Different Types of Bike Racks with Their Strengths and Weaknesses

We discuss them in detail, dwelling on their advantages and drawbacks, so you can pick the right one for you.
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Last updatedLast updated: August 30, 2021

There are five most common types of bike racks, which can move multiple bikes, but they have their advantages as well as drawbacks.

Before investing in any bike racks, you must consider a few factors, including cost, ease of use and installation, and the number of bikes it can carry. You also need to be aware of the amount of space it will consume and restrictions in some driving areas. While some racks are strong enough to transport bulky items, others might get crushed if used for the same purpose.

If you’ve been thinking of getting a bike rack before now, here’s a breakdown of the various bike racks in the market. Let’s dive right into it.

Hitch Racks

Different Types of Bike Racks with Their Strengths and Weaknesses

There are different bike racks for SUVs, but hitch racks are the best since they adapt to the hatchback design of this type of car. A hitch rack will be suitable for these kinds of cars since it will allow you to hang up to five bikes at a time. The best thing about hatchbacks is their weight and price. They’re the most affordable options out there, and you don’t need to put in a lot of effort to mount it.

You can easily mount this rack to the back of your car. Usually, the types of bike rack hitch you go for depends on the type of vehicle you intend to use it in. Some extend beyond the vehicle, and this type can carry cargoes.

However, that won’t be needed for a simple bike. In terms of design, you can opt for a hitch rack that swings back, opens up, or tilt sideways. Remember, the cost of these racks climbs up as their design improves.

Who Is It For?

The hitch rack is designed for cars with hatchbacks. The most popular car models with this build are SUVs, sedans, station wagons, and minivans.

The video below compares the two common styles of hitch racks: platform and hanging.

Advantages

The biggest advantage this type of hatchback offers is in terms of cost. It’s very affordable and can be installed easily without an extra hand. The weight is an added plus as it can be lifted off the floor with minimal effort.

When a bike is mounted on a hitch rack, there’s a good distance maintained between the car’s body and the rack. This initiates less contact, which might cause damages to the car’s body. Also, some hatch racks are flexible and can be tilted out of the passenger’s way.

Drawbacks

Depending on the design you opt for, some car racks can block access to the rear door. This is common for those with rigid structures, and going for a flexible model will take a lot off your wallet. The recommended number a hitch rack can carry is 2–5 bikes. Adding more than this will affect its lifespan over time.

Roof Racks

Different Types of Bike Racks with Their Strengths and Weaknesses

As the name suggests, roof racks are metal bars installed on the roof of a car. Going for a roof rack will allow you to drive around locations with height restrictions, e.g., tunnels. This type of rack comes in different forms. Most roof racks feature two carrying parts: the feet for easy installation on your car and an extra crossbar for hanging sports accessories. In some roof racks, you might be required to remove the front wheel of your bike before mounting, and in others, that might not be possible.

However, removing the front wheel is advantageous as it allows the biker to load and unload easily.

Who Is It For?

Roof racks are used on tall vehicles since adding racks to their height will limit movement in tunnels. Generally, roof racks can be used in 98% of modern cars; hence, you don’t have to second guess the type of car model it’s going to work with.

Advantages

The most appealing feature of roof racks is their versatility. Aside from mounting bikes, you can also mount surfboards, kayaks, and other small items. They stand the test of time and can be used for an extended period.

They’re made to carry heavy items without wearing off. The weight or size of the item has nothing on them. Hence, they’re unlikely to bend. Additionally, the racks are not permanent; you can remove them whenever you deem fit.

Drawbacks

With a roof rack, it might be difficult to drive in some locations. Also, roof racks are heavy, so aero drags are needed to move them, increasing fuel consumption. Another drawback is the likelihood of accidents in places with height restrictions. In that case, you might want to get familiar with the precautions to take when driving in tunnels and parking lots.

Trunk Racks

Different Types of Bike Racks with Their Strengths and Weaknesses

There’s a little confusion between trunk and hitch racks. We must confess, both types of car-bike racks have a lot in common. For instance, they are both used on the rear of a car and can carry the same number of bikes. One key difference is that hitch racks extend the length of the bar and limits access to the rear.

Also, you can only use hitch racks on a car with a hatchback, such as an SUV.

Trunk racks have a similar design to their hitch neighbors. They come with straps installed on the car’s rear to withhold the tension caused by the items being transported. They usually come with foam pads to minimize car body damage and scratches.

Who Is It For?

You can use trunk racks if you feel the back of the car is the best place for mounting bikes. It’s an alternative for cars with no hitch and is inexpensive as well. Trunk racks are perfect for short trips and can be bolted in easily.

Advantages

The biggest advantage this rack offers is in terms of usage. They are quick to install, and you only need to bolt in. The racks are stable and rarely come off while on the go. It can be used to carry 2–4 bikes at a time without any issue. Additionally, it’s inexpensive and doesn’t inflict body damages. When tightly installed, it has a firm grip on vehicles to prevent them from dangling.

Drawbacks

The biggest drawback is that they limit rear access and can’t carry more than 4 bikes at a time. This makes them perfect for recreational cyclists. The straps need to be tightly installed; else, the bike will sway away when on transit.

Truck Racks

Different Types of Bike Racks with Their Strengths and Weaknesses

There are ways to turn the trunk of a pickup or truck vehicle into a bike hauling bed. The advantage is that a truck has a large storage room; therefore, it can carry many bikes. Items thrown into a truck rack are loosely fitted, and they tend to dance around when you’re driving. This might damage the item itself as well as inflict dents and scratches on the body of the truck.

Who Is It For?

To use this, you need to have a truck or pickup. It can be used to transport bikes over long distances and can haul a large number of them.

Advantages

There’s no height issue here, and they are inexpensive as well. Installation is swift, and it offers small accessories such as foam pads for protection. No drilling is needed to fit a truck bed into your vehicle. Installation is swift. When moving heavy bikes, there are padding and straps for keeping the bike safe and secure. Tailgate pads are used for this purpose.

Drawbacks

With a truck bed rack, items are not tightly secured. You might need to chain the bikes together to prevent them from bouncing off. There’s a high risk of car damage even with foam straps. Several times, car surfaces are scratched.

Spare Tire Racks

Different Types of Bike Racks with Their Strengths and Weaknesses

Spare tire racks are mounted on the vehicle rear but rather than resting on the trunk; it rests on the spare tire of the car. They are screwed into the tire mount and won’t get in the way of the driver when they want to access the rear. These types of racks are moderately priced and can be removed after the bikes have been unloaded.

Who Is It For?

To enjoy the convenience of using spare tire racks, you should only opt for it if you have a car with a bolt-on spare tire at the back. This is commonly found in Jeep models.

Advantages

Not easily available, but when you do find them, they are a low-cost option that can be used to move more than one bike. They are adjustable and can be removed when they’re not in use.

Drawbacks

Depending on where they’re installed, they can get in the way of the car door. For instance, racks installed on the front tire might block entrance from that side of the door. Before investing in this, you ought to know that they can only move a maximum of two bikes and can’t be left on the tire permanently due to the inconvenience it causes.

Also, there’s a risk of puncturing the tire when this is drilled in.

Final Thoughts

When using any of these types of bike racks, you need to be aware of the towing capacity as well as the clearance issue related. Depending on the type of rack you go for, you might have some clearance issues around tunnels and parking spaces. To avoid this, you need to avoid areas that will likely cause you to bump into fixed items.

There are different types of bike racks, but only one is perfect for your car. To choose the perfect one, you have to consider your needs, possible car body damage, and the location you will be driving in.

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