The Best Bike Racks for Your Next Outdoor Adventure

The Kaut NV 2.0 is our top pick for a safe, easy-to-use bike rack.

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Travel + Leisure / Sabrina Jiang

While there are a fortunate few who live within pedaling distance of their favorite trailhead or prime road-cycle locale, most cyclists have to get to where they want to ride. And if you've ever wrestled your bike into your car or SUV only to fully understand the awkwardness of such an exercise, the value of a good bike rack is obvious. They're simply the easiest, safest, and most secure way to transport your bikes, whether it's for a midday ride or a long road trip.

The best bike racks can be secured quickly and easily to your vehicle and let you haul your bikes without having to worry about getting dirt and bike grease in your car — or so much as a scratch on your frame's paint job. Even for casual cyclists, they're a must.

In evaluating the optimal bike racks, all styles were considered and then judged based on ease of use, attachment, and securing methods. We also factored in price and add-on features like rack and bike locks. Racks that work for a variety of different bike sizes and types were evaluated, and the weight of the rack itself was taken into account for instances when bikers want to remove the product while not in use. All told, the Kaut NV 2.0 Bike Rack is our top recommendation because of its ease of operation and host of nice add-on features like a bike maintenance stand and integrated cable bike locks. However, there are more quality racks for all types of cyclists.

These are the best bike racks.

Best Overall, Hitch

Kuat Racks NV 2.0 Bike Rack

Kuat Racks NV 2.0 Bike Rack


Why We Love It: The Kuat NV 2.0 has everything a solid bike rack should, including an integrated repair stand, cable locks, no-hand pivoting control, and the capacity to fit tires from 20 to 29 inches.

What to Consider: It is pricier than most hitch-mounted bike racks.

Expertly crafted and thoroughly thought-out, the Kuat NV 2.0 is one of the best two-bike racks available. This hitch-style rack pivots up and down with a foot pedal, and the tire cradles can be locked into three different positions to easily fit two bikes without the handlebars or seats getting snagged. Integrated cable locks are long enough to wrap around even the biggest bike frame, making it one of the most secure racks available. Installation is a breeze thanks to a no-tool tight hitches cam system. Serious cyclists, though, are likely to fall in love with the Trail Doc, an integrated repair stand with a twist-and-push clamp to hold your bike firmly so you can perform necessary maintenance. The rack also looks great with its premium gloss metallic powder coat, water-transferred logos, and two color options.

Weight: 52 pounds | Weight Limit: 60 pounds per bike | Number of Bikes: 2

Best Overall, Trunk

Thule OutWay Platform 2-Bike Trunk Rack

Thule OutWay Platform 2-Bike Trunk Rack


Why We Love It: With twin trays and bike arms, this trunk mount melds together all the conveniences of a hitch mount design with the portability, price point, and no-assembly set-up typical to trunk models.

What to Consider: It doesn't work with all vehicles, so be sure to check that it'll fit the make and model of yours.

Most truck-style bike carriers obscure the view of your rear license plate and brake lights, but the OutWay Platform from Thule hurdles this hassle by literally lifting the bikes above your rear bumper. It attaches to your vehicle via steel cables and twin hooks, while a mounting interface employs a torque-limiting tightening system with rubber pads to protect your vehicle's paint job. Removable bike arms and wide trays can accommodate bikes with up to a 50-inch wheel base, and the rack folds flat when not in use. It also integrates a system of locks for both the rack and your bikes, and you can access the trunk or hatchback without removing the rack as long as the bikes aren't mounted.

Weight: 27.6 pounds Weight Limit: 33 pounds per bike | Number of Bikes: 2

Best Overall, Roof

YAKIMA HighRoad Wheel-On Upright Bike Mount for Rooftop Racks

YAKIMA, HighRoad Wheel-On Upright Bike Mount for Rooftop Racks


Why We Love It: The rack's design automatically accommodates a range of wheel sizes without having to make any adjustments to the bike arm, making it easy and quick to mount the bike. The tightening knob is also easy to use.

What to Consider: Locks — for both the rack and the included cable — are sold separately, and you have to have a roof rack.

Roof racks are typically available in two models: those that clamp to your bike's fork after removing the front wheel, and those that use bike arms to secure the front tire and hold the bike upright. Of the two, we prefer the latter because it's easier to maneuver the bike into place on a roof than fiddling to get the fork into place — plus, it eliminates the hassle of having to transport your wheel. Yakima's HighRoad uses an adjustment-free wheel hoop that can hold a variety of bikes, locking the front tire with a tightening knob, along with a rear strap to secure the back of the bike. The hoop accommodates bikes from 26 to 29 inches, and tires up to four inches wide. The design also never touches your bike frame, leaving the paint job intact. A compact design won't interfere with your hatchback or trunk, and it's built to work with most sports racks.

Weight: 18 pounds Weight Limit: Partially dictated by your roof rack Number of Bikes: 1

Related: The Best Padded Bike Shorts

Best Budget

Saris Guardian Car Trunk Bike Rack

Saris Guardian Car Trunk Bike Rack


Why We Love It: Built as a no-frills bike-carrying solution, the Guardian 2-bike typifies a standard truck-style bike rack, and delivers on a price that won't hurt your wallet.

What to Consider: The straps attach vertically, meaning there could be some jostling since the rack doesn't also attach to the sides of your trunk or hatchback. But the bikes will still be secure.

Built to haul two bikes after quickly mounting to the back of your vehicle, the Saris Guardian 2-Bike is constructed with American steel to handle the rigors of the open road without damaging your bike. Ratcheting straps grip the bike frame, while the rack itself uses spring-loaded buckles on the mounting straps to pull the clips tight, and works with most sedans, mini-vans, and SUVs. Rubber bumpers help protect the vehicle, and no assembly is required.

Weight: 7 pounds Weight Limit: 70 pounds Number of Bikes: 2

Best for Truck Beds

Thule GateMate Pro Tailgate Pad

Thule GateMate Pro Full Size , Black, Small


Why We Love It: It can carry up to seven bikes draped over the rear of your truck bed, protecting both the vehicle and the bikes from harm.

What to Consider: It can be a nuisance to install and uninstall.

Built to protect both your truck and your bikes, the Thule GateMate Pro works with both full-sized and compact pickups, and can carry up to seven bikes. The flexible padding adjusts easily, an integrated system of bike holders keeps the bikes separated, and the strap anchors can be positioned in a number of configurations to best suit your vehicle. They also have integrated a welcome series of inside-facing mesh pockets to let you store the rest of your kit securely.

Weight: 5.5 pounds Weight Limit: Not specified Number of Bikes: 7

Best for SUVs

YAKIMA Hangover Vertical Hitch Rack for Suspension Fork Bikes

YAKIMA, Hangover Vertical Hitch Rack for Suspension Fork Bikes, 6 Bike


Why We Love It: It provides an easy-to-use, customizable carrying solution for up to six bikes, with plenty of tilt angles.

What to Consider: It only works with suspension-fork bikes.

Built to haul half a dozen bikes, the HangOver is Yakima's first vertical bike rack. A foot-operated tilt mechanism modifies the rack position for easy loading and unloading, and tilts the rack out of the way for rear-of-vehicle access. Each bike is supported by a robust fork crown, and rotating wheel cups accommodate an array of wheelbases. Two mast height positions improve ground clearance, while two mast angles assure the tires won't touch your vehicle. A hitch lock is included, and Yakima's even integrated a bottle opener for that celebratory post-ride beer. The only drawback? It only works with suspension-fork bikes.

Weight: 65 pounds Weight Limit: 37.5 pounds per bike Number of Bikes: 4 or 6

Related: The Best Bike Locks of 2023

Best for One Bike

Saris Solo Bike Rack

Saris Bike Rack, Compact Solo Trunk Mounted Bicycle Rack, 1 Bike, Black


Why We Love It: The Solo offers a low-cost solution for the lone cyclist to transport their bike, and its diminutive size and nominal weight make it easy to store when not in use.

What to Consider: Be sure the rack will work with your vehicle — it works for most makes and models, but not all.

Cyclists who like to go it alone will appreciate the aptly named Solo bike rack from Saris. This low-cost truck-mounted solution doesn't require any mechanical frame adjustments — just pop it on, adjust and tighten the straps that connect to the top and bottom of your trunk or hatchback, and secure your bike with the twin straps that wrap around the bike frame. Its compact body works with a variety of vehicles, and can be stored in your trunk without swallowing up too much space.

Weight: 2 pounds | Weight Limit: 35 pounds | Number of Bikes: 1

Best for Two Bikes

Kuat Transfer V2 2-Bike Hitch Rack

Kuat Transfer V2 2-Bike Hitch Rack

Courtesy of Rei

Why We Love It: Capable of carrying a variety of bike sizes in an upright, wheel-on configuration, the Transfer V2 proves both highly versatile and very strong for years of use.

What to Consider: It runs a bit pricey compared to other two-bike racks and doesn't come with some of the features Kuat offers on higher-end racks.

When designing the Transfer V2, Kuat focused on creating the most versatile two-bike hitch rack possible. The new edition holds wheelbases up to 50 inches, and wheels that range from 18 to 2 inches — it can even hold tires up to five inches if you outfit the rack with an accessory strap. And the rack is quite robust, with automotive-grade, 750-hour salt spray hardware, steel construction, and a new flatlock hitch cam that improves stability. It also comes with a tamper-resistant hitch attachment, a semi-integrated bike cable lock, and it folds up easily when not in use. If your needs expand, you can quickly add additional racks to carry up to four bikes without having to buy a whole new rack set-up.

Weight: 37 pounds | Weight Limit: 35 pounds per bike | Number of Bikes: 2

Best for Three Bikes

Thule Helium Pro Hitch Bike Rack

 Thule Helium Pro Hitch Bike Rack


Why We Love It: Considerably lighter than steel hitch bike racks, it's a breeze to install and remove, and both bike and rack locks amp the security features.

What to Consider: The instructions that come with the rack are a bit confusing.

The lightweight aluminum Helium Pro from Thule provides a secure, anti-sway method of easily hauling three bikes. The hitch-mounted rack provides seven inches of space between the three bikes, so you don't have to wrestle with interlocking handlebars and pedals, and a HitchSwitch feature lets the rack tilt down so you can access the vehicle. The bike arms fold down when not in use, and the cradle design will accommodate a wide array of bike frames and sizes. The tool-free installation includes a lock to secure the rack, along with an integrated cable lock for your bikes.

Weight: 20 pounds | Weight Limit: 37.5 pounds per bike | Number of Bikes: 3

Related: The Best Portable Fans for Travel

Best for Four Bikes

YAKIMA FullSwing 4-Bike Hitch Rack

YAKIMA, FullSwing Swing-Away Hitch-Mounted Bike Rack


Why We Love It: Easy to install and even easier to use, it provides quick access to the rear of your vehicle and full security thanks to locks for both the rack and the bikes.

What to Consider: In order to accommodate non-convention bikes like step-through, BMX, and some kids and full-suspension bikes, you need to also purchase the Yakima TubeTop accessory.

The aptly named FullSwing 4-Bike Hitch Mount from Yakima easily swings away from the vehicle (whether loaded or not) to provide easy access to the rear of your car. Tool-free installation is a breeze thanks to the locking SpeedKnob tech, and the ZipStrips quickly secure the bikes to the rack after you position the frames on the padded arms. It also comes with locks for both the rack and the bikes, and the arms fold down when not in use.

Weight: 56 pounds | Weight Limit: 40 pounds per bike | Number of Bikes: 4

Tips for Buying a Bike Rack

Be sure to pick the right type

Hitch-mount bike racks attach to standard hitch hardware, which is typically anchored to the car below the rear license plate. Some SUVs and minivans come with hitches as part of their standard package, but you can add a hitch to any vehicle. The rack extends out from the hitch, and provides either a platform to rest your bikes' wheels, with the rear wheel strapped down and the front wheel held in place via straps or a wheel arm, or a two bike arms that let you attach your bikes via straps that wrap around the bike frame. Most platform or arm-style models typically fold out of the way when not in use, and the better models can also tilt forward to let you access the rear of the vehicle. This style is often the easiest to use – you don't have to lift your bikes very high to get it into place. They're also typically easy to remove from the hitch for storage when not in use. Just be sure you get a rack that's size-compatible with the dimensions of your hitch.

Trunk-mount racks employ a number of straps that attach to your trunk or hatchback to secure the rack in place, and then the bikes rest in the arms that extend outward from the rack, strapping securely to the bike frames. Most truck-mounted racks have adjustable positions to accommodate a wide variety of vehicles. Expect some bike sway while driving compared to hitch or roof racks, but truck-mount racks are still plenty secure. They're also less expensive than other rack types and store easily, though some can be a bit of a hassle to get on and off the vehicle.

Roof racks work with car rack systems that run parallel to the length of your car, attaching to the cross bars to create a platform that holds your bike. These racks either include a wheel holder for the front wheel, or attach directly to your bike's fork after you've removed the front wheel; the rear wheel is secured via a quick-release plastic or elastic strap. Given they're on the vehicle's roof, getting the bike into position can be a bit of hassle, especially if your bikes are heavy. You'll also want to take into account the additional vertical clearance you may need, especially when driving into parking garages or any place with lower-than-average overhangs. However, roof racks are affordable, easy-to-use options.

Consider how many bikes you're looking to haul

Bike racks can haul up to six bikes, so be sure to take into account the max number of bikes you will likely be traveling with. Some two-bike hitch-mounted racks have also been designed to let you add another rack to expand your hauling capacity without having to invest in a whole new package.

Decide if you're okay taking off the bike's front wheel

Some racks anchor the front of the bike by threading through the bike's fork, which is only possible by removing a tire. For roof racks, it makes the ride a bit more aerodynamic. Racks that have this feature also typically sway less than models that don't require you to remove the front wheel, because the locking mechanism used with the bike's fork is really secure. But those models also mean you have to deal with the modest hassles of removing and attaching your wheels, as well as the additional storage space needed (in your trunk, truck bed, or inside the car) to carry the wheels.

Think about ease of set-up

Of the three rack types, trunk-mounted models are typically the biggest hassle to set up because of a network of straps that have to be tightened to the vehicle for the rack to be secure. Hitch and roof racks work with more intuitive hardware and tool-free installation, and can be mounted to the car pretty easily. If you plan on leaving your rack in place, opt for those that have integrated locks (and, better still, those with cable locks for your bikes as well). But if you want to remove the rack after use, consider lighter racks you can easily remove once you get home.

Consider ease of accessing the bike

Trunk and hitch-mounted bike racks are, by far, easier to load and unload than roof racks simply because you don't have to lift the bike onto the hood of your vehicle and then position it on the rack. Otherwise, the systems that secure the bike to the rack are intuitive, secure, and reliable.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose the right bike rack for my car?

First, narrow your options by rack type. If you already have a sports rack with crossbars on your vehicle, consider a roof rack, since those models work with that hardware; most roof racks are compatible with most third-party roof racks, so you don't have to match the brands of both products if you don't want to. Hitch racks work with any vehicle type provided you have a hitch in place. Trunk racks can typically be adjusted to fit almost all makes and models, but check with the manufacturer to assure it'll work for your specific vehicle. Then target a rack that can carry the max number of bikes you're likely to haul, and be sure that the rack will work with the bikes' variables — specifically the max weight, wheel size, and frame dimensions that the rack can accommodate. And if you go with a hitch or roof rack, confirm that it'll work with the size of your hitch or diameters of your cross bar.

How do I load my bike onto a rack?

Bikes attach to the rack in one of two ways: they either sit on the rack, secured up front by a wheel arm that wraps around your front tire or locks to the front fork and uses a quick-release strap at the back. Or, they rest on bike arms, which have evenly-spaced channels that accommodate a variety of bike frame widths, and use elastic straps to secure the bike's frame to the rack itself. The latter system can occasionally require a bit of adjustment when hauling more than one bike, because this model doesn't stop the front wheel and handlebars from moving. But if that's a concern, a bungee cord can help lock everything in place.

Do bike racks lock up my bikes?

With the exception of most trunk-mountain racks, it's easy to find bike racks that lock to your hitch or roof rack. But only some have integrated cable locks that will let you weave a strong, flexible cable around the bike frames and wheels and lock them to the rack itself. But if you have a rack that doesn't include a way of locking the bikes, you can always get your own bike cable and then lock the cable to the rack with a standard U-shaped bike lock.

Why Trust Travel+Leisure

Nathan Borchelt has been testing, rating, reviewing, and profiling outdoor and travel products for decades. He's hauled his bikes on a variety of bike racks to both local singletrack trailheads and across weeks-long road trips to the biking meccas of North America. In evaluating each selection, Nathan took cost, ease-of-set-up, reliability, security, bike capacity (in both the number of bikes and the max weight allowance) into consideration, as well as professional reviews and feedback from verified customers.

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