Updated: May 29, 2015
Best Bike RacksRiding a bike, whether a road bike or a mountain bike, is a great form of exercise, and a great way to get out and get some fresh air. If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where the pedalling is right outside your door, it makes it that much more convenient. Even then, you might need to consider some form of bike rack for loading your bike (or bikes) onto your car or truck and driving them to some starting location for your ride. With a single bike you can sometimes remove the front tire and jam one into your medium sized car, or an SUV can hold 2 inside, but many times you have other people and/or gear in your vehicle and having an external bike carrier is the only way to go. There are a few main types of bike racks we will look at below: hitch bike rack (that hookup to your trailer hitch on your rear bumper), trunk mounted racks, roof racks, and truck bed racks.
Types of Bike Racks - Bike CarriersIf you have a pickup truck, you have two main options for transporting bikes. Either throw them loosely inside and keep an eye on them so they don't get stolen, or use a truck bed bike rack. The Yakima BedHead and Thule Insta-Gater both hook into your pickup truck bed and allow you to stack a bike in the back, locking it in for safe transport and storage. The Yakima model requires you to remove your front wheel and mount the front forks directly to the rack. No drilling is required to connect it to your truck and its padding protects your trucks finish. At about $50, it holds one bike. The Thule truck bed rack is more expensive (closer to $100), fits 20-29" wheels, and does not require you to remove the front tire to use it. Your wheel slips into the rack and a locking mechanism ties down the frame to keep the whole bike secure and stable. You can fit up to 3 racks side by side in a 51" wide bed. The Thule Bed Rider is a rod that clamps on along the width of your truck bed, allowing you to connect 2 bikes via clipping their forks onto the mount (removing front wheels). This is not a security mechanism, but rather only for transport - cost $150. If you want to read bike rack reviews go online to websites like Mtbr.com, Epinions, Roadcycler.com, or About.com in their cycling section. You can browse the best selling bike racks online here.
Towing Hitch Bike Racks for SUVsIf you are one of the millions with an SUV, a trailer hitch mounted bike rack is a very easy to use solution. Most SUVs have a 2" square steel trailer hitch hookup in the middle of the back bumper. Instead of a trailer hitch hookup, you can slide in a hitch mounted bike rack. These racks look like an L shaped piece of metal, with a variety of pads, bands, and locking mechanisms for holding bikes in place. Basically, you insert the bottom portion into the hitch, and a 90 degree turn in the arm leaves you with a vertical post stickinp up about as high as the rear window of your SUV. Mounting arms there allow you to load and tie down bikes, allowing them to hang down to about bumper level while driving. One thing you'll want to look for is a hinge that will allow the bike carrier to fold down and away from your vehicle once loaded - otherwise you will not be able to open the rear doorhatch of your SUV without removing all the bikes - a big hassle. Costs range from about $150 to $350, depending on size, maker, and style. As an example, the Thule Hitching Post Pro SUV bike rack costs just over $150. Just slide it into your hitch, lock it in with a bolt, slide your bikes onto the dual arms, strap them down with the included rubber straps, and off you go. Got more bikes? Check out the Yakima Kingpin 5. At $225, this rack holds 5 bikes on the back of your SUV, with a dual arm design that will accomodate most bikes. It comes with a removable cam pin so you can rotate the carrier down away from the rear hatch/door of your SUV, giving you access to the inside of your car. For a top of the line model, check out the Yakima Fullswing 4. At $399, you get a deadlock security system that locks down the bikes and let you comfortable leave the loaded vehicle in a lot without worrying about theft. At the lowest end, you can find basic non-tilting 2 and 3 bike racks for about $79-$99. You can also get bike covers that fit over the rack, like the Skinz Rear Transport Cover for $139. Other manufacturers include Allen, Saris, Sportsworks, Cycle Pro, and Hollywood. RECOMMENDED - The top selling hitch mount rack is the Swagman XC Cross-Country 2-Bike Rack - it fits a 2 inch receiver and features adjustable quick-release tire hoops and a ratcheting top arm. This 2 bike bike rack is top rated and sells on Amazon for around $130. You can view all the other top rated hitch mounted bike racks here
Roof top Bike Racks - Take your bikes on vacation!For cars or SUVs (if your trailer hitch is already used to pull a boat, for example), another bike rack option is mounting on the roof, using your existing luggage racks or strapping into your door jams. Something like the Yakima King Cobra Rooftop Upright Bike Rack ($120) hooks onto your existing luggage rack on your roof and allows you to securely carry a single upright bike. The Yakima Viper Fork Mount is priced the same and requires the removal of the front tire for use. You'll want to find a rack that is easy to load and secure, as even in the case of sedan, it is not always an easy task to lift and balance a bike over your head, especially for women. The last option is a trunk mounted rack, that straps on and around your vehicles trunk, allowing you to connect 2 or three bikes that will hang off the back of your car. These bike carriers are generally a little harder to position just right, but they come with pads to protect your trunk and bumper - its up to you to adjust the straps and cables to even it out and keep it steady. RECOMMENDED - We say go with the #1 selling roof bike rack - the Thule 599XTR Big Mouth Upright Rooftop Bicycle Carrier which is priced around $100. Thule is perhaps the top brand and they are known for ease of use with clamping systems that the average person can figure out. The automatic self-adjusting jaws let the owner clamp down the bike quickly and easily. It fits both Thule and Yakima load bars and the innovative design locks the bike to the carrier and the carrier to the rack. See all the top selling roof mounted racks online here.
Get detailed information on specific brands - Yakima Bike Rack Reviews - Swagman Bike Rack Reviews