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The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Whether you’re riding solo or bringing along the whole crew, these are the best hitch bike racks to safely haul your bike wherever you're going.

Mountain biker and Senior Editor Morgan Tilton opens hitch rack on back of truck; (photo/Eric Phillips)
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Hitch bike racks are one of the best ways to transport your bikes safely to any destination. The best hitch racks are easy to use, stable, and can carry a range of bike sizes and styles securely and with little fuss.

Choosing a hitch bike rack, however, isn’t that simple. There are so many models on the market that finding the right one isn’t as straightforward as it should be. Factors like bike compatibility, weight limits, bike attachment style, and the number of bikes they can carry all play a role in finding the right rack that suits your needs and meets your budget.

That’s where we come in. Our team of hitch bike rack testers use bike racks daily and have been testing and reviewing them for years. From outings with the family, daily trips to trailheads, and frequent weekend getaways, we’ve put these racks through their paces while examining the performance characteristics and features that matter most.

After months, and sometimes years, of testing the racks included here, we’ve chosen our favorites and highlighted others that stand out for specific reasons. So, whether you need to carry one bike or four, we’ve got recommendations across all hitch bike rack styles. Our handy comparison chart shows all the models we tested and their specs at a glance. And, if you aren’t sure what you need, our comprehensive buyer’s guide has all the info you need to help you decide, while our FAQ section provides answers to common questions.

Editor’s Note: We updated our hitch bike rack buyer’s guide on March 29, 2024, with the addition of the excellent Lolo Racks 6-Bike Rack with Foot Activated Tilt, the high-end Kuat Piston Pro X, and the affordable Kuat Transfer V2.

The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024


Best Overall Hitch Bike Rack

Thule T2 Pro XTR

Specs

  • Weight 52 lbs.
  • Number of bikes 2 (4 with add-on)
  • Carry capacity  60 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options 1.25", 2"
  • Locks Integrated bike lock, included receiver lock
  • Type Platform
Product Badge The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Secures bikes with no frame contact

Cons

  • Pricey
Best Budget Hitch Bike rack

Kuat Transfer V2

Specs

  • Weight 37 lbs. (2-bike, 2" receiver size)
  • Number of bikes 2 (up to 4 with add-ons), also comes in 1-bike and 3-bike versions)
  • Carry capacity 60 lbs. per bike (2" receiver size), 40 lbs. per bike (1.25" receiver size)
  • Hitch receiver options 1.25" and 2"
  • Locks Semi-integrated cable lock and FlatLock Hitch Cam (2" receiver size)
  • Type Platform
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Comparatively affordable
  • Wide range of bike fit
  • Lightweight
  • Add-ons available to increase capacity

Cons

  • Lots of plastic parts
  • Less refined than more expensive options
  • Quite a bit of assembly required
Runner-Up Best Hitch Bike Rack

1UP USA Equip-D Single

Specs

  • Weight  27-28 lbs.
  • Number of bikes 1 (3 with add-ons)
  • Carry capacity 50 lbs. per bike (35 lbs. for the third bike)
  • Hitch receiver options 1.25" and 2"
  • Locks None
  • Type  Platform
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Doesn't shimmy in the hitch receiver thanks to an integrated anti-wobble mechanism
  • Quick to install
  • Versatile bike fit
  • Super durable all-metal construction

Cons

  • No integrated lock for bikes
  • The release lever can freeze in super-cold weather, usually below zero degrees F
Best Swing-Away Hitch Bike Rack

RockyMounts BackStage Swing Away Platform

Specs

  • Weight 63 lbs.
  • Number of bikes  2
  • Carry capacity 60 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options 2"
  • Locks Integrated hitch lock and bike cable lock
  • Type  Platform
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • 180-degree arm swing for full use of the back of the vehicle even with bikes loaded
  • Less expensive than a swing-away extension plus bike rack
  • User-friendly rack with versatile bike fit

Cons

  • Complicated assembly takes some trial and error to get right
  • Add-on for additional bikes not available
Best Vertical Hitch Bike Rack

Lolo Racks 6-Bike Rack With Foot-Activated Tilt

Specs

  • Weight 76 lbs.
  • Number of bikes 6 (also comes in 4-bike version)
  • Carry capacity 240 lbs. total (roughly 40 lbs. per bike, suitable even for a heavy 55-lb. e-bike positioned in the middle)
  • Hitch receiver options 2"
  • Locks Yes, locking hitch bolt and the option to use your cable and U-lock.
  • Type Vertical, handlebar hang
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Impressive carrying capacity
  • Foot-activated tilt
  • Accommodates all types of bikes (and even snowboards and skis!)
  • Durable and proudly made in the USA
  • Avoids bike compatibility pitfalls of some other vertical racks

Cons

  • Does not come with an integrated lock for bikes
  • Heavy and requires significant storage space when taken off car
  • Expensive
Best Splurge Hitch Bike Rack

Kuat Piston Pro X

Specs

  • Weight 63 lbs.
  • Number of Bikes 2 (up to 4 with add-ons)
  • Carry capacity 67 lbs. (2" receiver size), 60 lbs. (1.25" receiver size)
  • Hitch receiver options 1.25" and 2"
  • Locks 12mm steel cable lock and locking hitch pin
  • Type Platform
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Sleek design
  • Holds bikes with tire contact only
  • One-handed clamp arm operation
  • Integrated brake lights
  • All-metal construction
  • Versatile bike fit
  • High weight capacity

Cons

  • Expensive!
An Affordable Option for 4 Bikes

Yakima RidgeBack

Specs

  • Weight 35 lbs.
  • Number of bikes 4
  • Carry capacity  40 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options 1.25" and 2"
  • Locks SpeedKnob locks rack to vehicle, cable lock for bikes sold separately
  • Type Hanging
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Ease of use
  • Lightweight and easy to store
  • Affordable
  • Integrated bottle opener

Cons

  • Cable lock not included
  • Impossible to avoid frame contact
  • Frame adapters are separate purchases

Best of the Rest

Best Hitch Bike Rack on a Tight Budget

Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Bike Rack

Specs

  • Weight 23 lbs.
  • Number of bikes 4
  • Carry capacity 35 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options 1.25" and 2"
  • Locks  None
  • Type Hanging
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Very inexpensive
  • Lightweight and easy to store
  • Easy installation

Cons

  • No security features
  • Frame contact carry
  • Rack and bikes wobble around
A Good Option for Heavy E-Bikes

Yakima OnRamp

Specs

  • Weight 42 lbs., 9.6 oz.
  • Number of bikes 2
  • Carry capacity  66 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options 1.25" and 2"
  • Locks Integrated bike and hitch receiver lock
  • Type Platform
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Includes loading ramp for heavy e-bikes
  • 66 lbs. per bike weight capacity
  • Works with bike with fenders and large tubes

Cons

  • Bike attachment takes some getting used to
  • Fatter tires require a different set of straps (sold separately)
Another Good Heavy-Duty Rack

Yakima StageTwo

Specs

  • Weight 66 lbs.
  • Number of bikes 2
  • Carry capacity 70 lbs. per bike on road; 42 lbs. per bike off-road
  • Hitch receiver options 1.25" and 2"
  • Locks Integrated bike lock and hitch receiver lock
  • Type Platform
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Accommodates a wide range of bike sizes and types
  • High weight limit – good for e-bikes
  • Ramp add-on available for loading heavy bikes
  • Durable and secure while driving off-road
  • Integrated bike lock is streamlined

Cons

  • Tilt lever needs mindfulness – make sure it’s fully latched
  • Significant max weight difference between paved and off-road use
  • Heavy and bulky – difficult to move around and store
Lightweight and Best for Smaller Bikes

Kuat Sherpa 2.0

Specs

  • Weight  32 lbs.
  • Number of bikes 2
  • Carry capacity 40 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options 1.25", 2"
  • Locks Hitch pin lock and cable lock for bikes
  • Type Platform
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Easy install
  • Lightweight and low profile
  • Good-looking
  • Tilts away from vehicle while fully loaded

Cons

  • Lower weight capacity- 40 lbs.
  • Limited wheelbase length – doesn't work with longer bikes
  • Not compatible with add-ons

INNO Tire Hold Bike Hitch 4

Specs

  • Weight  85 lbs.
  • Number of bikes 4
  • Carry capacity  60 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options 2"
  • Locks Included for hitch and bikes
  • Type Platform
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Frameless contact
  • Rock-solid stability
  • High weight capacity

Cons

  • Very pricey
  • Doesn’t fit fat bikes
  • Heavy and very bulky

Yakima HangOver 6

Specs

  • Weight 70 lbs.
  • Number of bikes 6
  • Carry capacity 37.5 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options 2"
  • Locks Yes, a hitch lock and integrated lock loop for use with aftermarket locks
  • Type Vertical, fork cradle
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Huge carrying capacity
  • Less expensive than most vertical racks
  • Lighter weight than most vertical racks

Cons

  • Only works with bikes that have suspension forks
  • Comparatively low weight limit – doesn't work with e-bikes

Swagman XC2

Specs

  • Weight 28 lbs.
  • Number of bikes 2
  • Carry capacity 35 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options 1.25" and 2"
  • Locks  None
  • Type Platform with wheel cradles and frame hooks
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Secure cradle system
  • Great price point
  • Lower weight

Cons

  • No access to the rear of your vehicle when bikes are on the rack
  • Hold bikes by frame contact
  • Somewhat cheap overall feel

Saris SuperClamp EX 2-Bike

Specs

  • Weight 35 lbs.
  • Number of bikes  2
  • Carry capacity 60 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options 1.25", 2"
  • Locks Locking hitch pin, integrated bike lock cables
  • Type Platform
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Slender footprint
  • Zero frame contact

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Not the most refined look or feel

Saris MHS DUO 1-Bike Tray

Specs

  • Weight 105 lbs. (2 33-lb. trays, 39-lb. base hitch)
  • Number of bikes 2 (3 bikes with add-on)
  • Carry capacity 80 lbs. per bike
  • Hitch receiver options 2"
  • Locks Locking hitch pin, integrated bike lock cables
  • Type Platform
The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2024

Pros

  • Easy to operate
  • Quick load time
  • Modular system to dial it in to your needs
  • High weight limit

Cons

  • Cost-wise the pieces add up
  • On the arms, the release levers can get a tad stubborn
  • The rack and bikes wobble on rocky, bumpy terrain

Hitch Bike Racks Comparison Chart

RacksMSRPRack WeightNumber of BikesCarry Capacity (per Bike)
Thule T2 Pro XTR$80053 lbs.2 (4 with add-on)60 lbs. 
Kuat Transfer V2$489 (2-bike)37 lbs.2 (up to 4 with add-ons)60 lbs.
1UP USA Equip-D Single$52528 lbs.1 (up to 3 with add-ons)50 lbs. (35 lbs. for third bike)
RockyMounts BackStage
Swing Away
$77063 lbs.260 lbs.
Lolo 6-Bike Rack with Foot Activated Tilt$1,15076 lbs.6 (4-bike version available)240 lbs total capacity
Kuat Piston Pro X$1,38963 lbs.2 (up to 3 with add-ons)67 lbs. (2″), 60 lbs. (1.25″)
Yakima RidgeBack$37935 lbs.440 lbs. 
Allen Sports Deluxe
Hitch Bike Rack
$13023 lbs.435 lbs.
Yakima OnRamp$69943 lbs., 9.6 oz.266 lbs.
Yakima StageTwo$74966 lbs.2 (up to 4 with add-ons)70 lbs. on road, 42 lbs. off-road
Kuat Sherpa 2.0$62932 lbs.2 (4 with add-on)40 lbs. 
INNO Tire Hold
Bike Hitch 4
$1,00085 lbs.460 lbs. 
Yakima HangOver 6$99970 lbs.6 (4-bike version available)37.5 lbs.
Swagman XC2$15028 lbs.235 lbs.
Saris SuperClamp EX 2-Bike$58035 lbs.2 (4-bike version available)60 lbs. 
Saris MHS DUO
1-Bike

& Base 
$200 and $350105 lbs. (2-bikes)2 (3 bikes with add-on)80 lbs. 
Scroll right to view all of the columns.

Why You Should Trust Us

The folks at GearJunkie spend a lot of time in the saddle. From daily office commutes to singletrack joyrides, bikes play a major role in our lives. Like most cyclists, we often use our vehicles to haul bikes around. We plug our hitch-mounted bike racks into sedans, SUVs, and everything in between. Though it’s always nice to start pedaling right out of the front door, like you, we often have to drive before we can ride.

Our team has been testing all sorts of outdoor gear for years, putting products through their paces to see how they perform in the real world and compare to each other. While testing new gear is undoubtedly fun, we do it with the goal of providing honest and trustworthy product recommendations to inform our readers so they can make better purchase decisions.

Two of our lead testers, Senior Editor Morgan Tilton and professional photographer and gear writer Eric Phillips, live in Crested Butte, Colorado, where more than 750 miles of mountain bike trails exist in the Gunnison Valley and surrounding area. They also drive to other trail systems in the Southwest, racking up hundreds of miles on each hitch rack per road trip. The pair has tested nearly all of the racks you see in this guide in the past few years, and in doing so, they have developed a keen sense of what sets the best racks apart from the rest.

Chelsey Magness also contributes to this buyer’s guide. Chelsey is a professional adventure racer, parent, and event organizer who travels frequently with bikes to trailheads, races, and weekend getaways with family and friends. She’s been using and abusing hitch bike racks for many years — even before testing and reviewing them for GearJunkie — and knows the importance of having the right rack to make transporting bikes easy and stress-free.

GearJunkie Editor Jeremy Benson also lends some experience and expertise to this review. Jeremy has been professionally testing bikes, accessories, and related gear for 8 years, and has personally tested over 20 different hitch bike racks in that time. He is constantly using bike racks to transport his expensive bikes to local trailheads, gravel and mountain bike races, and on weekend getaways to mountain bike destinations across the west. Having tested virtually every bike rack currently on the market, he knows exactly how they perform, compare, and their best applications.

Senior Editor Morgan Tilton testing hitch bike racks in Colorado; (photo/Eric Phillips)

How We Tested Hitch Bike Racks

After researching the best hitch bike racks on the market, we chose the models included in this guide to put through real-world testing. We aren’t just concerned with specs, rather, we put them through an extended period of rigorous testing to see how they actually perform. From daily trips around to local riding spots to weekend adventures with the whole crew, we use each of these racks as any consumer would. We assemble the racks ourselves, install and remove them from our vehicles, and load and unload our bikes countless times. While testing, we examine bike compatibility, bike attachment systems, ease of loading/unloading, rack stability, bike stability, and security features. From highways to rough gravel roads and hot summer days to cold, rainy, and snowy conditions, these racks have seen it all with the goal of exposing their strengths and weaknesses.

Many of the racks featured here have been with us for many years. Even after regular exposure to the elements and many miles of rough roads, they’re still going strong. Whether you’re pedaling a mountain bike, e-bike, or commuter, we’re confident you’ll find a rack to help transport your steed. As new racks roll out in the future, we’ll be sure to test them too, and update our list to reflect the current market.

Testing the Kuat Piston Pro X hitch bike rack
Testing the top-of-the-line Kuat Piston Pro X hitch bike rack. (photo/Berne Broudy)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Hitch Bike Rack

There’s a lot to consider when searching for the right hitch bike rack to suit your needs. The different styles of hitch bike racks all have their pros and cons but you’ll also want to consider the type of bikes you have, how much they weigh, and how many bikes you need to carry. Those factors should help you narrow down the choice to find the best rack for you. If you’re looking for alternative ways to transport your bikes, check out our comprehensive guide to the best roof bike racks.

Types of Hitch Bike Racks

These days, hitch bike racks come in three basic styles. Platform racks are the most common, holding the bikes horizontally and supporting them from the bottom on a “platform” or tray. Hanging racks carry the bikes horizontally, but as the name suggests, they hang the bikes from a support arm by the top tube of the frame. Vertical racks are a bit newer on the scene, but this style hangs the bikes vertically from either the front wheel, fork, or handlebar. We’ll explain the different types of racks in more detail below.

Platform

Platform-style racks use a platform, or tray, that the bike rests on. Compared to other styles of hitch racks, platform racks typically have the lowest loading height, making it fairly easy to lift bikes up into position. The bikes are held in place using various methods, the most common of which is the front wheel clamp/hook.

Platform racks are incredibly popular for their versatility and ease of use; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Most platform racks have the benefit of not touching the bike frame at all — they only touch the tires or wheels. This makes them ideal for people who don’t want to risk damaging their bike frames. Plus, the trays can often be adjusted to avoid or minimize bike-on-bike interference. This also allows platform racks to fit all kinds of bikes regardless of overall size, suspension style, or wheel size.

This combination of versatility and ease of use makes platform-style racks very popular among serious cyclists. The downsides are that they’re typically more expensive than hanging-style racks, and they are often heavy and quite bulky. They also usually only carry two bikes at a time, but often have the option to increase capacity with add-ons for an additional cost.

Hanging

Hanging racks typically have two support arms that hold bikes by the frames, letting the bikes hang down. The advantage here is that many of these racks can hold up to four bikes without added hardware and they are typically less expensive than platform racks. Hanging racks are usually lighter weight as well, making them easier to install, remove, and store when not in use.

We found that hanging bike racks aren’t ideal for multiple mountain bikes and are better for leaner road or gravel bikes; (photo/Eric Phillips)

The main disadvantage is that contact with the frame can lead to abrasion and, in some cases, damage. This is a huge consideration when carrying a bike with a carbon fiber frame. Hanging racks also may not accommodate bikes with unusual frames (like step-through bikes) or full-suspension mountain bikes. You may also want to secure the front tires to the frame with a bungee cord or a strap. This helps prevent the wheels from rotating and bumping into other bikes.

Vertical

Testing the Lolo Rack 6-Bike with different styles and sizes of bikes
Vertical racks can carry lots of bikes, and the Lolo rack works with many different styles and sizes of bikes with no issues; (photo/Chelsey Magness)

Vertical racks are a newer style that initially came about as a way to carry numerous mountain bikes for shuttle runs. By hanging the bikes vertically, it is possible to transport as many as six bikes at a time. While the early models held bikes by the crown of suspension forks and were limited to carrying mountain bikes only, more recent designs carry bikes by the front wheel or handlebar and are compatible with other types of bikes too. Vertical racks are a solid choice for families, people who ride with lots of friends, and mountain bike shuttles.

The main benefit of vertical racks is being able to transport more than four bikes at a time. The drawbacks are that they are heavy, bulky and difficult to store, and they are often quite expensive. That said, they end up being less expensive than many platform racks with add-ons.

Platform vs. Hanging vs. Vertical: Which Is Best?

Choosing between the rack styles really comes down to considering the type and number of bikes you need to carry. If you’re an infrequent rack user and you simply need to transport some older bikes to and from a vacation home a couple of times a summer, then an inexpensive hanging rack may suit your needs just fine.

If keeping your bikes stable, secure, and in pristine condition is important to you, platform racks are ideal. Most platform racks secure the bikes via the tires and/or wheels, avoiding frame contact entirely. They’re also easy to load and use, especially platform racks with a roll-up feature (or those compatible with aftermarket ramps). This is ideal for people transporting heavier bikes like cruisers or e-bikes. Platform racks also win out if you transport bikes with unique frames (like a step-through bike) or full-suspension mountain bikes. You won’t have to find a way to weave any hanging arms through the frames.

Generally speaking, platform racks as a whole typically come with bigger price tags than hanging racks. And, if you want to carry more than two bikes at a time, you’ll need to factor in the cost of add-ons too. If the price is no object and keeping your bike looking new is your priority, choose a platform rack. If you want to save money and aren’t concerned about wear, a hanging rack is a great choice.

Vertical racks are often the best choice for those who need to transport a larger number of bikes. While the upfront cost may seem high, they cost less than many platform racks with add-ons and are typically the only option for carrying more than four bikes at a time (other than tailgate pads). And, while they used to be more limited in terms of bike fit, some of the newer models that hold bikes by the wheels or handlebars (like the Lolo Racks) will work with most bikes including kids, road, gravel, etc. Bear in mind that they are much larger and will dominate the back of your vehicle a bit, so they may look a little out of place on smaller vehicles.

In some designs, the front bike tires rest in an angled tray while the back tire is secured with an adjustable ratchet strap; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Bike Attachment

Bike attachment systems feature various ways to secure your bike to the rack. It varies depending on the style of the rack, but even then, there are often multiple different attachment systems within each style.

Straps

The first and most basic is the strap system which is most common on hanging racks. Small cradles on the support arms support the weight of the bike while a zip strip or cam strap holds the bike down in the cradle. While it’s a solid and secure system (user error is the most common issue), straps can degrade and break. Because of this, many strap systems secure the bike with two straps at each attachment point as a contingency.

Most riders’ main concern with a hanging rack is that it could potentially damage the bike’s finish over time through contact and abrasion. We’ve heard horror stories about hanging racks wearing the paint down to the metal or carbon beneath on long road trips. While that’s an extreme case, slower wear over years of use isn’t. Because of this, hanging racks tend to feature padded cradles to minimize frame damage, but the best way to guarantee your frame is safe is to eliminate frame contact altogether.

Wheel Hooks and Clamp Arms

Most platform racks use a front wheel clamp that is also often referred to as a shepherd’s hook. On these racks, a pivoting arm with an adjustable hook captures the front wheel and presses it down into a cradle while the rear wheel is secured with a ratcheting strap that wraps over the rear rim. This attachment system avoids frame contact by using the front tire and rear rim to secure the bike on the rack. Not only is this system easy to use, but in our experience, it holds bikes very steady while preventing them from making contact with each other (if carrying multiple bikes).

Platform racks, like the Yakima StageTwo, often have a secure arm with a front wheel hook that ratchets down on top of the tire; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Other platform racks use opposing clamp arms that essentially sandwich the bike from both ends. This style of attachment was popularized by 1UP-USA and has since been employed by most other major rack manufacturers. By holding bikes with contact to the tires only, these racks won’t even scuff up your fancy carbon rims. This system also allows for a huge range of bike fits along with the ability to shift the bikes laterally to avoid bike-on-bike interference.

Vertical

Vertical racks support bikes by the fork, front wheel, or handlebar and typically have a strap or bungee that holds the rear wheel in place. Regardless of attachment style, vertical racks hold bikes in such a way that the bikes don’t contact each other. Fork mount vertical racks, like the Yakima HangOver, capture bikes by the crown of a suspension fork, and as such, they only work with mountain bikes, but they can cause abrasion damage to the paint on the fork crown over time.

Some vertical racks use whel cradles to support the bikes
Some vertical racks hang the bikes from the front wheels in wheel cradles; (photo/Jeremy Benson)

Vertical racks with front-wheel cradles hang the bike by the front wheel and only make contact with the tire. These are a bit more versatile as they don’t rely on a suspension fork, so they can often be used with bikes with rigid forks (road, gravel, kids, and fat bikes) but you may need different cradles for different wheel sizes and tire widths.

Handlebar mount vertical racks, like the Lolo Racks, hang bikes from the handlebar and are surprisingly versatile as a result. They can fit a wide variety of bike styles regardless of wheel and tire size, fork type, or handlebar style.

Number of Bikes

One of the first things to consider when choosing the style of rack that will work best for you is how many bikes you need to transport. Racks generally carry anywhere from two to six bikes, so you have some options. Remember, you can always carry fewer bikes than a rack’s capacity, but never more than a rack’s capacity. And you never know when you’re going to pick up a few more buddies to ride with.

Platform racks come in varying capacities, with most providing two spots for bikes (some come as single or three bike racks too). Many platform racks can also be expanded with add-ons that can be attached to increase capacity by one or two bikes to carry up to four.

Hanging racks also come in various carrying capacities, typically between 2 and 5 bikes. The Yakima Ridgeback and Allen Sports Deluxe can both carry up to four but can also be purchased for two bikes.

Vertical racks can typically handle the most bikes with the models we tested being offered in 4-bike and 6-bike versions.

2 bikes loaded on the Kuat Piston Pro X Bike Rack
Consider both the number and weight of the bikes you need to carry when choosing the right bike rack for your needs; (photo/Berne Broudy)

Bike Weight

Most good hitch bike racks can handle the weight of regular, non-electric bikes without any issues. Many modern racks are now rated to handle bikes up to around 60 lbs., which is great news for everyone who has e-bikes, which often weigh upwards of 50 lbs. It is very important to know how much your bike(s) weigh when considering a new rack and make sure that the rack you choose is capable of handling the weight.

In general, platform racks often have the highest weight capacities, with models like the Yakima StageTwo, Kuat Piston Pro X, and the Yakima OnRamp claiming up to 70 lbs., 67 lbs., and 66 lbs. per bike, respectively. Other racks, like the Thule T2 Pro XTR and the RockyMounts BackStage can handle bikes up to 60 lbs. each.

Another thing to consider is loading heavy bikes. The Yakima OnRamp is specifically designed to carry e-bikes, and it includes a loading ramp that can be used to roll them up into position on the trays. Other racks, like the Kuat Piston Pro X, the Yakima StageTwo, and the 1Up-USA Equip’D are all compatible with aftermarket loading ramps sold by their respective manufacturers.

Tilt and Swing-Away Features

Using the tilt feature on the Lolo 6-Bike rack for better access to the rear of the vehicle
Tilt features, like that on the Lolo 6-Bike Rack, allow for easier access to the rear of the vehicle; (photo/Chelsey Magness)

The “tilt” and “swing-away” features refer to how the rack adjusts to allow access to your vehicle. Tilt features are super common and allow the rack to be tilted away from the vehicle at an angle to open a hatchback or drop down a tailgate. This makes it possible to lean in and grab a backpack or let your dog hop out. It also makes it possible to fold the rack up when not in use to keep it out of the way.

One thing to consider is whether you can tilt the rack while the bikes are still on it. It can be a pain to take the bikes off when you need to get into your car. Also, consider how far it tilts away. This will make a huge difference if you’re pulling out something unwieldy, like a cooler.

Some hitch rack designs swing away from the back of your vehicle for access while the bikes are loaded; (photo/Eric Phillips)

“Swing-away” refers to racks with the ability to pivot away from the vehicle to allow completely open access to the rear of the vehicle. This feature is available on some platform and hanging racks and many brands sell swing-away attachments that can be added to the rack of your choice. These attachments can be expensive and add to both the price and weight of an already expensive and heavy rack, but the convenience can be hard to beat for some users.

Our favorite swing-away rack is the BackStage from RockyMounts. It swings a full 180 degrees away from your vehicle — even with bikes loaded — giving you unobstructed access to whatever’s back there. This is a great option for those with camper vans or who use their trucks for camping.

Wheel Size, Tire Width, and Bike Length Compatibility

Every hitch bike rack’s wheel tray has unique dimensions including the tire width and wheelbase length, so be sure to check what you need; (photo/Eric Phillips)

A bike rack is useless if it can’t hold your bike, so make sure your bike will fit. Important things to consider here are the size of the wheels, the width of the tires, and the wheelbase length of your bike(s). Most platform racks fit a range of tire widths and wheel diameters, but some are more versatile than others.

Because platform racks secure the bike via the tires, it’s important to make sure that your bike’s tire width, wheel size, and wheelbase all fall within the rack’s parameters. When shopping for a platform rack, check the technical specs listed on the rack brand’s website. Most companies will list a range of wheelbases, tire widths, and wheel sizes that fit that rack’s specs. In some cases, brands will also sell adapters or kits to accommodate fatter tires.

Since hanging racks support bikes by the frame, their tire width, wheel size, and wheelbase are not an issue. The bigger concern with hanging racks is unique frame types like BMX bikes, step-through frames, and full-suspension mountain bikes. These can prove a pain (or impossible) to hang on a hanging rack.

Fortunately, several of the racks we mention will work with fat tires and long wheelbases. Peruse our list and make sure that the one you’re considering will work with your bike.

Hitch Receiver Size

Hitch receivers on passenger vehicles will be either 1.25″ or 2″ sizing. It’s important that you verify which size your vehicle has prior to purchasing a bike rack. The two sizes are visually very different, so it is fairly obvious which is which. If in doubt, measure!

The larger, 2″-inch hitch” receiver is generally preferred because it can handle heavier loads, which is great if you plan to carry several heavy e-bikes. It’s also worth noting that some racks come with an adjustable system to fit either size.

Don’t have a hitch receiver? They can be ordered online to fit most vehicles and be installed at home if you’re willing or able to do it yourself. Otherwise, check out a local U-haul or vehicle mechanic who will probably be able to take care of it for you.

Security

Some bike racks include an integrated bike lock system that is long enough to secure at least part of the bike like the front tire; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Bike racks have two main points of vulnerability when it comes to theft: the bikes can be stolen off the rack, and the rack itself can be removed. This isn’t just an issue if bikes are on it; the racks themselves can be coveted items for potential thieves.

Remember, if you have to head into a store or you’re spending the night away from home, it only takes a few seconds for a thief to pull your bike off the rack and pedal off with it. If they’re prepared with tools (or not, for mounts with hand-tightening hitch mounts), someone can take your entire rack. This can be a huge issue if you don’t have a garage to park in, particularly if you don’t want to put on or take off your rack every time you ride.

Fortunately, many racks come with a locking hitch mount, which makes it impossible to unscrew when engaged. If your rack doesn’t come with one, many companies sell mount locks separately. There are also plenty of aftermarket hitch locks available for purchase.

As for your bikes, integrated or included locks are a nice feature to have and are often found on higher-end racks — companies like Thule, Kuat, and Yakima usually offer this. The lock is integrated into the rack itself, retracting into the rack when not in use. When you need it, simply pull it out and thread it through the bikes. It then locks to another part of the rack, so you can lock and unlock your bikes in seconds.

Even if a rack has integrated locks, they are still little more than a theft deterrent, so we always recommend adding an aftermarket lock as another layer of security.

Some designs include an integrated lock loop, so you can add your own additional locks, which we recommend; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Ease of Use

If you’ve ever had to wrestle a full-suspension mountain bike onto a hanging rack or find a way to Tetris four bikes onto a poorly designed rack, you know that ease of use is a huge factor in choosing the right bike rack.

For a traditionally shaped frame — triangular in shape — hanging racks provide a simple option. Lift the bike, slide it onto the rack, strap it down, bungee the front wheel, and you’re good to go. (Plus, it gives you a chance to get some bicep curls in before your ride).

However, if you’ve got a heavier bike or one with a unique frame style, a platform rack may be the better option for mounting bikes. Because it has a lower loading height, you don’t have to lift the bike as far. And once you have it on, you don’t have to lift it much to adjust. Hanging racks can take a bit of fiddling to get the bike into the cradle.

It’s also important to consider other factors like tilt-release and swing-away features that may impact your experience, as well as the bike attachment systems themselves.

Many bike hitch rack designs offer add-on options to increase the load capacity, but make sure the extensions match your hitch size; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Durability

Durability is a huge consideration when it comes to hitch racks. The single attachment point puts a lot of pressure on racks as they carry loads over rough roads. Because they’re usually made from sturdy material like steel, breaks very rarely occur at the hitch’s attachment point.

Issues usually occur at the attachment point of the bike — the shepherd’s hook or the straps. Fortunately, the most common failure is the least disastrous and easiest to fix — the straps. Elastic straps tend to dry out, especially if exposed to the sun, which leads to cracking and eventually snapping.

The same goes for the hard plastic straps on ratcheting systems. Though they tend to be more sun-resistant than elastic ones, hard plastic straps can also dry out and crack. Again, it’s not usually a huge issue, as they’re inexpensive and easy to replace.

Shepherd’s hook breaks, meanwhile, are very rare. These systems use one hook per wheel, so if one breaks, you’ll be dragging your bike to your destination. Replacement shepherd’s hooks are much more expensive and more complicated to replace. They’re also much bigger than a strap, so it’s not likely you’ll have a spare sitting in your car.

The most durable racks typically have more metal in their construction. Racks made by 1UP-USA are renowned for their durability, mostly due to their all-metal constructions. And, if something should break, they sell every part you could ever need to replace it.

When shopping for a bike rack, do your research. Check out the user reviews or talk to your local shop pro to see what experiences others have had.

The front wheel hooks are typically user-friendly with a click-in button that allows the arm to slide up or down; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Price

The price of bike racks varies from less than $100 to more than $1,000, depending on the model and features. The trend we’ve seen is that the more expensive the rack, the easier it is to use, the more durable it is, and the safer it’ll keep your bikes.

Pricier racks also tend to offer features that make them easier to use. Generally, hanging racks are less expensive than platform racks.

Lower-end racks often offer minimal protection and features. Higher-end racks usually offer more padding and protection. They also offer more features that make your bikes secure and easy to access.

How much you spend depends on your needs (as well as your bank account). If you just want a way to get your bike to a trailhead without disassembling it and stuffing it in your trunk, a good $100 hanging rack is the way to go.

If you’ve spent a couple of grand on a killer road bike and want to keep it in mint condition as long as you can, go for a higher-end platform rack (assuming you can afford it after spending all that cheddar on a carbon fiber rocket).

Generally, we’ve found that the sweet spot in racks is somewhere around the $400-600 range. For that money, you can find a rack that is easy to use and will keep your bike safe. Plus, you’ll have some money left over for a decent pit stop on the way to the trail.

While many tools are intuitive, we encourage you to read the directions for your hitch rack to make sure you correctly assemble each piece and correctly mount the rack; (photo/Eric Phillips)

FAQ

Which hitch bike rack is best?

The best hitch bike rack varies from person to person. With so many variables between each rider, it’s nearly impossible to choose one bike rack for every situation.

The best option is to decide what your needs are and pick a rack that works best for you. If your priority is finding a good, cost-effective rack, and you can pick up your bike and move it around without struggle, you can get a functional hanging rack for $100-200.

If keeping your bike safe and scratch-free is your main concern, a platform rack is a good choice. Platforms also sit lower to the ground, so it’s good for people who struggle to pick up their bikes.

The higher you go in price, the more features you get. High-end racks add security features, levers, and buttons that make them easier to use. They usually also offer ways to let you access your trunk without removing the bikes.

When choosing a rack, consider the features you’re willing to do without and which ones you need. Balance those needs with how much you’re willing to spend, and you’ll find the perfect rack for you.

What is the best bike rack for four bikes?

Both hanging and platform racks have versions that can hold four bikes. Hanging racks require a little bit more finesse to keep your bikes safe, as they secure your bikes from the top. This makes it possible for the bikes to swing and hit each other during travel.

Fewer bikes can be spaced out, which minimizes the risk. But space is limited with four bikes, so ensure that the cradles are spaced out enough that the bikes won’t hit each other, even with minimal swing.

This is less of an issue with platform racks, as the bikes are locked into place via both wheels, adding a good amount of stability. It’s also easier to put the bikes on platform racks because the cradles are set so much lower. That aid, they cost a bit more, but we feel it is usually worth it.

A look at a bike rack when its folded down and not loaded with bikes
The arms on hanging and platform racks usually fold down or up for a svelte profile when you don’t have bikes loaded; (photo/Eric Phillips)
Do bike racks damage your car?

One of the reasons that so many people choose a hitch-mounted rack over a trunk-mounted rack is that the hitch doesn’t have any contact with the body of the car. This decreases any rubbing against the paint. It also generally keeps the rack away from anything on the body that it can dent or shatter.

However, no matter what precautions a company makes when designing a rack, there’s always the issue of user error. Opening your hatchback while the rack is on and upright can drive the hatch right into the rack.

This can cause denting and scratching to the rack or the car. Make sure the rack is out of the way when you access the rear of your vehicle.

Bikes can also contact your vehicle if you’re not careful. Platform racks sometimes carry the bike close to a vehicle’s back window. This can increase the odds of the handlebar going through that window on an especially bumpy road.

You can solve this by adjusting the cradles to make the bike sit farther away from the window. Hanging racks let the front tire hang free, which can lead to bumping and grinding up against your car.

It’s not as dire an issue as breaking a window, but it can damage the finish over time. It’s an easy fix, though. Secure the wheel with a strap or bungee cord to solve the problem.

Driving on a dirt road while testing the Yakima StageTwo
If you are off-roading to your route, consider getting a hitch rack that is built for off-road travel; (photo/Eric Phillips)
What is the easiest bike rack to use?

All types of hitch racks have their advantages. That said, platform-style racks are generally the easiest to use. They have a lower loading height and the attachment systems are typically straightforward, secure, and user-friendly.

Overall, we’ve found that brands like Thule, Yakima, Kuat, and 1Up tend to include little tweaks like lever-adjustable tilting and integrated locks. Details like these go a long way in making a rack easier to use. Of all the models we’ve tested, the Kuat Piston Pro X is the easiest to use, but it’s also the most expensive.

Are hitch bike racks better?

If your vehicle has the capability, hitch racks are arguably the best option. Having the mount attach to your hitch receiver versus trunk racks or roof racks not only protects your car’s finish from damage, but it’s also extremely secure, as the mounts are made of heavy-duty steel.

They’re also much easier to install than other options, which is a huge perk for people who don’t want a rack on their car every day. Because it’s secured with a steel pin, it only takes one step to put it on a trailer hitch when you are going out for a ride, and one step to remove it when you’re done.

Other types of racks require more steps to attach them to a vehicle and may require you to lift the bike higher to load them.

Locking the SpeedKnob on the Yakima StageTwo
The primary hitch rack arm often has a lock to offer secure installation with your vehicle’s hitch; (photo/Eric Phillips)
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