Choosing a bike rack is an interesting exercise because there are many variables that go into it that the selection criteria can exceed those you can have for the bikes themselves.
For starters, aside from your personality and the style of your preference, the first question to ask yourself is how far and how frequently you need to carry bikes? What type of bikes, and how many bikes do you need to carry? Which vehicle or vehicle types are you going to be mounting the rack on? And will you be taking a mixture of bikes?
The next set of questions you should ask yourself is, how do you want to carry the bikes? On top of your vehicle? Off the back? Does your vehicle have a receiver hitch? Another thing to consider is if you would be carrying other sporting equipment.
Lastly, you should consider practicality: if the rack will suit your needs now and in the future; how easy it is for the rack to fit to the vehicle and load; whether it holds the bikes safely and locks the bikes and to the vehicle; and how much storage space it will take up when not in use.
Types of Bicycle Racks
There are three main types of bicycle racks:
- The Hitch-Mounted
These kinds of racks connect to a one 1/4in or 2in receiver hitch that is mounted on your vehicle. More expensive than other bike rack styles, but they are a popular option because of how easy it is to use them, and also not having to lift bikes onto the vehicle’s roof, making them a popular option.
Most hitch-mounted racks feature locks; these locks the bike to the rack and the rack to the car. Some of the best designs enable almost one-handed fitting, while hinged load sections provide access to the boot/tailgate of the vehicle without having to remove the bikes.
Pros: The good hitch-mounted bikes are reliable, and, being behind the vehicle and out of the way of the primary airflow, fuel consumption doesn’t suffer too much. Loading and unloading bikes are super simple. Security is top notch
Cons: Always needing a receiver hitch. With the bikes off, reversing can become rather difficult if you forget about the rack.
Almost all roof racks consist of feet that attach to your vehicle’s roof, and cross bars that the accessories attach to. Some of this roof mounted racks allow for front wheels.
There are simpler roof-mounted bike racks available that don’t require a dedicated base bar set up. For example, the Sea Sucker rack uses suction cups to attach itself to your car, and roof-mounted bike racks that attach to your vehicle’s factory installed a roof rack.
Pros: the roof mounted racks are super versatile as they can be used for all kinds of gear hauling. They are also one of the most secure racks available.
Lastly, they do not hinder access to any doors/boot/hatch/tailgate.
Cons: Driving under something low could damage your bikes and your vehicle. These roof-mounted racks also add aero-drag to the vehicle, which increases fuel consumption.
These are the least expensive of all the racks available, and they are also the least secure. They are attached to the vehicle by using straps that are hooked to the vehicle
Pros: Easy to fit, least expensive,
Cons: These are the least secure racks available. Plus, they can fall off if you do not strap them properly.
There are so many different racks to choose from, getting one is largely dependent on the budget, vehicle, and preferences of the cyclist.