Get Started With Hitch Mounted Bike Racks

If you have a car, truck or SUV with a hitch, a Hitch Mounted Bike Rack is the best way to get your bicycle to your next adventure. Hitch Mount Bike Racks are easy to install and operate with a much lower chance of scratching your paint than other bike rack options. The best Hitch Mount Bike Racks allow for a variety of bicycle sizes and types, a flexibility that make the cost of these racks worthwhile.

1.  Vehicle Compatibility

    • What Type Of Hitch Is On The Vehicle?
      • Ball Mounts are a fixed draw-bar hitch that come with an integrated hitch ball and cannot be changed. To install a Hitch Mounted Bike Rack the ball is inserted through a plate on the bike rack. The ball or bolt is then tightened down to secure the rack to the draw-bar.

    Ball Mounted Bike HitchBall Mounted Bike Rack

      • Receiver Hitches use a removable ball mount. This means that different size hitch balls can be installed easily on the hitch.
        • What size is the receiver opening? Hitch receivers are either 1.25” or 2”. Hitch Mounted Bike Racks may fit one or the other of the sizes, but some racks accommodate both.
        • What class of receiver is your hitch? The class rating is the weight capacity of the hitch. Information can be found on a sticker on the hitch or stamped to the hitch.
    Class Towing Capacity
    Tongue Weight
    Class I
    2,500 lbs
    200 lbs
    up to 2 bikes
    Class II
    3,500 lbs
    350 lbs
    up to 4 bikes
    Class III
    3,500-1,200 lbs
    350-1,200 lbs
    up to 5 bikes


    Receiver Mounted Bike RackReciever Bike Mount Illustration

    • Does the vehicle have a rear mounted spare tire?
      A vehicle with a rear-mounted spare tire may require a bike rack with a longer shank.  The correct size shank will prevent damage to both the bicycles and the vehicle. To determine the minimum length required for the bike rack’s shank, measure the distance from the center of the hitch pin hole on the receiver to the outermost edge of the spare tire. If the Hitch Mounted Bike Rack’s shank is not long enough a hitch extender can be added.

    Receiver Hitch Converter

      • Does the vehicle have low clearance? Make sure the Hitch Mounted Bike Rack will have adequate ground clearance to avoid damage to the bikes and the rack.

      4.  Bike Compatibility

      Hitch Mount Bike Racks come in two styles: top tube and wheel mount. Decide what style of bike rack will be most compatible with your bike frames and transportation requirements.

          • Top Tube Bike Racks The top tube of the bike will rest on the hanging rack. Many full suspension mountain bikes will not fit onto hanging racks.
            • Single Arms Bike Racks The bike frame is supported by a single cradle and can easily accommodate standard and alternative frame bikes. Holds up to 5 bikes.

              Single Arm Bike Rack

            • Rotatable cradles with individual top plates include cradles that rotate to keep bike wheels level, providing for excellent ground clearance. A hand knob allows you to secure the bike frame to the rack by tightening the top plate. It accommodates most sizes and styles of bikes and is simple to load. However, bulky cradles can make it hard to secure bikes with small crossbars.

          Bike Rack with Rotatable Cradles

            • Fixed cradles with Velcro straps include Velcro that holds the bike frame in the cradle. Fixed cradle bike racks can hold bikes with large tube frames. The cradles cannot be rotated and bikes with slanted cross tubes often tilt. When bikes are tilted they require adequate ground clearance. Consider adding a Top Tube Adapter.

          Bike Rack Cradles with Velcro Straps

            • Fixed cradle with single top plate include a single top plate that secures all cradles simultaneously.  The top plate must be removed to load and unload any bike. Bikes with slanted cross tubes often tilt. When bikes are tilted they require adequate ground clearance.

          Bike Rack Cradles with Single Top Plate

          • Dual Arm Bike Racks have two cradles to hold the bike frame and provide even support. They are compatible with most bike frames.  Women’s or children’s bikes may tilt and must have adequate ground clearance.

          Dual Arm Bike Rack

          • Wheel Mount Bike Racks consist of wheel mounts that cradle the bike tires, securing the bike to the rack. An adjustable wheel holder accommodates the widest range of bikes, regardless of size, frame, suspension or wheel size. Swaying of the bikes is eliminated. Holds up to 4 bikes.
            • Wheel Clamps secure the bike to the rack by clamping down on the bikes wheels.  There is no frame contact and it is great for bikes with a suspension.

          Wheel Clamp Bike Rack

            • Frame Clamps secure the bike to the rack with a large hook that clamps to the crossbar. Straps secure the wheels in the cradles.

          Frame Clamp Bike Rack

          • V-Shaped Bike Racks use a strap to secure bike wheels to the cradles. The adjustable cradles accommodate all styles of bikes. There is less sway protection than on some other rack styles, but there is no contact with the bike frame.

          V-Shaped Bike Rack

          4.  Vehicle Accessibility

          Hitch Mounted Bike Racks can swing away from the rear cargo area allowing accessibility to the back of your vehicle.

          • Fixed Position Bike Racks must have both bikes and rack removed to gain access to the rear of the vehicle.

        Fixed Position Bike Rack

          • Parallelogram Bike Racks allow the entire rack to extend away from the vehicle.  Bikes can remain on the rack while it is extended.  Arms remain parallel to the ground which keeps the bikes upright when the rack is extended. Limited access to the rear of the vehicle.

          Parallelogram Bike Rack

          • Swing Away Bike Racks allow the entire rack to swing completely away from the vehicle. Bikes can remain on the rack while the swing feature is in operation. Provides unlimited access to the rear of the vehicle.

          Swing Away Bike Rack

          • Tilting Bike Racks allow the rack to tilt down at the base of the rack. Bikes must be removed before tilting. Limited access to the rear of the vehicle.

          Tilting Bike Rack


          4. User Compatibility

            • How often will you use the accessibility or fold/swing away feature? These racks cost a bit more. Is the convenience worth the price factor?
              • Does the rack include an anti-rattle device? What type of anti-rattle device does the rack use? Anti-rattle devices eliminate rattling and jostling of the rack in the hitch during transport.  Anti-rattle devices are available if the rack does not come equipped with one.
                • Twist-Knob Anti-Rattle Devices are very convenient.  They feature a simple knob twist that give the bike rack a snug fit within the hitch and do not require tools.

                  Twist Knob Anti-Rattle Device

                • Anti-Rattle Hitch Bolts thread through hitch and receiver. Tightening the bolt creates stability. They require a wrench which is often included with the bolt.
              • Anti-Rattle Hitch Bolt

              • Does the rack include an integrated locking system? Some bike racks come with integrated locking mechanisms to prevent theft by securing the bikes to the bike rack and the bike rack to the trailer hitch. Locking systems are available if the rack does not come equipped with one.
                • Integrated Cable Locks have an integrated cable that secures the bikes to the rack. The lock is stored on the bike rack when it is not in use.

            Integrated Cable Lock

                • Lockable Cradles are available on single arm bike racks. The outer cradle top plate locks the bike in place, preventing the removal of all bikes from the rack.


            Integrated Cradle Lock

                • Hitch Locks are included on some bike racks.  They secure the bike rack to the vehicle, but do not secure the bikes to the rack. To secure the bikes to the rack a cable such as the THULE Braided Steel Cable Lock.

            Integrated Hitch Lock

              • How much space is available to store the rack? Most racks include a folding component that makes storing the rack convenient. Racks fold in a variety of ways including: folding up for easy storage in a trunk or garage, removable arms for compact storage

            Folded Bike Rack

              • Will you be towing as well as using a bike rack? Towing racks are available that allow you to tow a trailer while carrying the bike rack. Some racks feature a sleeve at the base of the rack that slides over your existing receiver.  A multi-purpose receiver can also be purchased. They are available with two receivers and a receiver and ball mount combination.

              Bike Rack with Hitch Slide OverHitch with Double Receiver

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