How to pick the best bike rack for you – hitch rack or roof rack?

A guide to selecting the proper bike rack for your vehicle

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Editor’s Note: This sponsored post was created in collaboration with Thule.

When buying a bike rack for your needs, use this guide to decide that type of hitch rack, roof rack or another type of rack is best for you.

When purchasing your next bike rack, it is important to know the various ways to transport your bike(s) on your vehicle, the features and benefits of specific rack models, as well as knowing the capacity and limitations of certain styles and vehicle placements. Most cyclists are looking for the rack style that will be the easiest and most convenient to use, while also keeping their bike safe, secure, and ready to ride when unloading at your destination.

Bike rack styles and your vehicle

The first questions you should ask when selecting a rack for your vehicle is how many bikes you are looking to carry and what type of vehicle do you have. Bike racks come in a variety of styles and can be mounted on a vehicle’s roof, in the hitch receiver, on the rear hatch/trunk, or in the bed of a pickup truck. These are important questions to ask because transporting one bike can be accomplished with a top of car option that attaches to crossbars or a single tray-style rack for a vehicle with an aftermarket hitch installed, while five bikes can be transported easily with the purchase of a single hitch rack. Below are the common types of racks.

1. Hitch bike racks

Hitch-mounted bike racks are the most common style of bike carriers and are a great option if you already have a Class 1-5 receiver hitch on their vehicle, or plan on installing one. These bike racks can carry 1 to 5 bikes, are easy to mount, and limit heavy and high lifting. Hitch racks also come in two styles: platform hitch racks can carry up to 4 bikes, are designed to make loading and unloading quick and easy, fold up when not in use, and easily accommodate a variety of frame styles. While hanging hitch racks can carry the up to 5 bikes and secure them by their top tube on the bike and comes in two variations, racks that either tilt down or swing-away to allow for trunk access. Both styles of racks come in models to accommodate both 1 ¼” and 2” hitch receivers.

2. Rooftop bike racks

Rooftop mounted bike racks give you full access to the trunk of their vehicle, allow you to carry one bike each, can accommodate most wheel dimensions, and offer fork-mounted bike rack options with either the dropout or thru-axle of your fork, or can be mounted without taking the front wheel off with upright roof bike racks. While this style requires either factory-installed or aftermarket crossbars, fork-mounted or upright roof bike racks are great for sedans and smaller SUVs with a lower loading height or models that do not have a hitch receiver installed.

3. Rear-mounted trunk bike racks

For vehicles without a roof rack or hitch receiver, a trunk bike rack is an ideal option. This style of rack can transport 1 to 3 bikes, are foldable, and store easily when not in use, which makes them a great option for cyclists who ride infrequently or have limited storage space in their garage or home.

For trucks, one can opt for a tailgate pad or a rack that sits inside the bed of the truck

4. Truck bike racks

Truck owners, both light use and heavy-duty models, have the option to easily load their bikes onto a truck bed bike rack for mounting inside the bed of their truck or by quickly and securely strapping up to 8 bikes onto a tailgate pad.


Selecting the right bike rack for your needs

After determining the number of bikes you plan on transporting on your vehicle, it then comes down to convenience, in other words, would you prefer to load your bike onto the roof or load it into a rack on the back of the vehicle, and then the style of bikes you plan to carry. Let’s take a look at the reasons why you should select one location to mount a rack on your vehicle versus another, including the features and benefits of each rack style by where they attach to the vehicle:

Why you should opt for a rooftop bike rack:

  • You have a roof rack, but do not have a hitch receiver and do not want to install one
  • Your vehicle has a lower roof height
  • You need full access to the rear of their vehicle
  • You do not have a lot of storage space

Why you should opt for a hitch bike racks:

  • You have a 1 ¼”or 2″ hitch receiver
  • You want to carry multiple bikes
  • You need to easily load and unload them
  • You need to carry a different bike frame styles
  • You want the added security for transporting their bikes

Why you should opt for a trunk bike racks:

  • You do not have a rack system or hitch receiver and do not want to install one
  • You are a casual rider that does not ride often
  • You want an economical option
  • You do not have a lot of storage space

Why you should opt for a truck bed bike racks:

  • You do not have a roof rack system or hitch receiver and do not want to install one
  • You use the hitch receiver for other purposes
  • You want to transport bikes in your truck bed
  • You live close to where you ride and need a simple option for a quick commute

Bottom Line:

Whatever your vehicle, or however many bikes you plan on taking with you on your next ride, there are a host of bike rack styles for your next ride. Before you select the bike rack for you, it’s important to research the options out there to ensure you have the best model for your vehicle and your needs.

To see Thule’s bike rack line and their offerings in each category, click HERE.


Comments:

  • Daniel Gurtler says:

    There is just one glaring problem with the hitch mounts and rear racks; and that is they all obscure the rear license plate on the vehicle. That is illegal in most states, even if you don’t see enforcement it could be enforced.

  • Olaf says:

    My favorite style of rack is the one not featured in this article (because Thule doesn’t make one), and that is the vertical hanging rack like those made by North Shore racks.

  • Mars says:

    I think I would prefer a truck bed rack. But then I would need to buy a truck.

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