Bike Rack Basics
In our 7 Best Affordable Bike Racks that Actually Work post, we did our best to prioritize cost alongside of functionality. After doing our research, we’ve hopefully taken the work out of your bike rack search by researching other “best bike rack” lists. We then combed through bike rack user reviews and most importantly, we actually tested many different bike racks over the years. We’ve also selected SUV bike racks, trunk bike racks and hitch bike racks. And for old-school bike transporters, we’ve included a roof bike rack option. If you’re looking for a truck bed bike rack, check out the venerable Yakima Gatekeeper Truck Bike Tailgate Cover.
Cheap Bike Racks We Recommend
While you can easily drop $400-$500 for a bike rack, our favorite bike racks are actually some of the lower cost options. Thankfully, these work well with both our road bikes and mountain bikes. Recently, we’ve tested some of these racks as we transported road and mountain bicycles from one side of the US to the other–and all over the Northeast. We were even rear-ended by another car that mangled all four of our bikes, destroyed the back panel of our vehicle, but couldn’t inflict any damage to our top choice on this bike rack list. Also, regardless of whether you purchase a roof-, trunk- or hitch-mounted rack, make sure your rack fits your specific vehicle. In the case of a hitch-mounted bike rack, you will need to check to see if you have a 1.25″ or 2″ receiver on your hitch. If you haven’t installed your hitch yet, go with the 2″ receiver.
You won’t find this on the top of anyone’s top 10 list, but the Allen Sports bike rack is by far our favorite inexpensive bike rack. Go with the 5 bike option if you’ll be transporting 3 or more bikes–if only to have some more room. The rack clamps rotate and flex to accommodate bicycle frames of almost any size and shape. This is definitely the best feature of this bike rack; especially since other racks will rarely accommodate larger frames or will require special adapters that are not included with the rack. We’ve typically used the 5-bike rack for 4 adult bikes on the outside and 1 small child-sized bicycle secured using the straps closest to your vehicle. This rack will hold your bikes securely without wheels, handlebars or frames jostling from side to side. Overall, this bike rack is a bargain and in many respects outperforms most of the costlier alternatives. And, if you need to secure the rack to your vehicle, consider purchasing a hitch lock. We’ve used one for several years—just make sure you don’t ever lose the key!
The Allen Sports Trunk-Mounted bike rack is a good option if you don’t have a hitch. If at all possible, just spend the money to purchase a hitch so you don’t have to mess around with the hassle of trunk mounted racks. You can find some solid trailer hitches for your vehicle online or call your local U-Haul store and make an appointment to have one installed.
3. Yakima Products RidgeBack Hitch Bike Rack – $284
I’ve owned the Yakima Ridgeback for several years and used it on cross-country trips. I would not recommend it for mountain bikes since the straps and clamps are not large enough to accommodate larger or unusual frame sizes. When this was one of our primary bike racks, I was impressed with the locking mechanism that secured the rack to the hitch and also found the rack’s ability to fold impressive. While it may not be the bike rack to beat all bike racks it is well-design albeit a bit heavy.
4. The Saris Bones (2 bike trunk mounted) – $152
According to the manufacturer:
the arc-based design fits sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, SUV’s and nearly all cars with rear spoilers. Rubberized feet protect your vehicle and the coated straps protect your bike. This rack also has the strongest frame on the market, thanks to the injected-molded arms and legs. It weighs only 9lbs and is constructed with rust-free 100% recyclable materials. Awarded 4.5 out of 5 stars from Bicycling Magazine Safely carries 2 bikes up to 35lbs each Compatible with most vehicles
The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 bike rack has more than 80 reviews at Amazon, almost all of which are five stars. The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 bike rack is definitely the Cadillac of bicycle racks with a semi-integrated bike lock, front tire ratchet(s), rear tire cradles and an option to fold the rack when not in use. It also comes with a locking pin to secure the rack to your car. If you have one or more high-end full-suspension mountain bikes and you don’t want to risk knocking your disk brakes out of whack with a cheaper rack, this is a bullet proof option. In reviewing the Amazon reviews more carefully, several reviewers note this is as close to perfection as possible for road bikes based on its ability to fold away from the hatch door and its durability.
The Helium Aero bike rack is larger and heavier than most trunk racks and doesn’t fold flat for storing, but it’s easy to install and store in some out-of-the-way location. If you’re going to use this bike rack with any larger frames, you might want to purchase one or two frame adaptor kits.
7. Yakima HighRoad Top Car Bike Rack (roof mounted) – $201
Another review of the Yakima HighRoad bike rack claims this rack is the easiest to mount on the vehicle and to load your bikes on. Because this bike rack holds your bike by the front wheel, it avoids coming in contact with the bike frame, which means you can keep your front wheel on your bike while transporting it. Although some front wheel racks aren’t the sturdiest, this rack performs well and includes a lock to secure your rack to the roof of your vehicle. This bike rack fits 26″-29″ wheels and tires from 23mm to 3.25″–in other words, it’s pretty darn flexible when it comes to different types of bikes.
You Can Find A Cheap Bike Rack that Works!
With our best bike racks listed here, we look forward to enhancements that are sure to come in the future. And, when all of your bikes are back in the garage, you may want to check out a wall mount bike rack to keep them off the ground and organized.