Hitch-mounted bike racks are easy to load, because there’s no need to hoist your ride onto your car’s roof, and they carry bikes by the wheels (not the frame), minimizing potential for damage in transit. There’s plenty of factors to consider when picking from the best options available for transporting your wheels with ease. Here’s five of the best new hitch-mounted bike racks on the market.
What It Is: A one- or two-bike rack that holds your bike(s) by the tires and doesn’t touch the bike’s frame. The rack sits higher than some other hitch racks. To secure a bike, aluminum arms fold in from either side and press down onto tire rubber. A button on the handle of each arm releases that side of the rack when you’re ready to unload. Each bike mount has an integrated theft-deterring cable lock. And, the rack is quick and easy to mount to the car.
Why We Love It: Bikes are expensive, making a platform rack that doesn’t touch the frame attractive. Also, because the rack closes from both sides, it makes offsetting bikes easier than on other racks. It folds down one-handed for easy trunk access. At 43 pounds, it’s also one of the lighter hitch racks available, though still durable and suited for rough road driving. And, it’s easy to assemble with included tools.
Cons: This rack fits tight to the car, and in some cases, that fit might was too tight without a hitch extender. Thule has a site page devoted to help determine if the rack will fit your car. I wasn’t able to install it on a Toyota Sienna minivan without an extender, but it did fit on a Toyota RAV4 with the mounts tight to the bumper. The rack carries two bikes, max—there’s not currently an option to expand it to three or four bikes. The rack can’t carry bikes with wheels smaller than 26 inches. It’s also not rated for e-bikes. Max recommended weight per bike is 37.5 pounds.
Extras: Compatible with Thule’s Access swingarm, which rotates the rack away from the trunk making access even easier. Also available in a single bike version.
[$699 (two-bike rack), thule.com]
What It Is: Made by an expert in lean manufacturing, this 12-pound (one bike) to 14-pound (double) rack is the lightest hitch rack you can buy. The rack holds bikes by the crank—a bike carry system popular with tour operators. A plastic support at the top of the crank boot flips to seat perfectly between the non-driveside crank and the frame. And a plastic sleeve inside the boot protects carbon cranks as well as aluminum ones from scratches. With the crank inside the boot, a twist knob secures the bike. And a Velcro strap wraps the front wheel to a half-tray for balance.
Why We Love It: One of the biggest barriers to using a hitch rack is the weight. This rack can be taken off the car in less than a minute with the included tools, then picked up one-handed and stashed on a shelf, in your trunk, or anywhere else. Because Dovetail Ferst holds bikes by the cranks, it’s nearly universal. Setup was fast and simple because there were few parts. And while it doesn’t fold, in several months of use, that wasn’t a hardship. With the rack mounted on a swing arm, I had full trunk access.
Cons: Dovetail Ferst’s website is in development, and it doesn’t currently have the full range of products, so call the company with questions, including which bottom bracket support (or supports) you need. The support that came with the rack was great for mountain bikes, but I needed a different support for gravel bikes. Sales are direct-to-consumer only, so you can’t wait in a shop and check out this rack. No lock included, though a Masterlock Python will both secure rack to hitch, and bikes to rack.
Extras: Coming soon—Dovetail’s maintenance kit that lets you balance your bike by its bottom bracket with the front wheel secured for on-the-road bike cleaning and maintenance. Also coming soon, trays for fat tire bikes, and Voile-style straps for those who don’t trust Velcro.
[$375 (two-bike rack), dovetailferst.com]
Kuat NV 2.0
What It Is: An eye-catching, modern one- or two-bike rack that converts to a three- or four-bike rack with the addition of extra mounts. Each mount can support a 60-pound bike, and the rack works for bike wheels from 20 to 29 inches (20- and 24-inch bikes require an adapter). Plus, Kuat has a well thought-out range of accessories to make using and storing this rack user-friendly.
Why We Love It: A lot of racks kind of look the same. This one is distinctive and immediately recognizable. Because bike wheels rest on supports, not in trays, there’s no need to swap trays if you decide to carry a fat bike instead of a road bike. The rack feels perfectly sized for every bike. And it comes in two colors, something other racks don’t offer. The wheel supports are adjustable, so you can set it up to make sure bikes nest well. Integrated locks are robust enough we had confidence leaving an expensive bike secured only with the rack’s cable. A foot/hand lever lets you fold or lower the rack one-handed. We appreciate the lifetime warranty, too.
Cons: You either start with a two-bike rack and add one extra mount or two. There is no base unit that lets you add one to four mounts, meaning there’s no single bike option. The NV 2.0 is a beast at 56 pounds for the two-bike rack and 91 pounds for the four bike rack. Repositioning bike supports takes fiddling to get bikes to nest. The rack fits 2-inch receivers only.
Extras: This rack comes with two mounts that can be expanded to three or four. The rack is available with or without an integrated bike stand. Kuat also sells the RackDock, a wall-mounted receiver that holds your rack for storage. Kuat’s HiLow Pro has an updated hitch cam and redesigned lock. And Kuat’s swing away is another way to get yourself space to get into your trunk.
[$689 (two-bike rack), kuatracks.com]
What It Is: A vertical hitch rack that hangs up to six bikes in about the same space that a two bike tray rack takes up on your bumper. The rack comes in four- and six-bike configurations. Bikes hang by the crown of their suspension forks. They’re secured with a strap at the top and a strap around the back wheel
Why We Love It: Big families and friends who like to shuttle will appreciate this rack. A foot-tilt lever lets you angle it away from the car for loading and for trunk access. The rack has two mast heights, allowing you to adjust it so the rear tires of the bikes on the rack stay clear the ground, which is often an issue with this style of rack. Few racks carry six bikes. So, if you’re traveling with a bigger crew, this rack is one of the best options out there. A hitch lock is included. The fork cradle is padded so it won’t scratch mountain bike stanchions. And the rack can handle suspension bikes of most any wheelbase.
Cons: We found it tricky to load, even with the rack lowered. It’s a cumbersome 77.65 pounds, so hard to manage off the car. The HangOver is for suspension fork bikes only. The four bike rack can’t be expanded to hold six bikes. No cable locks are included.
Extras: Yakima makes loads of rack accessories. The four bike HangOver is compatible with the company’s BackSwing.
[$599 (four-bike rack), yakima.com]
Lolo Racks Lolo Rack
What It Is: A heavy-duty, vertical rack that fits nearly any vehicle with a 2-inch hitch receiver, this Portland, OR-made rack holds bikes by their handlebars. It carried up to 220 pounds of bikes including six mountain bikes, four road bikes, kids bikes and more. And, it’s so burly, it feels like it’ll last a lifetime. The handlebar-holding hooks are easy to move with a ratchet and a wrench, so changing the configuration as needed is a no-brainer.
Why We Love It: If you’re the guy who always volunteers to drive your friends to the trailhead, or who shuttles your crew to a descent, this rack is for you. It’s fast to load, and it holds up to 250 pounds of bikes securely. Also, if you’re the guy who feels like other racks are flimsy, you’ve met your new bike carrier. Handlebars rest on angled, overbuilt hook mounts, then secure at the bar and at the back wheel with oversized bungies. Lolo Rack is manufactured from heavy-duty steel, and it felt more stable than any other rack we tested. With the rack on your vehicle, there are several options for how you position it, so this rack fit cars that other racks didn’t. We tested it on a Toyota Sienna minivan, a Toyota RAV4 SUV, and on a F-350 truck with a camper in the bed. Repositioning the rack to tilt further away from, or closer to, the car requires moving a single bolt. And, even with bikes loaded, the rack folded down and out of the way for trunk access. With a ratchet and a drill, it takes seconds to move handlebar mounts to accommodate bikes efficiently. Lolo Racks are designed and made by Oregon riders. And they do an impressive job boxing the rack compactly for shipping.
Cons: It was more complicated to assemble this rack than others we tested, and assembly required a multitude of tools. It fits a 2-inch hitch receiver only. A 1.25-inch receiver can’t handle the load. And if your car rides low, a vertical rack may not be the best choice—bike wheels can sometimes bump the ground.
Extras: Instead of awkwardly storing this rack for winter, use it to haul skis and fat bikes at the same time. Most ski racks can mount to the backside of this rack to carry skis vertically. If you don’t bike or ski in winter, consider mounting this rack to your garage wall and storing bikes on the rack to reduce garage clutter. Lolo Rack sells DH-specific handlebar hooks for transporting dual crown fork bikes.