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There’s so much freedom to be found cycling: The open road, the horizon before you, the miles behind you. At some point, however, the adventure is going to take you away from your front door, and getting your bike to the start of the adventure can be, mildly put, a challenge — especially if you’re still maneuvering your bike over and around folded back seats to stuff it in the car (and yes, avoiding grease spots on those sheets will forever be a losing battle). For those taking their bikes out on the road or trail often, it’s important to get a bike rack, whether it’s one that mounts to the top of your car — or, the often easier option: a hitch bike rack that attaches to the back of your car. Plenty of easy-loading bike racks pop right into Class II hitches, making it easy to transport bikes and access them once you’re at your destination.
Just be aware: The more feature-packed a rack is — if it has built-in locks, if it’s tool-free — the more it’s probably going to run you — but there are definitely trade-off costs to spending your day struggling with rack installation and unlocking your bikes.
Not sure which setup suits your needs? We’ve rounded up the best hitch bike racks in the industry, so read on to learn more.
Best Overall: Kuat Sherpa 2.0
While we love cyclist-favorite Thule T2 Pro XT 2 (which wins our “Best for Serious Riders”), there are a few things that make the Kuat Sherpa our best overall pick. It’s a little lighter than other models at around 45 pounds and it's made out of aluminum, which makes it as light as it can be for all the features it brings to the table. It’s also tool-free, so you don’t have to mess around with a time-consuming installation. The rack’s also been redesigned recently with user experience put first, with a few key improvements in design we love, like a foot-assisted, hands-free pivot lever that lets users lower the rack without having to set all their gear down first. Kuat’s also designed the front tire ratchet to make releasing the wheel much easier, while in the back, a co-molded strap keeps wheels protected.
Best Budget: Allen Sports Deluxe
If you’re not going to be taking your bikes out on the trail all that much, Allen’s Sports Deluxe model is a hitch-mounted rack that still boasts a friendly price tag for occasional users. It fits both 1.25-inch and 2-inch receivers and comes in iterations that carry anywhere from two to five bikes — enough for the whole family to head out. You can rest assured that the bikes will remain both locked in and steady, even on bumpy mountain roads, thanks to a tie-down cradle system that individually attaches the bicycles (though it rotates to carry a huge range of frames) and the no-wobble bolt in the hitch. The rack can tilt back so you can get in your trunk without having to dismantle the entire operation. The installation isn’t completely tool-free, though it’s not terribly difficult: There are only three bolts needed to put the hitch rack together. For two bikes, there’s a max capacity of 70 pounds, which should be fine for most.
Best for Serious Riders: Thule T2 Pro XT 2
Yes, this one has a pretty hefty price tag — and that accessibility is what took it out of the running for best overall — but this new upgrade on an old favorite is top-of-the-line for a few reasons, not least ease of use. It requires no tools to install into a two-inch hitch — the AutoAttach knob takes care of that — and when it’s not in use, the HitchSwitch lever tilts the rack up against the trunk of your car. Need to get into the trunk? The lever can also tilt the rack down so you can get into the back, too. The rack is great at keeping bikes secure, too: The racheting arm locks in bikes without touching their frames, and the two-foot cable lock secures bikes firmly to the rack. When it’s not in use, the cable just retracts into the racheting arm. Best of all, the system leaves enough space between locked cycles so they don’t get tangled up in each other, and you can be assured your bikes will remain stable even when you hit the highway — or a bumpy gravel road. At 51 pounds, this is heavier than some racks, but it definitely gets the job done. Just be warned: Don’t install this rack on a trailer or a similar towed vehicle. For an additional price, you can get an extension that lets you throw another two bikes on this for a total carry of four.
Best for Quick (Un)Loading: Hollywood Racks Trail Rider Hitch Rack
If you’re traveling for a quick ride somewhere, or have enough to wrangle in your daily life besides a couple of bikes, the Hollywood Racks Trail Rider Hitch Rack is a godsend. This platform-style hitch rack holds two bikes (up to 70 pounds) and fits both 1.25-inch and 2-inch hitches — plus, it’s only 39 pounds. The real ingenuity here, however, is in the “press to release” self-securing frame clamps that honestly sound too good to be true — you wouldn’t expect something so simple to hold bikes so securely, but it certainly keeps them wobble-free, thanks to the “AutoPin” that positions and locks the rack where it joins with the hitch and receiver. Keep in mind that the maximum bike wheelbase is 60 inches, though there’s a kit to extend that up to 72 inches if you need it — and with a maximum tire width of three inches, it probably won’t hold fat bikes. When you’re not using the rack, it folds up super-thin for easy garage storage.
Best for SUVs: Kuat 2 Bike Beta Rack
Weighing just 18 pounds, this is a workhorse of a hitch rack from an industry-leading name for a reasonable price. It’s the result of a process that took the best from Kuat’s Alpha model and stripped down the rest, leaving you with the extremely useful essentials. What sets this well-loved hitch rack apart is that it folds up for storage at home. On the road, the pivot arm helps it tilt down, which makes getting into the back of an SUV way easier — plus, you can remove a pin to make it tilt away from your hatchback. This model carries two bikes, or up to 80 pounds, and fits with a 1.25-inch receiver. Bikes are kept sturdy on the road, no matter where you’re going, thanks to anti-sway carriages and a hand-tight cam system. A hitch pin comes included with this rack, giving you one less thing to worry about.
Best Ultra-Light Hitch Rack: Thule Helium Aero Bike Hitch Carrier
Despite weighing just 19 pounds, this aluminum rack lets you haul up to 110 pounds on the two-bike version of the rack, making the Thule the winner for the best ultra-light hitch rack. For its price, it comes with a ton of features that make installation and loading (and their opposites) extremely easy: The brand’s patented hold-fast cradles with proprietary road-dampening technology absorb shock from bumps on the road before they can jostle your bike around — plus the no-sway cages, also with road-dampening technology, protect the bike frames while on the go. Bikes are kept as far apart as they possibly could be with this rack’s design, while the locking cable and AutoAttach knob securely fasten bike, rack and hitch together. Just be warned: bicycles with “non-conventional frames,” which apparently includes women’s bikes (as well as kids’ and full-suspension) will need an adapter.
Best Hanging Hitch Rack: Yakima FullSwing Premium Locking Bike Hitch Rack
With a four-bike capacity (and 150-pound weight limit), there’s plenty of spots for the family or a group of friends. Cyclists love this rack for its easy single-bolt installation: You slide the rack into the hitch and lock it in with the “speedknob.” To remove it? Just untwist it and take the rack out — though the arms the cycles hang from fold down to avoid getting in the way while you’re trying to get in the trunk, so if you’re using the rack frequently, there’s no real reason to remove it. The rack also locks to the hitch, so would-be thieves can’t jack it from the car, and bike locks are also integrated so each bike is held individually and securely in place (something the rachet-style straps and the built-in anti-sway cradles also help immensely with). Plus, each arm is fully padded so the rack doesn’t scratch up frames. This hitch also comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Best for City-to-Mountain Biking: Tyger Auto TG-RK3B101S Three-Bike Hitch
Built with versions for both three and four bicycles, this Tyger rack is great for those who both bike around town (it holds three city bikes) and in on the trails (it holds two mountain bikes). It fits with a 1.25-inch or two-inch receiver, but an extender might be needed for some cars and trucks. (One caveat: This rack won’t fit Toyota Tacomas.) Bikes are protected by the soft cradles, which help to keep bike frames from scratching and scraping against the rack’s steel construction. It comes with a cable and hitch lock, as well as security straps to keep bikes in place — all of which are usually extras, especially at this price point. Like more expensive models, this rack comes with a tilt-down arm so that you can get into your trunk without the rack getting in your way. Cyclists love just how firmly this rack keeps bikes in place, even on bumpy gravel roads, though the few who experience wobbling add some shims to the receiver, which helps immensely.