If you do not have time for the details, here are our top picks for bike rack for SUV car:
- Yakima Fork Chop – Best Bike Rack under $150
- Swagman XC2 – Best Bike Rack Under $200
- Thule T-Track Fork Mount Carrier – Best Bike Rack Under $250
- RockyMounts SplitRail LS – Best Two Bike Capacity Hitch Rack
- Yakima RidgeBack 2 – Best Hanging Bike Rack
- RockyMounts Backstage – Best Rack for Rear Hatch Access
- Yakima Hangover Vertical Hitch Rack – Best Rack for the Maximum Number of Bikes
- RockyMounts Tomahawk – Best Roof Rack
- Kuat NV 2.0 – Ultimate Bike Rack
- Thule T2 Pro XT – Best Bike Rack for Ease of Use
You’ve finally found the perfect bike, now it’s time to take it to the trailhead or on your next vacation. Ensuring you have a bike rack that will not only be easy to use but also keep your bike secure and safe is an imperative next step.
There are a variety of bike rack styles available. Some racks sit on top of your car while others sit on the back of your car.
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Racks that sit on top of your car or roof racks are typically less expensive but may be more challenging to use. Alternately, racks on the back of your car, or hitch racks are typically more expensive, easier to load bikes, and more challenging to navigate with a tailgate.
Some racks will strap on to the back of your vehicle as opposed to attaching to the hitch. I generally do not recommend these racks because they are unreliable and bikes can fly off while you’re driving.
Looking for a bike rack for your vehicle can initially feel overwhelming. Fortunately, this guide will help you decipher what your needs are and which rack is the best choice for you.
- 1. Yakima Fork Chop – Best Bike Rack under $150
- 2. Swagman XC2 – Best Bike Rack Under $200
- 3. Thule T-Track Fork Mount Carrier – Best Bike Rack Under $250
- 4. RockyMounts SplitRail LS – Best Two Bike Capacity Hitch Rack
- 5. Yakima RidgeBack 2 – Best Hanging Bike Rack
- 6. RockyMounts Backstage – Best Rack for Rear Hatch Access
- 7. Yakima Hangover Vertical Hitch Rack – Best Rack for the Maximum Number of Bikes
- 8. RockyMounts Tomahawk – Best Roof Rack
- 9. Kuat NV 2.0 – Ultimate Bike Rack
- 10. Thule T2 Pro XT – Best Bike Rack for Ease of Use
- Top Pick Products
1. Yakima Fork Chop – Best Bike Rack under $150
If you’re looking for a minimalist design and a low-impact rack, the ForkChop could be the perfect option for you. This rack has just two small attachment pieces that attach to two roof rails.
The front attachment secures your fork while the rear attachment holds your rear tire in place. In order to use this rack, you’ll need to remove your front wheel and store it inside your car during transit.
The fork mount can accommodate a quick release axle or a thru-axle (either 9mm or 15mm) with the Yakima adaptors. The fork mount also locks in place, making stealing a bike with this sort of rack nearly impossible.
Remember, in order to use this rack you’ll need to remove the front wheel and lift your bike on top of your car. If you are looking for a simple bike rack that can go nearly unnoticed on top of your car, this could be a great rack for you.
2. Swagman XC2 – Best Bike Rack Under $200
The Swagman XC2 is a surprisingly usable and reliable rack based on the price. This rack has adjustable trays, is easy to install, and secure ratchet arms.
This rack only weighs 32 lbs and is easy to install making it a rack that could easily be removed from your car when you’re not using it.
One important thing to note is this rack uses frame cradles to support the bike and these can rub the paint off your frame, something that can make a bike unrideable if it is carbon. Fortunately, it is easy to pad your frame with either a piece of foam or a rag between it and the rack.
If you are looking for a great deal on a hitch rack that will be enough to get two bikes where you need them, this could be a great budget option.
3. Thule T-Track Fork Mount Carrier – Best Bike Rack Under $250
If you are interested in a roof rack, Thule’s T-Track Fork Mount Carrier is a great option for riders who primarily ride bikes with thru-axles. This roof mount is designed to accommodate thru-axles without needing adaptors that often do not lock.
Loading your bike into this rack should feel easy with Thule’s telescoping wheel tray which will allow the rack to work with a wide range of wheelbase lengths. Your thru-axle will slot easily into the fork mount and the AcuTight knob will ensure your bike is snugly in place.
If you’re going to be leaving your car, one key will lock the bike to the rack and the rack to the car. This rack can also accommodate a 9mm quick release hub but will require a lockable adapter which is sold separately if you’d like to lock your bike with a quick release.
The sleek and simple design of this rack means you will likely feel good leaving it on your car even when it is not in use. Unlike a hitch rack, choosing an easy to use roof rack can minimize the number of times you need to either adjust or remove your rack.
If a roof rack feels like the right option for you and you don’t mind taking off your front wheel for added simplicity of the rack, the Thule T-Track could be a great option.
4. RockyMounts SplitRail LS – Best Two Bike Capacity Hitch Rack
The RockyMounts SplitRail LS is a well-designed hitch rack that is easy to load, adjust, and navigate.
This rack comes with spaces for two bikes and can accommodate extension add-ons to add a third and fourth bike. The trays shift side to side in order to minimize contact between the bikes on the rack.
RockyMounts attachment systems rest on the tire and do not touch the frame, minimizing any damage to the bike while it is in transit.
When you are not using the rack, it can fold up against the car. If you need to access the rear hatch, you’ll need to pull the tab to let the rack sit flat.
If you have bikes on the rack, it can tilt 30 degrees down so you can open the rear hatch and reach in from the sides.
The benefits of this rack are it is incredibly easy to load bikes because it is close to the ground and you can keep both wheels on the bike. If you’re willing to navigate limited access to the rear hatch, this rack is an awesome option for you.
5. Yakima RidgeBack 2 – Best Hanging Bike Rack
Hanging bike racks are typically the least expensive option in terms of hitch racks. While these racks do come with their drawbacks, the Yakima RidgeBack is a sturdy and functional option in terms of hanging hitch racks.
This rack uses ratchet style straps to make sure your bike can’t fly off the back while you’re driving. If you are riding a full suspension mountain bike, a step-through bike, or a kids bike, you’ll need to purchase the additional top tube hitch mounted bike rack add-ons in order to mount your bike on this rack.
Most bikes should be easy to load onto this rack either using the top tube on the bike or the Yakima attachment.
It is important to note that hanging racks do offer bikes space to bump into each other which can cause damage to the bikes while they are being transported. However, for the price, this rack is easy to use, reliable, safe, and affordable.
If you are less concerned with keeping your bike in pristine condition and primarily concerned with getting from point A to point B, this could be a great hanging rack option for you.
6. RockyMounts Backstage – Best Rack for Rear Hatch Access
While hitch racks are super intriguing due to how easy they are to load and access, they can limit access to the rear hatch or door of your car. Fortunately, RockyMounts designed a hitch rack that circumvents that problem.
The BackStage has a release that allows it to pivot 18- degrees out towards the passenger side of the car, giving you ample space to open and access the back of your car.
This rack carries two bikes and is not compatible with the RockyMounts extensions. Like most RockyMounts racks, this rack can hold road tires up to 5.0” fat bike tires and bikes from 20” to 29” wheels.
If you are not using the rack, it folds up flat against the car. In addition to the pivot, this rack can also tilt down 30 degrees and allow access to a hatch.
This rack comes with RockyMounts premium 3-axis anti wobble system to ensure your bikes stay still and secure even on bumpy dirt roads.
This rack is shockingly easy to use for how impressive the pivot is. Having access to the rear hatch is a huge benefit and can make having a hitch rack significantly easier.
7. Yakima Hangover Vertical Hitch Rack – Best Rack for the Maximum Number of Bikes
For big days with all your friends, the Yakima Hangover is the rack for you.
Bikes sit vertically, held by the crown of the fork while the rear wheel is secured to the rack by a pivoting wheel cradle which accounts for the various lengths of bikes. This design ensures bikes should not be touching one another and should stay safe and secure throughout your journey.
Carrying six bikes at a time is not easy and the Yakima hangover has made it not only possible but surprisingly user friendly. Loading and unloading bikes is not challenging and should require less than one minute per bike.
Yakima has added improved ground clearance to ensure you’ll be able to ramble up the bumpiest dirt roads with six bikes on the back.
If you want to be the shuttle mobile and make all of your friend’s day, this is the optimal rack for your purposes.
8. RockyMounts Tomahawk – Best Roof Rack
If you feel comfortable lifting your bike to the top of your car, a roof rack can be an awesome option. The RockyMounts Tomahawk makes loading bikes on a car a breeze.
This rack can hold a wide range of bikes and sizes with easy to adjust rear attachment and a tapered front wheel support. When in place, this rack holds bikes in by the front wheel and does not cause damage to the frame because the rack cinches to the tire.
An additional benefit of the roof rack is this rack will not interfere with a rear hatch and can stay put on your car without much interference. While some people choose to remove hitch racks when they are not in use, most roof racks are subtle enough to keep on even when they are not in use.
If you are looking for a roof rack that is well designed, sturdy, safe, and easy to use, the RockyMounts TomaHawk could be the perfect bike rack for you.
9. Kuat NV 2.0 – Ultimate Bike Rack
If you want the most innovative, advanced, and fancy bike rack, look no further than the Kuat NV 2.0.
The NV 2.0 comes with integrated cable lock systems which slide seamlessly into the tray when not in use. This rack can accommodate a range of wheelbase lengths, tire sizes, and wheel sizes with its adjustable tire cradles.
When you stop and leave your bike on your car, you’ll want to utilize the cable lock system. When you start driving again, it’s best to remove the lock in order to reduce wear on the frame while in transit.
This rack is not only incredibly stable, it is customizable as well.
The original rack comes with space for two bikes and can accept add-ons for up to two additional bikes. The NV 2.0 has an add on Trail Doc bike stand for maintenance on the road.
If you’re looking for maximum rear hatch access, you can add on the Pivot v2 which will move your rack completely out of the way so you can access the back of your car with ease.
If you want all the bells and whistles for a bike rack that is sure to keep your bike safe and secure while in transit, the Kuat NV 2.0 is a great option for you.
10. Thule T2 Pro XT – Best Bike Rack for Ease of Use
If you’re looking for a well-designed hitch rack that can easily hold two bikes and is expertly designed to make every day, or frequent use, a breeze, the Thule T2 could be the perfect rack for you.
Thule seems to incorporate many of the best designs from numerous hitch rack designs into one expertly designed rack. The intuitive tilting feature, the well built ratcheting arms, and the integrated locking system all contribute to the notably well-designed components of this rack.
The T2 Pro XT can carry nearly any type of bike and has adjustable wheel cradles to ensure any combination of bikes should fit on the rack without rubbing as you drive.
Thule has even recognized that adding a small piece of foam to the ratchet strap on the rear wheel can help protect the wheel material. While most rack companies do not go this far, Thule’s incredibly thoughtful design is apparent in the small details like this one.
While this rack is not inexpensive, you’ll end up with a rack that will last a lifetime and will be incredibly easy to use for years while keeping your bikes secure as you make your way to the next railhead.
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What are the benefits of a hitch rack versus a roof rack?
Hitch racks are typically easier to load and unload; however, they also obstruct access to the back of your car. Most hitch racks have an option to either tilt the rack or swing the rack away from the back of your car.
Even so, you’ll typically end up reaching around your bikes in order to access the gear inside your vehicle.
Some people minimize this problem by removing the hitch rack when it is not in use. Storing the hitch rack in your garage while it is not used can give you easy access to the back of your car but also requires an extra step before you can head to the trails.
Roof racks are typically put on the car and stay there. When they are not in use, they are rarely in the way and most people feel fine keeping them in place all the time. The downside of a roof rack is it can be challenging to load and unload bikes.
If you figure out a system that works for your car, your body, and your bikes though, using a roof rack can still be an attainable and convenient option. Some people may use a small stool which can make loading bikes onto a roof rack significantly easier.
One other component to consider is some roof racks require you to remove your front wheel. You’ll need to feel confident removing your wheel and also have space in your car for the removed wheel.
Both hitch racks and roof racks can work for transferring bikes, the biggest consideration is likely how easy it is to load and unload your bikes and if you want to be taking the rack off between uses.
Why are hanging racks not recommended?
Hanging racks, while often a cheaper option, are the racks with the most misuse or damage to bikes. Some of these racks use a stretchy strap system to hold bikes in place, which, under tension or after years of use, can break or come unlatched and cause your bike to fly off the back, putting people in danger and certainly damaging your bike.
Some hanging racks, like the Yakima Ridgeback 2 does have ratcheting straps which can prevent this problem.
The second consideration is if your bike will be rubbing against other bikes or your car while in transit. Depending on the quality and condition of your bike, this may not be a problem.
However, if you are concerned with scratching or rubbing paint off your bike or car, be wary of hanging racks. It’s often advantageous, if financially possible, to choose a tray style rack to ensure your bike stays secure while in transit.
Should I lock my bike while in transit?
Some bike racks come with integrated or separate cables to lock your bike when you are away from your car. Other racks come with a lock that prevents people from opening the ratchet arms on your rack.
For racks that utilize a cable lock, it is best to remove the cable while you are driving. A cable repeatedly rubbing a frame can cause damage to your bike.
However, if your rack has a lock system that keeps the ratchet arm or fork lock in place, it should not be a problem to drive with the bikes locked.
If your rack does not come with a lock, it may be a good idea to carry an extra cable lock to keep your bike secure on your car if you are away. Again, remember to remove the lock when you are driving to prevent damage to your bike.
How do I manage a thru-axle with a fork lock rack?
Some fork lock racks are optimized for forks with a quick release. These racks require a secondary adaptor in order to use a fork with a thru-axle.
These adaptors attach to the quick release latch, then have an additional place to hold in the thru-axle.
However, some racks, like the Thule Sprint T-Track do have new systems which are optimized for thru-axles without the use of an adaptor.
When considering a rack, account for the different fork styles on your bike or other bikes you may transport before committing to a rack style.
Is it worth it to buy an expensive rack?
After spending time, money, and energy picking your perfect bike, the last thing you want is to have your rack damage your bike or worse, have your bike fall off the rack while you are driving.
Bike racks are required to hold onto a variety of bike sizes while driving at high speeds, often in variable terrain, and sometimes through rain, wind, or snowstorms. It takes intentional design and high quality materials to hold a bike onto your car in all the conditions we drive through.
Spending some extra money on a rack will ensure your bike stays safe during transport and is easy to load and unload your bike.
While it may feel tempting to cut corners on the cost of a rack, they are under considerable strain, and having a well designed rack can make a huge difference at the end of the day.
Top Pick Products
In terms of roof racks, the RockyMounts Tomahawk is an incredibly designed, easy to use, and durable rack. If you are willing to boost your bike up to sit on top of your car, this rack can stay put and be ready for use with any bike at any time.
This rack allows you to load your bike without taking off the front wheel and due to its supportive wheel cradle, it is easy to move the ratchet arm into place when you are loading your bike.
If your height and your car height can accommodate a roof rack, this is an easy, stay put option that will be a reliable bike rack for years to come.
In terms of hitch racks, the RockyMounts BackStage offers all the best features of a hitch rack while still allowing you full access to the back of your car due to its pivot system.
The pivot is easy to use and feels secure when it locks back into place. The BackStage circumvents the challenges of a hitch rack with the pivot while still integrating a number of design components that feel intuitively designed and sensible.
As you continue looking for the best bike rack for your SUV, consider how permanent the rack will be as well as how you’d like to load your bikes. By simply answering these two questions, you’ll be well on your way to picking the perfect bike rack for you.