bike racks

The 12 Best Bike Racks for Every Type of Road Trip Adventure

From roof to hitch to trunk, these bike carriers for cars and SUVs will get you on that epic journey.
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If there's anything that quarantine taught us, it's the importance of having an outdoor hobby. Some people took up hiking, others became avid joggers, and many took to biking for some COVID-safe adventuring. Whether you choose road, mountain, or gravel, biking allows you to explore new cities, take scenic rides down country roads, or even rediscover a forgotten corner of your own state. If you're hooked on the freedom of biking, it won't be long before you're one of those cycling fanatics who brings their bike with them wherever they go. Whether you're planning a trip around a route or just hoping to hit the mountain biking trails as a pit stop, the only thing standing between you and the free-wheeling voyage of your dreams is how the heck you're going to get your bike from point A to point B. Enter: the dizzying array of bike rack choices on the market. 

How to Choose The Best Bike Rack for Your Car

In choosing a bike rack, you will need to consider a number of various factors. How often are you planning on traveling with your bike? If you're a frequent road tripper and plan to tote your wheels across the country, it might make sense to invest in a heavy-duty rack and pay extra for features that make it easy to load and unload. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you're looking for an attachment for your car to move bikes for a single voyage, a simpler model might do the trick. Similarly, you will have to consider the type of car you drive, how many bikes you are planning to haul, the types of bikes you are carrying, and if you need to be able to lock your bikes securely to your ride along your voyage.

Types of Bike Racks

There are three main types of bike racks to consider for your adventuring, each one with a unique set of features that might make it perfect for your vehicle setup.

Roof Rack: Stashing your wheels on top of your car or SUV is a fantastic, sturdy transport option that keeps all your vehicle's access doors free and clear. The potential downside is that it can be quite challenging to lift bikes (especially those with heavier frames) overhead to load and unload them, especially in the middle of a trip when you're away from your garage, stepladder, and helping hands. Roof bike racks also tend to be expensive to purchase and require car roof crossbars and proper installation to be secure.

Hitch Racks: Hitch racks (also known as towbar racks) tend to be the most popular of the bike carrier options, and for good reason. Once installed, a hitch-mount bike rack is convenient to use and easier to load than lifting bikes on and off a roof rack. You do need a hitch receiver on the back of your car to utilize a rear-mounted rack, which many SUVs and larger vehicles already come equipped with. Even if you need to get a hitch added to your vehicle, it may be worth going the extra mile; the wide variety of features on hitch racks on the market today make it easy to pack multiple bikes of various sizes, haul heavy mountain or e-bikes, securely lock bikes to your car, and even convert from carrying two to four bikes depending on the individual trip. A rear-mounted hitch rack typically folds away when not in use, but it does increase the length of your vehicle, which is important to keep in mind if you're used to parking in a small garage (or even just to keep in mind when doing some tricky parallel parking).

Trunk Racks: Trunk racks typically use a series of straps and hooks to attach the carrier frame to the trunk of your car, no matter if you drive a small sedan or massive SUV. The truck-mounted bike carrier tends to be the least expensive of the options and doesn't require the installation of a rack or trailer hitch in advance. The tradeoff to being cheap, light, and portable is that trunk-mounted racks can be a little less sturdy than other options, meaning your bikes may sway and run the risk of scraping against your car. Trunk racks also don't lock to your car, nor lock your bikes, so they wouldn't be a good choice if you're planning to leave your bikes and rig unattended in public.

Given the myriad considerations, we did the leg work for you and tracked down the 12 best bike racks of 2021 for every budget, every car type, and every adventure.

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vehicle bike racks
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Hitch Bike Rack Overall: Kuat Sherpa 2.0

Bike fanatics rave about this all-around all-star bike rack for its lightweight aluminum frame, easy, tool-free installation, and tilting rack to give you access to your trunk even when loaded up with bikes. The Kuat Sherpa 2.0's two-bike hitch rack is packed with extra features like a molded strap on the rear tire cradle to help protect tires, and a foot lever to lower the rack even when your hands are full. It's got a 4.5-star rating, and shoppers praised the rack's durability, straightforward design, and stability in their reviews. 

"This has hands down been the best bike rack I've owned," one reviewer wrote. "It was light enough to assemble and also easy enough to put on my truck hitch. The structure is super solid and when I put my bike on the rack for long road trips I don't have to worry about it, which is huge."

To buy:, $549

vehicle bike racks
Credit: Courtesy of Backcountry

Best Car Trunk Bike Rack Overall: Saris Bones 2-Bike Rack

The Saris Bones 2-Bike Rack is a rear-mounted model that is deceptively simple in appearance. The slender frame holds two bikes of up to 35 pounds each with a surprising amount of stability through a system of spring buckle straps and hooks. The no-hitch style rack made from lightweight, recycled plastic is perfect for travel, and accommodates most style cars (even those with spoilers on the back). 

To buy:, $170

vehicle bike racks
Credit: Courtesy of Backcountry

Best Roof Bike Rack Overall: Yakima High Road Upright Bike Mount

The Yakima High Road Upright Bike Mount is an individual roof rack that attaches to most standard roof racks on the market and can fit a variety of different-sized bikes, so no matter whether you're hitting the trails or the road, you can safely transport your wheels overhead while keeping your trunk access clear and easy. An added bonus is the contact-free design, which will keep even the most finicky carbon frames free of scratches. 

"If you can't have a hitch on your car or don't want to spend the extra money, this is a great option," according to a pleased shopper. "It is super easy to attach your bike securely and it doesn't move at all once it's on right. You can go high speeds without worrying about the safety of your bike."

To buy:, $249

vehicle bike racks
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Four-Bike Hitch Rack: Yakima FourTimer Hitch Mount Tray Bike Rack

Toting a bevy of bikes is no joke, and the Yakima FourTimer Hitch Mount Tray Bike Rack up to the task. Reviewers note this rear hitch mount is very sturdy, which makes it quite a bit heavier than others on this list. However, the versatile design allows you easily to convert from a four-bike rack down to a two when you don't need the full load, and the adjustable trays accommodate bikes of varying sizes.

"I wish there were more options like this," one Backcountry shopper says. "Trays are a must and having the mast grab the frame instead of the wheel allows for use with fendered bikes. Works with road bikes with fenders, full-sus[pension] trail bikes, anything. Secure enough and pretty easy to set up… Also easy to set up just for two bikes."

To buy:, $579

vehicle bike racks
Credit: Courtesy of Backcountry

Best Bike Rack for Truck Bed: Thule XPorter Pro Aluminum Truck Rack

If you're a pickup driver who's tried to take your bikes on the go, you know you can't just throw your bikes in the back without a series of straps and pulleys to keep them in place. Skip the bondage-style bungees and opt for the Thule XPorter Pro Aluminum Truck Rack, a heavy-duty truck bed rack that can tote kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and more along with bikes.

"I got this rack system for a 2012 Ram and they work incredible with my two two-seat Kayaks," according to an Amazon reviewer. "The install was easy and they are also easy to operate." 

To buy:, $800

vehicle bike racks
Credit: Courtesy of Backcountry

Best Tailgate Pad: Dakine Pickup Pad DLX Curve

If you have a pickup with a bed, you might be interested in a way to just throw your bikes over the back without scratching both your bikes and your truck. The Dakine Pickup Pad DLX Curve  is the perfect accessory to get around installing a rack while still gaining a little more security to your bike transport. The pad itself locks to the tailgate to prevent theft while you're out adventuring, and the curved design accommodates the wider tailgates of newer trucks without blocking access to backup cameras.

To buy:, $160

vehicle bike racks
Credit: Courtesy of Backcountry

Best Spare Tire Rack: Yakima SpareRide Hitch Rack

You can easily turn a spare tire on the back of your SUV into a rear-mounted bike rack with the Yakima SpareRide Hitch Rack. Not only will your bikes be loaded securely with this two-bike hitch rack's anti-sway technology, but they'll also be securely locked to your vehicle to prevent theft at pit stops. Just keep in mind that the max weight for this rack is 70 pounds, so it's probably a better fit for either one heavier bike or two lighter models.

"I didn't have issues fitting my stock tire and wheel and it is plenty secure but there is not much space for two bikes," one reviewer notes. "It fits them but it takes some wrestling… It gets the job done."

To buy:, $299

vehicle bike racks
Credit: Courtesy of Backcountry

Best Bike Rack for Long Trips: RockyMounts Backstage Swing Away Platform Hitch Rack

On a long road trip, you need to be able to access all the junk you've stashed in the trunk, from a change of clothes to the cooler with snacks and drinks. The problem with most bike racks is that they limit access to your tailgate, making it hard to open the trunk without completely disassembling the whole setup. The RockyMounts Backstage Swing Away Platform Hitch Rack is a hitch model that swings entirely to the right to provide easy access to your supplies, as opposed to other "easy access" models that just move slightly. 

To buy:, $700

vehicle bike racks
Credit: Courtesy of Backcountry

Best Family-Friendly Bike Rack: Thule Apex XT Bike Rack – 5 Bike

When you're taking the whole family on a trip, you need a bike rack that can accommodate multiple bikes of varying sizes. It doesn't get more versatile than the Thule Apex XT 5-Bike Rack, a mast-style hitch rack that fits up to five different-sized bikes through a unique, compact cradle design. Easy, tool-free installation and thoughtful features make the Apex XT a must for large crews. 

According to one reviewer, the model's pros are that it's: "easy to install and take away and store if not in use, [has] good workmanship, [is] cheaper than platform racks, and [has an] easy installation."

To buy:, $450

vehicle bike racks
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Value Bike Rack: Allen Sports 4-Bike Hitch Rack

Most of the four-bike car racks on the market are quite pricey, but the Allen Spots 4-Bike Hitch Rack offers an affordable-yet-reliable rear-mounted model. Keep in mind that this won't have some of the other features you might get with a more expensive bike rack, but the simple design is constructed from solid steel and is well built, according to reviewers. If you're planning on doing shorter trips with your bikes, you can't find a better value than this bike carrier, which also boasts more than 8,000 perfect five-star ratings. 

"This rack fit the bill for all of our requirements perfectly," one Amazon shopper raves. "We were able to fit 4 bikes on easily with a man's bike, a woman's bike and two different children's bikes… The rack carried all of our bikes with no problems going from New York to Rhode Island, then to Massachusetts (especially through the mountains and then back home). We loved it and were able to leave the rack on the van [with] no bikes on it and access the trunk with no problems."

If the Allen rack is out of stock during your next Amazon visit, shoppers say that the Swagman XC2 Hitch Mount Bike Rack is another quality and affordable model. It's priced at $140 and has a sturdy hitch design that can fit four bikes. Plus, more than 2,500 shoppers have given it a five-star rating.

To buy:, $114

Thule T2 Pro XT Platform Hitch Bike Rack
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Electric Bike Rack: Thule T2 Pro XT Platform Hitch Bike Rack

The Thule T2 Pro XT Platform Hitch Bike Rack is a hitch-style two-bike rack that has extra space between the wheel holders to accommodate the wider base of most E-bikes (even those with fenders!) as well as to handle their heavier load. You can purchase an add-on so you can easily convert the platform rack to hold up to four bikes. Touting a 4.6-star rating and hundreds of glowing reviews, Amazon shoppers rave about the "extremely easy, no-tool install, external handle to lower the rack for trunk access, [and] total stability even at speed."

"After struggling with several of the 'hanging' style hitch-mount bike racks which really don't fit our cruiser bikes very well at all, we finally invested in the flatbed-style T2 Pro XT — and what a difference it makes," an Amazon shopper mentioned in their review. "This rack is absolutely rock-solid when attached to the hitch and the bikes mount easily and quickly. The rack is expensive, no question — but after owning it for a couple of months now (and it's gotten heavy use) we are totally thrilled with it."

To buy:, $650

Bike Racks
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Bike Rack for SUVs: Kac Overdrive Sports K2 Mounted 2-Bike Rack

SUV drivers need a reliable bike rack like the Kac Overdrive Sports K2 Mounted 2-Bike Rack, which also suits trucks and standard-sized cars well. This top-rated platform hitch rack is an Amazon-favorite because it accommodates a variety of bike models (road bikes, mountain bikes, gravel bikes, fat bikes, electric bikes — you name it), made from durable steel, and a fast-locking hitch pin that doesn't budge. Plus, it's built to tilt downward at the push of a button so you can easily load and remove your bikes and has wide wheel straps and adjustable padded hooks to keep your bike from scratching or wobbling during transit.

"This Overdrive rack was affordable, easy to assemble and use, and the bikes fit securely on it," a shopper wrote in their five-star review, which is one of hundreds. "The rack locks onto the hitch and swivels to allow access to the back of the SUV. I am very satisfied with my purchase.

To buy:, $420 (originally $500)

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