Updated September 2017
Over the course of 12 months (and counting), our expert testers analyzed a slew of models before ultimately deciding on the best 21 to put to the test. In a quest to find the best, our testing revealed that Thule T2 Pro XT was the Best Overall Hitch Mount, while the Kuat Trio and Thule Raceway Pro 9001 took home the coveted award for being the best for your roof or trunk mount. Not only did we identify the best for each mount, but we highlighted which models will serve you for their special purposes, as well as which model provides the best value for your buck. Read on to find your ideal model!
Best Overall Hitch Mount Bike Rack
Thule T2 Pro XT
One handed tilt mechanism at rear of rack
Heavy duty Construction
Fits tires up to five inches
Lots of space between trays
Tool free attachment and removal
3" of lateral tray adjustment
This is the one. The Thule T2 Pro XT
. Without a doubt, this is the best all-around product in our test group. For the second year in a row, Thule holds down the top spot in our review with the updated version of the T2 Pro, despite some intense competition from other new racks on the market. It was the highest scoring product in nearly every category and is everything we had hoped a rack could be, and then some. The "XT" is the latest version of the T2 with notable changes in tray spacing and lateral adjustability that reduce the chances of bikes coming into contact with each other. Ergonomics are excellent, with ratcheting wheel clamp arms that can be adjusted with one hand, and a low loading height. Everything is well thought out, down to the extra wide wheel trays and ratcheting arms, giving fat bike enthusiasts a viable hitch mount option. The mark of a game-changing product is offering the consumer something they never knew they needed. For years we have all been stoked on our hitch mounted rack's ability to tilt down, but moving the control for the feature truly changes the entire experience and the ease with which the rack can be tilted down, making access to the rear of your vehicle easier than ever. Add the tool-free attachment (trust us, you will not miss fiddling with a threaded hitch pin and lock) and you have a winner.
Read review: Thule T2 Pro XT
Best Overall Roof Rack
Lower profile than racks that clamp the tire
Standard 9mm and through-axle compatibility
Compatible with a wide range of cross bars
Challenging to assemble
Boost adaptors not included in price
Kuat holds on to the top slot for roof racks for the second year in a row with the awesome Trio
. True to its name it comes out of the box ready to handle the three most common axle configurations. An improvement on the tried and true design of the fork mount rack, the Trio does not require a $40 adapter to hold your through-axle equipped bike. Kuat has come up with an innovative solution that can carry bikes with any axle standard at the fork. It comes out of the box ready to handle your 9mm, 15mm, and 20mm forks. An additional adaptor can be purchased to accommodate the wider fork spacing of fat bikes and plus bikes. The Trio mounts to almost any cross bars, using a U-bolt style clamp. It also has a handy cut-away for clearance of disc brake calipers. Top it all off with a cable lock that extends from the back of the rack, and you have the most versatile, secure and easy to load rook rack on the market. We would like to see Kuat include Boost compatible components with the rack, but they do offer them as an accessory for purchase.
Read review: Kuat Trio
Best Overall Trunk Rack
Thule Raceway Pro 9001
Most secure trunk mount rack available
Steel cable attachment system
Compact design for storage
Limits access to vehicle
Holds bike via direct contact with the frame
The Thule Raceway Pro 9001
is our Top Pick trunk mounted bike rack. It is the only trunk mount rack in our test group that uses rubber coated steel cables for mounting rather than nylon straps. The steel cables increase durability and are easily adjusted to length and tightened with built-in, user-friendly knobs. Setup is easy, using the Thule Fit Guide that has a number designated for each compatible vehicle. The Fit Dial on the rack is then turned to the corresponding number, and the optimum support arm angle for your vehicle is set; there's no guesswork. The support arms are adjustable in both angle and lateral spread, which increases the ability to carry a variety of frame types and sizes. The Raceway Pro is also the only trunk mount in the test group that comes with a retractable cable lock.
Read review: Thule Raceway Pro 9001
Best Buy Hitch Rack
Thule T2 Classic
Most affordable hitch mount tray style rack in the test
Holds tires up to five inches
Expandable to four bikes
Threaded hitch pin requires tools for removal
The tilt mechanism is hard to access
The Thule T2 Classic
is no spring chicken as its name implies. This rack has been around for longer than many people have been riding bikes and was one of the first tray style hitch mount racks to hit the market. The fact that the T2 Classic has been out for over ten years and seen only minimal updates shows that the design is robust and still relevant. Thule now has the T2 Pro in its lineup that commands a higher price, due to refinements in design that increase ease of use, but the Classic is a functional, high-quality rack that serves the same function while saving you some serious cash. If you are looking for a bomber hitch rack that will last you ten years and not break the bank, then look no further.
Read review: Thule T2 Classic
Best Bang for the Buck Roof Rack
Fits a wide range of cross bars
Lots of color options
Needs expensive adapters to hold bikes with through axle forks
The RockyMounts JetLine
is the winner of our Best Buy award. At $130 list price, it is not the cheapest bike rack in our test group, but you get a lot for your money. The JetLine is a roof top, fork mount rack. It will fit both Thule, Yakima, Aero, and many factory crossbars with the included hardware. The quick release lever is easy to manipulate and will clamp any bicycle fork with 9mm dropouts. With the addition of the Drive Shaft (through-axle) adapter ($69.95) from RockyMounts, the rack can hold bikes equipped with 15mm and 20mm through axles. The tray has a cutout to accommodate disk brake calipers and a sliding, ratcheting strap to secure the rear wheel. If you wish to lock it, the JetLine requires two lock cores ($19.95, not included), one to secure the rack to the vehicle and one to lock the quick release lever securing the bike. The JetLine is a great buy and offers security and versatility, along with add-on parts you can purchase as funds permit.
Read review: RockyMounts JetLine
Top Pick For Versatility and Capacity
Yakima Dr. Tray
Innovative tray mount design
Easily increase capacity with the EZ+1 adaptor
Tool free tray adjustment
Lighter than the competition
Tool Free attachment and removal
Tilt release handle is challenging to use
Poorly designed cable lock system
The much anticipated Yakima Dr. Tray
is the latest and greatest hitch mount tray rack from the well-known brand. Make no mistake; this is not a new version of the Yakima Hold Up. The Dr. Tray is an entirely new design with some innovative features that we love. The trays attach to the main body of the rack with tool-free clamps and can be adjusted fore and aft as well as laterally in seconds to eliminate bike-to-bike contact. In addition to the incredible versatility, the Dr. Tray is also one of the lightest racks in its class. We also love the recently released EZ+1 accessory that increases the capacity of the Dr. Tray to three bikes. The Dr. Tray narrowly missed out on our Editors' Choice award due to the sticky and hard-to-pull tilt release, and a cable locking system that could use a redesign. Despite these issues, the Dr. Tray was a favorite among our testers for its light weight and ease of adjustability.
Read review: Yakima Dr. Tray
Top Pick for #Vanlife
RockyMounts BackStage Swing Away Platform
Swing away design
One handed tilt mechanism at rear of rack
3" of lateral tray adjustment
Tools needed for removal and install
Limited tray/vehicle clearance
If you have been lured by the siren song of the open road and purchased a van to embark on biking adventures, then you already know or are about to discover the challenges of carrying bikes in your new rig. RockyMounts
has come to the rescue, with the first tray style swing away hitch rack designed specifically to meet the needs of the van dwelling nomad. Every other hitch rack we tested interferes with the rear doors of many vans even when tilted down. While the Backstage does have an impressive tilt function that can be accessed at the rear of the rack, the marquee feature is the articulating arm that swings out, putting your bikes and the racks out of the way and clear of the rear doors. It is not perfect — the tray clearance off the back of the vehicle is a bit tight, so bikes with 800mm bars need to be placed in the outside tray, and it is cumbersome. Despite its imperfections, it is the most viable option on the market for the #vanlife crowd.
Read review: RockyMounts BackStage
Analysis and Test Results
Over the course of six months, we rigorously tested each model on a variety of vehicles. Each rack was tested with a range of different types of bikes in search of strengths and weaknesses. Meticulous notes and continuous measuring and weighing, and ultimately scoring each rack across six separate rating metrics led us to our final test results listed above.
Ease of Everyday Use
For most of us, this is the bottom line. How easy is this thing to use, because spending time fiddling with a bike rack is time that could have been dedicated to the trail. Ease of use comes down to two things, how easy is it to load bikes, and does the rack interfere with access to your vehicle. (Locking systems are discussed in the Security test). Loading height and method of attachment are the primary points of consideration when it comes to loading bikes. Issues with vehicle access come into play with hitch and trunk racks, and the method of mitigation the manufacturer uses and its effectiveness leads us to our score. The highest scoring hitch rack we tested is the Thule T2 Pro XT
Loading bikes are as simple as it gets, with a low loading height and easy-to-manipulate front wheel clamps that take the awkwardness out of balancing a bike while trying to mount it in the rack. Other models we tested like the 1 Up Quick Rack
require a more choreographed approach to bike loading in order to prevent those awkward moments where the bike is teetering and you have run out of hands. However, the feature that stands out most on the T2 Pro
is the one-handed release lever located on the end of the rack that makes lowering the rack or raising the rack a breeze. Yakima
has emulated this feature on the new Dr. Tray
, but the lever is sticky and often took two hands and some rough treatment to release. Thule was the first to release a rack with this feature and the functionality of their design still reigns supreme.
The awesome tilt release lever on the Thule T2 Pro XT can be manipulated with one hand.
When it comes to roof racks, the loading height is inevitable higher, which lowers the ease of use score compared to hitch racks. With that said, all roof racks are not created equal, and the Kuat Trio
stands out. The fork mount design is easier to load than a wheel mount like the Yakima HighRoller
because the bike does not need to be lifted as high. The Trio
outscores other fork mount racks like the RockyMounts Jetline
due to its innovative system that makes it compatible with through-axle forks without the need for additional adapters.
The orange piece on the Kuat Trio is removable, allowing different axel adaptors to be inserted to accomodate virtually any type of bike.
Our highest rated trunk rack is the Thule Raceway Pro 9001
. It uses a ratcheting dial system to take up slack in the attachment cables, which makes mounting easy, and the Fit Dial system takes all of the guesswork out of setting the arm angles with a listing of dial measurements for almost any vehicle to help you achieve the perfect fit.
Ease of Removal and Storage
We all wish that we could just leave our bike racks on the car 24/7, but the reality of life for most of us is that riding is a hobby and not a job. The racks come on and off as the vehicle use needs change. Removal and storage are a necessity. Size, weight, and method of attachment are the primary factors that impact removal and storage.
The Yakima Dr. Tray
is the highest scoring hitch rack we tested, and the only rack we tested that earned a perfect 10. At 34 pounds it is half the weight of the RockyMounts BackStage
; most of our testers were able to carry it with one hand. Attachment to the vehicle is simple thanks to the SpeedKnob locking system that removes wobbles and locks the rack to the vehicle. The Kuat Sherpa
also scored well, with an impressively light weight of 32 pounds. It also uses a knob and cam system that removes wobble, but a hitch pin is required to lock the rack to your vehicle. For the rack that takes up the least space when not in use, check out the 1 Up USA Heavy Duty Quick Rack
. It is the only rack we tested that features folding bike trays for storage. If you need a hitch rack that you can pull off and fit in the trunk the 1 UP
is worth a look.
When it comes to roof racks, manufacturers assume that you will not be removing them on a daily basis, they are more of a set-it-and-forget-it item that most people choose to just leave on the roof after the initial installation. As a result, most of them take a fair bit of effort to remove. Of all the contenders we tested, the easiest to take on and off the car was the Yakima Front Loader
A knob on the front is turned until the clamping jaws make firm contact with the cross bar, and a clamp with one tensioning knob takes care of the rear cross bar attachment. Other roof racks we tested such as the Kuat Trio
use a U-bolt system that requires hex keys to take on and off. As far as storage goes, none of the roof racks tested fold up, so you will need a place with some space to stash them when they are not in use.
The hand knob on the Yakima FrontLoader makes for easy removal and installation.
One advantage of trunk racks is that they do not take up much space when removed from the vehicle. The Thule Raceway Pro
is our top rated trunk rack. It packs up small, and of the trunk racks we tested, it is the easiest to mount on a vehicle due to its Fit Dial system and ratcheting cables.
The Thule Raceway Pro folds up into a nice compact size when not in use.
Versatility is a measure of the ability to carry multiple different types of bikes bicycle frame shape and size can present issues for some racks. Any rack that uses the bicycle frame as the primary point of attachment will suffer in overall versatility due to the multitude of frame shapes on the market. The Yakima Dr. Tray
scored highest due to its massive range of tray adjustments, and the ability to carry bikes with tires up to five inches.
The Thule T2 Pro XT
comes in at a close second regarding versatility, also accommodating tires up to five inches, but with a slightly more limited range of tray adjustment. All of the hitch mount tray style racks we tested, other than the Saris Freedom
, use a ratcheting arm that clamps the tire of the bike, eliminating fitment issues related to frame design. A small sliding strap secures the rear wheel and can be adjusted based on the wheelbase of the bike being carried. With this design, the shape or size of the frame is inconsequential. All of the tray style hitch racks we tested have a two-bike capacity, but many of them can be increased to four bikes by purchasing an extension for the rack.
The Yakima Dr Tray is easy to remove and store due to its low weight and tool free attachment system.
Other models that we reviewed such as the Thule Apex Swing
claim they carry four, but the design limits its ability to carry four. It is the rare combination of four bikes that will fit, and even when we were able to get that many on, the increased contact would result in damage that is impossible to avoid. Most vehicles' peak capacity is achieved by using a roof mount setup with multiple individual roof racks. It is of note that a roof unit such as our Editors' Choice Kuat Trio
can only hold one bike, but the ability to put multiple units on the roof makes for a high capacity option. The Yakima Front Loader
was another standout for versatility with its capacity to carry bikes differing axle standards by clamping the front tire rather than making contact at the fork or front axle.
Ease of Assembly
Setting up your model is a task you will only need to complete once, so Ease of Assembly does not hold the heft of other rating metrics commanding only 10 percent of the overall score. Despite the lower weighting of this metric, we can assure you that it is worth attention. Some of the racks we tested left us frustrated and confused with poor directions or poorly machined pieces that took some serious manipulation to coax into place.
The highest scoring hitch rack we tested is the 1 Up USA Heavy Duty Quick Rack
, The 1 Up
is the only hitch rack we tested that has folding bike trays, allowing the rack to be shipped fully assembled. Pull it out of the box, fold the trays open and it is ready to mount on your vehicle. It does not get any easier than that. All of the other hitch racks we tested required a considerable amount of assembly. The Kuat Sherpa
needs a fair amount of assembly, but it also scores highly due to an innovative shipping box that is designed to support the trays during assembly.
Roof Mount Racks:
This is how the 1Up USA Heavy Duty Quik Rack comes out of the box. No assembly required.
The Yakima Front Loader
is the highest scoring roof rack we tested. It comes out of the box fully assembled and ready to mount on any cross bar available. Other roof racks we tested required tools to assemble before mounting.
Trunk Mount Racks:
The Yakima Front Loader comes fully assembled.
The Thule Raceway Pro
arrived fully assembled and is our highest scoring trunk mount rack. Other Trunk mount racks we tested required tools to assemble.
Given the right tools and enough time, a determined thief can compromise even the most secure bike rack.
We feel that the most secure ones utilize cable locks like the Kuat Sherpa
. The Sherpa
uses a long noose style cable that locks to a stud on the rack. This design makes it possible to loop the cable through wheels to prevent theft. The Rockymounts BackStage
has a similar system. The Thule T2 Pro XT
and the Yakima Dr. Tray
use shorter cables that are only long enough to loop through the frame and leave wheels vulnerable to theft. All of the hitch racks we tested using either a locking hitch pin or a lock that disables the unit wobble knob in the case of the Thule T2 Pro XT
to prevent theft of the rack itself.
Roof Mount Racks:
The Kuat Sherpa has a semi-integrated noose style cable lock that can be looped through frames and wheels.
When it comes to roof racks the highest scoring products, we tested feature a cable lock that allows the rear wheel to be secured. Both the Editors' Choice Kuat Trio
and the RockyMount Switch Hitter
feature this design. Lower scoring racks only allow the fork mount to be locked and leave the rear wheel unsecured.
Trunk Mount Racks:
Most of the trunk mount racks we tested are particularly vulnerable to theft. Most trunk racks are secured to the vehicle with nylon webbing straps that can easily be cut with a pair of scissors or a knife. The only trunk mount rack we tested with any security features is the Thule Raceway Pro
. The Raceway
attaches to the vehicle with steel cables and the tensioning system features keyed locks to prevent the theft of the rack. The support arms that hold the bikes feature a cable lock to secure your bike to the rack. The cable is relatively thin, but the security features of the Raceway
are robust in comparison to other trunk mount racks we have tested.
We did our best to put all of the tested products through their paces.
Luckily for our bikes, we did not have any catastrophic failures. Every product we tested came with the fine print "not for off-road use." While we understand that the manufacturers have to protect themselves legally, we had no intention of keeping these on the pavement. That said, some of the products in our fleet really should not be used off road, and we have detailed that in our test results in the individual product review sections.
The 1Up USA Heavy Duty Quik Rack is nearly impervious to corrosion with all aluminum construction.
The 1 Up USA Heavy Duty Quick Rack
stood out with a robust, if not overbuilt, design. With a weight capacity of 50 pounds per tray, you would be hard pressed to overload it. The entire rack is constructed of aluminum with stainless steel hardware — you will not find any plastic parts on the 1 Up
. Despite some contact with a tree while backing up that resulted in a bent ratchet mechanism', the rack continued to function without issue. The lack of paint on the 1 Up
is also of note. The aluminum will scratch, but the overall appearance of the rack does not change much over time — it is hard to tell if a 1 Up
rack is new or 10 years old. The Kuat NV 2.0
and the Kuat Sherpa
are also standout products; both have a powder coat finish that is hard to scratch and is resilient against the elements. Other durable-enough-to-last-a-lifetime standouts include the Best Buy RockyMounts JetLine
and the Best Buy Thule T2 Classic
After months of testing, we have the most comprehensive bike rack review ever conducted. Our testers are meticulous in their assessment of each rack and use a variety of vehicles and types of bikes to exploit the weaknesses of each design. From daily use to long road trips, these racks have seen it all from baking summer heat to snow and road salt. We hope that the in depth review we have created will make give you the tools to make a solid choice on your next rack.