What’s the best bike rack for me?
Bike racks allow for the easy transporting of your bike(s), allowing you to have room in your car for other items and mean you aren’t stressing over squeezing your bike into your car. They are a vital part of any family road trip. There are multiple rack styles available at different price points, and this simple guide covers everything you need to know when you’re deciding which is best for you and your car.
A good place to start is thinking about how far and how often you’re going to be carrying your bikes? Along with what type of bikes and how many you will be carrying? And consider where you want to carry your bikes? On top of your car? Off the back?
There are three main types of bike rack; roof mounted, boot mounted and towbar or hitch mounted. Let’s start with the first:
Roof-mounted bike racks
This type of bike rack sits on top of your pre-existing roof rack, this roof rack will usually consist of feet that attach to your car’s roof along with cross bars that attach to them allowing for accessories to be mounted. Different types of roof-mounted bike racks will either need the front wheel removed so the bike sits lower (better for stability, but less convenient) or allow for both wheels (makes your vehicle taller, but much more convenient).
Super versatile, super secure and doesn’t obstruct any door/boot/hatch/tailgate which may reduce visibility or access to your vehicle.
You have to be mindful of the height of any bridge, barrier or building, or you risk damaging both your bike and vehicle from the impact. You also have to consider the added drag that the bike will cause, meaning you will have an increase in fuel consumption. And depending on your level of strength and height of your car' roof, mounting your bike can be a little awkward.
Best roof bike racks
THULE ProRide 598
The perfect all-round popular choice. The rack attaches to your bike via the downtube with jaws that are designed to minimise any damage and straps that go around the front and back tyres. You can be confident that your bike is fully secured and will be ready to ride once you arrive at your destination.
The 598 is perfect for transporting bikes with mudguards or fenders as the rack doesn’t interfere with them, unlike some other roof bike racks. Other features include super simple and quick mounting along with an easy, tool-free interface for switching the bike rack from one side of your car to the other.
The 598 holds one bike at a maximum weight of 20kg and with a frame up to 80mm. The rack is built with soft padding and a quick lock function, meaning the bike is secured to your roof rack.
THULE FreeRide 532
The FreeRide 532 is a low-priced, cost effective solution to roof mounted bike racks, but it still shares the great features of the more premium ProRide 598. A Functional and easy-to-use upright bike rack fulfilling all your basic transportation needs.
The 532 makes it quick and super simple to mount your bike with the easy and firm bike fixation thanks to the stable frame holder. It’ll support one bike with a frame up to 80mm and a weight of 17kg. The rack is built with soft padding and a quick lock function, meaning the bike is secured to your roof rack.
If you have a carbon frame or want to ensure there is no compression of your downtube, then we suggest investing in the ProRide which allows for better fixing of the rack to your bike.
In conclusion, the Freeride 532 takes up less space by being smaller and lighter, however due to this it cannot support a heavy bike. So, if your bike is around the 15-17kg bike it would be worth investing in the Proride 598.
When you come to install your bike rack, the 532 is somewhat easy to install, it’ll probably take an attempt or two to install. The 598 makes this even easier with a super simple installation.
The 598 also makes putting up your bike easier by sitting lower on the roof rack, so much more accessible than the 532 if you’re shorter.
Ultimately, both racks are fantastic options and it is a personal choice depending on your situation to which you should pick.
See all our roof bike racks here.
Boot mounted bike racks
These types of bike racks are usually the most inexpensive option but at the same time, the least secure. The method of securing them to your vehicle is usually a couple of straps that hook around the lip of your boot or hatchback.
This is the most affordable option to carrying a bike but relies heavily on being fitted correctly and the hooks can sometimes damage paintwork. This is why we do not supply a range of boot mounted bike racks and focus on the better, more secure and durable options such as roof mounting or tow bar mounting (see below).
Easy to fit, remove and store along with being super affordable.
By far the least secure way to transport your bike (both in terms of theft and during transportation). You are likely to damage paintwork and if not fitted correctly the rack can come loose while driving.
THULE WanderWay 2
Now, we did just said that we do not recommend a boot bike rack, however there is one exception, the THULE WanderWay 2. Exclusively created for the Volkswagen T6 Transporter & Caravelle, the WanderWay breaks out of the usual cons of a boot bike rack. With the ability to carry up to 2 (3 or 4 with adapters) adult sized bikes (up to 60kg) and not prohibit or obstruct the opening of the tailgate and allows the van to be used as normal when the bikes are removed, it is the perfect option if you own a T6.
The dedicated fit means that you don’t need to worry about incorrect fitting or straps/hooks damaging your paintwork. The locking system along with the AcuTight torque limiter means you are safe in the knowledge that your bikes are as secure as any other type of bike rack.
Towbar or hitch mounted bike racks
This type of bike rack is usually connected to a 1 ¼ or 2 inch receiver hitch that is mounted previously to your vehicle. They are usually more expensive than on other types of bike rack but justify this with ease of loading/unloading of your bike and not having to lift the bike on to the roof of your car, perfect if you have a taller car or van.
All of our towbar mounted bike racks come with locks that mean your bike is securely fixed to your bike rack and the rack to your vehicle. Another feature of this type of bike rack is the ability to access the boot/tailgater of your vehicle without having to remove your bikes via hinged load sections that pivot outwards whilst you’re loading the trunk.
It is important to note that how many bikes you can carry will be dependent on the size of your towbar, if you have a 1 ¼ inch hitch you are typically limited to two bikes instead of four or five bikes with a 2 inch hitch.
They are strong, durable and sturdy, meaning you can have confidence that your bike is well attached and will stay attached no matter the duration or terrain of your journey. They also have the added benefit of not adding to the drag of the car which means fuel consumption doesn’t suffer. And importantly, for accessibility, they are second-to-none with their easy loading and unloading.
Typically the most expensive and require your vehicle to already have a towbar or hitch. You also have to be mindful of the added length of your vehicle while reversing. And consider that not all models (such as the THULE HangOn) come with a number plate holder or lights so you may have to buy a trailer light board.
Best towbar or hitch mounted bike racks
THULE VeloCompact 927 (2 or 3 bike)
THULE’s premium and compact towbar rear mounted bike rack takes 2-3 bikes (dependent on model) that are attached using wheel straps plus arms that hold them upright. This means you have a safe and secure way to carry a wide variety of bikes. It’s designed similarly to a bike roof rack in the way that it supports the bike’s weight from the wheel and has supports to allow the bikes from touching or rubbing against each other.
The great thing about the 927 is the fact that it comes pre-assembled and it’s just a matter of unfolding it before it’s ready to attach to your vehicle. It has a super secure clamp to the towball with a lock (and supplied key).
Given that the rack will be covering your number plate and potentially some brake/indicator lights, it comes with a number plate holder and it’s own set of rear lights which can be connected to your vehicle’s electrics via a 7 pin adapter (supplied). It’s as simple as plug and play!
Loading the bike is easy, requiring both wheels strapping down and the arm to be connected to your bike frame. It is best to load each bike in a handlebar to saddle configuration. Each arm has a locking mechanism meaning each bike is securely fixed to your rack.
It’s worth noting that you can purchase a fourth bike adapter to attach to the 927, allowing for four total bikes to be carried! The adapter has a carrying capacity of 15kg and adds around 3kg to the total bike rack weight.
The position of the rack at the rear of your vehicle means a largely undisturbed drive, causing no extra drag and little effect on fuel efficiency. You can be confident of it’s incredible durability and secure fixing to your vehicle that when you reach your destination (however far) your bikes will be in perfect untouched condition. Just be aware that the rack adds around 65cm to the length of your vehicle, so when it comes to reversing make sure to leave more room to save damaging your bikes.
The 927 has one final trick up its sleeve, if you use the supplied foot pedal, the bike rack will pivot outwards which will allow for undisturbed access to your boot. Even with a fully loaded rack of bikes, you can easily access the rear of your vehicle.
THULE EasyFold XT (2 or 3 bike)
Now if you want all the similar features that the VeloCompact has, in terms of holding multiple bikes in a super stable and secure way, but also want to minimise the space you need to store your bike rack, the EasyFold XT is the perfect solution. The clue is in the name, the EasyFold XT will fold into a much smaller footprint. It'll fit in a corner of the shed or garage or even under the stairs, which makes it the most easy to store out of the entire THULE range, however you do pay a premium for this.
The EasyFold has the same technology that allows your bike to be securely locked to the rack and then the rack to your vehicle. With easy mounting of bikes through detachable bike arms with lockable Thule AcuTight torque limiter knobs that click when optimal torque is reached.
Due to the increased weight of the folding mechanism, less physically strong riders may find it hard to carry it from storage to the vehicle, however it features easy rolling wheels which alleviates this.
It’s the go to choice if you need a bike rack that will support multiple bikes and will store in the smallest footprint possible.
THULE RideOn (2 or 3 bike)
A simple and perfectly good solution for carrying multiple bikes. A more budget friendly towbar mounted bike rack, certain features you find on models such as the VeloCompact and EasyFold XT are stripped back on the RideOn. There’s no immediate way to lock your bike to the rack or the rack to the towball (you’ll need an accessory such as the Thule Lock) or no assisted tilt to easily access the boot. However, the same fitting technology to ensure your rack is fixed to your towball (smart coupling) and your bike to your rack via soft straps over the bike wheels is used.
You can still access the boot via a more manual hand-operated tilt feature which allows the bikes to be still on the rack whilst tilting. The benefit of the ‘stripped-back’ rack is that the total weight is just 9.5kg which means it’s super easy to carry to/from your vehicle.
It can take bikes up to 15kg in weight and has a 7-pin power connector allowing you to connect your rear lights, indicators and brakes.
You can also visit our entire bike rack range here where you can find a rack that satisfies your budget and transportation needs.