighter and wobble free
  • Limited side-to-side rail adjustability
  • Not as sleek looking as competitors

Lowdown: Thule T2 Pro Bike Rack

The Thule T2 Pro is the update we’ve been waiting for to address compatibility with bigger wheel sizes. But not only did capacity get upped, the T2 Pro is now sturdier and easier to operate. The frame has been beefed up significantly, moving parts have been retooled, and even the lever to tilt and fold up the rack has been significantly improved.

Bike Attachment: Front lever arm and wheel straps
More info: www.thule.com
Price: $550
Hot Deal: Shop Here


1UP USA 2” Super Duty Double

Best Bike Racks for Mountain Bikers

Pros

  • Securely holds bikes via both tires so bikes do not move
  • Does not contact bike frame
  • Good ground clearance, as each stage increases height, also reducing bike-to-bike contact
  • Rack and bikes do not protrude far from vehicle
  • Exceptional construction, nearly all metal
  • Looks dialed!
  • 1 bike, expandable to 4 bikes

Cons

  • Cam system can loosen over time, with no thru-bolt safety
  • Color black is an upcharge
  • Heavy bikes can be wobbly
  • Tilts to open rear hatch, but not easily with more than one bike loaded
  • Heavy at 53 pounds

Bike Attachment: Front and rear wheel arms
More Info: www.1up-usa.com
Price: $559-$639

RockyMounts Backstage Swing Away

Best Bike Racks for Mountain Bikers

Pros

  • Swings to the side to allow easy access to rear compartment
  • Robust construction
  • Excellent ground clearance

Cons

  • 2” receiver required
  • 2 bikes only
  • Heavy at 60 pounds

Bike Attachment: Front wheel arm and rear wheel strap
More Info: rockymounts.com
Price: $575
Hot Deal: Shop Here

Northshore Racks NSR-4 Bike

Best Bike Racks for Mountain Bikers

Pros

  • Very durable
  • 4-bike rack’s tower folds down
  • Tilts down for ease of rear vehicle access
  • 6-bike option also available

Cons

  • Cannot carry road bikes
  • Will mar fork crown
  • Takes skill to load as bikes are fairly close together
  • Wheel tie-down ropes not ideal, some users customize
  • Requires 2” Class 2 receiver for 4-bike rack, 2” Class 3 receiver for 6-bike

Bike Attachment: Fork crown, rear wheel strap, wheels face forward
More Info: www.northshoreracks.com
Price: $600

Yakima Frontloader + Corebar

Best Bike Racks for Mountain Bikers
Pros

  • Steel aerodynamic cross-bar
  • Multi-sport compatible and user configurable
  • Many things can mount on the base and crossbar system
  • Wide range of supported vehicles

Cons

  • Reduces vehicle aerodynamics
  • Capacity depends on crossbar width and tower capacity
  • Bikes pelted with road debris
  • Be careful around parking garages
  • Harder to secure bikes

Bike Attachment: Front wheel arm, rear wheel strap
More Info: www.yakima.com
Price: Yakima Corebar ($119), Frontloader ($199 each), Towers ($200-300)
Hot Deal: Shop Here


Lolo Racks 4-Bike

Best Bike Racks for Mountain Bikers

Pros

  • Easy to load multiple bikes
  • Separates bikes well with solid bar mount that prevents bikes from rotating
  • Transports mountain and road bikes
  • Tilts down for easy vehicle access
  • 6-bike option also available

Cons

  • Requires additional adapter to haul dual crown bikes
  • Requires 2” receiver
  • Heavy at 68 pounds
  • Expensive

Bike Attachment: Holds via bars, rear wheel strap, wheels face rear
More Info: www.loloracks.com
Price: $649


What do you look for in a bike rack and what are your favorite brands and models? Let us know in the comments section below.

Mtbr is committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.


About the author: John Bennett

With 210 lbs of solid, descending mass, John is a good litmus test of what bikes and components will survive out there in the real world. And with a good engineering mind, John is able to make sense of it all as well. Or at least come up with fancy terms to impress the group.


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NOTE: There are two ways to comment on our articles: Facebook or Wordpress. Facebook uses your real name and can be posted on your wall while Wordpress uses our login system. Feel free to use either one.

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Wordpress Comments:

  • Zoso says:

    Nice to see North Shore Racks reviewed.

    About the cons:

    Cannot carry road bikes:
    1. Who cares? 2. It can be done in a pinch, by facing it backwards and cradling the bar/stem instead of the fork.

    Will mar fork crown:
    -Personally not a problem but some will put electrical tape on their fork crown.

    Takes skill to load as bikes are fairly close together:
    -Disagree here. You just have to learn how to load it like any other rack.

    Wheel tie-down ropes not ideal, some users customize:
    1. Most find them the quick and secure. They may look ghetto, but they work fine. Simple = better imo.

  • Matt says:

    It’d be nice to see some more roof rack reviews. Some of us prefer roof racks for the for many reasons, including the additional ability to use a roof box in the winter for skis.

  • Plusbike Nerd says:

    Which of these racks can easily carry 4 extra-large Fatbikes with 5″ wide tires and still carry roadbikes and childrens bikes and not need to do a bunch of adjusting to make it fit? If you have a family, you need a 4 bike rack.

    • Zoso says:

      Looks like Recon Racks might work for you. I can carry all those on North Shore Rack but if I carry a road bike, it effectively takes up 2 spots.

    • Cerrone says:

      Look up the Yakima Hold-Up Evo. You can get the +2 extension with it to hold up to 4 bikes. It’s a spendy combo, but I love mine so far. Works with 5″ fat bikes, and I think the smallest it can go is 20″ wheels. Road bikes are no issue. Worth a look at.

    • agmtb@aol.com says:

      Thule classic will handle both, not sure about a 4 bike rack but I’d think yes.

    • Jay says:

      The thule t2 pro does it!

  • aohammer says:

    Wait, what happened to the tried-and-true Thule T2? That’s been my rack for years w/o any issues. Very robust and many use it. Strange was not included.

  • chris says:

    I don’t wanna be “that guy”m but seriously? Not even a mention of the Kuat hitch rack?
    My NV is a beast with built-in lock cables, adjustable wheel ramps, sweet color.
    This feels like a paid advertisement for those companies willing to pay money to MTBR for exposure.

  • ripgogg1 says:

    I love my Lolo. It it heavy but not expensive when compared to other racks that can carry as many bikes. You can carry road bikes, mtbs, BMXs and kids bikes, no problem. Its been invaluable to my family of five and also been great tool for me as a NICA coach. Love the Lolo!

  • mudvox says:

    Yakima Frontloader works very well on my roof rack, even with a 26″ 4.5″ tire fat bike.
    The fat tire will fit between the bars on the front rack “loop”, so it’s pretty secure, but the rear wheel strap isn’t long enough, so I use a nylon cargo strap to secure the rear wheel. A bit of strap-hackery has made this a very secure fatbike transporter. It’s quick to take on and off the car, and is pretty light.

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