The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2023 – GearJunkie

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Taking a header over your handlebars is never a good time. But wrestling your bike onto a rack (and compulsively checking your rearview mirror to make sure your bike isn’t cartwheeling down the highway) is probably your least favorite part of cycling.

Luckily, there are a host of options for conveniently and safely getting your bike to where you want to go, especially if you have a tow hitch. With features like ratcheting arms, integrated cable locks, and swing-away arms, it’s easy to find the perfect way to load and unload your bike, securely hold it, and hit the trail without worry.

We looked around for the best hitch bike rack of 2023, and we found some very solid contenders in a wide range of price points.

At the end of our list, be sure to check out ourcomprehensive buyers guide, FAQ, and comparison chart. Otherwise, scroll through to see all of our recommended buys.

The Best Hitch Bike Racks of 2023

  • Best Overall Hitch Bike Rack: Thule T2 Pro XTR
  • Best Budget Hitch Bike Rack: Allen Sports Deluxe Hitch Bike Rack
  • Runner-Up: 1UP USA Equip-D Single
  • Best Swing-Away Hitch Bike Rack: RockyMounts BackStage Swing Away Platform
  • Best Hitch Bike Rack for E-Bikes: Yakima OnRamp
  • Best 4-Bike Hitch Rack: Yakima RidgeBack

Hitch Bike Racks Comparison Chart

Thule T2 Pro XTRAllen Sports Deluxe Hitch Bike Rack1UP USA Equip-D SingleRockyMounts BackStage Swing Away PlatformYakima OnRampYakima RidgeBackbike lockKuat Sherpa 2.0Swagman XC2INNO Tire Hold Bike Hitch 4Yakima HangOver 6Saris SuperClamp EXSaris MHS DUO 1-BikeBase
1UP Equip-D Single
Testing the 1UP USA Equip-D single-hitch rack; (photo/Kurt Barclay)

Why You Should Trust Us

The folks behind GearJunkie spend a lot of time in the saddle. From daily office commutes to singletrack joyrides, bikes play a major role in our lives. Like most cyclists, we often use our vehicles to haul bikes around. We plug our hitch-mounted bike racks into sedans, SUVs, and everything in between. Though it’s always nice to start pedaling right out of the front door, we often have to drive before we can ride.

After years of regular use and testing, we’ve identified the best hitch bike racks on the market. We thoroughly assess every rack we test, down to the last screw. A hitch bike rack should be easy to use, durable in the long term, secure, and versatile. We’ve weighed dozens of racks against these standards, and the models on this list are as good as it gets.

Many of the racks featured here have been with us for many years. Even after regular exposure to the elements and many miles of rough roads, they’re still going strong. Whether you’re pedaling a mountain bike, e-bike, or commuter, we’re confident you’ll find a rack to help transport your steed. As new racks roll out in the future, we’ll be sure to update our list to reflect the current market.

Buyers Guide: How to Choose a Hitch Bike Rack

Types of Hitch Bike Racks

Platform-Style and Hanging-Style Explained

There are two main types of hitch-mounted bike racks. The first is platform-style racks, which use a platform to secure bikes generally via the tires. The second is hanging-style racks, which suspend the bike from the frame.

Platform racks have the benefit of not touching the bike frame at all; they only touch the tires. This makes them ideal for people who don’t want to risk damaging their bike frames.

Plus, the trays can be adjusted to allow for more space between bikes, minimizing bike-to-bike contact. This also allows platform racks to fit all kinds of bikes regardless of overall size, suspension style, or wheel size.

This combination of versatility and easy installation makes the platform-style racks very popular among serious cyclists. The only downside is that they’re generally more expensive than hanging-style racks.

Hanging racks, meanwhile, support bikes by the frames, letting the bikes hang down. The advantage here is that many of these racks can hold up to five bikes without added hardware. The main disadvantage is that contact with the frame can lead to abrasion and, in some cases, damage. This is a huge consideration when carrying a bike with a carbon fiber frame.

Hanging racks also may not accommodate bikes with unusual frames (like step-through bikes) or full-suspension mountain bikes. And you may also want to secure the front tires to the frame with a bungee cord or a strap. This helps prevent the wheels from rotating and bumping into other bikes.

On the plus side, hanging racks are easier to mount and unmount. And they’re generally less expensive than platform racks.

Platform vs. Hanging: Which Is Best?

If keeping your bike pristine is the most important benefit and cost is less of a consideration, platform racks are ideal. Most platform racks secure the bike via the tires, avoiding frame contact entirely.

They’re also easy to use, especially platform racks with a roll-up feature. This is ideal for people transporting heavier bikes like cruisers or e-bikes.

Platform racks also win out if you transport bikes with unique frames (like a step-through bike) or full-suspension mountain bikes. You won’t have to find a way to weave any hanging arms through the frames.

That said, platform racks as a whole come with bigger price tags than hanging racks. Most riders’ main concern with a hanging rack is that it could potentially damage carbon fiber frames. However, a crack is more likely to come from crashing into a tree or accidentally stepping on the chainstay.

Realistically, the bigger issue with frame contact is that it can damage the bike’s finish over time. We’ve heard horror stories about hanging racks wearing the paint down to the metal on long road trips.

While that’s an extreme case, slower wear over years of use isn’t. Because of this, hanging racks tend to feature padded cradles to minimize frame damage, but the best way to guarantee your frame is safe is to eliminate frame contact.

If the price is no object and keeping your bike looking new is your priority, choose a platform rack. If you want to save money and aren’t concerned about wear, a hanging rack is a great choice.

Number of Bikes

One of the first things to consider after choosing a bike rack type is how many bikes you typically take with you. Racks generally carry anywhere from two to six bikes, so you have some options.

Remember, you can always carry fewer bikes than a rack’s capacity, but never more than a rack’s capacity. And you never know when you’re going to pick up a few more buddies to ride with.

Note: Some platform racks have optional add-ons that will add more bike capacity to the rack.

6 Bikes Rack

Tilting vs. Swing-Away

The “tilt” and “swing-away” features refer to how the rack adjusts to allow access to your vehicle. Tilting angles the rack to allow you to open a hatchback or drop down a tailgate. This makes it possible to lean in and grab a backpack or let your dog hop out.

One thing to consider is whether you can tilt the rack with the bikes still on it. It can be a pain to take the bikes off when you need to get into your car. Also, consider how far it tilts away. This will make a huge difference if you’re pulling out something unwieldy, like a cooler.

Generally, a feature of hanging racks, swing-away operation tends to move the rack farther away from your ride. This allows more access to the rear of the vehicle. It also moves the rack out of the way, so you can pull out heavy and unwieldy items more easily.

Our favorite swing-away rack is the BackStage 2 from RockyMounts. It swings a full 180 degrees away from your vehicle, giving you unobstructed access to whatever’s back there.

man standing next to bike on swing away bike rack

Mounting Systems

Mounting systems tend to feature two different ways to lock your bike to the rack. The first and most common is the strap system. It’s usually made up of a ratcheting or elastic strap that wraps over a part of your bike. In hanging racks it’s the frame, while in platform racks it’s the wheels.

The second is the shepherd’s hook, most often utilized in platform racks. This entails an arm that swings up from the platform and ratchets down onto your bike’s tires. These lock it down to the platform. Often, they’re reinforced by straps that wrap around the bottom of the wheels to bolster security.

Every hanging rack we’ve seen uses the strap system. While it’s a solid and secure system (user error is the most common issue), straps can degrade and break. Because of this, many strap systems secure the bike with two straps at each attachment point as a contingency. However, if a shepherd’s hook breaks (which only happens rarely), your bike is at significant risk of falling off.

Wheel Size & Tire Width Compatibility

A bike rack is useless if it can’t hold your bike, so make sure your bike will fit. Hanging racks win this category. Because your bikes are secured by the frame, their tire width, wheel size, and wheelbase are not an issue.

The bigger concern with hanging racks is unique frame types like BMX bikes, step-through frames, and full-suspension mountain bikes. These can prove a pain (or impossible) to hang on a hanging rack.

Because platform racks secure the bike via the tires, it’s important to make sure that your bike’s tire width, wheel size, and wheelbase all fall within the rack’s parameters. When shopping for a platform rack, check the technical specs listed on the rack brand’s website. Most companies will list a range of wheelbases, tire widths, and wheel sizes that fit that rack’s specs.

This won’t be an issue for most bikes, but some outliers may cause problems. Fat bike tires, extra-wide wheelbases, and 29-inch wheels won’t fit some platform racks.

Fortunately, several of the racks we mention will work with fat tires and wide wheelbases. Peruse our list and make sure that the one you’re considering will work with your bike.

Bike Frame Compatibility

For hanging bike racks, you’ll need to consider the shape of the top tube. You’ll need a bike with a classic triangular frame in order to easily hang your bike. Most traditional road bikes and hardtail mountain bikes fit this bill.

But if you’re planning to haul a full-suspension mountain bike, step-through bike, or smaller kids’ bike, then a hanging rack may not be the best option.

Hitch Receiver Size

Hitches generally come in 1.25-inch and 2-inch sizing. It’s important that you verify which size your vehicle has prior to purchasing a bike rack.

The larger, 2-inch hitch can carry heavier loads, which is great if you plan to carry several heavy e-bikes. It’s also worth noting that some racks come with an adapter to fit either size.


Bike racks have two main points of vulnerability when it comes to theft: the bikes can be stolen off the rack, and the rack itself can be removed. This isn’t just an issue if bikes are on it; the racks themselves can be coveted items for potential thieves.

Remember, if you have to head into a store or you’re spending the night away from home, it only takes a few seconds for a thief to pull your bike off the rack and pedal off with it.

If they’re prepared with tools (or not, for mounts with hand-tightening hitch mounts), someone can take your entire rack. This can be a huge issue if you don’t have a garage to park in, particularly if you don’t want to put on or take off your rack every time you ride.

Fortunately, many racks come with a locking hitch mount, which makes it impossible to unscrew when engaged. If your rack doesn’t come with one, many companies sell mount locks separately. There are also plenty of aftermarket hitch locks available for purchase.

As for your bikes, a standard cable lock can secure them to the rack itself. Make sure that your rack has some predrilled holes for you to thread the cable lock through. But a much more convenient option is an integrated lock. This is a feature found on higher-end racks; companies like Thule and Yakima usually offer this.

The lock is integrated into the rack itself, retracting into the rack when not in use. When you need it, simply pull it out and thread it through the bikes. It then locks to another part of the rack, so you can lock and unlock your bikes in seconds.

woman putting bike on bike rack on back on Volvo

Ease of Use

If you’ve ever had to wrestle a full-suspension mountain bike onto a hanging rack or find a way to Tetris four bikes onto a poorly designed rack, you know that ease of use is a huge factor in choosing the right bike rack.

For a diamond-frame bike (the most common bike), hanging racks provide a simple option. Lift the bike, slide it onto the rack, strap it down, bungee the front wheel, and you’re good to go. (Plus, it gives you a chance to get some bicep curls in before your ride).

However, if you’ve got a heavier bike or one with a unique frame style, a platform rack may be the better option for mounting bikes. Because it has a lower frame, you don’t have to lift the bike as far. And once you have it on, you don’t have to lift it much to adjust. Hanging racks can take a bit of fiddling to get the bike into the cradle.

But the easiest option (and often the most expensive) is the ramp. This feature, found on some platform rack models, allows you to simply roll your bike onto the rack. This is a great option for cyclists with heavier bikes like e-bikes or cruisers.


Durability is a huge consideration when it comes to hitch racks. The single attachment point puts a lot of pressure on racks as they carry loads over rough roads. Because they’re usually made from sturdy material like steel, breaks very rarely occur at the hitch’s attachment point.

Issues usually occur at the attachment point of the bike — the shepherd’s hook or the straps. Fortunately, the most common failure is the least disastrous and easiest to fix: the straps. Elastic straps tend to dry out, especially if exposed to the sun, which leads to cracking and eventually snapping.

However, most hanging racks (where you most often find elastic straps) have two straps at each attachment point. This not only acts as an anti-sway measure but also functions as a backup when a strap breaks. And they tend to be inexpensive and easy to replace. Because they’re small and unobtrusive, it’s easy to keep spares in your car.

The same goes for the hard plastic straps on ratcheting systems. Though they tend to be more sun-resistant than elastic ones, hard plastic straps can also dry out and crack. Again, it’s not usually a huge issue, as they’re inexpensive and easy to replace.

Shepherd’s hook breaks, meanwhile, are much rarer. These systems use one hook per wheel, so if one breaks, you’ll be dragging your bike to your destination. Replacement shepherd’s hooks are much more expensive and more complicated to replace. They’re also much bigger than a strap, so it’s not likely you’ll have a spare sitting in your car.

When shopping for a bike rack, do your research. Check out the user reviews or talk to your local shop pro to see what experiences others have had.


The price of bike racks varies from less than $100 to more than $1,000, depending on the model and features. The trend we’ve seen is that the more expensive the rack, the safer it’ll keep your bikes.

Pricier racks also tend to offer features that make them easier to use. Generally, hanging racks are less expensive than platform racks.

Lower-end racks often offer minimal protection and features. Higher-end racks usually offer more padding and protection. They also offer more features that make your bikes secure and easy to access.

How much you spend depends on your needs (as well as your bank account). If you just want a way to get your bike to a trailhead without disassembling it and stuffing it in your trunk, a good $100 hanging rack is the way to go.

If you’ve spent a couple of grand on a killer road bike and want to keep it in mint condition as long as you can, go for a higher-end platform rack (assuming you can afford it after spending all that cheddar on a carbon fiber rocket).

Generally, we’ve found that the sweet spot in racks is somewhere around the $400-600 range. For that money, you can find a rack that is easy to use and will keep your bike safe. Plus, you’ll have some money left over for a decent pit stop on the way to the trail.