Fitting a bike in a car packed with gear is a Tetris challenge nobody likes to confront. Even with a behemoth SUV, trunk space is a luxury, and all the dirt and dust and grease a bike brings with it isn’t proper for svelte interior upholstery. Thus, a bike rack is in order. And finding the right one is simple enough. Start here: look at your car and see where a rack serves you best — the hitch, roof or trunk. Then, look at the best options available — we’ve helped by narrowing to the best selections in each category. And finally, don the rack, load the bikes, then drive, ride and get on with the show.
Towing Capacity Won’t Be Exceeded
Though they’re generally the most expensive, hitch-mounted racks are worth the cost. Hitch racks simply slide and lock in your vehicle’s hitch mount, and they don’t require you to lift your bike above your head. They also don’t cause drag like roof-mounted racks and they’re more secure than trunk-mounted options. However, if you don’t own an SUV, van or large sedan with a hitch already, installing one will be a bit more upfront cost (it’s worth it).
The Swiss Army Hitch Rack: If you’re looking for features in a bike rack, the Küat NV has them in spades. The NV can fit two bikes (four if you buy the extension) and can tilt back an extra 40 degrees to allow access to your vehicle’s cargo area. It also features cable locks for both bikes and a hitch lock for the rack itself. Need to do maintenance? It even includes a repair stand for fixing your bike on the go.
Thule Helium Aero
The Lightweight Hitch Rack: You don’t need to have a big SUV or truck to take advantage of a hitch-mounted rack. If you have a smaller car with a trailer hitch, the Thule Helium Aero’s lightweight aluminum build comes in handy, and the “No-Sway” cages absorb shock and prevent your bikes from knocking into each other.
Softride Access Dura
The Hitch Rack for Four: Instead of wasting time planning the logistics of your weekend ride, just get your entire crew together in one car. The Softride Access Dura will fit four bikes and also slides outward, allowing you to actually get to the rest of your riding gear in the trunk.
Like Bungee Cords But Better
If your ride does have roof rails, a roof-mounted bike rack can be left on, making it an extremely convenient option for regular riders. And unlike hitch or trunk-mounted racks, access to your vehicle’s cargo area remains entirely unobstructed and rear visibility is not affected. Generally, roof racks work better on lower cars; loading bikes becomes easier (especially if you’re lugging around a beefier mountain bike) and you’ll have less chance of hitting branches, parking garages and drive-throughs with the bikes attached.
The Easy Roof Rack: Yakima’s HighRoller is capable of mounting any bike short of the most aggressive fat bikes — all without having to remove your front wheel. After an exhausting ride, you’ll be glad you don’t have to expend that extra effort.
The Designer Roof Rack: Do as your bike does, and if you’re racking a Pinarello, make sure it’s sitting on something sleek and sexy. Whispbar’s WB200 uses QuickDock technology for easy loading and unloading and integrated SKS locks to secure the bike. Plus it’s artful, just like the steed you ride.
The Universal Roof Rack: Have an extensive collection of bikes? The Küat Trio was built to carry them all. Its three-way mount fits 9mm, 15mm and 20mm forks with either a quick-release skewer or through-axel configuration. What’s more, the rack itself will mount to almost any factory or aftermarket cross bars.
Thule Sprint T-Track 569
The Secure Roof Rack: The Thule Sprint 569 is one of the most secure bike racks out there. An “AcuTight” knob secures the front fork in place and stops once the proper amount of pressure is applied, so it doesn’t damage the bike’s frame. Also included are one-key lock cylinders that secure the frame to the rack as well as the rack to your car, deterring would-be bicycle thieves.
Junk on the Trunk
If you own a small sedan or hatchback and you only occasionally need to transport a bike, a strap-mounted trunk rack might be the best option. Even the best ones are relatively affordable, and they don’t require your car to be fitted with a roof rack system or a trailer hitch. Hell, when they’re not in use they can even be stored in your trunk. But be warned: your precious bike’s security relies on proper installation, and even then they can be susceptible to theft. If you’re the paranoid type, these aren’t for you.
The Lightweight Trunk Rack: There’s more to Bones’s arched shape than just aesthetics: it will clear your car’s spoiler, and an injection-molded contraction keeps things light and sturdy. And it’s available in nine different colors, including yellow, orange and pink, if that’s your thing.
Yakima KingJoe Pro
The Trunk Rack for Hatchbacks: Have a hatchback or wagon? No problem. The Yakima KingJoe Pro’s rigid folding design makes it ideal for vehicles with a two-box design, and its oversized padded feet won’t scratch your car’s glass or paint.
Thule 9002XT Raceway
The Sturdy Trunk Rack: What makes Thule’s Raceway worth its high price? Instead of straps, it uses a built-in ratcheting cable system that is tightened by a dial, thus making this one of the sturdiest and easiest racks of its type.