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Types of Bike Racks: Important Factors to Consider When Choosing the Ideal Bike Rack

Transporting your bike from one place to another can be tedious, especially if you don’t have a suitable bike rack. Using a bike rack can be discouraging for some, as they are intimidated by the idea of having their expensive bikes attached to a few pieces of plastic or metal on their car, which will probably go for about a hundred kilometers per hour. However, contrary to what these people believe, bike racks nowadays are safer than ever, and you have a ton of options to choose from. Bike racks are available in different types, based on how they attach to your vehicle, as well as how many bikes they can transport.

Types of Bike Racks

Roof Bike Racks

There are three types of bike roof racks – complete systems that mount to your vehicle’s bare roof. Suction cup roof racks that can vacuum seal to your roof, or tray roof racks that attach to your stock crossbars and side rails. Furthermore, there are two ways you can transport bikes on roof racks – with or without the front wheel. Removing the front wheel of the bike will lighten the bike and lower its height, allowing you to pass through shorter passageways. There are adapters available for thru-axles, but it’s important to check for compatibility before you decide to get one. If you leave the front wheel on, you won’t have to worry about finding a place to stash the wheel and having a dirty tyre in your car.

Yakima roof bike carrier models are popular among cyclists. Besides the Yakima roof bike carrier models, other popular models come from Thule, Allen Sports, Saris and Inno.

Roof bike racks from the aforementioned manufacturers will probably have some sort of locks, reducing the chance of damaging your vehicle and bikes. However, there’s still the possibility of forgetting that you have a bike attached to your roof, so you should still be careful.

Hitch Racks

Hitch racks are considered the most convenient type of bike rack. Once installed, you don’t have to do anything else. Loading and unloading the bikes onto hitch racks is very easy. All you have to do to install hitch racks is slide them onto the receiver tube. Most racks are made for 1.25- and 2-inch receivers. Newer options have a locking feature for the hitched, and are hinged to fold up so you get them out the way when you’re not using them. Many also come with integrated locks to secure the bikes to the racks and arms that can extend up and over the front bike wheel. The downside to hitch racks is that they make your vehicle longer, so you’ll have to be careful when parallel parking and backing up.

Boot/Trunk Racks

As their name implies, these racks attach to the boot using hooks and straps, plus lower and upper feet to stay stable against your vehicle. They’re typically the most affordable and lightest options, making them also very portable. Once you figure out how to attach and detach the hooks and straps, installing and removing them is a 2-minute affair. If you travel in poorly secured or crime-prone areas, you can remove and store the rack in your vehicle or home. Another disadvantage of these racks is that the pedal or wheel can flop and scratch your vehicle’s paint, and they might not work with irregularly-shaped mountain bikes.

Key Factors to Consider

There are a couple of different things to consider when buying a bike rack, and your personal preference is one of them. The number of bikes the rack can hold is also a key thing to consider, and it may make one type of rack more suitable than the others. Here are other things to keep in mind.


Installing the bike rack should be easy and effortless. It should require minimum adjustments and tools to do so. Weight is a crucial factor in how easy it is to install the rack – the lighter, the better. This is especially important if you can’t bring your vehicle to the place you keep your rack, i.e the garage. Moreover, if a heavy rack is difficult to move around, you’ll end up leaving it mounted on your vehicle, which can negatively affect your fuel economy, have the roof rack damaged from the elements, and even get it stolen.

Rear Access

If access to the rear of your vehicle is important, you’ll probably want a roof rack instead of a hitch or boot rack. With a hitch rack, you might be able to swing or tilt the rack out of the way. However, you may or may not have to unload the bikes as well, depending on the model. With a trunk bike rack, though, you’ll definitely need to unload the bikes and the rack itself.

Locking Ability

When you’re on the road, you should be able to leave your bikes when you make a stop, without losing peace of mind. For that reason, make sure you buy a bike rack that can lock up the bikes securely, and that is securely attached to your vehicle as well. Unfortunately, thieves will look to get their hands on your possessions no matter where you go, and having a way to prevent that can go a long way in ensuring the safety of your possessions.

Easy Storage

Most racks are quite bulky and thus, difficult to store. As briefly aforementioned, hitch racks are popular for this exact reason. They’re easy to remove and safely store in your boot or garage. Racks that fold also don’t have to be disassembled, and you can easily store them anywhere you’d like, including your back seats.