Whether you’re headed on a weekend trip, to the local trail system for a lunch ride or the top of your favorite descent, a good bike rack is crucial. It’s no fun to have to fold down your back seat to wrestle your bike inside, twisting the handlebars and taking off the front wheel in the process. Just returned from a particularly muddy ride? Hope you brought a tarp.
Enter the humble yet handy bike rack, your headache-sparing, space-saving alternative. It’ll free up your car’s interior for the rest of your gear, your dog, or a riding partner, depending on the capacity of your vehicle and your rack.
There are many options out there, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But relax. The bike racks that follow are the best available right now.
Best Overall Bike Rack
This handy rack from Kuat tops the list thanks to a potent combination of features. Made of aluminum, it weighs in at a relatively light 32 pounds, yet it can support two bikes up to 40 pounds each (with wheelbases as big as 47 inches and tires as wide as 3 inches), with a generous 14 inches of space between them. A convenient foot-actuated pivot lever lets you lower the rack to make loading up a snap, while no-tool assembly, a folding tire cradle and adjustable ratchet arm add to the ease of use. Last but not least, an external cable with a semi-integrated lock provides peace of mind should you need to step away before or after hitting the roads and trails.
Best Upgrade Bike Rack
Yes, this new rack is quite pricey. But one of GP's go-to bike writers, Berne Broudy, got hands on with it recently and quickly became kind of obsessed: "The Piston Pro X takes everything that’s great about a hitch rack and makes it better. With solid construction and a bevy of smart features, the rack also addresses the category's most annoying hangups, making it simple to use — and maybe even fun." Highlights include one-hand loading via hydro-pneumatic OneTap levers, a non-directional tray, integrated LED taillights, a semi-integrated cable lock and super stable rack-to-vehicle attachment system. Check out Berne's rave review here.
Best Value Bike Rack
With an innovative design and unique looks, this wallet-friendly Saris rack is ideal for transporting lighter weight bikes. The arc style form factor fits most cars, including many with spoilers, fitting securely with spring buckle straps, hooks and ratcheting straps. Its rust-proof, 100 percent recycled plastic construction can accommodate two bikes up to 35 pounds each. That capacity is lower than the Kuat and Thule racks, but so is the weight of the unit, by a lot: it comes in at just 9 pounds.
Best Roof Rack
This affordable rack packs many of the same features as some of the others in a roof rack form. You can install it without tool and secure your bike with integrated locks. The contact-free design goes easy on carbon frames, with the TorqueRight knob adjusting to fit different sized bikes, with wheels up to 29 inches and tire widths up to 3.25 inches. Worth noting: You can only transport one bike per unit, and you do need an existing roof rack to attach it, but on the upside, you’ll always have access to your trunk.
Best for Big Bikes
Thule’s premium tray-style, hitch-mount bike rack is pricey but offers best-in-class features in a user-friendly build. Front wheel ratcheting arms and rear wheel straps secure bikes up to 60 pounds (with up to 29-inch wheels and 5-inch tires) without any frame contact. No tools are required to install and there’s an integrated cable lock. Even better, a double-jointed mechanism lets you tilt the load away from your car to access the trunk. The big difference between this rack and its predecessor is integrated wheels that make it easier to move the 52-pound unit around.
Best Bike Rack for Rear Cargo Access
Yes, the Backstage is pricey and, at 75 pounds, rather heavy. But it's the first platform rack featuring an arm that swings completely away from your vehicle to allow total rear access — and it’s still the best. The rack can handle bikes up to 60 pounds each, with wheels up to 29 inches, holding them securely with reliable ratcheting arms. There are a couple limitations, in that it’s currently only available for 2-inch hitches, and the included cable lock is not integrated into the rack. But if easily getting into the back of your rig is a priority, nothing beats the convenience here.
Best Portable Bike Rack
Kupper’s approach has to be the only reliable bike rack you can throw in a carry-on bag. The clever suction cups attach to the roof or rear of your car, van or SUV in minutes, accommodating dropouts, thru-axle adapters, mountain and road bikes up to 45 pounds. While you can only haul one bike per 8.62-pound set, you can employ as many sets as you can find space for on your vehicle. To make traveling even easier, Kupper Mounts come complete with a convenient carrying case.
Best Bike Rack for Pickup Trucks
Inno’s system is super affordable, simple and user-friendly. The clamps secure your bike to the side of the truck bed, which not only leaves plenty of room to store other gear but also keeps the bike out of your line of sight. No tools are required to install, you don’t have to remove the front wheel, and the clamps are small enough to detach and stash when not in use. One thing you don’t get with this set-up is any kind of locking mechanism, though you can probably figure out a way to lock the bike directly to the truck.