hitch rack for e-bikes

Bike Hitch Rack vs. Roof Rack: Which is Right for You?

So you've got a bike or two, maybe more, and now you're looking to extend your biking adventures further away from the local Mountain Bike Trails, but how do you transport your bikes to the places you’d like to ride? You're going to need a bike rack, only question now is should you buy a Bike Roof Rack or Hitch Rack for your vehicle? 

Mountain bikers have a number of options when choosing a bike rack with the two main options being hitch racks and roof racks. Both rack styles have pros and cons, and both are good options, so read on to find out which bike rack will best suit your needs. If your looking for more ways to transport your bike, maybe you have a van? Check out our guide for all options of bike racks.

Bike Hitch Racks

Hitch racks, which attach to your vehicle’s rear trailer hitch, can generally carry between one and four bikes and come in a variety of configurations—from those with trays that provide a platform for the bikes to stand upright on to those with cradles that the bike sits in.

With the popularity of e-bikes, hitch racks are becoming the choice for many cyclists. Lifting your e-bike onto a hitch rack is far easier than trying to lift it overhead onto the roof of your vehicle, especially if the vehicle is tall. Hitch racks are also far more capable of holding the additional weight of e-bikes so if you happen to have one of those in your garage, then a hitch rack is the logical choice.

RockyMounts Hitch Racks insert into the square hitch, not over the tow-ball. You will need to have a removable tow hitch in order to use one of our hitch racks. This creates a very stable and secure bike rack and eliminates the wobble issues you can get with the over the tow-ball mounts.

Tray vs. Cradle

Hitch racks with trays are typically more expensive than models that cradle a bike in their arms, but for good reason. Many experienced bikers have struggled with cradle style racks, including the old two pronged bike racks, utilizing a magical system of old inner tubes, bungee cords and rags to prevent the dreaded "Shuttle Rach" on their prized possessions.

RockyMounts tray style hitch racks are super-versatile and can carry almost any type of bike without the need of an adapter, even troublesome models that are oddly shaped or small-sized. Tray models like the GuideRail Bike Rack also don’t contact the bike’s frame; rather, they secure the bike by the wheels, which minimizes the chance of damaging expensive carbon frames or scratching pricy paint jobs.

Bike Hitch Rack Pros

  • If you already have a tow hitch on your car then installation is super simple, just slide the rack into the hitch, tighten the hitch bolt and enjoy the RockyMounts Anti-Wobble system keeping your rack super stable and wobble free.
  • Far more stable than a tow-ball mounted rack, making them the wise choice of bike rack for electric bikes.
  • You can fold the rack up when not in use, or easily remove it completely.
  • Hitch racks are ideal for e-bikes and tall vehicles like an SUV as they require less lifting than a roof rack.
  • Hitch racks space the bikes evenly apart, eliminating rubbing and shuttle rash and minimizing the risk of scratching when loading/unloading bikes.
  • No need to worry about garage doors, carparks, drive-throughs and many other low hanging obstacles that can destroy your bike and roof rack.
  • Can carry multiple bikes.
  • RockyMounts hitch racks provide added security with integrated cable locks and matching keys.

Hitch Rack Cons

  • They may interfere with backup cameras.
  • A hitch rack will increase the length of your vehicle, making parallel parking and other urban maneuvers a bit trickier.
  • Can cover the license plate, but we do have holders for that if it's an issue.

Must-Have Hitch Rack Features

RockyMounts noticed the shortcomings of some hitch racks and have designed their products to address those issues. All of the RockyMounts hitch racks have the ability to fold flat when not carrying a bike, tucking up neatly against the rear of the vehicle. They also tilt out of the way to improve access, while some like the AfterParty Hitch Rack can swing completely out of the way, allowing for complete access to the rear of the vehicle.

Bike Roof Racks

Roof racks have been a reliable option for transporting just about any outdoor toy, including kayaks, surfboards, snowboards, bikes and cargo boxes. Roof racks are stable, keep gear out of the way and don’t block access to vehicle doors. But they will require lifting gear overhead, which may be difficult for some. We have a couple of styles of bike roof racks so read on to see how they work.

Front Wheel On vs. Wheel Off

Our BrassKnuckles roof rack  allows you to keep the front wheel on, eliminating the often-annoying step of removing your front wheel, but does mean the bike sits a bit taller. The SwitchHitter LS Bike Rack requires taking the wheel off, reducing the amount of weight you need to hoist onto your roof. It's super secure, and minimizes the height of your bike when it’s up there. Of course, there's still that pesky front wheel you need to put somewhere.

Bike Roof Rack Pros

  • A great choice for multi-sport athletes who will use the base rack for hauling kayaks, SUPs, skis, a cargo box, and any other outdoor equipment on the roof.
  • Doesn’t interfere with access to the trunk or hatch.
  • Simple to add capacity as needed—you can just add a rack, or two, provided there is space.
  • Your bikes have a much better chance of surviving a rear-end collision.
  • For every story about a person driving into their garage with a roof rack on, there is one about a buddy backing into something solid with their hitch rack.

Roof Rack Cons

  • More difficult to install and take on and off.
  • The added drag of a bike on the roof can lower a vehicle’s fuel efficiency.
  • Can be tricky to load, secure, and unload—especially if you have a tall vehicle like an SUV, you are short, or your bike is very heavy.
  • A bike on top of your car is often loud, especially if you have an open sunroof.
  • Parking garages, drive-throughs, and low-clearance awnings at places like hotels are a constant threat.

The thrill and joy of riding new trails, discovering new areas, forests, high country, lift access bike parks is one of bikings greatest rewards. So when you absolutely, positively can’t ride it there; trust a RockyMounts Bike Rack to keep your two-wheeled friend secure all the way to your final destination, and back.

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