Best Bike Racks for Mountain Bikers
When searching for the best bike racks for mountain bikers there is a lot to consider. Today’s market has a wide variety of options. To help you navigate these tricky waters, Mtbr has selected six options that have exceptional quality and functionality for carrying modern full suspension mountain bikes. The reason we mention modern and full suspension is that new frame designs don’t always play nice with all the options out there.
The three main styles of racks are receiver hitch mount platform, receiver hitch mount vertical hang, and roof top. Trunk mount racks and hitch mount horizontal hanging racks are typically incompatible with full suspension mountain bikes, and are thus not included here.
Mtbr’s first choice for transporting our precious trail slayers are receiver hitch mount racks. This rack style is more aerodynamic, shields bikes from road debris, and typically provides better security options because the bikes are closer to your vehicle’s frame.
This rack from 1UP USA holds bikes very secure and doesn’t impede ground clearance, which can be a critical consideration when shopping for the best bike racks for mountain bikers.
The primary cons of hitch mount racks is that they require a hitch receiver, and bike specific rather than serving a dual-carrying purpose. But if you have the need to regularly haul bikes, those negatives quickly fade away. It then comes down to which style makes the most sense: horizontal tray or vertical hang?
Horizontal tray racks are far more common and are the optimal style for most riders. They support the bike on its own tires, generally do not touch the frame, and can transport a wide variety of bike types. They also require a lower capacity receiver, so many options exist for cars and small SUVs. However, horizontal tray racks typically have less capacity than vertical hang racks.
With vertical hang racks, the type of bikes to be transported is an important consideration. Some styles are incompatible with road bikes and others don’t work with kid bikes. On the up side, this style of rack has a high capacity, usually up to six bikes, and shields them behind the vehicle. However, a robust receiver is required due to the dynamic forces that can overload lower capacity receivers. Thus, Mtbr recommends vertical hang racks for higher capacity receivers (2” Class II+), which generally restricts them to SUVs and trucks.
If a hitch receiver is either not available for your car, or you simply don’t want one, there are also lots of good roof rack options. Indeed, many riders supplement their rear tray rack with a couple roof-top slots for shuttle days. The disadvantage to roof racks include reduced fuel economy, bikes being pelted with road debris, and minimal security attachment points. And of course, they limit car clearance so beware of parking garages or low bridges. On the up side, roof racks do not require a receiver, support a wide variety of vehicles, and are also customizable for other gear carrying needs.
When it comes time to make the call on the best bike rack for you and your needs, consider the following questions:
- Does your car have a hitch receiver or could you get one installed?
- If so, what class is the receiver?
- Does the rack also need to transport gear for multiple sports?
- How many bikes need to be transported?
- What types of bikes need to be transported?
In our opinion, if you have a vehicle with a hitch receiver then hitch style bike racks are the best bike racks for mountain bikers. Of course there are many hitch tray racks available from major manufacturers such as Yakima and Thule. They typically a similar design with a single tire arm clamp plus trays for both tires and a strap for the rear wheel. Mtbr’s selections below are more boutique, favoring racks that use more advanced attachment methods, have impressive construction, or both. Indeed, we feel that the following racks stand out, as Mtbr has used them all extensively and all get a positive review.
- Securely holds bikes via both tires so bikes do not move
- Does not contact bike frame
- Good ground clearance, as each stage increases height, also reducing bike-to-bike contact
- Rack and bikes do not protrude far from vehicle
- Exceptional construction, nearly all metal
- Expandable to 4 bikes
- Some fragile components
- Tilts to open rear hatch, but not easily with more than one bike loaded
- Heavy at 53 pounds
Bike Attachment: Front and rear wheel arms
More Info: www.1up-usa.com
- Durable construction
- Lifetime warranty
- Clamps for both front and rear wheels
- Tilt handle easily accessible
- Compact design
- Low weight at 35 pounds
- Also available in 4-bike option for $880
Bike Attachment: Front and rear wheel arms plus straps
More info: www.saris.com
- Swings to the side to allow easy access to rear compartment
- Robust construction
- Excellent ground clearance
- 2” receiver required
- 2 bikes only
- Heavy at 60 pounds
Bike Attachment: Front wheel arm and rear wheel strap
More Info: rockymounts.com
- Carries up to 6 bikes
- Very durable
- 4-bike rack’s tower folds down
- Tilts down for ease of rear vehicle access
- Cannot carry road bikes
- Will mar fork crown
- Takes skill to load as bikes are fairly close together
- Wheel tie-down ropes not ideal, some users customize
- Requires 2” Class 2 receiver for 4-bike rack, 2” Class 3 receiver for 6-bike
Bike Attachment: Fork crown, rear wheel strap, wheels face forward
More Info: www.northshoreracks.com
- Easy to load multiple bikes
- Separates bikes well with solid bar mount that prevents bikes from rotating
- Transports mountain and road bikes
- Tilts down for easy vehicle access
- Requires additional adapter to haul dual crown bikes
- Requires 2” receiver
- Heavy at 68 pounds
Bike Attachment: Holds via bars, rear wheel strap, wheels face rear
More Info: www.loloracks.com
- Steel aerodynamic cross-bar
- Multi-sport compatible and user configurable
- Many things can mount on the base and crossbar system
- Wide range of supported vehicles
- Reduces vehicle aerodynamics
- Capacity depends on crossbar width and tower capacity
- Bikes pelted with road debris
- Be careful around parking garages
- Harder to secure bikes
Bike Attachment: Front wheel arm, rear wheel strap
More Info: www.yakima.com
Price: Yakima Corebar ($119), Frontloader ($199 each), Towers ($200-300)
What do you look for in a bike rack and what are your favorite brands and models? Let us know in the comments section below.
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- This rack from 1UP USA holds bikes very secure and doesn’t impede ground clearance, which can be a critical consideration when shopping for the best bike racks for mountain bikers.
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