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Guide - Bike Rack

How to choose the best bike rack for your car

A guide on how to choose the best bike rack for your car, number of bikes and bike styles.

If you want to be free, explore the unknown, and bike on distant roads, you need a bike rack to get you there. We know that everyone's needs are unique, and that different bike styles and different car models require different bike rack solutions. That’s why we have written this guide – to help you choose a bike carrier that fits your needs without compromise.

Do bike racks fit all cars?

The first questions you should ask when selecting a bike rack for your vehicle is what type of vehicle do you have and how many bikes you would like to carry.

Bike racks come in a variety of styles and can be mounted on a vehicle’s roof, in the hitch receiver, on the rear hatch or trunk, or in the bed of a pickup truck. The type of vehicle you have will identify what bike rack options are available.  Please consult the Thule Buyers Guide to find what bike racks will work with your vehicle.  Once you have determined what options fit your car, you can then narrow down the style based on how many bikes you want to carry.  

Hitch bike racks - Thule T2 Pro XT with bikes

Types of bike racks

After determining the number of bikes you plan on transporting, you can determine how you want to carry your bikes.  There are four options:

And three rear-of-car styles:

Here are some of the features and benefits of each type of bike rack:

Why choose a rooftop bike rack:

Rooftop mounted bike racks give you full access to the trunk of their vehicle, allow you to carry one bike each, can accommodate most wheel dimensions, and come in either fork-mounted bike rack options that secure dropout or thru-axle of your fork as the attachment point, like the best-selling Thule ThruRide, or can be mounted without taking the front wheel off with upright roof bike racks, an easy to use solution for the user, as with the quick to load and unload Thule UpRide. While these styles require either factory installed or aftermarket crossbars, fork-mounted or upright roof bike racks are great for sedans and smaller SUVs with a lower loading height or models that do not have a hitch receiver installed. 

Benefits of rooftop bike racks:

  • You have a roof rack, but do not have a hitch receiver and do not want to install one
  • Your vehicle has a lower roof height
  • You need full access to the rear of their vehicle
  • You do not have a lot of storage space

Why choose a rear of car bike rack? 

Hitch-mounted bike racks:

Hitch-mounted bike racks are the most common style of bike carriers and are a great option if you already have a Class 1-5 receiver hitch on their vehicle, or plan on installing one. These bike racks can carry 1 to 5 bikes, are easy to mount, and limit heavy and high lifting. Hitch racks also come in two styles: platform hitch racks can carry up to 4 bikes, are designed to make loading and unloading quick and easy, fold up when not in use, and easily accommodate a variety of frame styles. One of the best options for this style is the Thule Helium Platform offers best in class usability and styling like no other, and come in 1 or 2 bike options. While hanging hitch racks can carry up to 5 bikes and secure them by their top tube on the bike and comes in two variations, racks that either tilt down or swing-away to allow for trunk access. Both styles of racks come in models to accommodate both 1 ¼” and 2” hitch receivers, including the Thule Apex XT Swing which offers superior protection for up to 5 bikes with cushioned cradles for the bike frames and 7” of clearance between each bike.

Benefits of hitch-mounted bike racks:

  • You have a 1 ¼” or 2" hitch receiver
  • You want to carry multiple bikes
  • You need to easily load and unload them
  • You need to carry different bike frame styles
  • You want the added security for transporting their bikes

Trunk bike racks:

For vehicles without a roof rack or hitch receiver, a trunk bike rack is an ideal option. This style of rack can transport 1 to 3 bikes, are foldable, and store easily when not in use, which makes them a great option for cyclists who ride infrequently or have limited storage space in their garage or home, such as the Thule Raceway Pro, a 3 bike trunk rack with security throughout with locking features and reinforced steel cables.

Benefits of trunk bike racks:

  • You do not have a rack system or hitch receiver and do not want to install one
  • You are a casual rider that does not ride often
  • You want an economical option
  • You do not have a lot of storage space

Truck bike racks:

Truck owners, both light use and heavy-duty models, have the option to easily load their bikes onto an in-bed bike rack for mounting inside the bed of their truck, like the Thule Insta-Gater Pro, an all-new solution with frame-free contact, or by quickly and securely strapping up to 8 bikes onto a tailgate pad, as with the Thule GateMate Pro

Benefits of truck bike racks:

  • You do not have a roof rack system or hitch receiver and do not want to install one
  • You use the hitch receiver for other purposes
  • You want to transport bikes in your truck bed
  • You live close to where you ride and need a simple option for a quick commute

Whatever your vehicle, or however many bikes you plan on taking with you on your next ride, there are a host of bike rack styles for your next ride. Before you select the bike rack for you, it’s important to research the options out there to ensure you have the best model for your vehicle and your needs. To help you select the best rack for you, check out our interactive Thule Buyer's Guide for a comprehensive step-by-step tutorial of which bike rack would be best for your vehicle, bike styles and number of bikes to carry.

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