Choosing the Best Hitch for a Bike Rack

Bikes are fun when you can just ride them wherever you want. But they get less fun once you have to figure out how to transport them to the right riding spot miles away. That is when a bike rack becomes essential.

There is more to it than picking a nice-looking location to secure your bike to a car. Bike racks can influence more than aesthetics. For instance, you will have to consider how the installation will impact performance, gas mileage, and even the vehicle’s tow capacity.

It is easy to feel lost with so many types of racks around, so we will be looking at them a little closely to pick the absolute best option.

Can you use a bike rack without a hitch?

There are only four types of racks and they all differ according to the mounting: roof, trunk, spare tire and hitch racks. If you are looking for a way to transport your bike without using a hitch, than roof and trunk racks are the best options. They obviously require no trailer hitch to stay in place.

Roof racks are pretty common, but they have some major flaws.

Aerodynamics is quite important for many characteristics like gas mileage, and a bike rack on the roof can create a lot of additional air drag. Experiments with different vehicles carried out by Consumers Reports show that even an empty rack can reduce your MPG by around 2-10%. And carrying bikes on a roof rack will reduce your fuel efficiency by approximately 20%. A lot depends on the car itself and the average speed, but still, losing this much MPG is hardly enjoyable.

Another option, the trunk bike rack, can be less harmful to your performance. It is a perfect solution for car owners who don’t have a good trailer hitch. It is secured with special straps to the back of your car. The biggest drawback here is usually compatibility.

Trunks are built differently, so always make sure the rack fits your car’s model and year specifically. Unfortunately, trunk racks are far from universal. And to guarantee safety you should pay more attention. On the other hand, they are the most affordable. This option will be perfect for families with children and those who don’t stick to hobbies for too long.

Is it worth getting a hitch for a bike rack?

The hitch racks’ selling point is that they are the most reliable of all. And they are also close to being universal. As long as your car is equipped with a hitch receiver, virtually any hitch rack can fit it perfectly.

This type of rack is durable and versatile. They are durable enough for frequent use and can carry up to five bikes. This makes them a perfect match for people who spend a lot of time outdoors and for big families. They are easy to install if you have everything ready. However, they are also more expensive. The prices range between $150-$500 depending on load capacity, quality, and manufacturer.


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    Unsurprisingly, hitch racks also have an impact on your gas mileage. The same experiment by Consumer Reports shows that hitch racks can reduce the MPG of a small SUV by 12% with 2 bikes and by 2% with nothing attached. And for a typical sedan the number doubles. Hauling always reduces gas mileage but paired with the increased air drag the change became noticeable. However, this type of bike rack has less impact on MPG compared to the roof racks.

    What kind of hitch do I need for a bike rack?

    If you hoped that your choice ends with the type, we have bad news. Or actually, great news, you can choose the best fitting hitch rack by built. There are five options:

    • tailgate bike rack
    • spare tire rack
    • platform rack
    • hanging rack
    • and a bumper rack

    If you are looking for a good way to transport more than two bikes at the same time choose among platform or hanging. For security and minimal away look for platform racks. If you have a truck than there is no better option than a tailgate rack that can hold up to six bikes.

    As for the hitch itself, pay attention to the things like tongue weight and tow weight. These specifications show how much you can expect them to carry. Size is also important, but usually passenger cars have either a 1-¼” or a 2” hitch. Bike racks often come in both sizes, but if you cannot find the right size for your hitch you can always use an adapter.

    What class hitch should I get for a bike rack?

    Hitches also have classes from 1 to 5 according to their towing capacity. For example, class 1 hitches usually can handle up to 2000lbs while class 2 can safely hold 3500lbs. If you need to haul two bikes at most there is no need to spend more, just pick class 1 or 2. They will be more than enough for that. However, if you want to transport more than two bikes on a regular basis consider class 3 hitches for your bike rack.

    There is no need to pick anything extraordinary for a few bikes unless you want to use the hitch for other tasks as well.

    Do bikes get stolen from bike racks?

    Bike theft is not unusual, and having a bike rack, unfortunately, can not protect you form this problem. The best way to keep your bikes safe while you are away is to secure them on the rack with a lock. This will make stealing much more complicated.

    And keep in mind that hitch and trunk bike racks can be at risk themselves. To protect your rack and bikes from theft consider buying a rack with a built-in lock. Or use a pin lock if you have a hitch rack. It will add an additional step for you whenever you decide to take the rack off but at least you will feel more confident to leave it and enjoy your ride.

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    Choosing the Best Hitch for a Bike Rack — Bike Hacks