Even though I had bought a professional-grade bike, It never occurred to me that I would have to look for the best hitch bike rack on the market. However, one important event made me go through the process of writing this article.
Last summer was the first time I went mountain biking with my wife. We always wanted to try riding off-road, but our town doesn’t have proper trails for that. Therefore, we had to drive more than ten miles away.
It wasn’t until the day before the trip that I realized that the only way to transport our bikes would be via some sort of a hitch rack. The roof-mounted one that I had wasn’t suitable for both of our GTs. So, I had to act quickly and find a carrier that would do the job.
I went through some online reviews and buying guides, but none of them assured me enough that one of the proposed options would fit snugly on the back of my car. Finally, I simply went to the local bike store and bought a hitch rack on a hunch.
The next day, we went on the trip as planned. I was driving around 70mph. At some point, I slowed down to make a sudden turn. The next thing I knew, my wife was yelling at me to stop the car. What happened was that my bike somehow fell off the rack. Fortunately, the frame of the bike was intact, but the saddle and the rear wheel suffered a fair amount of damage.
This event really made me realize the importance of quality hitch racks. So, I decided to find the best hitch bike rack out there and share every useful piece of information on the subject.
Here are our Best 3 Bike Racks:
Last update on 2019-05-22 at 18:32 / Affiliate links / Reviews/ Ratings Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
10 of The Best Bike Racks
Last update on 2019-05-22 at 18:32 / Affiliate links / Reviews/ Ratings Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
How to Choose the Best Hitch Bike Rack
After the incident, it seemed impossible that I’d be able to find the best hitch bike rack that would be just perfect for my car. I found a lot of information about racks, but none of it seemed to provide any real value.
For me, it was especially hard to discern between good and bad racks because I wasn’t a true biking enthusiast at the time, and I was just entering the world of off-road biking. I used to ride bikes with my wife once a month, and it never occurred to me that someday, we’d do it almost every single weekend.
So, aside from reading blogs, reviews, and forums, I also visited local bike shops and asked sellers for their honest opinion. More often than not, they were happy to offer me some real insight into the types of hitch racks available, their benefits and disadvantages. Most importantly, they explained to me what hitch racks were, how to secure them properly, and why finding the best hitch bike rack would be the optimal solution for my type of car.
What’s So Special About Hitch Racks?
Why would someone choose a hitch rack over some other type of rack? This was the first thing that crossed my mind when I started looking for the best hitch bike rack. Thankfully, one of the local sellers gave me the answer. But first, he explained to me what hitch racks were.
I already knew that these carriers were supposed to slide into the receiver of a trailer hitch. Yet, I was skeptical about using them because of the incident. Also, I wasn’t aware that these had certain advantages over other types, like trunk-mounted and roof-mounted racks.
The Benefits of Hitch Racks
For me, the best hitch bike rack must have better aerodynamic qualities than the roof-mounted one. With such a rack, I could experience a reduced drag from the air while I drive. Also, I wouldn’t have to take it off every time I had to drive the car through short garage doors.
Moreover, the best hitch bike rack should be compatible with more vehicles than the trunk option. That’s why I chose a hitch-type carrier in the end. That also saved me the time and effort of finding the right model that would fit the trunk of my car.
Most importantly, the seller at the local bike shop managed to persuade me that hitch racks were more secure than those that go on the car roof or on the trunk. Then, he took the time to show me how hitch racks work and what safety measures they usually incorporate.
Finally, we came to the conclusion that my bike fell off because I took a sudden turn and failed to properly lock it with a cable. I was in a bit of a hurry that morning, and I probably forgot to double-check the locks before I started the engine. So, it’s plausible that it was all my fault in the first place.
The Dilemma Between Hanging and Platform Hitch Racks
After all of the aforementioned happened, I was one step closer to finding the best hitch bike rack. However, the seller at my local bike shop asked me whether I’d like the hanging or the platform type. I automatically said that I was more interested in a platform rack because the one that my bike fell off from was the hanging type.
He agreed that platform racks were probably more secure. He also explained to me the differences between the two.
Deciding on a hanging rack wouldn’t be a bad decision at all because my mistake caused the bike to fall off of it. Moreover, such a rack also has certain benefits that might make some users choose it over the platform option.
The Hanging Type
With most hanging racks, we attach the upper part of the frame to it. Simply put, the bike hangs from its top tube. Such hanging racks are convenient for bicycles with standard frames. Yet, what really amazed me was when I learned that there were even different types of hanging racks.
For example, I could choose either the one that had two arms, the one with a single arm, or the one that grasped the bike by the wheel.
As the name says, a dual-arm hanging rack has two arms that keep the bike in place. However, even though the vast amount of space between the arms might provide great stability, that only goes for large bikes.
On the other hand, a single-arm rack has one holder that secures the bike with a clamp. Still, this solution might not be suitable for children’ bicycles or those that have large-diameter tubes due to the clamp’s size. Therefore, I decided to skip this option for the time being.
The racks from which the bikes hang by their wheels were really interesting to me because, on some of them, I could place my bike vertically. These are probably the only hanging option for bikes with non-conventional frames.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Hanging Racks
The main advantage of a hanging rack is that it weighs less than its platform counterpart. This makes it a perfect choice for owners of small and light vehicles.
It also costs less than the platform type and can usually hold up to 5 bikes.
However, some hanging racks will require a type of sway-control device to prevent bikes from swinging.
Some already come with special cradles that hold the bikes in place. But if these cradles are not included, they can be bought in all well-equipped bike stores or online.
What Is an Adapter Bar?
Not all bike frames will be able to fit on dual or single-arm racks. So, some users might need to buy an adapter bar. Such a bar is easily installed, and it connects the bike’s frame with the rack’s arms. Above all, it is a much cheaper solution than buying a new rack if we suddenly need to transport a bicycle that doesn’t fit.
The Platform Type
I actually thought that the best hitch bike rack would be a platform rack, as it seemed more stable than the hanging option. The wheels are placed in holders that don’t allow them to move. Moreover, I can adjust these holders to fit a wide variety of bicycles, regardless of their size or type of frame.
However, unlike hanging racks, platform racks usually come in two versions. The first one clamps the frame, while the second one clamps the wheels.
I find the first option to be more secure than the second one because it has a hook that goes over the frame and holds the bikes in place. As a result, the bikes don’t sway, and there is no need for additional equipment in order to keep them stable. Most importantly, the bicycles don’t come in contact with each other if I have to hit the brakes. Hence, they don’t get scratched or damaged.
In contrast, the second option is great for models with suspension because the rack puts no pressure on the frame itself. Moreover, there’s no chance for the frame to get scratched by the clamp.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Platform Racks
Platform racks can usually hold up to 4 bicycles at once. Unlike the hanging racks, they are more stable, and the bikes don’t sway while you’re driving. Depending on the rack, its weight, and how much additional equipment it has, the platform option is probably more suitable for heavier vehicles and SUVs.
These racks also limit the contact with the frames, which leaves no room for scratches or other damage that may jeopardize my warranty. I simply find them to be more convenient than the hanging option, especially because both loading and unloading is quite simple. Above all, I guess that the best advantage of the platform racks is that they can support various types of bicycles.
How to Pick The Correct Hitch Rack
Another question that bugged me was the fact that the best hitch bike rack might not fit my car in the end. I wasn’t really sure whether these racks were made for certain hitches and whether all models were available for different hitch openings. The last time I bought such a rack, I installed it without any problems due to sheer luck rather than knowledge.
The clerks at my local bike shop explained that hitches usually have either a 1 1/4″ x 1 1/4″ or a 2″ x 2″ opening. Hitches that have a 1 1/4″ x 1 1/4″ opening are categorized either as Class I or Class II. Basically, Class I hitches can’t carry as much weight as their Class II counterparts.
Moreover, some accessories designed for Class II can’t fit the Class I hitches at all. Manufacturers usually design them differently in order to prevent overloading by accident. Yet, if I had a Class II hitch, I’d be able to install bike racks that were made for both Classes.
Things are much simpler with 2″ x 2″ openings. Namely, all racks that are made for such an opening will have that information on the packaging. But what happens if someone doesn’t know the Class of their hitch?
How to Determine the Class of a Hitch
Another valuable piece of advice that I got at my local bike shop was that I could determine the category of my hitch via its maximum capacity. This information is usually found on the hitch itself. Sometimes, it’s on a sticker, and sometimes, it’s stamped on it.
Namely, Class I hitches usually have a maximum tongue weight capacity of around 200 lbs. On the other hand, Class II hitches can go up to 350 lbs. So, if my hitch has a capacity of 400 lbs, it will fall into the Class II category and be able to support a wide variety of hitch racks.
However, if the hitch isn’t satisfactory, there is always the option of asking a local mechanic to install a different Class on the vehicle.
Related Buying Guide On Bikes That Fits This Topic: Best Bikes for 5 Year Olds
Choosing the Best Hitch Bike Rack: The Top 10
1. Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Rack
When I started looking for the best hitch bike rack, Thule T2 Pro XT 2 really caught my eye due to its size and simplicity. Had I bought this product last year, my bike would not have fallen off the rack. The cable lock it comes with is rather convenient, so I would have probably locked it properly.
Thule T2 Pro XT 2 is a platform hitch bike rack. The manufacturer claims that this product offers maximum security, strength, and user-friendly features. All these claims are probably true because Thule is known for making high-quality and durable products. Moreover, this platform can be installed easily and in no time at all.
The box contains the product itself, with no extra features. The T2 Pro XT 2 can hold up to 2 bikes. However, the manufacturer offers an add-on for two more bicycles that you can buy separately.
This platform rack is made for vehicles with a 2″ x 2″ hitch opening. But, since it can transport only two bikes, I wouldn’t be able to load my kids’ bikes too without an add-on. Therefore, the basic version is great for someone who hasn’t started a family yet.
Most importantly, with this carrier, I could transport different types of bicycles, like downhill, mountain, carbon-frame, and even fat bikes. All 20-29” wheels would fit without any problem whatsoever. Also, I wouldn’t have to buy adapters if the tires were up to 5”.
2. Kuat Racks NV 2.0 Bike Rack
My wife’s car has a different hitch opening from mine, so she can’t use our rack when I’m away for business. However, Kuat Racks NV 2.0 would solve this problem because it also has a version that supports 1.25” hitch openings.
Kuat Racks NV 2.0 is, above all, a thing of beauty. But aside from the eye-catching design, it offers great stability. The manufacturer presents this model as a state-of-the-art rack that is packed with features. Also, it advertises it as a product designed for adventurers who want to travel the world.
The box contains the rack, the instruction manual, and a non-integrated hitch lock. Furthermore, I could load two bikes on this carrier with the possibility of buying an add-on in order to load two more. Additionally, all bikes with 20″ to 29″ tires should fit this rack perfectly. However, users will have to buy a separate adapter if they have 20-24″ tires.
Kuat Racks NV 2.0 supports both 2” and 1.25” hitch openings. Also, it can hold up to two bikes that weigh 60 lbs each.
3. Yakima Products Hold Up Tray Style Bike Rack
Above all, I’ve included Yakima Products Hold Up Tray Style Bike Rack on this best hitch bike rack list because of its side-to-side adjustability. I always need a lot of time to adjust my rack in order to prevent the bikes from coming in contact with each other. However, this product makes that much easier because all I need is a couple of twists with the right key in order to set it up.
The manufacturer claims that using this carrier is the easiest and fastest way to load bikes. Still, I would also say that the rack is pretty durable since it’s made out of steel. It supports both 2’’ and 1.25’’ hitch openings and can hold up to two bikes that weigh 60 lbs each.
It’s great for all biking enthusiasts who are always on the go and need to load their bicycles quickly. Many can benefit from it simply because it supports wheels between 20”-29”, as well as carbon frame bikes, and even those with disc brakes or full suspension.
4. Kuat Racks Sherpa 2.0
Kuat Racks Sherpa 2.0 would be a good option for me because it happened once that I wasn’t able to park my vehicle due to the rack’s size. Thanks to the folding tire cradles, this product actually leaves a tremendous amount of clearance.
Kuat presents Sherpa 2.0 as a convenient aluminum rack that is easy to install and take off. They also claim that it is a completely redesigned product that has little to do with the first Sherpa model.
Yet, it seems that it isn’t as strong as some of its counterparts on this list. It can only hold two bikes that weigh only 40 lbs each. However, the cradles can support tires as large as 3” and wheelbases that go up to 47”. Furthermore, this model allows us to create spacing between the bikes of up to 14”. It also comes in two hitch sizes of 2” and 1.25”, which is great news since we can install it on various vehicles.
Kuat Racks Sherpa 2.0 is intended for bicycle enthusiasts that don’t own heavy-duty bikes. It would also be perfect for small, lightweight cars.
5. Swagman XTC2 Hitch Bike Rack
What really bugs me about the rack that I own is that I’m not really able to access the rear of my car whenever I have it installed. With Swagman’s XTC2, though, I wouldn’t have such a problem because the center arms fold down.
XTC2 is one of the Swagman’s best hitch bike rack models. It was among the first that Swagman created, and it still holds well among its modern counterparts. This is exactly why I considered to choose it as the best hitch bike rack. Swagman doesn’t sugar-coat the features and benefits of this carrier. It presents it in a straightforward fashion and takes pride in it for what it is.
The XTC2 can transport up to 2 bicycles with wheel sizes ranging from 20” to 29”. It can also fit 1 1/4″ and 2″ hitch openings.
Unfortunately, users shouldn’t load bikes heavier than 35 lbs each. Another thing that made me unhappy about this rack is that I would have to buy 1/2″ locking hitch pins and cables separately.
This product is lightweight when compared to others on this best hitch bike rack list. So, the fact that it only supports bikes that weigh up to 35 lbs isn’t a disadvantage. It only means that it will suit small vehicles.
6. Allen Sports 4-Bike Hitch Rack
A while ago, my wife and I invited two of our friends to go mountain biking with us. They didn’t have a bike rack, and mine could transport only two bikes at a time.
Therefore, we had to buy an extension in order to fit all four of them. However, if I had bought the Allen Sports 4-Bike hitch rack, I wouldn’t have had to worry about that; this model can hold up to four bikes out of the box.
The manufacturer emphasizes the safety of this product and presents it as rugged and easy to use. However, the reason I featured it on this best hitch bike rack list is that it can transport up to four bicycles.
Even though it’s a hanging type of a hitch rack, it seems to provide enough support. This is due to Allen’s patented tie-down system that locks the frames in place. I could fold the carry arms in a matter of seconds and set up the whole rack within five minutes.
Due to the weight and the number of bikes that it can carry, this product is only available for 2” hitch openings. Furthermore, the manufacturer claims that users should only attach the rack to professionally installed Class III or Class IV hitches.
Allen Sports 4-Bike hitch rack would be a good choice for all users who need to transport more than two bikes at once. However, users that have bikes with non-standard frames might need to invest in adapter bars.
7. BV Bike Carrier Tray-Style Hitch Rack
To be honest, I was afraid to transport my bikes at night because the rack that I owned didn’t have a safety reflector. BV Bike Carrier Tray-Style Hitch Rack incorporates this feature, which makes it one of the safest products out there for transporting bikes after sundown.
BV describes its Bike Carrier as a hitch rack that provides the user with the most effortless way to transport bicycles. This is not far from the truth. The overall design of the product and multiple user-friendly features make this rack ready to use within minutes.
This product can carry up to two bikes that weigh 35 lbs each. Therefore, it’s one of the lighter racks on this best hitch bike rack list. The hitch tube can fit both 1.25” and 2” hitch openings. So, a wide variety of vehicles will support this model right out of the box. However, what distinguishes it from the rest is that it includes an adapter for 2” receivers.
BV Bike Carrier Tray-Style Hitch Rack is great for people who have multiple cars with different hitch types. For example, this product would fit both on my wife’s car and mine thanks to the 2” adapter. Hence, this feature can save you the cost of buying two different racks.
8. Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack
A friend in need once asked me to borrow him my hitch rack. However, he wasn’t able to load his bike, which had a 50 cm frame. If I had owned Swagman XC Cross-Country, that would’ve been possible because it supports frames up to 59 cm.
Swagman states that using XC Cross-Country is a secure and stress-free way to transport bikes. They back up that claim with the fact that the rack grasps bikes both by the wheels and the frames at the same time.
XC Cross-Country is compatible with 2” and 1 1/4” hitch openings and can fit up to two bicycles with a wheel size ranging from 20” to 29”. Furthermore, the maximum carrying capacity is 35 lbs per bike, which is a standard for lightweight racks. Additionally, unlike some other competing products, this one folds up vertically. That feature is useful because it could give me even more clearance in tight spots.
Above all, I’ve included the Swagman XC Cross-Country on this best hitch bike rack list because it’s easily adjustable and can fit a wide variety of frames. This rack will be a good choice for those who don’t need sturdy platforms and want to save a coin or two.
9. Swagman Chinook Hitch Bike Rack
The first product that I bought wasn’t the best hitch bike rack at all. As soon as I got home, I realized that it didn’t have a locking pin for the hitch. So, I had to postpone packing for the trip, go back to the store and buy one. I could’ve picked Swagman Chinook that day, but I’m not sure why I didn’t. If I had, I would’ve gotten a locking pin with it.
Swagman states that Chinook is one of their latest products. They take pride in its state-of-the-art design, durability, and user-friendly features. At first glance, Chinook looks modern and streamlined. Simplicity is the key characteristic of this model because I could install it with ease. Moreover, the design doesn’t jeopardize the compatibility with numerous different frames.
Still, I would really like to emphasize the quality of the tire cradles and the ratchet straps that firmly grasp the wheels, as well as the adjustable locking hooks that help secure the frames to the rack. It seems to me that Swagman has given the security characteristics of this model some thought.
Chinook can transport up to two bikes that weigh 45 lbs each. Furthermore, I could attach it to hitches that have both 1 1/4″ and 2″ receivers. However, there’s bad news for all those who prefer fat bikes. Namely, they would have to buy the fat tire tray separately.
All in all, this product seems quite satisfactory to me, especially because it can carry bikes that are heavier than some other models in its price range. Therefore, I would recommend it to all owners of 45-lb bikes and those that have unconventional frames.
10. Hollywood Racks Sport Rider Bike Rack
I need to go back to the event that I described at the beginning of this article. I forgot to mention that my wife told me that she heard rattle seconds before my bike fell off the carrier. Afterward, I checked the hitch and realized that I couldn’t tighten the rack enough. So, the wobbling was probably one of the reasons for the whole mess.
In contrast to my rack, Hollywood Racks Sport Rider Bike Rack includes a state-of-the-art system that I could use to fully tighten it with ease and without any tools. That’s one of the reasons I’ve included it on my best hitch bike rack list.
The manufacturer presents this model as a heavy-duty platform carrier that can hold up to two bikes. The maximum weight capacity is 50 lbs per bicycle. However, we can only install it on hitches with 2” openings.
What’s good about this model is that the wheel cradles can fit bikes with wheelbases that are up to 60”. It secures them via universal locking-frame hooks that can fit most frames on the market. As a result, this carrier would be great for all biking enthusiasts who have large and sturdy bikes but expect more reliability from a hitch rack.
Do We Have a Winner?
Finding the best hitch bike rack wasn’t an easy task for me because I had to choose between multiple products that incorporate world-class features. However, according to my judgment and research, the best one is definitely the Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Rack.
What sets it apart from other models is the design that offers greater clearance. Also, it seems that every competing product on the list lacks something, but Thule T2 Pro XT 2 manages to incorporate all of their benefits.
For example, some racks have the same features as T2 Pro XT 2, but they are of the hanging type, and Thule’s model is platform-based, which automatically offers better security.
The only downside of this product is that it’s available only for 2” x 2” hitch openings. However, if users are ready to spend an extra coin or two in order to get the best hitch bike rack, they can always ask the mechanic to install a corresponding hitch on their vehicle.
- Editor Rating
- Rated 5 stars
- Best Hitch Bike Rack of 2019: 10 Best and Most Secure Hitch Racks on the Market
- Reviewed by:
- Published on:
- Last modified: