Are you going on vacation with a bike or two (or seven)? As you prepare for your bike getaway, it’s all fun and games until you realize that you need a better bike rack or a hitch. With so many hitch bike rack options on the market, your head will be spinning faster than tubeless tires before a booter.
Would you opt for a platform hitch bike rack or one that hangs? Should you choose a vertical hitch bike rack or a horizontal one? If these options aren’t paralyzing enough, you also have to pick a hitch bike rack based on how you want your bikes locked.
Luckily, we are here to speed up your decision-making process. Stay glued to your seat and continue reading to learn about bike racks for hitches and what to ask yourself before buying one.
What is a Hitch Bike Rack?
A hitch bike rack utilizes your vehicle's hitch receiver to transport bicycles safely and securely. Hitch bike racks come in various sizes and styles, and can hold one or more bikes. They are a favorite bike rack style amongst bikers because they are the most durable, safe, and convenient way to haul bikes.
Are Hitch Bike Racks Worth It?
Yes, hitch bike racks can be more expensive than other types of racks, but we promise it’s worth it. You have to think of it as an investment because a hitch bike rack is going to last longer and transport your bike more securely than other rack styles. You are paying for:
- The intuitive design which makes loading and access way more convenient
- Stronger build materials
- Additional features that protect your bike and your car
Want a high-quality, affordable hitch bike rack for your car? Shop our best hitch bike racks in a price range you’ll love.
The Different Hitch Bike Racks Options Available on the Market
Hitch bike racks come in all sorts of builds and dimensions. There are multiple categories to consider:
- Bike arrangement
- Number of bikes carrying
- How bikes are secured
- Vertical or horizontal bike orientation
- Detachable or stationary hitch options
We’ll dive a little deeper on the different types of hitch bike racks:
Platform Hitch Bike Racks
Platform bike racks have trays on which bikes are secured by strapping rear and front tires parallel to the ground. With a platform bike rack, a lever attached to the bottom of the rack clamps bikes down, reducing sway when you drive.
These kinds of racks have enough space for one to four bikes. Unfortunately, they take up a bit of space, so backing up your vehicle and parking requires more attention and patience.
Hanging Hitch Bike Racks
Hanging bike racks are more compact due to the absence of a bike tray. Instead, bike frames latch onto the rack, allowing the bike to hang. The compactness of a hitch-mounted hanging bike rack makes maneuverability easier. Although hanging bike racks are flexible, they can be limiting due to the available capacity many offer.
Hanging hitch bike racks can be either:
- Frame-Mount Hitch Bike Rack: Frame-mount hitch bike racks have arms that secure bike frames, which leave wheels free. Frame mount racks offer marginally more security than wheel mount or strap-mounting bike racks but require contact points with the most expensive component of your bike, the frame. Additionally, with the wheels free and moving, you run the risk of damaging the rear of your vehicle.
- Wheel Mount Hitch Bike Rack: Wheel mount bike racks secure bikes by the tires with levers like in a platform rack. These racks often have more storage compared to a frame mount rack. Of course, the relative bulkiness is something to consider.
Some hanging bike racks secure the frame or wheel (or both) using straps made of resilient high-tension material, which are often more affordable. But be sure to secure bikes tightly when using straps because they can loosen if you’re not careful. Additionally, fasten straps in a way that won’t damage your bike.
Vertical Hitch Bike Rack vs. Horizontal Hitch-Mounted Rack
Hanging Hitch-mounted bike racks come in both vertical and horizontal styles. Whether you prefer a vertical or horizontal bike rack, hitch-mounted bike racks are the most reliable and durable option. Each arrangement has different abilities, but vertical hitch-mounted bike racks are best overall for convenience, security, and functionality.
Horizontal Hitch Bike Racks
Horizontal racks require lifting bikes off the ground, which can add up quickly when loading several bikes. A horizontal rack holding a couple of bikes takes up less rear space than a vertical rack, but when storing more than a few bikes, the amount of space a vertical hitch rack takes up becomes very appealing.
Typically, horizontal racks can fit up to four bikes and stand on a platform behind the vehicle. These are usually cheaper than vertical hitch racks but are limiting if you want to carry more than four bikes at once.
Vertical Hitch Bike Racks
Loading vertical bike racks work best by wheelieing bikes and rolling them into designated tire baskets, which can be done without any lifting (kids can do it!!). Another obvious benefit of a vertical hitch bike rack is the amount of storage potential because it can confidently carry more bikes than other bike carrier options.
Ideally, the perfect bike rack for hitches does not stick out very far, can store many bikes, and provides easy access to bikes at any given time. Believe it or not, such racks exist! A couple of fitting examples are our most popular models:VelociRAX 5X and VelociRAX 7.
With a VelociRAX vertical bike rack, you can store 3 to 7 bikes at once, which is more than any other bike rack on the market. No one has to miss out on the fun when there is enough bike storage on your rack.
Now that you understand the basic types of bike racks for hitch-mounts, keep reading to learn the five questions that will help you identify the right bike rack fitted to your needs.
Traveling with friends? Shop our VelociRAX 7 bike rack that can hold up to 7 bikes safely and securely on the back of your car.
Related Link: Are You Looking for the Best Bike Rack for Trailers?
Five Questions You Need to Ask Yourself to Determine the Best Hitch Bike Rack for You
If you are struggling to determine which hitch bike rack is right for you or your family, we’ve got five questions that can help you narrow down what type of hitch bike rack will be best.
1. “HOW MANY BIKES DO I HAVE? HOW MANY BIKES WILL I BE TAKING WITH ME?”
It’s not too difficult to secure one bike. If you own a roof rack, you have storage for a bike. If you drive an SUV, you probably have enough room in the trunk for one bike. Either way, having a single bike means you might not need a bike rack with a trailer hitch.On the other hand, you’ll certainly need a hitch-mounted bike rack if you habitually travel with more than a single bike. A hitch-mounted bike rack is especially necessary if you ever go out riding with friends or family. Having your bikes on a hitch rack frees up trunk space, while still providing easy access to the rear of your vehicle.
2. “HOW DO I WANT MY BIKES SECURED?”
Different racks will have different ways of keeping your bikes in place. You'll have to choose if you favor certain straps or hinges.
Many straps or levers can keep bikes from falling in the middle of your drive, but some can also damage your bike. VelociRAX includes heavy-duty rubber straps for front and rear tires to keep bikes secured to the rack. These rubber straps have a UV filament that protects them from sun damage and can hold e-bikes of up to 55 lbs on the bumpiest of roads.
Keep in mind that the way a bike is secured also impacts how easy (or difficult) it is to load and unload bikes.
3. “HOW BIG IS MY GARAGE?”
If you are the type to leave your hitch bike rack on your vehicle for an extended period and don’t want to park outside, then make sure your vehicle can fit in your garage with the bike rack you choose.
Your rack may live on your car full-time, but in many cases, the rack will end up in the garage at some point. So, it is important to consider how much space a rack will need when in storage.
Do you have room for it? If you have limited space in your garage, measure above and behind your vehicle before finalizing your rack decision.
Related Link: Garage Bike Storage Ideas
4. “IS THERE A PLACE TO STORE MY RACK WHEN I UNHITCH IT?”
If you have the space, great! However, not everyone has a spacious garage that can accommodate bulky items like a bike rack. Most people either keep their bike racks in the trunk, on the hitch, or in the garage.
Each VelociRAX includes a wall mount if you desire to hang it upright in the garage, which optimizes space and can double as bike storage. This wall mount has two hooks that the rack hangs from to keep it close to the wall and ready to load bikes.
On the other hand, many customers decide to leave their rack attached to their hitch. Our hinge system makes it easy to access the back of the car. Full-size SUVs can completely open their trunks without interfering with the rack if the rack is in the loaded, hinged position. Your bike rack will never be in the way!Related Link: New VelociRAX Product: Bike Rack Floor Stand
5. “HOW MUCH BIKE LIFTING AM I WILLING TO DO?”
There is a reason vertical hitch bike racks are more popular than horizontal, platform, or roof racks for bikes. A lot of it has to do with convenience. More specifically, vertical bike racks for hitches require little to no lifting. VelociRAX vertical hitch bike racks utilize roll-in and roll-out loading, which makes it easy for kids and adults to get bikes on the rack.
Vertical hitch bike racks like the ones we offer provide easy access to the bikes. Once you walk up to your bikes, all you need to do is undo the straps then the bikes are ready to go!
When removing a bike from the rack there isn't really any lifting at all. The angle of the rack in the loading position makes it possible to just pull the bike backwards and it rolls right out. The only lifting occurs when loading the bike, if the rack is on a taller vehicle or when loading smaller bikes. Otherwise there is really no lifting to load or unload bikes. Just rolling in and rolling out.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Hitch Bike Racks
We get a lot of questions about hitch bike racks. So here are some answers to common questions we get:
What is the Best Hitch Bike Rack for Four Bikes?
The VelociRAX 412 is one of the best hitch bike racks for four bikes because of its easy loading and access, bike security, and patented design that allows you to safely and securely haul a variety of bike builds, styles, and sizes. Our four-bike rack has 12-inches of space between each tire basket. Click here to learn more.
Does a Hitch Bike Rack Need a Tow Bar?
No, you don’t need a tow bar. Hitch bike racks attach directly to the receiver hitch on the back of a vehicle, which is typically used for towing a trailer. The receiver hitch provides a sturdy mounting point for the bike rack, so you don’t need a tow bar.
One thing you do need to do is make sure the hitch bike rack is compatible with your car’s specific type of receiver hitch because there are different sizes and classes of hitches. So be sure to check that the bike rack’s specifications work with your hitch.
Do Hitch Bike Racks Get Stolen?
Unfortunately, hitch bike racks can be stolen if they aren't secured properly. Thieves can detach your rack from the hitch or cut the locks and cables that secure the bikes to the rack. To prevent theft, we recommend:
- Using a high-quality bike rack lock and cable
- Securing the rack to the hitch using an anti-rattle device
- Parking your vehicle in a well-lit and visible area when your bike rack is on your car.
Worried about theft while traveling? Shop our anti-theft accessories for VeloicRAX hitch bike racks.
Why are Hitch Bike Racks So Expensive?
Hitch bike racks can be more expensive than other types of bike racks. But you really can’t think of it that way, because hitch bike racks are generally a higher quality bike rack. While you pay a little more upfront, you really are investing in a high-quality, durable rack that can ultimately save you money long term. The main reason hitch bike racks can be more expensive include:
- Material quality is higher, like steel or aluminum, that enables the rack to be durable enough to withstand years of use and exposure to the elements.
- Safety and security for your bike rack requires extensive engineering and testing. For example, VelociRAX has several patented technology designs for our racks.
- Rack production is generally in smaller quantities, which can drive up the cost.
- Additional features and accessories, such as locking mechanisms or the ability to transport more bikes, add to the overall cost.
Our Top Five Best Hitch Bike Racks for 2023
Ready to buy a vertical hitch bike rack but still aren’t sure which one you need. Read and watch reviews of our VelociRAX hitch bike racks from a growing list of reputable bike experts and enthusiasts. See how our best hitch bike racks rank:
1. Best Overall Hitch Bike Rack: VelociRAX 6
The VelociRAX 6 is our best-selling rack for a reason, it allows the most flexibility, accommodates up to six bikes with 10-inches of space between tire baskets, and has a durable, patented design.
2. Best Vertical Hitch Bike Rack: VelociRAX 7
If you want to carry more bikes than a hitch platform bike rack, the VelociRAX 7 is the best option on the market. Our competitors can’t touch our patented design to accommodate more bikes with easy load and secure mount for up to seven bikes.
3. Best 4-Bike Hitch Rack: VelociRAX 412
If you want a four bike hitch rack, the VelociRAX 412 has luxurious 12-inch spacing between baskets, giving your bikes room to breathe and ensure safety. It’s compact design, allows a small family or a pile of friends to hit the trail with ease.
4. Best Hitch Bike Rack for E-Bikes: VelociRAX 5X
Our VelociRAX 5X is our most versatile rack because it can accommodate all sorts of bikes because of its spacing and weight capacity. While our 3X, 412, and 5X can all easily carry e-bikes, the VelociRAX 5X can easily carry up to four e-bikes or fat tire bikes without breaking a sweat. It has a maximum load capacity of 230 lbs.
The VelociRAX 5X has roll-in, roll-out access, making loading a heavy bike a breeze. It also comes with bands to hold your e-bikes securely in place while traveling.
Related Link: Can Your Bike Rack Keep Up With Your E-Bike?
5. Most Affordable Hitch Bike Rack: VelociRAX 3X
Our VelociRAX 3X is our smallest hitch bike rack that is very affordable for bike enthusiasts. The rack has 15-inches of space between each tire rack, allowing your bikes to safely travel in style. It has hydraulic dampers, like all our other racks, that make loading and accessing your bike fast and easy.
The Best Bike Racks for Hitch Option: Vertical
Paralysis by analysis is a real problem when selecting from a universe of bike racks for hitch options. By reading this, not only are you way ahead of the game, but you will have already realized that vertical racks aren’t just convenient, they're also versatile. They don't require a lot of space and hold more bikes than any other type of bike rack.
If you are looking to experience the best all-around bike rack, look no further. Check out how VelociRAX is built for your adventure, and see why nothing beats going vertical for bikes.
Related Link: It’s Time to Get Fat: Best Fat Tire Bike Rack