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If you’re searching for the best way to transport bikes, hitch-mounted racks are the way to go. Securely attaching to the receiver hitch of your vehicle, they offer unmatched versatility and ease of use. There are a wide range of options to choose from, but hitch racks fall into two basic categories: platform models are the most expensive but offer excellent stability and convenience, while hanging racks maximize carrying capacity in a compact package. Below we break down our top picks for 2023, from high-end, exquisitely manufactured designs like 1Up’s Heavy Duty Double to Kuat’s budget-oriented and weight-conscious Beta. For more information, see our hitch rack comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Our Team’s Hitch Bike Rack Picks
- Best Overall Hitch Bike Rack: Thule T2 Pro XTR
- A Close Second (For About $350 Less): Kuat Transfer v2 2
- Best Budget Hitch Rack: Swagman XC2
- Best 4-Bike Hanging Rack: Yakima RidgeBack 4
- Best Hitch Rack for Rear Cargo Access: RockyMounts BackStage
- Best Hitch Rack for E-Bikes: Thule EasyFold XT 2
- Best Vertical Hanging Rack: 1UP Recon Rack 6
Best Overall Hitch Bike Rack
1. Thule T2 Pro XTR ($800)
Type: PlatformWeight: 52 lbs.Number of bikes: 2 (4 with add-on)Weight capacity per bike: 60 lbs.What we like: Loaded with features, well-built, and easy to use.What we don’t: Expensive and a bit heavy.
Thule recently updated their popular T2 Pro, but the latest model retains its title as our favorite hitch-mounted rack thanks to its complete feature set and premium build. Taking the place of the top-selling XT, the XTR adds a set of wheels at the base for easier shuttling to and from a garage, but the rest of the design remains exactly the same (which is a good thing). The T2 Pro’s user-friendly tilt feature is best-in-class, providing quick and easy access to the rear of the vehicle, and its versatile carrying system accommodates everything from fat bikes to 20-inch kids’ models (no adapters needed). At $800, the T2 Pro certainly isn’t cheap, nor is it particularly light at over 50 pounds, but its sturdy, long-lasting design is ideal for committed riders.
Hitch racks is a competitive space, but what really sets the T2 Pro XTR apart from the field is material quality and the sheer number of features it offers. Simply put, this rack does it all. Its expanding wedge attachment system makes for a wobble-free connection, the 60-pound weight capacity means you can haul nearly all bike styles (including many electric models), and you get ample clearance from your vehicle and between bikes. Plus, the optional 2-Bike Add-On (for another $550) doubles its capacity. And as mentioned above, all of the components on the Thule are extremely well-made, which makes the investment worth it over time. As proof, our original T2 Pro XT is still in fantastic shape after four years of extensive use. One final note: Thule recently released the T2 Pro X ($650), which features a similar construction as the XTR but lacks the built-in wheels, has a lower max bike capacity (50 lbs.), and requires an adapter for fat bikes… Read in-depth reviewSee the Thule T2 Pro XTR
A Close Second (For About $350 Less)
2. Kuat Transfer v2 2 ($449)
Type: PlatformWeight: 37 lbs.Number of bikes: 2 (3 w/add-on)Weight capacity per bike: 60 lbs.What we like: Great price for a versatile platform-style rack.What we don’t: Design is less refined and feature-rich than premium alternatives
There’s no getting around the fact that quality platform-style racks are expensive, but those looking to save should check out Kuat’s Transfer v2. This design shares a number of basic features with the Thule T2 above, including an attachment system that avoids frame contact and a tilting function that allows for access to the back of your vehicle. The latest version of the Transfer also is adjustable enough to fit a wide range of bike types and wheel sizes (from 18-29 in.) and can even accommodate a fat bike with an adapter (sold separately). Plus, a 1-Bike Add-On is available for a reasonable $159 to provide even more carrying abilities. Attractively priced at $449 and weighing a reasonable 37 pounds, there’s a whole lot to like about the Transfer v2.
What do you give up by saving with the Kuat? Compared to the Thule T2 and Kuat’s own NV 2.0 below, the materials and level of refinement are a step down. We’ve found the arm that locks over the front tire is prone to sticking, and our rack has developed a fair amount of squeaking over time (granted, we keep it on our vehicle year-round). You also miss out on niceties like a padded strap to limit scuffs on the rear wheel, plus the simplistic design doesn’t allow as much side-to-side adjustability to minimize potential contact between bikes. That said, the Transfer packs in a surprising number of features for the price, including a solid weight capacity (60 lbs. per bike for the 2-inch receiver model) and cable locks. In the end, dedicated cyclists will be better off with the higher-end Thule, but if you’re willing to make a few compromises, the Kuat offers a whole lot of bang for your buck.See the Kuat Transfer v2 2
Best Budget Hitch Rack
3. Swagman XC2 ($145)
Type: PlatformWeight: 32 lbs.Number of bikes: 2Weight capacity per bike: 35 lbs.What we like: An inexpensive yet surprisingly reliable way to carry two bikes.What we don’t: Not the most user-friendly design and the ratcheting arms scuff bike frames.
British Columbia-based Swagman lacks the brand recognition of Thule or Yakima, but their XC2 model is a smart choice for recreational riders on a budget. For a bargain-basement $145 (on Amazon at the time of publishing), the Swagman XC2 features a highly adjustable tray system, sturdy and secure ratcheting arms, and a threaded hitch pin that keeps rack movement to a minimum. Perhaps best of all, the low 32-pound weight is easy to remove and install, and the small footprint takes up minimal space when off your vehicle. This rack certainly doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the more premium options above and below, but it will reliably transport your bikes from point A to point B.
Given the low price point, there are bound to be shortcomings, and the Swagman XC2 has its fair share. The bike nearest the vehicle is quite challenging to load compared to other racks on this list, the release mechanism on the ratcheting arm is difficult to engage, and there are no locks included with your purchase. And after about 500 miles of use, which did include many miles of dusty gravel roads, the padded frame cradles managed to rub the paint completely off one of our bikes. If you’re able to spend up, we recommend the $449 Kuat Transfer v2 2 above, which addresses most of these issues.See the Swagman XC2
Best 4-Bike Hanging Rack
4. Yakima RidgeBack 4 ($469)
Type: HangingWeight: 35 lbs.Number of bikes: 4 (available in 2- and 5-bike versions)Weight capacity per bike: 40 lbs.What we like: Proven, affordable way to haul 4 bikes.What we don’t: Bikes are very close together when loaded; needs an adapter to carry step-through bikes.
Overall, we prefer the platform style for its ease of loading and superior all-around stability, but high-capacity hanging models are the clear leaders in terms of value. Among the options on the market, Yakima’s RidgeBack is a long-time favorite: it features a durable build, reasonable price, and anti-sway design that limits bike movement while on the road. Further, we think Yakima has the best cradle system, which includes ratchet-style straps to securely hold the bike’s top tube to the rack. Priced at a reasonable $469 for the four-bike version, the RidgeBack offers double the capacity of the Thule T2 Pro above for hundreds less.
What’s not to like with the hanging-style RidgeBack 4? An adapter is necessary to carry full-suspension mountain bikes, step-through bikes, or smaller kids’ models, which adds a significant amount to the overall investment (top tube adapters are about $50 each). Moreover, there is very little space between the bikes when they’re loaded, which can lead to rubbing and damage to the paint. But it’s hard to ignore the RidgeBack’s track record of reliable performance, which makes it our top hanging hitch rack.See the Yakima RidgeBack 4
Best Hitch Rack for Rear Cargo Access
5. RockyMounts BackStage ($770)
Type: PlatformWeight: 63 lbs.Number of bikes: 2Weight capacity per bike: 60 lbs.What we like: Built-in swing feature provides easy access to the rear of your vehicle.What we don’t: It’s the heaviest two-bike rack on this list.
When the RockyMounts BackStage was released, the rack created quite a stir in the industry. It was one of the first platform racks to incorporate a side-swinging mechanism into the design (think of an arm that swings away from your vehicle to allow for total access to the rear of your car). And it’s worth noting that this functionality still isn’t available from big hitters like Yakima or Thule. Furthermore, the BackStage comes with many features you’d expect from a premium hitch rack: a cable lock (although not integrated), the ability to carry various types of bikes and wheel sizes, sturdy ratcheting arms, and quality materials and construction overall.
Adding the swing-away functionality to a hitch-mounted rack does come with compromises. The RockyMounts BackStage is 10 to 20 pounds heavier than most other platform-style racks, and therefore you will not want to remove it from your vehicle very often (or without help). Another quibble we have is that the lock is not integrated into the rack, which is a handy feature that we appreciate on the Thule T2 Pro above and Yakima Dr.Tray below. If, however, you’re looking for the ultimate in rear cargo access, the BackStage should be at the top of your list.See the RockyMounts BackStage
Best Hitch Rack for E-Bikes
6. Thule EasyFold XT 2 ($1,000)
Type: PlatformWeight: 45 lbs.Number of bikes: 2Weight capacity per bike: 65 lbs.What we like: Integrated ramps for loading and unloading e-bikes.What we don’t: Very expensive.
Reflecting the growing popularity of heavy e-bikes and large fat bikes, Thule released the EasyFold XT 2. The big news here is the included ramps that allow you to push your bikes onto the platforms rather than having to lift them off the ground. The ramps are quick to deploy, do a nice job guiding the bikes up and down, and store easily on the rack while driving. In addition, the EasyFold is among the simplest to store: the platform’s sides fold upwards in half and an integrated handle allows you to carry the rack short distances with one hand. With a load capacity of 130 pounds (between two bikes), the EasyFold checks all the boxes for a heavy hauler.
What are the compromises with the EasyFold’s design? To start, it’s easily one of the most expensive ways to carry two bikes, and therefore is not a good value unless you need or want the ramps. Moreover, there’s no option to add an extension to the XT 2, which means that two bikes are your hard ceiling and you’ll need to buy another rack if you want to carry more. But for e-bike owners who want an integrated and deployable ramp—and others who don’t want to lift heavy bikes on and off their rack—the Thule EasyFold XT 2 is the best option available. For a cheaper but less refined e-bike-ready alternative, check out Yakima’s $729 OnRamp.See the Thule EasyFold XT 2
Best Vertical Hanging Bike Rack
7. 1UP Recon Rack 6 ($1,400)
Type: Vertical hangingWeight: 104 lbs.Number of bikes: 6 (available in 5-bike version)Weight capacity per bike: 45 lbs.What we like: The most secure and easiest way to carry six bikes.What we don’t: Very heavy and very expensive.
For group rides, shuttling, tour companies, or if you simply want to maximize your carrying capacity, 1UP’s Recon Rack 6 is worth a serious look. This unique hitch-mounted rack takes a different approach to carrying bikes: its “baskets” hold the front wheel high while the rest of the bike hangs below. The standard baskets are able to carry 24- to 29-inch-wheeled bikes (including road and gravel models), and the rack can accommodate 20-inch kids’ bikes and fat bikes with different attachments. The main advantage to the Recon’s design is that you can carry up to six bikes at once, and the vertical hanging position keeps them relatively stable and close to the back of the vehicle.
What are the downsides of the Recon R6? The $1,400 price tag immediately limits its appeal to those that will truly utilize the large bike capacity. Further, the Recon’s burly build is extremely heavy (the two boxes that ship to you exceed 100 pounds total), which makes it difficult to set up and remove. It also takes a fair amount of effort to get the bikes into a place (a downside of the tall design). But despite a growing number of competitors in this category—including Yakima’s HangTight, Lolo Racks, and North Shore Racks’ NSR—the 1UP’s combination of build quality, ease of use, and compatibility with a wide range of bike styles makes it our favorite vertical hanging rack.See the 1UP Recon Rack 6
Best of the Rest
8. 1Up USA Heavy Duty Double ($650-$700)
Type: PlatformWeight: 46 lbs.Number of bikes: 2 (4 with add-on)Weight capacity per bike: 50 lbs.What we like: Premium all-metal build; ratcheting arms only make contact with your bike’s tires.What we don’t: Hard-to-reach tilt lever and no bike locks included.
Wisconsin-based 1Up may not be a household name like Thule or Yakima, but the company has a dedicated following among hardcore cyclists. Without a doubt, their Heavy Duty Double’s sleek aluminum build and attention to detail are a cut above the rest. Our editor described it as “a work of art much like a high-end bike,” and there is a lot of truth to that statement. The design includes two independent folding arms that contact only the tires, leaving the rest of the bike completely untouched—a task that other racks struggle to accomplish. For riders who want a premium design and typically carry traditional road and mountain bikes, 1Up’s Heavy Duty Double is a great choice.
Why isn’t the 1Up ranked higher? In short, it can’t match the sheer number of useful features included with the Thule T2 Pro above. First, you need to purchase separate adapters to carry fat bikes, and cable locks are not included with the rack (a hitch bar lock does comes with it). In addition, the tilt feature is all but unreachable with loaded bikes—the lever is hidden away under the rack. 1Up does offer a tilt lever extender, but that will cost you another $70, and it feels like something that could be remedied or included at the outset. All that said, it’s hard to overlook the beauty and level of craftsmanship of the 1Up. It’s worth noting that 1Up has recently expanded their line with the Equip-D rack, which addresses many of our complaints with the Heavy Duty, including an easier access tilt bar and compatibility with fat tires. That being said, the two-bike version is among the most expensive on the market at a hefty $805.See the 1Up USA Heavy Duty Double
9. Kuat NV 2.0 Rack ($849)
Type: PlatformWeight: 52 lbs.Number of bikes: 2 (4 with add-on)Weight capacity per bike: 60 lbs.What we like: Sleek design and sturdy ratcheting arms.What we don’t: Pricier than the Thule T2 above without enough to show for it.
Kuat is a leader in the platform rack market, and their signature product is the NV 2.0. This premium design checks all the right boxes: its materials have a high-quality feel, the rack stays solidly in place even on bumpy forest service roads, and the adjustable wheel cradles make it easy to avoid bike-to-bike contact. In addition, Kuat included extras like integrated cable and receiver locks and a unique bike stand for quick repairs at the trailhead (note: this piece is not locked to the rest of the rack, so we often stored the stand inside our vehicle). Finally, we’d be remiss not to mention that the NV is easily one of the better-looking racks available, especially in the Gray Metallic colorway.
Like 1Up’s Heavy Duty above, the Kuat goes head-to-head with our top-rated Thule T2 Pro XTR. Both the T2 and NV 2.0 are very user-friendly and have long-lasting builds, although we have found the Thule is a little more versatile. Kuat requires you to pick up adapters to haul fat bikes and 20- to 24-inch wheels (something the Thule can do out of the box), and the tilt mechanism on the T2 Pro is a bit easier to access. Tack on a considerable $49 difference in cost, and despite the NV’s smooth styling and extras like the aforementioned repair stand, the T2 Pro gets the slight edge… Read in-depth reviewSee the Kuat NV 2.0 Rack
10. RockyMounts WestSlope 3 ($440)
Type: PlatformWeight: 43 lbs.Number of bikes: 3 (available in a 2-bike version)Weight capacity per bike: 40 lbs.What we like: Great price for a solid three-bike tray design.What we don’t: Low on features.
RockyMounts’ WestSlope 3 combines a user-friendly tray design and generous three-bike capacity at a reasonable cost. Similar to the Kuat Transfer above, the rack is reasonably light, loads quickly and easily with ratcheting arms that secure over the front tire, and includes a tilt function to allow access your vehicle’s rear hatch. To help with bike-to-bike interference, RockyMounts utilized a tiered design, which means each bike sits at a different height (the one closest to the vehicle is lowest and they step up higher as they move away). Along with sturdy materials and a very intuitive instruction manual (a rarity on the market), there’s a lot to like with the mid-range WestSlope.
We think the WestSlope and Transfer hit a nice sweet spot in performance and value, but the RockyMounts’ build is undeniably basic. Our biggest gripe is that no locks are included with the rack—at minimum, we’d want a hitch lock to secure the WestSlope to our vehicle’s receiver (the Lock Kit costs an extra $35). In addition, the tilt lever is hidden away and essentially unreachable if you have bikes already loaded up (it’s far easier to access without bikes). And finally, the RockyMounts is a little limited in bike compatibility, with a max weight of 40 pounds and tire width of 3 inches. But if these complaints aren’t deal-breakers, the WestSlope is a desirable option for families and group rides.See the RockyMounts WestSlope 3
11. Thule Helium Platform ($800)
Type: PlatformWeight: 43 lbs.Number of bikes: 2What we like: High-end look and feel, reasonably light, and user-friendly.What we don’t: Low max weight capacity (especially for the price).
Thule’s latest addition to their platform hitch collection is the high-end Helium. The well-sorted design is compatible with both 1.25- and 2-inch receivers (a big plus for swapping between vehicles), very secure with arms that quickly lock over the tires, and light enough to move in and out of a garage without too much effort. We’ve also been impressed with the Helium’s build: even loaded down with two 30+ pound mountain bikes on very bumpy forest service roads, the rack and bikes stayed in place with only minimal movement. Finally, everything about the Thule has a high-end look and feel to it, from the easy-to-use tilt lever to the metal trays and built-in cable locks.
What the Helium is lacking, however, is versatility. With a weight capacity of only 37.5 pounds per bike, you won’t be able to haul electric models or some heavier cruisers. In addition, there are no add-ons available, so two bikes are the max you can carry (a Helium Platform 1-Bike is also offered for $500). And those with fat bikes will need to look elsewhere, as the Helium can’t accommodate anything wider than a 3-inch tire. If you want a do-everything rack, we recommend the brand’s T2 Pro XTR above. That said, there’s no denying the Helium’s quality and clean looks, and it’s a perfectly fine match for those planning to just transport standard mountain and road bikes. Note: The Helium is discounted at the time of publishing, as an updated Helium Platform XT has been released. One notable difference with the XT is a higher weight capacity of 45 pounds per bike… Read in-depth reviewSee the Thule Helium Platform
12. Kuat Beta 2.0 ($269)
Type: HangingWeight: 14 lbs.Number of bikes: 2Weight capacity per bike: 40 lbs.What we like: Smart mix of weight, strength, and features.What we don’t: Only offered in a two-bike capacity.
In stark contrast to the feature-rich and pricey Kuat NV 2.0 above is the brand’s simple and budget-friendly Beta. The standout feature of this hanging rack is its weight, or lack thereof, with the 2-inch receiver version coming in at a scant 14 pounds. Equally impressive is that this ultralight rack is still rated to carry 80 pounds total (40 pounds per bike). And we’re happy to see that the Beta hasn’t skimped on too many features: the rack tilts for rear vehicle access, its arms fold down when not in use, and it has same wobble-free hitch attachment mechanism that’s found on Kuat’s premium offerings.
Our biggest complaint with the Beta is that Kuat doesn’t offer a higher-capacity version. One of the main reasons to get a hanging-style rack is for occasional family outings, and a four- or five-bike model is often ideal for those trips. This limitation is what pushes the Beta down our list, but among two-bike hanging racks, we think the Beta has a best-in-class mix of weight, build quality, and functionality.See the Kuat Beta 2.0
13. Yakima HangTight 4 ($899)
Type: Vertical hangingWeight: 73 lbs.Number of bikes: 4 (available in a 6-bike version)Weight capacity per bike: 37.5 lbs.What we like: Vertical hanging rack that’s user-friendly and compatible with a wide range of bike types.What we don’t: Insufficient padding on wheels and bars led to scuffing.
The premium vertical hanging rack market has seen a major uptick recently, and Yakima has thrown their hat into the ring with a couple models. Their top-end option is the HangTight, which is offered in four- and six-bike capacities (we tested the former). What sets the design apart is its versatility and ease of use: Unlike the North Shore Racks below, the HangTight is compatible with drop bar bikes, which is a great feature for those that mix disciplines (note: a max of three drop bar bikes can be loaded at a time on the HangTight 4). And we found the design to be well made overall with sturdy components, user friendly with a functional foot-operated tilt lever, and secure with its reliable cradles and ratcheting system. For hauling a lot of bikes with relative ease, the HangTight is a great option.
For downsides, we were disappointed to find that Yakima didn’t utilize enough padding on the straps for both the bars and wheels. As a result, we experienced scuffing and wear after some drives on rough forest service roads (the good news is that we were able to resolve the issue by adding foam spacers). In addition, it’s important to point out that the rack has a relatively low weight capacity per bike: At 37.5 pounds, it’s less than its primary competitors (like Recon Racks and NSR), which can be a problem for those hauling downhill rigs or e-bikes. And finally, at 73 pounds all in, it’s a bear to haul around. Despite the complaints, the HangTight’s ability to carry various bike styles—as well as its all-around solid build—earn it a spot on our list… Read in-depth reviewSee the Yakima HangTight 4
14. Yakima FullSwing 4 ($699)
Type: HangingWeight: 56 lbs.Number of bikes: 4Weight capacity per bike: 40 lbs.What we like: The convenience of a swing-away design.What we don’t: Heavy and pricey for a hanging rack.
Hanging-style racks are known for their simplicity and affordable price tags, but the feature-rich Yakima FullSwing 4 bucks that trend. Like the RockyMounts BackStage above, the rack’s calling card is its swing-away feature that provides easy access to the vehicle. Further, you get included bike locks, a receiver lock, and its secure strap system is one of the best in the business. Don’t expect the same easy loading or wobble-free experience as a platform-style rack, but the FullSwing 4 is a well-built design that should keep most people happy.
As with any hanging-style hitch rack, there’s no avoiding the fact that the FullSwing 4 makes direct contact with your bike’s frame. It does have padded arms, but those only help so much, and frame scuffs are inevitable. And as with the RidgeBack above, a top tube adapter is necessary if you’ll be hauling bikes with irregularly shaped top tubes (which unfortunately is most full-suspension bikes nowadays). At $699, it’s a big investment for a rack with so many compromises, but the FullSwing 4 does undercut the RockyMounts BackStage by $711 and can carry two additional bikes.See the Yakima FullSwing 4
15. Saris SuperClamp EX 4 ($1,000)
Type: PlatformWeight: 63 lbs.Number of bikes: 4 (available in a 2-bike version)Weight capacity per bike: 60 lbs. (inner); 35 lbs. (outer)What we like: Compact and lightweight for the capacity.What we don’t: Concerns with bike-to-bike clearance and has a tendency to wobble.
Saris may not be as popular as Yakima and Thule, but they’ve carved out a nice segment of the market with their competitive prices and creative designs. The SuperClamp EX 4 is one of their leading platform-style racks that differs from our top picks above with its ability to carry four bikes on a set of two platforms (rather than having only one bike on a platform). For each bike, arms secure over the tires (no concerns about frame contact), and wheel straps serve as backup for hauling heavier e-bikes, models with fenders, or if you have bikes with very different wheelbases. And what we like most about the SuperClamp is its minimalist and relatively lightweight build that takes up a surprisingly small amount of space behind your vehicle and is easy to store in your garage.
The main shortcoming of the design is it that the bikes are placed very close together and it can be a pain to limit side-to-side contact. Further, as we touched on above, there are limitations with the arm design if you’ll be hauling bikes with different wheelbases (for example, a long-travel adult mountain bike and a kid’s bike). Finally, the focus on trimming weight means the rack has more of a tendency to wobble on bumpy roads, although the bike attachment system is reliable in general. Despite the drawbacks, if you’re looking for a compact four-bike setup, the Saris SuperClamp EX 4 is a fine choice.See the Saris SuperClamp EX 4
16. Yakima Dr.Tray ($599)
Type: PlatformWeight: 34 lbs.Number of bikes: 2 (3 with EZ+1 add-on)Weight capacity per bike: 40 lbs.What we like: Pretty light and the ability to carry three bikes with the add-on.What we don’t: Doesn’t feel as durable or stout as other racks.
At the very top of Yakima’s expansive hitch rack line-up is the Dr.Tray. Featuring moveable tray platforms, an easy-to-use tilt-down lever that resembles the one on Thule’s T2 Pro above, and a total weight that undercuts our top picks by 10 to 15 pounds, the rack has a lot going for it. We also like the EZ+1 extension, which allows you to expand its carrying capacity to three bikes with only a 9-pound weight penalty (for an additional $259). The Dr.Tray’s $599 price tag puts it among the more expensive in this grouping, but its full feature set and low weight make it an intriguing option for dedicated riders.
In getting the Dr.Tray’s weight down to an impressive 34 pounds, Yakima did unfortunately have to compromise the stout feeling typically associated with platform racks. In particular, the thin arms that secure the front wheels feel flimsy and cheap and don’t lock the bikes as solidly into place as others. And on the road, we’ve noticed they’re more prone to wobbling while driving than more solidly built competitors like the Kuat NV 2.0. We understand that sacrifices are necessary to trim weight, but it feels like Yakima took it a little too far in this case… Read in-depth reviewSee the Yakima Dr.Tray
17. North Shore Racks NSR 4-Bike ($650)
Type: Vertical hangingWeight: 50 lbs.Number of bikes: 4 (available in 2- and 6-bike versions)Weight capacity per bike: 60 lbs.What we like: Relatively compact and easy way to transport mountain bikes.What we don’t: Outdated and less versatile compared with the 1UP Recon Rack above.
British Columbia-based North Shore Racks is known for being one of the original companies to offer high-capacity hanging models that are worthy of shuttle days and rough roads. Their ability to safely carry up to six mountain bikes, while still offering enough ground clearance for waterbars, made them an instant favorite among downhill-oriented riders. We’ll start with the positives: the NSR 4 is a proven product that securely holds bikes in place, the highly adjustable design ensures the rack will work with a wide variety of vehicle types, and it’s one of the few models out there that minimally affects ground clearance by keeping the bikes close to the back of your car. Furthermore, it undercuts the similarly designed 1UP Recon Rack by a significant margin.
What are the shortcomings of the NSR 4-Bike? First, the upper cradles that hold bikes in place are not compatible with road or cyclocross-style bikes, which limits its appeal. Sure, you can flip the bikes around and hang them by their handlebars, but North Shore Racks doesn’t recommend this tactic. Second, the cradles make direct contact with your bike’s fork crown-this leads to significant scuffing and loss of paint over time. And finally, we’ve seen some major issues with rust appearing in as little as one year of use. All told, we think it’s worth the extra investment to get the more versatile and durable 1UP Recon Rack above.See the North Shore Racks NSR 4-Bike
18. Kuat Sherpa 2.0 ($629)
Type: PlatformWeight: 32 lbs.Number of bikes: 2Weight capacity per bike: 40 lbs.What we like: Lighter than most other platform-style racks.What we don’t: Long-term durability concerns.
As with the Dr.Tray above, Kuat’s Sherpa 2.0 is a lightweight alternative in the heavy platform rack world. At 32 pounds, it’s a whopping 20 pounds less than the Kuat NV 2.0 above, which makes it a whole lot easier to install and remove from your vehicle. In terms of design, think of the Sherpa 2.0 as a pared-down version of Kuat’s other racks, while still retaining a good number of the design features that make this brand so popular. As long as you’re hauling regular road or mountain bikes (the rack maxes out at 40 pounds per bike and 3-inch-wide tires), the Sherpa 2.0 has a lot going for it.
In cutting weight, however, you lose out on the long-term durability found on other racks. In a two-year stretch, our Sherpa 2.0 had a series of issues: the tire ratcheting system failed, the sliding arm mechanism started to stick until it eventually slid out of the lower piece, and the spring in the pivot started to stick as well. Further, the rack rusted out quickly (this was in the rainy Pacific Northwest, however). The good news is that Kuat provided a replacement with their excellent warranty, but this experience leads us to think it’s worth upgrading to the burlier NV 2.0 if you’ll be leaving the rack on the back of your car most of the year.See the Kuat Sherpa 2.0
Hitch Bike Rack Comparison Table
Rack Price Type Weight Tire Width Wheel Sizes Capacity* Locks Thule T2 Pro XTR 2 $800 Platform 52 lbs. 5 in. max 20-29 in. 60 lbs. Yes Kuat Transfer v2 2 $449 Platform 37 lbs. 3 in. max 18-29 in. 60 lbs. Yes Swagman XC2 $145 Platform 32 lbs. 3.5 in. max 20-29 in. 35 lbs. No Yakima RidgeBack 4 $469 Hanging 35 lbs. N/A N/A 40 lbs. No RockyMounts BackStage $770 Platform 63 lbs. 5 in. max 20-29 in. 60 lbs. Yes Thule EasyFold XT 2 $1,000 Platform 45 lbs. 3 in. max N/A 65 lbs. Yes 1UP Recon Rack 6 $1,400 Vertical 104 lbs. 3 in. max 24-29 in. 45 lbs. No 1UP Heavy Duty Double $650-$700 Platform 46 lbs. 5.1 in. max 16-29 in. 50 lbs. No Kuat NV 2.0 Rack $849 Platform 52 lbs. 3 in. max 26-29 in. 60 lbs. Yes RockyMounts WestSlope 3 $440 Platform 43 lbs. 3 in. max 20-29 in. 40 lbs. No Thule Helium Platform $800 Platform 43 lbs. 3 in. max 26-29 in. 37.5 lbs. Yes Kuat Beta 2.0 $269 Hanging 14 lbs. N/A N/A 40 lbs. No Yakima HangTight 4 $899 Vertical 73 lbs. 5 in. max 20-29 in. 37.5 lbs. No Yakima FullSwing 4 $699 Hanging 56 lbs. N/A N/A 40 lbs. Yes Saris SuperClamp EX 4 $1,000 Platform 63 lbs. 4 in. max 20-29 in. 60/35 lbs. Yes Yakima Dr.Tray $599 Platform 34 lbs. 5 in. max 26-29 in. 40 lbs. Yes North Shore Racks NSR 4 $650 Vertical 50 lbs. N/A 20-29 in. 60 lbs. No Kuat Sherpa 2.0 $629 Platform 32 lbs. 3 in. max 25-29 in. 40 lbs. Yes
*Editor’s Note: “Capacity” refers to weight capacity per bike.
Hitch Bike Rack Buying Advice
- Types of Hitch Bike Racks
- Platform Racks
- Hanging Racks
- Vertical Hanging Racks
- Bike Capacity
- Bike Weight Capacity
- Tilting Feature
- Swing-Away Racks
- Wheel Size and Tire Width Compatibility
- Bike Frame Compatibility
- Choosing a Hitch Rack for Carbon Fiber Bikes
- Vehicle Clearance
- Bike and Receiver Hitch Locks
- Hitch Mount vs. Other Bike Rack Styles
Types of Hitch Bike Racks
Platform Racks Platform racks dominate this round-up, and in our opinion, are the best way to transport your bikes. Compared to hanging racks, platform designs are compatible with a much wider range of bike styles, sit lower to the ground for easier access, and are excellent in terms of stability. Most have two attachment points: a ratcheting arm that secures the front wheel, and a strap that holds the rear wheel in place. This straightforward and effective system makes it easy to rapidly load and unload your bike, and it minimizes any wobble or side-to-side movement while driving. In addition, these racks are the most gentle on bikes because they typically only come in contact with the tire or wheel (and not the painted frame).
As with any product, there are bound to be compromises. Platform racks are big, bulky, and generally quite heavy. If you plan on removing your hitch rack with any regularity, you’ll want to pay attention to weight, and many leading options tip the scales at 50 pounds or more. Platform-style hitch racks also are among the most expensive options on the market, with prices of leading designs like the Thule T2 Pro XTR and 1Up Heavy Duty Double clearing $600. That said, for serious riders, the added weight and cost are well worth the security and ease of use of this style.
Hanging Racks Hanging hitch racks are a popular way to transport road or lightweight bikes without the need to lift them overhead and onto the roof of your vehicle. While not necessarily inexpensive, a quality hanging rack like the Yakima RidgeBack 2 comes in at about half the price of a platform model with the same capacity. Hanging racks are much lighter and more compact, which is a plus for those that plan to remove the rack with some regularity. A great example is the Kuat Beta, which comes in at a scant 14 pounds and can be easily tucked away in the corner of your garage when not in use.
A quick check of our list above will show that most of the hanging-style racks have ended up at or near the bottom of our rankings. The reason is simple: they’re unable to accommodate irregularly-shaped bike frames—including many full-suspension mountain bikes, kids’ bikes, and step-through bikes—without purchasing a top tube adapter. In addition, the bikes are closer together than on a platform rack and are more prone to swaying and coming into contact with one another while driving. And a final pitfall of the hanging rack is how it secures bikes to the rack: it holds them in place by rubber or plastic straps that wrap around the frame. Unfortunately, these straps often can lead to scuffing and scraping over time—for those that love their bikes, this is a deal breaker.
Vertical Hanging Racks Our third category is one that’s only recently gained serious popularity. In the past, vertical hanging racks were mostly found on the back of guide service vehicles and/or shuttle rigs, but their high-capacity setups have found a larger audience of late. The appeal is clear: By hanging the bikes from their handlebars vertically—and securing them below at the rear wheel—you’re able to carry more bikes closer to your vehicle. And compared with traditional hanging models, you don’t have to worry about issues with a bike’s top tube.
There are obvious downsides to the vertical hanging style, however. Most notably is price: At $650, the NSR above is one of the cheapest options out there (Recon Racks premium designs start at $1,200, while the Yakima HangTight 4 is $899). The vertical orientation also means you have to reach up to load them, and their tall profiles take up a lot of real estate on the back of your vehicle. Finally, weight is an issue, and you’ll typically want two people for set up or removal. All that said, for those who will utilize their high carrying capacity, a vertical hanging rack can be a worthwhile investment.
In general, platform-style racks can carry anywhere from one to four bikes (if you invest in an extension), while hanging-style racks range from two to five total bikes. There are notable outliers, however, including the innovative 1UP Recon Rack 6, which can accommodate six bikes in a vertical hanging position. The majority of riders stick with the two-bike design, but families or those that anticipate carrying bikes for group rides should consider getting a higher-capacity hanging model or one of the platform add-ons to start.
Platform Rack Add-Ons Add-ons (also known as extensions) are a great way to increase the carrying capacity of your platform-style hitch rack. They typically double the rack’s carrying capacity—from two to four bikes—and are available for many popular designs (including Thule’s T2 Pro XT Add-On and Kuat’s NV 2.0 Add-On). At $550 and $598 respectively, they’re clearly a big investment, costing nearly as much as the main racks themselves. But the extensions are convenient to use, easy to install or remove, and come with the security of the platform design. It’s worth noting that these add-ons are usually only compatible with the 2-inch receiver version of the racks due to the low maximum tongue weight of 1.25-inch receivers.
Bike Weight Capacity
For those planning on hauling heavier downhill mountain bikes, e-bikes, fat bikes, or cruiser models, it’s a good idea to verify the bike weight capacity of a given rack. The listings for each design will specify the maximum carrying capability per bike. And that amount can vary widely: burly platform racks have the highest ratings, including Thule’s e-bike-ready EasyFold XT 2 that can haul up to 65-pound bikes. Light and affordable hanging racks like the Yakima RidgeBack 4 are on the lower end at 35 pounds per bike. For reference, most standard mountain bikes and road bikes are under 35 pounds, but e-bikes can easily exceed 50 pounds. If you’re going to be close to the maximum weight or a little over, we recommend upgrading to a sturdier model—it’s not worth the risk of breaking your rack while driving or voiding your warranty.
If, like most cyclists, you plan to keep your rack on your vehicle for extended periods of time or just want to retain access to your rear cargo area, you’ll want to get a hitch rack with a tilt feature. And with the exception of some truly cheap options, nearly all hitch-mounted bike racks have this functionality. As the name indicates, tilting racks can be leaned over by pulling a lever that moves the rack far enough down to allow you to open the rear hatch or tailgate of your vehicle. The tilting feature is available on both hanging and platform-style racks, although one key point of differentiation is that many platform models can tilt with the bikes loaded, while hanging racks require you to unload your bikes first. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s yet another reason we prefer the platform rack style.
In reading our reviews of the products above, it’s clear that we put a priority on the design and ease of use of a rack’s tilting function. And while hanging racks often resemble one another in how they work—unload the bikes, fold the arms down, and then pull a lever to lower the rack—platform models can vary widely. Our favorite lever style on a platform rack is found on Thule’s T2 Pro XTR, which has a large handle conveniently located at the end of the rack. It’s simple to operate, and the rack feels almost weightless even with heavy bikes on the trays. Others, like the RockyMounts WestSlope 3, are almost unreachable when bikes are loaded, because the handle is tucked away too close to the receiver hitch. In the end, this feature can have a huge impact on overall convenience, and we call it out whenever possible in the write-ups above.
Tilting racks allow you to open the cargo door on most SUVs, hatchbacks, and trucks, but swing-away designs take access to the next level. In short, releasing a pin allows them to open like an arm, pivoting the entire rack to the side of the vehicle. This gives you uninterrupted access to the rear cargo area—all without having to unload your bikes. The extra design complexity and materials do add weight and cost—RockyMounts BackStage is 10 to 20 pounds heavier than a non-swing-away alternative—but are worth it for those that prioritize the feature. You’ll mostly find swing-away racks in the hanging category, including Yakima’s FullSwing 4 above, but the aforementioned RockyMounts BackStage platform rack is one notable exception.
Wheel Size and Tire Width Compatibility
Wheel size and tire width aren’t major considerations when choosing a hanging rack, but those that opt for the platform style will want to verify their bikes will fit in the included trays. The good news is that the majority of road and mountain bikers won’t have a problem at all—every platform rack on our list can fit 26- to 29-inch wheels and 3-inch and under tires. It’s when you get to the extreme ends of the spectrum with 12- to 24-inch kids’ bikes or fat bikes with 4- to 5-inch tires that problems can crop up.
One of the reasons that the Thule T2 Pro XTR took the top spot on our list is its ability to fit so many bike styles straight out of the box. It’s the only one that can both accommodate 20- to 29-inch wheels and tires up to 5 inches wide (the only incompatible size is a 27.5-inch fat bike). Others, like the Kuat NV 2.0, require two separate adapters to fit bikes with wheels between 20 to 24 inches and tires larger than 2.75 inches. For reference, purchasing both Kuat adapters isn’t costly at around $20, but they are separate pieces that you’ll need to store when not in use.
A final scenario is where a specific rack simply can’t fit a certain wheel or tire size. Yakima’s Dr.Tray has no problem accommodating fat bike tires up to 5 inches, but is unable to fit a wheel size smaller than 26 inches (and no adapters are available). As stated above, these wheel size and tire width issues won’t be a problem for a lot of riders—it’s often easier to store a small kids’ bike inside the vehicle, for example—but it’s a good thing to have in mind as you’re narrowing your rack search.
Bike Wheelbase Compatibility
Mountain bikes have been trending towards longer designs, which has impacted the length of their wheelbases. As such, on certain platform racks, there can be wheelbase compatibility issues. It won’t impact most folks, but larger mountain bikers on big, modern downhill-oriented models will want to verify this piece of information. To check, you can look your bike up online and search for a geometry chart, as bike manufacturers almost always call out the wheelbase. Another easy way is to physically check the wheelbase of your bike by measuring the distance from the center of the front and rear axles. Once you have this number you can compare it against the max wheelbase spec for the rack you’re interested in purchasing. There can be big differences—for example, the Kuat Sherpa 2.0’s max wheelbase is a fairly short 47 inches, while the 1Up’s Heavy Duty Double’s max capacity is 54 inches.
Bike Frame Compatibility
The final potential bike compatibility pitfall is related to the shape and style of your bike’s frame. To start, platform racks like the Kuat NV 2.0, Thule T2, Yakima Dr.Tray, and 1Up are not impacted by this because they only come in contact with the bike’s tires or wheels. If, however, you’re considering a hanging rack, take a close look at the shape of the top tube of your bike’s frame. If you have a traditional road bike or hardtail mountain bike, you’re probably safe—the triangular frame with a fairly level top tube will fit great on a hanging rack. But step-through frames (common on cruiser bikes), full-suspension mountain bikes, and kids’ bikes can be problematic.
Top Tube Adapters If your bike will not fit on your hanging rack due to a heavily angled or swooping top tube, purchasing a separate top tube adapter is your best bet. The design is fairly simple: clamps on either end attach to your seat post and bike stem, and the rounded piece in the middle lays on top of the rack’s cradles. At $49 and $50 for the Yakima and Thule adapters, these are not cheap accessories and should be taken into account as you’re choosing a rack style. Further, while they’re fairly easy to use, putting them on and taking them off every time you go biking will inevitably become annoying.
Choosing a Hitch Rack for Carbon Fiber Bikes
Carbon fiber bikes are dream machines for many riders and come with premium price tags, so it’s no surprise that a common question is how to transport them safely. To keep the material protected, the most important thing to do is select a style that doesn’t allow for any frame contact. This means you’ll want to avoid the standard hanging rack category, as models like the Yakima Ridgeback secure the bike with straps directly over the top tube. Among platform-style racks, it’s best to choose one of two basic designs: a ratcheting arm that locks in over the front wheel and a strap through the rear wheel (featured on the Thule T2 Pro XTR, Kuat Transfer v2, Kuat NV 2.0, and others) or a dual-arm design like 1Up’s Heavy Duty that tightens over the front and rear tires. The common denominator among these compatible racks is a high price tag, but it’s well worth it to avoid any unnecessary damage to your carbon rig.
One of the more technical considerations of the hitch rack puzzle is the clearance between the rack, your bikes, and the vehicle. Failing to verify this can lead to myriad issues—examples include your van’s rear doors can’t open more than a couple inches because the rack sits too close, your bike’s handlebars come into contact with the back of an SUV when bikes are loaded, or a pickup’s tailgate cannot be lowered. Needless to say, it’s worth the time to verify you have proper clearance.
The easiest way to check clearance is to do an actual test fit, but that’s often not an option. Another method is to contact the manufacturer directly, and we’ve had good luck in getting reliable recommendations as to whether or not the rack we’re looking at will fit our vehicle. If neither of those options work, you’ll need to do some digging. Manufacturers oftentimes have a technical drawing available of the rack in question, and you can use the measurements for assessing whether or not you’ll run into any fitment issues. One listing to hone in on is the distance from center of the hitch pin to the first tray, as this shows how close the rack will be to the rear of the vehicle. As an example, here’s a link to a technical drawing for Kuat’s NV 2.0 hitch rack.
Material and Build Quality
The saying “you get what you pay for” rings very true in the hitch-mounted bike rack world. In short, if you plan to use your rack a lot or keep it on your vehicle even in the rainy seasons, it’s well worth paying for a premium design. 1Up’s Heavy Duty Double and Recon Rack 6 are among the most expensive racks in our round-up, and both feature high-quality, all-metal constructions that have excellent lifespans. On the other hand, racks like the $145 Swagman XC2 that use a lot of plastic or cheap, thin metal, will be prone to rusting out or breaking down over time. That said, just because a rack is made up of a lot of plastic doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not durable. One design that does a great job of balancing metal construction and strategic use of tough plastic is our top-rated Thule T2 Pro XTR. Not surprisingly, the Thule comes with a steep $800 price tag.
Hitch-mounted bike rack weights vary widely, from the 14-pound Kuat Beta to the burly 63-pound RockyMounts BackStage. Our favorite platform-style models are in the 45 to 52-pound range, which can make installing and removing them a challenge. But we’re willing to deal with the added weight because of the benefits of a sturdier construction that carries bikes more securely and lasts longer. In testing, we’ve found that weight-saving models like the Yakima Dr.Tray and Kuat Sherpa 2.0 have their fair share of compromises in carrying ability and longevity. That said, if you won’t be using your rack all that often or will need to remove it by yourself with some regularity, a lightweight design like the Beta is a perfectly reasonable choice.
Receiver Hitch Size
There are two main receiver hitch sizes—1.25-inch and 2-inch—and it goes without saying that you should verify which one you have on your vehicle prior to purchasing a rack. As expected, 2-inch receivers can handle more weight, which is a consideration if you’re planning on hauling a heavy platform rack with some 50+ pound e-bikes aboard. In addition, the two-bike add-ons that are offered on some platform racks are only compatible with a 2-inch receiver. But if you’ll only be carrying standard mountain or road bikes, a 1.25-inch receiver will work great. And a final note: many hanging racks come with an adapter, so they can work with either hitch size.
Bike and Receiver Hitch Locks
Bike racks in general have very similar feature sets, and one common upgrade that you see on mid-range and premium designs are locks. Starting with bike locks, these flexible cables allow you to secure the bike’s frame or wheel to the rack. While not a perfect deterrent—a solid set of bolt cutters will make quick work of them—they do provide a degree of security while parking your car (we like to back them up with a sturdier U-lock as well). Our favorite bike locks are those that are integrated into the rack, which makes it very convenient to quickly deploy them when needed. Racks that include a separate cable lock that you need to store in your vehicle are less appealing, and in those cases, we prefer to purchase our own metal U-lock.
The second accessory lock is for the receiver hitch, which typically is found on the hitch pin or integrated into the bottom of the rack. The aim is to keep thieves from removing the entire rack from your car. Considering even a budget-friendly design is often $200 or more, this is a sensible addition. There aren’t major differences between styles in terms of functionality, although we’ve found the integrated type is a little easier to use. It’s worth noting that if the rack you’re purchasing doesn’t include a receiver lock, every manufacturer on our list above offers one as an accessory.
Hitch Mount vs. Other Bike Rack Styles
We’ve made it clear throughout this piece that a hitch-mounted rack is our favorite design, and platform models in particular. Comparing common bike-carrying alternatives, there isn’t a style that offers as much convenience, capacity, or compatibility with such a wide range of vehicles (provided you have a receiver hitch). Rooftop racks have a lower maximum capacity (usually two bikes), are more of a pain to load and unload, and can impact gas mileage or create a whistling sound on the highway. Trunk-mounted racks are cheaper but prone to causing paint damage on your vehicle if you don’t take extra precautions. If you have a truck, the simple pickup pad is a nice, affordable option, but you do lose the security of a locking hitch and it can take some work to limit bike-to-bike contact. In the end, all have their merits, but no other bike rack type can match the versatility of a hitch mount.Back to Our Top Hitch Bike Rack Picks Back to Our Hitch Bike Rack Comparison Table