There are a lot of bike racks on the market - all with many advantages and disadvantages over each other. Finding the best rack for (1) your specific vehicle and (2) your bike(s) can be a little overwhelming, so we’ve created this overview to help you find the best bike carrier for your specific requirements.
Bike racks can be split into seven main categories of how they attach to your vehicle:
- Hitch mounted bike racks
- Tow bar mounted bike racks
- Roof mounted bike racks
- Spare wheel mounted bike racks
- Rear door / boot mounted bike racks
- Ute tub mounted bike racks
- Suction mounted bike racks
Hitch mounted bike racks are the easiest way to carry bikes on a car. They are stable, easy to use, and carry nearly zero risk of damaging your vehicle. The catch is you need to have a receiver hitch installed on your vehicle. If your car does not have a hitch installed on it, it is almost certainly possible to do so.
Now if you have a hitch, and you know how many bikes you are able to put on it, you’re almost ready to go. The last step is choosing the type of rack suitable to the style of bikes you own. If you have ‘standard’ bikes, you can basically ignore this, but if you own e-bikes, mountain bikes, or other 'non-standard' sizes, you may want to avoid racks holding the bikes by the frame, and choose a rack that holds your bike by its wheels instead.
Here are a couple of our favourite hitch mounted bike racks:
- Yakima's Evo HoldUp 2 is an awesome hitch mount. The KickStart feature allows you to tilt the rack away from your car, even with the bikes attached. An extra 2 bike adapter is available, allowing you to carry four bikes in total. It is quite heavy though with the adapter, so you might need a friend to help you take it on and off the hitch.
- Thule's T2 Pro XTR is a beauty. The Swede's know a thing or two when it comes to clever features and quality. Again, a 2 bike adapter is available, allowing you to carry up to four bikes. Buy with confidence knowing that this rack is going to look after your bikes.
The last few years have seen a surge in the popularity and quality of tow bar bike racks. One of the reasons for this is the emergence of the electric bike market. An electric bike (also known as an e-bike), is heavier than normal bikes, and shouldn’t be carried on the roof or the rear door as they’re too heavy to lift up and will exceed the safe load weight of a roof bike rack.
When it comes to bikes, everything is easier at waist level - so this is where tow bar racks come into their own. Lifting a bike on and off a tow bar bike rack is far kinder to your back than onto a roof, which is worth considering. Your height (and the height of your car) are also an important part of the equation. A tow bar mounted bike rack is a far better option for a shorter person fitting a bike to a relatively tall vehicle e.g. a hobbit that owns a Land Cruiser.
As the name suggests, a tow bar bike rack requires that your car is fitted with a tow bar. Again, the tow bar fitting market has surged - with more fitters and options than ever. If your car doesn’t have a tow bar, it’s worth getting some quotes from your local fitters.
Once your tow bar is fitted, we have a fantastic range of tow bar mounted bike racks for you to choose from. Here are a couple of our favourite racks:
- BUZZ EAZZY 4. As it's name suggests, the EAZZY 4 is a super-easy rack to carry 4 bikes. It folds up nicely and compactly, which makes it easy to carry and store. It also arrives fully assembled in the box, so the only thing you need to fit is the lights and number plate holder - which are a doddle. Once fitted, it's rock solid on the tow bar and the bikes are held very securely too. A great rack at a great price. Too easy!
- Yakima's JustClick 4 is just about the easiest four bike rack on the planet. If you check out the video on our product page, you'll see exactly what we mean! "Just click" it onto your tow bar and load your bikes onto the solid platform.
The most popular way to transport bikes on your car is still on the roof using a roof bike rack (even though tow bars and hitch racks are catching up quickly). First, you need to invest in a suitable bike roof rack.
Depending on the length and style of your roof bars, you can normally carry a maximum of four bikes on the roof (if the racks are top and tailed). Most aluminium roof bars have a T-track channel running the length of the bar, which makes fitting bike racks to the bars super easy i.e. you slide the bolts along the channel, and the rack secures to those bolts.
Once you have invested in the correct roof bars for your specific car and roof type, you can then look at the best roof-mounted bike rack for your needs. These roof bike racks can be simply split into three categories:
- Frame holder bike racks hold the bike by the down tube. The bike’s wheels stay on, making them very quick and simple to use.
- Tyre holder bike racks hold the bike by the wheels. This method has become increasingly popular, especially for owners of carbon-framed bikes (that don’t want a rack grabbing the frame).
- Fork holder bike racks used to be the choice for carbon frame bike owners, but removing the front wheel and attaching the forks to the rack can make fitting a bit more fiddly.
As you can see, there’s a fair bit to think about. Your decision should be based on the bikes that you’re planning to fit onto the rack. A cheaper frame holder probably makes sense for your average kid’s bike (14 inch+). A tyre holder is recommended if you have a carbon frame. A fork holder takes any wobbling from side to side out of the equation.
Here are our picks from each of the three sub-categories of roof-mounted bike racks:
Frame holder bike racks
We have a range of superb bike frame holder carriers, but the one that our staff really enjoy using is the Thule ProRide. The popular Swedish brand has thought about everything with this rack, and this newer 598 model has extra padding on the clamp to help protect the frame of the bike. The fact you apply tension at eye level makes it a really user-friendly piece of kit, and it works nicely with all the bar brands we sell e.g. CRUZ, Rhino, Yakima, and obviously Thule.
Tyre holder bike racks
In terms of affordability and adaptability, you don’t get much better than the FrontLoader. Not only does it effortlessly attach to all roof bars, but it can also take just about any bike - as the frame is taken out of the equation. The bike is held firmly by the front wheel, with the only point of contact being the tyre - making it the ideal choice for carbon frames, or a bike that won’t fit frame/fork holders.
The HighRoad is a bit more expensive, but can carry heavier bikes and can easily be integrated to fit T-track bars with the SmartSlot kit. The FrontLoader can carry bikes with 20" to 29" wheels with widths up to 3", and the HighRoad can carry bikes with wheels between 26" to 29" up to 4" width without having to make any adjustments. The rear wheel cradle can also be adjusted to hold bikes of different lengths.
Fork holder bike racks
Even though it’s perfectly safe and normal for a bike to wobble slightly in a frame holder bike rack, some cyclists prefer their pride and joy to be held more securely by the forks i.e. next to no wobble.
The fork-mounted bike rack that really stands out for us is the Yakima ForkChop. It’s a minimalist approach to carrying a bike on a set of bars, and the two components can easily fit in a shoe box! One clamp takes the front wheel of the bike via a form mount, while the rear clamp holds the rear tyre firmly via a strap. No tools are required, and the clamps attach securely to almost every style and brand of roof bars. Too easy!
If your vehicle has a spare wheel, you have the option of carrying a bike or two on it. The new BUZZ Pilot is easily the best rack on the market when it comes to attaching to the spare. Your bikes are held securely on a platform, and it folds up neatly once you take the bikes off.
If your roof bars are already full with a roof box - and you are not tempted to go down the route of a tow bar mounted bike carrier - a rear mounted rack could be an option for you.
Also known as “boot mounted” or “rear door mounted”, these racks often represent a cheaper alternative to carrying two or three bikes, as they don’t require a set of roof bars. However, it’s really important that you check if your car’s boot is suitable for a rack that is going to clamp onto the bodywork. Note that cars with a spoiler are not suitable for a rear mounted bike rack.
If you've got a Ute, it's possible to simply hang your bikes over the tailgate. Yakima's GateKeeper Evo is the perfect way to protect your bikes and car, as it's designed to prevent any damage to the paintwork while keeping the bikes nice and stable. A really cool and easy way to carry up to 5 bikes safely.
Certain vehicles have very limited options when carrying bikes. For years, if you owned a sports car or coupe, you were told that there was no way of carrying bikes. Then along came the world of suction mounted bike racks - and new possibilities poured into the market.
Tree Frog have developed some really clever racks that have helped lots of cyclists that were told their cars were "unrackable". Their Model Pro 2 is seriously cool and is already gaining massive popularity in the world of cars that are hard / impossible to fit a conventional roof rack.
So, as you can see, there are lots of options for you when it comes to carrying your bike(s) securely to your car. When you shop with Roof Racks Galore you can have the confidence that we’re with you every step of the way, and that we have sourced the best racks from around the world.
A hitch or tow bar mounted bike rack is by far the easiest method of securely carrying multiple bikes on a car. Everything is done at waist height, so you’re looking after your back and shoulders.
A reminder that we recommend that e-Bikes should only be fitted to a hitch or tow bar rack (due to the extra weight).
A roof mounted system could be used at the same time as a tow bar or hitch mounted rack, allowing you to carry extra bikes.
A roof mounted system is great because the required roof bars are a solid foundation and investment for all sorts of adventures. You could carry a bike or two next to your roof box (depending on bar length available); or even a kayak or SUP board next to your bike with one of our fantastic water sport racks.
A rear mounted bike rack can be a handy solution if your roof bars are full, and you don’t have a tow bar (and don’t want to invest in getting a tow bar fitted). They’re relatively inexpensive, but it’s crucial that you check that they are suitable for your make and model of car (and that you don’t have a spoiler fitted).