Your guide to choosing a bike rack

Your guide to choosing a bike rack

There will be times when you can't ride to the trail head, and in those times you'll need a bike rack on your vehicle. Choosing the correct bike rack could be the difference between a good experience with no damage to your bikes or car, or disappointment and that scratch on your precious bike that you see every time you ride. 

So to avoid that, here is your guide to choosing the best bike rack for your car.

A few things to consider

  • What vehicle will you be using
  • Does it have a towbar hitch/ball
  • How many bikes do you need to transport
  • What types of bikes will it carry (e-bikes are heavy)
  • Does your vehicle have any features that may interfere with the rack

Types of Bike Rack

There are many reviews and opinions on what the best type of bike rack is, but it honestly depends on what's going to work for you. So here is a breakdown of the different types of bike racks and their pros and cons.

Hitch Racks

Built to attach to the tow hitch of a car, hitch racks are easy to load and with the exception of hanging your bikes over the tail gate of your truck, can bear the most weight.

The older style mast and prong racks are more affordable, but often attach to the tow ball instead of slotting into the hitch mount. This is prone to coming loose and when loading multiple bikes it can take a bit of adjustment to get the bikes to sit right without rubbing.

Modern tray racks, while usually being the more expensive option of all the racks, bring along many benefits.
You will find secure locking mechanisms for both the bikes and the rack making either of them hard to steal. They are easy to load, with not having to lift bike too far off the ground and they provide separation between bikes removing the possibility of "shuttle rash".


  • Secure
  • Easy to load bikes
  • Simple Installation
  • Great for e-bikes
  • Can prevent shuttle rash


  • Can be expensive
  • Basic models can restrict access to the rear of the vehicle
  • You need a towbar hitch installed on you vehicle

Roof Racks

These are super versatile because you can customize accessories to transport 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.

The last thing, which people often forget about before (and after) purchasing/using roof racks is that you can no longer drive directly into your garage with bikes loaded. That also means going through the drive-through at McDonalds is not a good idea. You have been warned!


  • Versatile
  • Wont restrict door access


  • Wind drag
  • Requires overhead lifting
  • Not garage or drive-through friendly

Van/Track Mounts

Van track/fork mounts are an effective tool for any van or truck build. The parallel tracks allow for fork mounts to be used in both an angled or staggered orientation; This solves the problem of handlebar interference when storing or transporting bikes in small spaces. 


  • Secure
  • Can load bikes close together without touching
  • Perfect for Sprinters, Transits or other custom van builds

Hatch/Boot Racks

These racks attach to the boot (trunk) or hatch of your car using a system of straps and hooks. Some can carry up to three bikes that rest on support arms. They can be a good option if your on a budget and do not have a towbar installed. The downside is that they aren't the most secure, can be tricky to install, and bikes are prone to swaying and scratching both your car and each other.


  • Can be fitted to cars without a towbar
  • Somewhat easy to load bikes
  • In-expensive


  • Prone to car and bike damage
  • Not secure from theft
  • Limited to lighter bikes
  • Restricted Boot/Hatch access

Ute Tailgate Pads

A tailgate pad sits over the rear of a ute tray and allows bikes to sit in the tray with the front wheel over the rear of the truck. Tailgate pads can hold 4+ bikes securely and protect the truck from any scratches. These are obviously only compatible with Utes, but work well with all styles of bikes including electric bikes.


  • Budget Friendly
  • Can hold 4+ bikes
  • Good for E-bikes
  • Simple to use


  • Does require some lifting
  • You do get rubbing on the downtube of the bike over time

 Final Thoughts

Lots of options and lots of pros and cons. If you spent all your cash on a truck and your bike, then the budget friendly Tail Pad could be the way to go. If you're a multi-sport kind of person who already has roof racks, then your nice light XC bike will look great up there next to the kayak. If you're concerned about scratching your bikes and your SUV, or don't want to lift an e-bike off the ground then one of the modern hitch racks is definitely the way to go. Or you could do it like the pro's do, and custom build some VanTracks into your Van.

Whatever bike rack you choose, RockyMounts is there for you for those times when you absolutely, positively can’t ride it there.

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