Bike Racks 101
Bike Rack Buying Basics
Buying a new bike is a fun experience, unfortunately getting yourself a new bike rack can be a little less enjoyable; unless you have read this little guide.
Each spring, cyclists ranging from gravel runners to Cat 3 weekend warriors to bike park rats search dozens of websites and visit countless stores looking for that miraculous new ride that will somehow vault them up the next run in the competitive ladder—to say nothing of winning a beer bet from their friends.
Significantly less time is spent mulling over the purchase of a rack system that will safely transport your prize steed to the trailhead or race. Think of it, if you’re driving to another city that’s an hour away to get to a trailhead or compete in a crit. Your bike might be sitting on a rack for longer than it’s in use.
Bike rack buying can be complicated because of a multitude of factors—you might already own a vehicle whose design won’t allow for a lot of options. Or, if you have a young family, your future needs might dictate a different style of rack.
You have to consider things like how many bikes you might carry—and the type of bike. Can the transport system carry fat bikes and fondo frames at the same time? If you have kids, you’ll need a system that can accommodate tiny children’s frames and larger adult ones. How do you roof or prevent scratches to the surface? Does the carry system have some kind of anti-theft device so that you don’t come out after enjoying a post-ride beer to find your Subaru stripped of not just your bike, but the rack itself?
Summary: Questions Your Rack Attack Expert Will Need to Know
1) What kind of vehicle do you currently drive; is it an SUV, crossover, sedan/hatchback, pick-up truck or RV?
2) Does your vehicle have a trailer hitch installed?
3) How many bikes—and which types—do you want to carry?
4) Do you need rear-vehicle access with the bikes loaded?
5) Will there be more than one household member using the rack on a semi-regular basis?
6) How important is it for you to be able to remove the rack when not in use?
7) How often will you use your rack and might its function change if you, say, go on vacation?
8) Do you have any physical limitations when it comes to lifting or loading bikes?
9) What’s your current parking situation; on the street, a garage, or parkade?
10) Do you have anything else you want to carry as well?
11) What’s your budget?
Avoiding Pain Points: Ten Problems and Their Solutions
PS. If you’re not the “do-it-yourself” sort, you can always visit one of our Rack Attack retail storefronts and have one of our expert staff walk you through the process!
1) Pedals and frames get tangled together when multiple bikes are loaded.
In the early days of bike racks this was a constant issue no matter what you rode or how they were being carried. In today’s rack technology, this issue is completely mitigated with a platform style rack, and has been greatly reduced with the current generation of hanging racks. But to avoid this completely we suggest a platform rack like the Thule T2 Pro or Kuat Transfer 3
The upgrade from the previous model, the T2 Pro XT is Thule's premium platform hitch bike rack, and possibly the easiest way to carry bikes behind your car. This rack is for 2 inch hitches only.
Imagine for a moment if you can...for the same cash you spent on that over-hyped, over-complex hanging style rack, you could get your hands on the Kuat Transfer Platform Rack.
2) Pedals cause damage by scratching or rubbing against tailgate, trunk or back hatch
All hitch-mouted bike racks are built with enough clearance to squash this issue entirely. The only time this can be a problem is when using a trunk-mounted strap rack. Rack Attack highly suggests only considering a strap rack for infrequent and short trips. There’s no other way to say it: they are the least reliable, and most likely to damager your car. We highly suggest mounting a trailer hitch to your vehicle and carrying your bikes on that.
We install hitches! If you’re near a Rack Attack location you can book an appointment! If you don’t mind crawling under your car we can ship the best hitch directly to you as well.
3) Multiple heavy bikes (think e-bikes) stress the rack and its attachment points
E-bikes have exploded in popularity in the last few years. The only issue with them is their weight. Classic bike racks just weren’t built to carry the kind of weight these bikes hold. Luckily if you have or can put a trailer hitch on your vehicle we have racks made to fit! Check out the Thule EasyFold XT and the additional EasyFold Long Loading Ramp to simply wheel your bikes to your rack, no lifting required!
The Thule EasyFold XT Hitch Bike Platform is the most convenient, fully foldable bike carrier for all bikes, including E-bikes and other heavy rides!
This 53" long ramp, for use with Thule EasyFold XT, makes it easier to load and unload bikes, especially for taller SUV's and vans.
4) Bikes seem wobbly while in transport, especially on gravel roads or at high freeway speeds.
Older and entry-level bike racks do nearly nothing to stop your bikes from swinging and wobbling on the racks. In addition to being annoying, it’s dangerous to your bikes and your vehicle. For this reason, nearly every single hanging bike rack Rack Attack sells comes with anti-sway cradles, specifically designed to keep your bikes secure in transport.
The Yakima Ridgeback 4-Bike is a hitch mast bike carrier that goes long on features, including the UpperHand control lever that tilts the mast to make access to your rear hatch a cinch.
5) The bike rack seems wobbly while in transport.
The tongue that goes into the hitch receiver is made enough smaller to easily slide in and out of the hitch for ease of installation and removal. This has always meant the rack would wobble on your vehicle. While this wasn’t an issue, it was terribly annoying hearing it ‘bonk’ around as you drive. Luckily just about every bike rack we sell has anti-wobble technology built in. Mostly this is done by having a threaded hitch pin letting you tighten down the rack when you install it.
6) You require access to the rear of your vehicle with bikes loaded
It doesn’t matter if you have an SUV or a sedan! It doesn’t matter if you need to carry one bike or four! Rack Attack sells a large number of bike racks (both platform and hanging) which give you full access to your vehicle while the bikes are loaded. What style you want will depend on what kind of bikes you’re carrying, and what kind of rear-access you need. Have a dog? You might want to go with something like the Yakima Fullswing, which swings entirely out of the way making it easy for your pooch to get in and out of the back. Have heavy downhill bikes? Grab a Kuat NV and see just how nice using a bike rack can really be.
With years of experience and feedback, we overhauled every feature and streamlined the look while maintaining the spirit of its predecessor. Fast fit adjustments fit nearly any bike, individual locking cables, and built in bike work stand.
7) License plates and rear window visibility are compromised.
Okay, this one is a little bit of a tricky situation. Technically bike racks (especially with bikes) partially cover your rear license plate, which is a traffic violation. Many years ago some rack companies would sell license plate relocation brackets. These are no longer offered for a reason: police need to carry their bikes as well, both on and off the job. When they do, they use the same racks as we do. So while it’s technically a violation, it’s not really worth worrying about at all.
8) What do you do with the bike rack when it’s not on the car?
For years this has been an issue. No one likes leaving things strewn about the garage all haphazardly. Years ago some ingenious people came up with home-brew solutions for this, but now you can get an extremely simple and good looking solution made for the job: the Kuat RackDock.
The RackDock from Küat. A sophisticated solution for storing your hitch rack. With easy wall installation and the ability to hold a 4-bike rack. This little guy will be your new best friend.
9) Providing a top-notch security system to both lock your bike and rack
Firstly you need to lock the rack to the vehicle, then you need to lock your bikes to the rack. Many of our bike racks come with full locking systems built in! For those that don’t, we offer things like the Thule Snug Tite 2 Lock, which replaces the standard threaded hitch pin with a locking version, making nearly any rack (with a threaded hitch pin) locked to your vehicle. If the rack doesn’t have locks for the bikes you can use a cable style bike lock looped through your bike frames to your trailer hitch.
We just suggest you don’t use a long bike cable while in transport as it can rattle as you drive. Just lock them up when you’re going to leave them unattended. But if the bike rack has locks built in you can keep your bikes locked at all times.
The Thule Snug Tite 2 Lock was designed in conjunction with Kryptonite. The Thule Snug Tie 2 Lock combines an anti-wobble feature with locking security so it not only keeps your hitch mounted bike rack stable, it also keeps it safe.
10 My vehicle has a rear-door mounted spare tire and bike racks won’t fit!
While most vehicles with a rear-mounted spare tire will work just fine with a hitch-mounted bike rack, if you have offroad tires, or your hitch is fitted far forward under your car, this can be an issue. Usually the best solution for this is using a Spare Tire mounted bike rack, avoiding the problem altogether!
The Thule 963PRO Spare Me heavy-duty bike rack is the perfect solution for any vehicle with a rear mounted spare tire. Now includes Stay-Put cradles for better stability, an integrated locking cable, and a second adapter plate to fit more tire sizes.
Make that spare tire work for a living – the SpareRide easily attaches to your rear-mounted spare and turns it into a bike rack. Durable, stable and secure, it installs easily without tools.