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A hitch-mounted bike rack is a type of bike rack that slides into the receiver of a trailer hitch on a car or truck. This type of hitch has some advantages over roof-
and trunk-mounted bike racks:
Questions to consider when choosing a hitch-mounted bike rack:
Looking for the best bike racks?
See etrailer.com's recommended bike racks
Bike racks come in a variety of styles - some work better than others for carrying specific kinds of bikes. You can even find racks that are designed to fit
specialized bikes like tandems and recumbents. No matter which kind of bike you have, there is a hitch-mounted bike rack that can carry it.
Hitch-mounted bike racks fall into one of two major groups - hanging and platform (or wheel-mount) style racks. A few racks are designed to carry non-traditional
bikes, such as recumbents, tandems, trikes, or other specialty bikes. To read more about specialty bike racks, see the section
Specialty Bike Racks.
Hanging Style Bike Racks
Most hanging bike racks support bikes by their frames, so that the bike hangs from its top tube. These hanging racks work best on standard-frame bikes.
A few hanging bike racks hold bikes by their wheels, eliminating contact with bike frames. These wheel-only mount racks can easily
accommodate bikes with alternative frames.
Bikes with alternative frames may not hang level on a hanging rack. If you have a bike with an alternative frame, and it doesn't hang level, an
adapter bar can help.
An adapter bar clamps onto the seatpost and head tube of your bike and provides a support that rests on the bike rack's arms.
Bikes can sway on hanging racks, making contact with other bikes or with your vehicle. To help stop sway, many racks come with anti-sway cradles that grasp
bikes by their frames and prevent them from swinging.
Dual-Arm Bike Rack
These racks have 2 arms to provide a stable platform to support bikes.
Arm spacing varies among dual-arm racks. Widely spaced arms provide the best stability for holding larger bikes, but smaller bikes may not fit on racks with wide arms.
Single-Arm Bike Racks
Single-arm racks support each bike on a single cradle. They secure bikes with clamps (top plates) or Velcro-like straps.
Shop for a hanging bike rack
Wheel-Only-Mount Hanging Bike Racks
Wheel-only-mount bike racks hold your bikes by their wheels, thereby avoiding contact with your bikes' frames.
Platform or Wheel-Mount Bike Racks
These racks support bikes by their wheels. The bikes sit on top of the rack, the tires resting in cradles. Adjustable wheel holders allow platform bike racks to
fit a wide range of bikes regardless of size, frame, suspension, or wheel size. You can easily load bikes on this style of rack.
Frame-style clamps hook over your bike's crossbar, holding the bike in place by the frame. This type of rack provides a very stable way to carry your bikes -
because they eliminate bike sway, you won't need to use anti-sway devices. And you won't have to worry about bikes making contact with each other or your vehicle.
The clamps on this style of rack hold bikes in place by their wheels, eliminating any contact with frames. This is a great option if you want to protect your bike's
finish and maintain its warranty, which can be invalidated by using any rack that grasps the bike's frame. This type of rack is also a good choice for bikes with suspension
because it doesn't push down on the frame.
etrailer.com's Recommended Bike Racks
Specialty hitch-mounted bike racks are available to carry many different kinds of specialty bikes. See the many kinds that etrailer.com offers, below.
The arms on these racks are spaced wide to hold the long frame of a tandem bike. These racks may also have built-in anti-sway cradles to help keep a tandem
bike steady while it's being transported.
Note: You may have to remove 1 or both wheels from your bike if it extends out past your vehicle's mirrors.
Smaller wheel hoops can be spaced far enough apart on these racks to fit the smaller wheels and longer wheelbases of recumbents.
The 3 wheel cradles are sized and spaced to fit the wheels on trikes. Some of these racks can carry standard bikes and recumbents as well as trikes.
The cradles on these specialty platform style bike racks are wide to support the extra large tires found on fatbikes.
These racks are designed to handle the extra weight of electric bikes. To provide the needed extra strength, critical joints are welded and heavy duty materials
are used in their construction.
Before you buy a hitch-mounted bike rack, you'll need to know if it will fit the hitch on your vehicle.
Most hitches have a 2" x 2" or 1-1/4" x 1-1/4"
receiver opening. If the opening of your vehicle's hitch is 2" x 2", any bike rack made for this opening size will fit. If your hitch is 1-1/4" x 1-1/4",
you'll need to know its class to ensure that you find a bike rack that will fit. Hitches that are 1-1/4" x 1-1/4" are Class I or Class II. Class II hitches can carry more weight than Class I. To help prevent overloading of a Class I hitch, some manufacturers
design their Class I hitches so that Class II accessories won't fit into them. If you have a Class I hitch, you'll have to make sure that any bike rack you consider
fits Class I hitches. If you have a Class II hitch, you can use a bike rack that fits Class I and Class II.
If you don't know the class of your hitch, you should be able to determine it based on the hitch's maximum capacity. The capacity can be found on a sticker on
the hitch, or it will be stamped into the hitch. The pictured hitch shows
a typical location of a sticker. The maximum tongue weight of this hitch is 450 lbs. Most Class I hitches have a tongue weight capacity of 200 lbs, and most Class II hitches have a
tongue weight capacity of 350 lbs.
Don't have a hitch? No problem!
If your vehicle doesn't have a hitch, you can install one. To install most hitches, you don't need a lot of mechanical skill - you just need to have
a few basic hand tools. Our fitguide can help you find the perfect custom-fit hitch for your vehicle.
Shop for a custom-fit hitch for your vehicle
If your vehicle has a rear-mounted spare, you should make sure that the bike rack will clear it when the bike rack is installed. See how to measure, below, to check
You can add an extension to your hitch to give you more
clearance, but remember that an extension will reduce the weight capacity of your hitch by half.
When mounted on a vehicle that has low ground clearance, a hitch-mounted bike rack can drag when you drive over dips in the road or in driveways.
If your vehicle has low ground clearance, consider a bike rack that has a built-in rise in the shank, as shown in the rack pictured above. This rise
can help to prevent the bike rack from dragging on the ground.
Typical hitch-mounted bike racks are available to carry from 2 to 5 bikes. Racks for specialty bikes, like trikes and recumbents, may only be able to
carry 1 bike. When you're considering a rack, make sure that it fits your vehicle's hitch. See the table, below, to see the opening sizes and
typical maximum capacities of trailer hitches.
Hitch Class Facts
Many bike racks have features that make it more convenient, easier to use, and more secure. They may tilt or swing out of the way to allow you to gain access to the rear of
your vehicle. They may have built-in locks to keep your rack and bikes secure. Many have anti-rattle devices that prevent the rack from rattling inside the hitch.
Swing-Away Hanging-Style Bike Racks
Tilting Hanging-Style Bike Racks
Parallelogram Hanging-Style Bike Racks
Folding Arms on Platform-Style Racks
Fold-Up Platform-Style Racks
Tilting Platform-Style Racks
Bike rack parts that fold are usually held in place by a pin and clip or an internal mechanism that is released by a lever. The lever style is easier to use than a pin and
clip, but is usually found on more expensive racks.
Anti-rattle devices eliminate rattling and jostling of the rack in the hitch during transport.
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