Munich, Germany - 27th October, 2011: Foldable rear bike holder on the back of the Opel Zafira Tourer minivan. This bike rack can hold four bikes. Photo by Tramino/istockphoto.

Bringing Your Bike with You – Let Us Count (and Compare) the Ways: With a Hitch Rack

Carrying guide: Inside | Carrying guide: Truck bed | Carrying guide: Trunk rack
Carrying guide: Hitch rack | Carrying guide: Roof rack | Carrying guide: Spare tire rack

Are you considering taking your bicycle with you on a trip? Whether that trip is to the next town over to check out some greenway trails or hundreds of miles away, there are multiple ways to bring your bike along with you. Let’s explore carrying it with a hitch rack.

Carrying Methods

4. Hitch rack

Pros: relatively easy to install; can carry up to 6 bikes depending on weight limitations on hitch receiver and construction of hitch rack
Cons: can be heavy; requires hitch receiver; can be expensive; exposure to weather

Hitch racks are hands down the most compatible with multiple vehicles – with the caveat that the vehicle needs to have the same size hitch receiver, or the hitch rack needs to have an adapter to work between sizes.

Can my vehicle support a hitch receiver?

Check with your brand dealership or a hitch installation service. Sedan style vehicles can usually support an 1 1/4″ size receiver. Trucks, vans, and SUVs can usually support a 2″ receiver. 1 1/4″ receivers usually only hold 2 bicycles; 2″ receivers can hold 2-6.

Be cautious with vehicles that don’t have a lot of ground clearance – the driver will need to approach speed humps and holes in the ground carefully.

Hitch racks are typically the recommended way to transport e-bikes, which have a greater weight than a standard pedal bicycle; lighten the e-bike by removing the battery, if possible. Pay keen attention to the weight limitation of the hitch rack.

Some hitch racks will come with an integrated security cable to lock the bikes to the rack, or to lock the rack to the hitch receiver. If the hitch rack you’re looking at doesn’t have this feature, consider using a U-lock or thick cable lock to lock your bicycles to the rack or to each other.

When securing a bicycle that has cables running along the top of the top tube onto a hanging arm mast style or frame clamp style hitch rack, consider using a rubber shim between the cable(s) and the top tube (old tubes work great for this) so that the cable doesn’t rub the paint off of the frame.

It is unlikely to be able to use a platform hitch rack that holds the front wheel if your bicycle has a front fender. Consider a platform hitch rack that secures the bicycle by the frame, instead.

Consider how often you will be removing the hitch rack from your vehicle. Some manufacturers will make hitch racks out of lighter weight materials; price may be correspondingly higher but the trade-off is not wrenching your back out of shape.

Hitch racks can come as fixed or swinging – the fixed style will usually have a tilt forward (with bicycles removed) to access your trunk or hatchback; the swing away style will allow the rack to be swung fully away from the vehicle (with bicycles still on or with bicycles removed). The swing away style can be quite heavy.

Take note that RVs and some conversion vans require a specific style of bicycle carrier and cannot take a “regular” vehicle hitch rack.

Ensure your hitch pin is secure and tight on a regular basis, especially after transporting long distances or over bumpy roads.

Hitch rack bicycle carriers come in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 bike versions.

Example products*

(Bike Fun receives no commission from links & does not vet product fit.) 

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