Guide - Bike Rack

How to pick the best bike rack for you

A guide to selecting the proper bike rack for your vehicle, number of bikes and bike styles.

When purchasing your next bike rack, it is important to know the various ways to transport your bike(s) on your vehicle, the features and benefits of specific rack models, as well as knowing the capacity and limitations of certain styles and vehicle placements. Most cyclists are looking for the rack style that will be the easiest and most convenient to use, while also keeping their bike safe, secure and ready to ride when unloading at your destination.  

Bike rack styles and your vehicle

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, on the towbar, on the 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

How to select the right bike rack for your needs

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

  • Rooftop bike racks

And two rear of car styles:

  • Towbar bike racks
  • Trunk bike racks

Here are the benefits of each, including the features and benefits of each rack style by where they attach to the vehicle:

Why you should opt for 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 towbar installed.

Benefits of rooftop bike racks:

  • You have a roof rack, but do not have a towbar 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 you should opt for a rear of car bike rack:

Towbar-mounted bike racks:

Towbar-mounted bike racks are the most common style of bike carriers and are a great option if you already have a towbar on your vehicle, or plan on installing one. These bike racks can carry 1 to 4 bikes, are easy to mount, and limit heavy and high lifting. Towbar bike racks also come in two styles: platform towbar racks can carry up to 3 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 Thule EasyFold XT 3, a fully foldable, compact, and easy-to-use towbar-mounted bike rack for all types of bikes. Hanging towbar racks can carry up to 4 bikes and secure them by their top tube on the bike, such as Thule HangOn, a tiltable, and easy-to-use bike rack.

Benefits of towbar-mounted bike racks:

  • You have a towbar installed
  • 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 towbar, a trunk bike rack is an ideal option. This style of racks 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 towbar 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

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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Benefits of truck bike racks:

  • You do not have a roof rack system or towbar 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