If you’re searching for the best way to transport bikes, hitch-mounted racks are the way to go. Securely attaching to the receiver hitch of your vehicle, they offer unmatched versatility and ease of use. There are a wide range of options to choose from, but hitch racks fall into two basic categories: platform models are the most expensive but offer excellent stability and convenience, while hanging racks maximize carrying capacity in a compact package. Below we break down our top picks for 2019, from high-end, exquisitely manufactured designs like 1Up’s Heavy Duty Double to Kuat’s budget-oriented and weight-conscious Beta. For more information, see our hitch rack comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Best Overall Hitch Bike Rack
Number of bikes: 2 (4 with add-on)
Weight: 52 lbs.
What we like: Loaded with features, well built, and easy to use.
What we don’t: Expensive and a bit heavy.
With its complete feature set and premium build, Thule’s T2 Pro XT grabs the top spot on our hitch-mounted round-up for 2019. We’ve put this rack through its paces over nearly two years of testing—logging more than 20,000 miles in the process—and have come away thoroughly impressed. The user-friendly tilt feature is best in class, providing quick and easy access to the rear of the vehicle, and its versatile carrying system accommodates everything from fat bikes to 20-inch kids’ models. At $600, the T2 Pro certainly isn’t cheap, nor is it particularly light at over 50 pounds, but its sturdy, long-lasting design is ideal for committed riders.
Hitch racks is a competitive space, but what really sets the T2 Pro XT apart from the field is the sheer number of features it offers. Simply put, this rack does it all. Its expanding wedge attachment system makes for a wobble-free connection, you get ample clearance from your vehicle and between bikes, and the included integrated locks provide an added measure of security. And as mentioned above, all of the components on the Thule are extremely well made, which makes the investment worth it over time... Read in-depth review
See the Thule T2 Pro XT
A Close Second
Number of bikes: 2 (4 with add-on)
Weight: 46 lbs.
What we like: The ratcheting arms only make contact with your bike’s tires.
What we don’t: Hard to reach tilt lever and no locks of any sort.
Wisconsin-based 1Up may not be a household name like Thule or Yakima, but the company has a dedicated following among hardcore cyclists. Without a doubt, their Heavy Duty Double's sleek aluminum build and attention to detail are a cut above the rest. Our editor described it as, "a work of art much like a high-end bike," and there is a lot of truth to that statement. The design includes two independent folding arms that contact only the tires, leaving the rest of the bike completely untouched—a task that other racks struggle to accomplish. For riders who want a premium design and typically carry traditional road and mountain bikes, 1Up's Heavy Duty Double is a great choice.
What keeps the 1Up Heavy Duty Double from taking our top spot? In short, it can't match the sheer number of useful features included with the Thule T2 Pro above. First, you need to purchase separate adapters to carry fat bikes, and locks are not included with the rack (a notable downside considering the price). In addition, the tilt feature is more challenging to use than other top models—the lever is hidden away under the rack and requires some effort to get to. 1Up does offer a tilt lever extender, but that will cost you another $70 and it feels like something that could be remedied or included at the outset. All that said, it's hard to overlook the beauty and level of craftsmanship of the 1Up—as far as bike racks go, it's in a class of its own.
See the 1Up USA Heavy Duty Double
Best Budget Hitch Rack
Number of bikes: 2 (available in 1- and 3-bike versions)
Weight: 37 lbs.
What we like: Inexpensive for a platform rack but doesn’t compromise on quality.
What we don’t: Simplified design lacks some useful features.
We’ll start by noting that hitch bike racks are an expensive bunch. The $298 Kuat Transfer 2 may not meet some people’s standards of “budget,” but spend any less and you’ll have to make serious compromises on both quality and function. In practice, the Transfer 2 is surprisingly adept: it’s able to carry a wide range of bike types and wheels sizes, and it can even accommodate fat bikes with an adapter (sold separately). The simplistic design also does a good job at keeping weight to a minimum (37 pounds for the two-bike version). And the Transfer is available in one and three-bike models should your carrying needs be different.
As with any budget version of a complex product, there are bound to be shortcomings. With the Kuat Transfer 2 you miss out on integrated locks, the ability to adjust the bikes side to side for clearance-related issues, and you don’t get the premium, heavy-duty feel of racks like the pricier Kuat NV Base 2.0 below. The Transfer 2 also has a 40-pound max capacity per bike, which certainly is something to take into consideration if you own heavier models or fat bikes. But even with these nitpicks, the Transfer 2 is a nice budget option, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as a daily driver.
See the Kuat Transfer 2
Best Hitch Rack for Rear Cargo Access
Number of bikes: 2
Weight: 63 lbs.
What we like: Built-in swing feature provides easy access to the rear of your vehicle.
What we don’t: It’s the heaviest two-bike rack on this list.
When the RockyMounts BackStage was released, the rack created quite a stir in the industry. It was one of the first platform racks to incorporate a side-swinging mechanism into the design (think of an arm that swings away from your vehicle to allow for total access to the rear of your car). And it’s worth noting that this functionality still isn’t available from big hitters like Yakima or Thule. Furthermore, the BackStage comes with many features you’d expect from a premium hitch rack: a cable lock (although not integrated), the ability to carry various types of bikes and wheel sizes, sturdy ratcheting arms, and quality materials and construction overall.
Adding the swing-away functionality to a hitch-mounted rack does come with compromises. The RockyMounts BackStage is 10 to 20 pounds heavier than most other platform-style racks, and therefore you will not want to remove it from your vehicle very often (or without help). Another quibble we have is that the lock is not integrated into the rack, which is a handy feature that we appreciate on the Thule T2 Pro above and Yakima Dr.Tray below. But if you’re looking for the ultimate in rear cargo access, the BackStage should be at the top of your list.
See the RockyMounts BackStage
Best High-Capacity Hitch Rack
Number of bikes: 6 (available in 4- and 5-bike versions)
Weight: 85 lbs.
What we like: The most secure and easiest way to carry six bikes.
What we don’t: Very heavy and very expensive.
If you’re in search of one large rack to rule them all—or you just have a lot of friends—then the Recon Gen2 R6 is worth a serious look. This unique hitch-mounted rack takes a different approach to carrying bikes: its “baskets” hold the front wheel high while the rest of the bike hangs below. The standard baskets are able to carry 24- to 29-inch wheeled bikes, and the rack can accommodate fat bikes and 20-inch kids’ bikes with different attachments (sold separately). The main advantage to the Recon’s design is that you can carry up to six bikes at once, and the vertical hanging position keeps them relatively stable and close to the back of the vehicle.
What are the downsides of the Recon Gen2? The astronomical $1,170 price tag immediately limits its appeal to those that will truly utilize the large bike capacity (for example, the rack is popular among mountain biking guide companies). Further, the Recon’s burly build tips the scale at a very hefty 85 pounds. Lastly, Recon Racks is a small company based out of Ferndale, Washington, and ordering backlogs sometimes can be an issue. At time of publication, for example, you're looking at a 3-week wait for your rack. If you like the design but don’t need to haul as many bikes, Recon also makes 4 and 5-bike versions of the Gen2 that are slightly lighter and less expensive.
See the Recon Racks Gen2 R6
Best of the Rest
Number of bikes: 2 (4 with add-on)
Weight: 51 lbs.
What we like: Sleek design and sturdy ratcheting arms.
What we don’t: The tilt lever isn’t as easy to reach as the Thule T2 Pro XT.
The hitch rack market is competitive, which is made clear by the Kuat NV Base 2.0 being ranked here. To start, it has all the features you’d expect from a premium rack: it comes with integrated locks, holds bikes ranging from 26 to 29 inches (and can accommodate kids’ bikes and fat bikes with adapters), and features adjustable wheel cradles to dial in bike-to-bike clearance. Less important, but always a consideration: we find the Kuat NV Base 2.0 to be one of the more visually appealing racks on the market. Although it’s a step down from their top-of-the-line version, the Kuat NV 2.0, we prefer the Base 2.0 for its slightly simplified design and lower price tag.
Why isn’t the Kuat ranked higher? In practice, the tilt mechanism is considerably more difficult to access and operate than the Thule T2 Pro above and Yakima Dr.Tray below. Further, as with the 1Up, you have to purchase additional adapters and hardware to carry fat bikes and 20- to 24-inch wheels. And you don’t save much money by missing out on those features, as the NV is only $11 less than the top-rated Thule. But for hauling standard adult road, gravel, and mountain bikes, we can’t help but love the Kuat’s sturdy attachment system and sleek design... Read in-depth review
See the Kuat NV Base 2.0
Number of bikes: 2 (4 with add-on)
Weight: 50 lbs.
What we like: Time-tested design and easy bike-to-bike adjustments.
What we don’t: Lacks some of the features found on newer racks.
Thule’s T2 Classic is the predecessor to our top pick, the T2 Pro XT, and as such, is a quality rack with most of the features you’d expect from an earlier iteration. The Classic is able to carry everything from 20- to 29-inch wheeled bikes, as well as fat bikes with up to 5-inch wide tires (no extra adapters needed). In addition, the platform trays on this rack are highly adjustable, making any bike-to-bike clearance issues almost non-existent. And with a relatively reasonable price tag of $480, the T2 Classic is a smart way to save.
Considering the $120 drop in price from the T2 Pro XT, it’s no surprise the T2 Classic is somewhat lacking in refinement and features. Most notable is the tilt lever, which is located at the base of the rack instead of the end, making the tilting process much more difficult. And although the T2 Classic has a spot for locks on the ratcheting arms, they are not included with the rack and will cost you an additional $40 (for the Thule version). But if you don’t need the latest and greatest, Thule’s T2 Classic remains a nice option.
See the Thule T2 Classic
Number of bikes: 2 (3 with EZ+1 add-on)
Weight: 34 lbs.
What we like: Pretty light and the ability to carry three bikes with the add-on.
What we don’t: Doesn’t feel as durable or stout as other racks.
Yakima has been a long-time player in the bike rack market, and our current favorite from their line-up is the Dr.Tray. Featuring moveable tray platforms, an easy-to-use tilt-down lever that resembles the one on Thule’s T2 Pro above, and a total weight that undercuts our top picks by 10 to 15 pounds, the rack has a lot going for it. We also like the EZ+1 extension, which allows you to expand its carrying capacity to three bikes with only a nine pound weight penalty (for an additional $259). It’s worth noting that the Dr.Tray’s price recently jumped $50 up to $649, which puts it among the more expensive in this grouping, but its full feature set and low weight make it an intriguing option for dedicated riders.
In getting the Dr.Tray’s weight down to a class-leading 34 pounds, Yakima did unfortunately have to compromise the stout feeling typically associated with platform racks. In particular, the thin arms that secure the front wheels feel flimsy and cheap and don’t lock the bikes as solidly into place as others. And on the road, we’ve noticed they’re more prone to wobbling while driving than more solidly-built competitors like the Kuat NV Base 2.0. We understand that sacrifices are necessary to trim weight, but it feels like Yakima took it a little too far in this case.
See the Yakima Dr.Tray
Number of bikes: 2
Weight: 27 lbs.
What we like: Compact and lightweight design.
What we don’t: Concerns with bike-to-bike clearance.
Saris may not be as popular as Yakima and Thule, but they’ve carved out a nice segment of the market with their budget-friendly prices and creative designs. The Freedom EX 2 is their leading platform-style rack that differs from our top picks above with its ability to carry two bikes on a single platform. Yakima and Thule both have similar offerings, but we find the Saris to be more streamlined and user-friendly. The cradles do a nice job of securing the wheels and the frame clamps hold bikes pretty solidly in place. And what we like most about the Freedom is its minimalist build which takes up very little space behind your vehicle and is easy to store in your garage.
Similar to hanging-style hitch racks, the Saris Freedom EX 2 clamps directly onto your bike’s frame, which inevitably will lead to scuffs and marks. Another shortcoming is it can be a pain to adjust the center clamps up and down when you’re carrying very different bike styles or sizes. Finally, bike-to-bike clearance is minimal at best, which is to be expected given the streamlined design. But if you’re looking for a compact rack and plan to carry lightweight road or less aggressive cross-country mountain bikes, the Saris Freedom EX 2 is a fine choice.
See the Saris Freedom EX 2
Number of bikes: 4 (available in 2- and 5-bike versions)
Weight: 35 lbs.
What we like: Proven, affordable way to haul 4 bikes.
What we don’t: Need an adapter to carry step-through bikes.
Years ago, hanging racks dominated the hitch market, but they’ve rapidly been overtaken by platform designs due to their superior stability and overall carrying performance. That said, there’s no more affordable way to carry a load of bikes than a hanging rack, and Yakima’s RidgeBack is a long-time favorite. What sets the Yakima apart is its durable build, reasonable price, and anti-sway design that limits bike movement while on the road. Further, we think Yakima has the best cradle system, which includes ratchet-style straps to securely hold the bike’s top tube to the rack.
As with all hanging-style racks, the RidgeBack comes with its fair share of downsides. An adapter is necessary to carry full-suspension mountain bikes, step-through bikes, or smaller kids’ models, which adds a significant amount to the overall cost of the rack (top tube adapters are about $50 each). Moreover, there is very little space between the bikes when they’re loaded, which can lead to rubbing and damage to the paint. But it’s hard to deny the value of the RidgeBack 4, and its track record of reliable performance makes it our top four-bike hanging choice.
See the Yakima RidgeBack 4
Number of bikes: 2
Weight: 45 lbs.
What we like: Integrated ramps for loading and unloading e-bikes.
What we don’t: Very expensive.
Reflecting the growing popularity of heavy e-bikes and large fat bikes, Thule released the EasyFold XT 2. The big news here is the included ramps that allow you to push your bikes onto the platforms rather than having to lift them off the ground. The ramps are quick to deploy, do a nice job guiding the bikes up and down, and store easily on the rack while driving. In addition, the EasyFold is among the simplest to store: the platform’s sides fold upwards in half and an integrated handle allows you to carry the rack short distances with one hand. With a load capacity of 130 pounds (between two bikes), the EasyFold checks all the boxes for a heavy hauler.
Why do we have the Thule EasyFold XT 2 ranked here? To start, it’s easily one of the most expensive ways to carry two bikes, and therefore is not a good value unless you need or want the ramps. Moreover, there’s no option to add an extension to the XT 2, which means that two bikes are your hard ceiling and you’ll need to buy another rack if you want to carry more. But for e-bike owners who want an integrated and deployable ramp—and others who don’t want to lift heavy bikes on and off their rack—the Thule EasyFold XT 2 is the best option available.
See the Thule EasyFold XT 2
Number of bikes: 4
Weight: 56 lbs.
What we like: The convenience of a swing-away design.
What we don’t: Heavy and pricey for a hanging rack.
Hanging-style racks are known for their simplicity and affordable price tags, but the feature-rich Yakima FullSwing 4 bucks that trend. Like the RockyMounts BackStage above, the rack’s calling card is its swing-away feature that provides easy access to the vehicle. Further, you get included bike locks, a receiver lock, and its secure strap system is one of the best in the business. Don’t expect the same easy loading or wobble-free experience as a platform-style rack, but the FullSwing 4 is a well-built design that should keep most people happy.
As with any hanging-style hitch rack, there’s no avoiding the fact that the FullSwing 4 makes direct contact with your bike’s frame. It does have padded arms, but those only help so much and frame scuffs are inevitable. And as with the RidgeBack above, a top tube adapter is necessary if you’ll be hauling bikes with irregularly-shaped top tubes (which unfortunately is most full-suspension bikes nowadays). At $549, it’s a big investment for a rack with so many compromises, but the FullSwing 4 still is about half the cost of a platform design with a two-bike add-on.
See the Yakima FullSwing 4
Number of bikes: 4 (available in 2- and 5-bike versions)
Weight: 34 lbs.
What we like: Simple yet effective design.
What we don’t: Rubber straps have been known to break down.
Thule has one of the largest bike rack line-ups, and their Vertex XT slots in as their mid-range hanging option. Offered in 2, 4, and 5-bike versions, as well as a 4-bike swing-away model, the collection delivers good value and all-around performance. The $300 Vertex 4 featured here includes arc-shaped arms that make loading and unloading a little easier. Overall, it’s not a featherweight at 34 pounds, but the Thule’s sturdy build makes for a solid way to transport a lot of bikes.
In many ways, the Vertex XT is a direct competitor to Yakima’s RidgeBack above. Both have a four-bike capacity, anti-swap strap systems, and a tilt mechanism to get the rack out of the way when loading or unloading your car (both require you to remove the bikes to tilt, however). Where the Thule has the edge is its included cable lock, although you miss out on the Yakima’s receiver lock (you can purchase one separately from Thule for $60). In the end, what pushes the Yakima ahead is its better durability. The rubber straps on Thule hanging racks are prone to cracking and breaking down over time (particularly if left on your car year-round), which is something that just doesn’t crop up as often with Yakima models.
See the Thule Vertex XT 4
Number of bikes: 2 (4 with add-on)
Weight: 51 lbs.
What we like: Sturdier design than the Dr.Tray above.
What we don’t: Lack of resistance in folding arms and awkward tilt lever.
Combining features from Yakima’s Dr.Tray and HoldUp racks is the well-rounded and competitively-priced HoldUp Evo. The most notable upgrade from the standard HoldUp is the use of larger cradles that can fit up to 5-inch wide fat bike tires (the HoldUp maxes out at 3 inches). Further, the Evo addresses our main issue with the lightweight Dr.Tray: stability. This 51-pound rack is solidly built and doesn’t have the same swaying or durability concerns of its more expensive cousin. As with the Dr.Tray, however, the HoldUp Evo has seen a $50 jump in price for 2019, which puts it in the same class as the more polished Thule T2 Pro XT and Kuat NV Base 2.0.
Where does the HoldUp Evo fall short? First, the ratcheting arms offer little to no resistance when swinging them up and over the wheel, and they fall parallel to the ground when not in use, which can be quite annoying. Second is the location of the tilt lever, which is on the inside of the rack and can be difficult to reach with bikes loaded (the Dr.Tray tilt feature is much easier to use). In the end, we consider the HoldUp a decent all-around design, but it isn’t a class leader in any particular category.
See the Yakima HoldUp EVO
Number of bikes: 2
Weight: 13 lbs.
What we like: Smart mix of weight, strength, and features.
What we don’t: Only offered in a two-bike capacity.
In stark contrast to the feature-rich and pricey Kuat NV Base 2.0 above is the brand’s simple and budget-friendly Beta. The standout feature of this hanging rack is its weight, or lack thereof, with the 2-inch receiver version coming in at a scant 13 pounds. Equally impressive is that this ultralight rack is still rated to carry 80 pounds total (40 pounds per bike). And we’re happy to see that the Beta hasn’t skimped on too many features: the rack tilts for rear vehicle access, its arms fold down when not in use, and it has same wobble-free hitch attachment mechanism that’s found on Kuat’s premium offerings.
Our biggest complaint with the Beta is that Kuat doesn’t offer a higher capacity version. One of the main reasons to get a hanging-style rack is for occasional family outings, and a four or five bike model is often ideal for those trips. This limitation is what pushes the Beta down our list, but among two-bike hanging racks, we think the Beta has a best-in-class mix of weight, build quality, and functionality.
See the Kuat Beta 2.0
Number of bikes: 4 (available in 2- and 3-bike versions)
Weight: 20 lbs.
What we like: Low weight and ability to carry four bikes.
What we don’t: Lower build quality.
Combining a high carrying capacity and minimalist design is the Saris Bones hanging rack. Its plastic-heavy construction gives it a feathery 20-pound weight, which makes the Bones the lightest four-bike rack to make our list. And despite a price that undercuts the Thule Vertex above by $30, you still get useful features like a tilt-down function for access to the rear of the vehicle, and the whole unit folds up nicely when it’s time to store. The Bones’s flexible rubber and plastic zip-tie-style securing straps are nothing fancy, but they do an adequate job of holding bikes in place.
What’s immediately apparent when using the Bones rack is its lower all-around build quality. In particular, the extensive use of plastic on major pieces like the arms doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence over the long term. That said, we have nothing to complain about at this early point in the test and Saris’s lifetime warranty is certainly reassuring. Overall, we prefer the sturdier Yakima RidgeBack or Thule Vertex above, but the Saris Bones undercuts them both in weight and price.
See the Saris Bones Hitch 4
Number of bikes: 2
Weight: 32 lbs.
What we like: Lighter than most other platform-style racks.
What we don’t: Long-term durability concerns.
As with the Dr.Tray above, Kuat’s Sherpa 2.0 is a lightweight alternative in the heavy platform rack world. At 32 pounds, it’s a whopping 19 pounds less than the Kuat NV Base 2.0 above, which makes it a whole lot easier to install and remove from your vehicle. In terms of design, think of the Sherpa 2.0 as a pared-down version of Kuat’s other racks, while still retaining a good number of the design features that make this brand so popular. As long as you’re hauling regular road or mountain bikes (the rack maxes out at 40 pounds per bike and 3-inch wide tires), the Sherpa 2.0 has a lot going for it.
In cutting weight, however, you lose out on the long-term durability found on other racks. In a two-year stretch, our Sherpa 2.0 had a series of issues: the tire ratcheting system failed, the sliding arm mechanism started to stick until it eventually slid out of the lower piece, and the spring in the pivot started to stick as well. Further, the rack rusted out quickly (this was in the rainy Pacific Northwest, however). The good news is that Kuat provided a replacement with their excellent warranty, but this experience leads us to think it’s worth upgrading to the burlier NV Base 2.0 if you’ll be leaving the rack on the back of your car most of the year.
See the Kuat Sherpa 2.0
Number of bikes: 4
Weight: 29 lbs.
What we like: Inexpensive RV/trailer-specific design.
What we don’t: Cheaply made and no tilt function.
Yakima’s RoadTrip is the cheapest four-bike rack to make our list, undercutting the Saris Bones Hitch above by $50. With its budget-friendly price comes a suitably minimalist feature set. The Yakima doesn’t include a tilt function, cable lock or hitch receiver lock, and it’s only offered in a 2-inch receiver size (many of the options above are compatible with both 1.25- and 2-inch receivers). But as with Yakima’s RidgeBack above, the basics are there: the cradles that hold the frame are a time-tested design, and the overall construction is sturdier than expected for the price point.
To be clear, the RoadTrip is a focused design that’s best for RV’s, campers, trailers, or vehicles where you don’t need access to the rear cargo area. The lack of a tilt function helps keep cost and weight down but makes it impossible to open the rear hatch of a vehicle without completely removing the rack. But for the right user, the RoadTrip is an inexpensive and functional way to haul bikes over long distances.
See the Yakima RoadTrip 4
|Rack||Price||Type||Weight||Tire Width||Wheel Sizes||Capacity*||Locks|
|Thule T2 Pro XT 2||$600||Platform||52 lbs.||5 in. max||20-29 in.||60 lbs.||Yes|
|1UP Heavy Duty Double||$529-$609||Platform||46 lbs.||3.1 in. max||16-29 in.||50 lbs.||No|
|Kuat Transfer 2||$298||Platform||37 lbs.||3 in. max||20-29 in.||40 lbs.||No|
|RockyMounts BackStage||$600||Platform||63 lbs.||5 in. max||20-29 in.||60 lbs.||Yes|
|Recon Racks Gen2 R6||$1,170||Hanging||85 lbs.||3 in. max||26-29 in.||50 lbs.||No|
|Kuat NV Base 2.0||$589||Platform||51 lbs.||3 in. max||24-29 in.||60 lbs.||Yes|
|Thule T2 Classic||$480||Platform||50 lbs.||5 in. max||20-29 in.||60 lbs.||No|
|Yakima Dr.Tray||$649||Platform||34 lbs.||5 in. max||26-29 in.||40 lbs.||Yes|
|Saris Freedom EX 2||$349||Platform||27 lbs.||4 in. max||20-29 in.||60 lbs.||Yes|
|Yakima RidgeBack 4||$319||Hanging||35 lbs.||N/A||N/A||40 lbs.||No|
|Thule EasyFold XT 2||$750||Platform||45 lbs.||3 in. max||N/A||65 lbs.||Yes|
|Yakima FullSwing 4||$549||Hanging||56 lbs.||N/A||N/A||40 lbs.||Yes|
|Thule Vertex XT 4||$300||Hanging||34 lbs.||N/A||N/A||35 lbs.||Yes|
|Yakima HoldUp EVO||$549||Platform||51 lbs.||5 in. max||20-29 in.||50 lbs.||Yes|
|Kuat Beta 2.0||$195||Hanging||13 lbs.||N/A||N/A||40 lbs.||No|
|Saris Bones Hitch 4||$270||Hanging||20 lbs.||N/A||N/A||35 lbs.||No|
|Kuat Sherpa 2.0||$498||Platform||32 lbs.||3 in. max||25-29 in.||40 lbs.||Yes|
|Yakima RoadTrip 4||$219||Hanging||29 lbs.||N/A||N/A||37.5 lbs.||No|
*Editor's Note: "Capacity" refers to weight capacity per bike.
- Types of Hitch Bike Racks
- Bike Capacity
- Bike Weight Capacity
- Tilting Feature
- Swing-Away Racks
- Wheel Size and Tire Width Compatibility
- Bike Frame Compatibility
- Vehicle Clearance
- Material and Build Quality
- Bike and Receiver Hitch Locks
- Hitch Mount vs. Other Bike Rack Styles
Platform racks dominate this round-up, and in our opinion, are the best way to transport your bikes. Compared to hanging racks, platform designs are compatible with a much wider range of bike styles, sit lower to the ground for easier access, and are excellent in terms of stability. Most have two attachment points: a ratcheting arm that secures the front wheel, and a strap that holds the rear wheel in place. This straightforward and effective system makes it easy to rapidly load and unload your bike, and it minimizes any wobble or side-to-side movement while driving. In addition, these racks are the most gentle on bikes because they typically only come in contact with the tire or wheel (and not the painted frame).
As with any product, there are bound to be compromises. Platform racks are big, bulky, and generally quite heavy. If you plan on removing your hitch rack with any regularity, you’ll want to pay attention to weight, and many leading options tip the scales at 50 pounds or more. Platform-style hitch racks also are among the most expensive options on the market, with prices of leading designs like the Thule T2 Pro XT and 1Up Heavy Duty Double clearing $500. That said, for serious riders, the added weight and cost are well worth the security and ease of use of this style.
Hanging hitch racks are a popular way to transport road or lightweight bikes without the need to lift them overhead and onto the roof of your vehicle. While not necessarily inexpensive, a quality hanging rack like the Yakima RidgeBack 2 comes in at about half the price of a platform model with the same capacity. Hanging racks are much lighter and more compact, which is a plus for those that plan to remove the rack with some regularity. A great example is the Kuat Beta, which comes in at a scant 13 pounds and can be easily tucked away in the corner of your garage when not in use.
A quick check of our list above will show that most of the hanging-style racks have ended up at or near the bottom of our rankings. The reason is simple: they’re unable to accommodate irregularly-shaped bike frames—including many full-suspension mountain bikes, kids’ bikes, and step-through bikes—without purchasing a top tube adapter. In addition, the bikes are closer together than on a platform rack and are more prone to swaying and coming into contact with one another while driving. And a final pitfall of the hanging rack is how it secures bikes to the rack: it holds them in place by rubber or plastic straps that wrap around the frame. Unfortunately, these straps often can lead to scuffing and scraping over time—for those that love their bikes, this is a deal breaker.
In general, platform-style racks can carry anywhere from one to four bikes (if you invest in an extension), while hanging-style racks range from two to five total bikes. There are notable outliers, however, including the innovative Recon Racks Gen2 R6, which can accommodate six bikes in a vertical hanging position. The majority of riders stick with the two-bike design, but families or those that anticipate carrying bikes for group rides should consider getting a higher-capacity hanging model or one of the platform add-ons to start.
Platform Rack Add-Ons
Add-ons (also known as extensions) are a great way to increase the carrying capacity of your platform-style hitch rack. They typically double the rack’s carrying capacity—from two to four bikes—and are available for many popular designs (including Thule’s T2 Pro XT Add-On and Kuat’s NV Base 2.0 Add-On). At $430 and $419 respectively, they’re clearly a big investment, costing nearly as much as the main racks themselves. But the extensions are convenient to use, easy to install or remove, and come with the security of the platform design. It’s worth noting that these add-ons are usually only compatible with the 2-inch receiver version of the racks due to the low maximum tongue weight of 1.25-inch receivers.
For those planning on hauling heavier downhill mountain bikes, e-bikes, fat bikes, or cruiser models, it’s a good idea to verify the bike weight capacity of a given rack. The listings for each design will specify the maximum carrying capability per bike. And that amount can vary widely: burly platform racks have the highest ratings, including Thule’s e-bike-ready EasyFold XT 2 that can haul up to 65-pound bikes. Light and affordable hanging racks like the Saris Bones Hitch are on the lower end at 35 pounds per bike. For reference, most standard mountain bikes and road bikes are under 33 pounds, but e-bikes can easily exceed 50 pounds. If you’re going to be close to the maximum weight or a little over, we recommend upgrading to a sturdier model—it’s not worth the risk of breaking your rack while driving or voiding your warranty.
If, like most cyclists, you plan to keep your rack on your vehicle for extended periods of time or just want to retain access to your rear cargo area, you’ll want to get a hitch rack with a tilt feature. And with the exception of some truly cheap options—or the RV-specific Yakima RoadTrip that made our list—nearly all hitch-mounted bike racks have this functionality. As the name indicates, tilting racks can be leaned over by pulling a lever that moves the rack far enough down to allow you to open the rear hatch or tailgate of your vehicle. The tilting feature is available on both hanging and platform-style racks, although one key point of differentiation is that many platform models can tilt with the bikes loaded, while hanging racks require you to unload your bikes first. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s yet another reason we prefer the platform rack style.
In reading our reviews of the products above, it’s clear that we put a priority on the design and ease of use of a rack’s tilting function. And while hanging racks often resemble one another in how they work—unload the bikes, fold the arms down, and then pull a lever to lower the rack—platform models can vary widely. Our favorite lever style on a platform rack is found on Thule’s T2 Pro XT, which has a large handle conveniently located at the end of the rack. It’s simple to operate, and the rack feels almost weightless even with heavy bikes on the trays. Others, like Yakima’s HoldUp Evo, are almost unreachable when bikes are loaded, because the handle is tucked away too close to the receiver hitch. It’s not a coincidence the Thule and Yakima are found on opposite ends of our 2019 rankings.
Tilting racks allow you to open the cargo door on most SUVs, hatchbacks, and trucks, but swing-away designs take access to the next level. In short, releasing a pin allows them to open like an arm, pivoting the entire rack to the side of the vehicle. This gives you uninterrupted access to the rear cargo area—all without having to unload your bikes. The extra design complexity and materials do add weight and cost—RockyMounts BackStage is 10 to 20 pounds heavier than a non-swing-away alternative—but are worth it for those that prioritize the feature. You’ll mostly find swing-away racks in the hanging category, including Yakima’s FullSwing 4 above, but the aforementioned RockyMounts BackStage platform rack is one notable exception.
Wheel size and tire width aren’t major considerations when choosing a hanging rack, but those that opt for the platform style will want to verify their bikes will fit in the included trays. The good news is that the majority of road and mountain bikers won’t have a problem at all—every platform rack on our list can fit 26- to 29-inch wheels and 3-inch and under tires. It’s when you get to the extreme ends of the spectrum with 12- to 24-inch kids’ bikes or fat bikes with 4- to 5-inch tires that problems can crop up.
One of the reasons that the Thule T2 Pro XT took the top spot on our list is its ability to fit so many bike styles straight out of the box. It’s the only one that can both accommodate 20- to 29-inch wheels and tires up to 5 inches wide (the only incompatible size is a 27.5-inch fat bike). Others, like the Kuat NV Base 2.0, require two separate adapters to fit bikes with wheels between 20 to 24 inches and tires larger than 3 inches. For reference, purchasing both Kuat adapters isn’t costly at $20, but they are separate pieces that you’ll need to store when not in use.
A final scenario is where a specific rack simply can’t fit a certain wheel or tire size. Yakima’s Dr.Tray has no problem accommodating fat bike tires up to 5 inches, but is unable to fit a wheel size smaller than 26 inches (and no adapters are available). As stated above, these wheel size and tire width issues won’t be a problem for a lot of riders—it’s often easier to store a small kids’ bike inside the vehicle, for example—but it’s a good thing to have in mind as you’re narrowing your rack search.
Mountain bikes have been trending towards longer designs, which has impacted the length of their wheelbases. As such, on certain platform racks, there can be wheelbase compatibility issues. It won’t impact most folks, but larger mountain bikers on big, modern downhill-oriented models will want to verify this piece of information. To check, you can look your bike up online and search for a geometry chart, as bike manufacturers almost always call out the wheelbase. Another easy way is to physically check the wheelbase of your bike by measuring the distance from the center of the front and rear axles. Once you have this number you can compare it against the max wheelbase spec for the rack you're interested in purchasing. There can be big differences—for example, the Kuat Sherpa 2.0’s max wheelbase is a fairly short 47 inches, while the 1Up’s Heavy Duty Double’s max capacity is 54 inches.
The final potential bike compatibility pitfall is related to the shape and style of your bike’s frame. To start, platform racks like the Kuat NV Base 2.0, Thule T2, Yakima Dr.Tray, and 1Up are not impacted by this because they only come in contact with the bike’s tires or wheels. If, however, you’re considering a hanging rack, take a close look at the shape of the top tube of your bike’s frame. If you have a traditional road bike or hardtail mountain bike, you’re probably safe—the triangular frame with a fairly level top tube will fit great on a hanging rack. But step-through frames (common on cruiser bikes), full-suspension mountain bikes, and kids’ bikes can be problematic.
Top Tube Adapters
If your bike will not fit on your hanging rack due to a heavily angled or swooping top tube, purchasing a separate top tube adapter is your best bet. The design is fairly simple: clamps on either end attach to your seat post and bike stem, and the rounded piece in the middle lays on top of the rack’s cradles. At $49 and $50 for the Yakima and Thule adapters (Saris has a budget one for $35), these are not cheap accessories and should be taken into account as you’re choosing a rack style. Further, while they’re fairly easy to use, putting them on and taking them off every time you go biking will inevitably become annoying.
One of the more technical considerations of the hitch rack puzzle is the clearance between the rack, your bikes, and the vehicle. Failing to verify this can lead to myriad issues—examples include your van’s rear doors can’t open more than a couple inches because the rack sits too close, your bike’s handlebars come into contact with the back of an SUV when bikes are loaded, or a pickup’s tailgate cannot be lowered. Needless to say, it’s worth the time to verify you have proper clearance.
The easiest way to check clearance is to do an actual test fit, but that’s often not an option. Another method is to contact the manufacturer directly, and we’ve had good luck in getting reliable recommendations as to whether or not the rack we’re looking at will fit our vehicle. If neither of those options work, you’ll need to do some digging. Manufacturers oftentimes have a technical drawing available of the rack in question, and you can use the measurements for assessing whether or not you’ll run into any fitment issues. One listing to hone in on is the distance from center of the hitch pin to the first tray, as this shows how close the rack will be to the rear of the vehicle. As an example, here’s a link to a technical drawing for Kuat's NV Base 2.0 hitch rack.
The saying “you get what you pay for” rings very true in the hitch-mounted bike rack world. In short, if you plan to use your rack a lot or keep it on your vehicle even in the rainy seasons, it’s well worth paying for a premium design. 1Up’s Heavy Duty Double and Recon Racks Gen2 R6 are the most expensive racks in our roundup, and both feature high-quality, all-metal constructions that have excellent lifespans. On the other hand, racks like the $270 Saris Bones Hitch that use a lot of plastic or cheap, thin metal, will be prone to rusting out or breaking down over time. That said, just because a rack is made up of a lot of plastic doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not durable. One design that does a great job of balancing metal construction and strategic use of tough plastic is our top-rated Thule T2 Pro XT. Not surprisingly, the Thule comes with a steep $600 price tag.
Hitch-mounted bike rack weights vary widely, from the 13-pound Kuat Beta to the burly 85-pound Recon Racks Gen2 R6. Our favorite platform-style models are in the 45 to 52-pound range, which can make installing and removing them a challenge. But we’re willing to deal with the added weight because of the benefits of a sturdier construction that carries bikes more securely and lasts longer. In testing, we’ve found that weight-saving models like the Yakima Dr.Tray and Kuat Sherpa 2.0 have their fair share of compromises in carrying ability and longevity. That said, if you won’t be using your rack all that often or will need to remove it by yourself with some regularity, a lightweight design like the Beta is a perfectly reasonable choice.
There are two main receiver hitch sizes—1.25-inch and 2-inch—and it goes without saying that you should verify which one you have on your vehicle prior to purchasing a rack. As expected, 2-inch receivers can handle more weight, which is a consideration if you’re planning on hauling a heavy platform rack with some 50+ pound e-bikes aboard. In addition, the two-bike add-ons that are offered on some platform racks are only compatible with a 2-inch receiver. But if you’ll only be carrying standard mountain or road bikes, a 1.25-inch receiver will work great. And a final note: many hanging racks come with an adapter, so they can work with either hitch size.
Bike racks in general have very similar feature sets, and one common upgrade that you see on mid-range and premium designs are locks. Starting with bike locks, these flexible cables allow you to secure the bike’s frame or wheel to the rack. While not a perfect deterrent—a solid set of bolt cutters will make quick work of them—they do provide a degree of security while parking your car (we like to back them up with a sturdier U-lock as well). Our favorite bike locks are those that are integrated into the rack, which makes it very convenient to quickly deploy them when needed. Racks that include a separate cable lock that you need to store in your vehicle are less appealing, and in those cases, we prefer to purchase our own metal U-lock.
The second accessory lock is for the receiver hitch, which typically is found on the hitch pin or integrated into the bottom of the rack. The aim is to keep thieves from removing the entire rack from your car. Considering even a budget-friendly design is often $200 or more, this is a sensible addition. There aren’t major differences between styles in terms of functionality, although we’ve found the integrated type is a little easier to use. It’s worth noting that if the rack you’re purchasing doesn’t include a receiver lock, every manufacturer on our list above offers one as an accessory.
We’ve made it clear throughout this piece that a hitch-mounted rack is our favorite design, and platform models in particular. Comparing common bike-carrying alternatives, there isn’t a style that offers as much convenience, capacity, or compatibility with such a wide range of vehicles (provided you have a receiver hitch). Rooftop racks have a lower maximum capacity (usually two bikes), are more of a pain to load and unload, and can impact gas mileage or create a whistling sound on the highway. Trunk-mounted racks are cheaper but prone to causing paint damage on your vehicle if you don’t take extra precautions. If you have a truck, the simple pickup pad is a nice, affordable option, but you do lose the security of a locking hitch and it can take some work to limit bike-to-bike contact. In the end, all have their merits, but no other bike rack type can match the versatility of a hitch mount.
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