Most of mountain bikers aren’t lucky enough to live near our favorite trailhead…and let’s face it; even if we did, we’d still want to travel to all of the great trails in other towns, counties, and states from time to time.
This desire to be free from constraints make a solid bike rack one of the best investments a cyclist can make outside of a top-quality helmet. In fact, if you haven’t already purchased your mountain bike, it would be wise to factor in those three items into your initial purchase before you even hit up the local bike shop. You’ll need a helmet, the bike itself, and a way to safely get it home, after all. The investment is a no-brainer.
Since you’re going to need a rack, the only remaining question involves which one to purchase. Should you get a roof-mounted rack or one that hooks to your trunk? How much should you spend? What’s the best mountain bike rack?
These are all important questions, and we’re going to help you answer them right now.
Roof, Hitch or Trunk Mount?
There are three main types of racks to choose from, and the setup of your vehicle will help to determine which is best for your needs.
Hitch Mount Racks
Among mountain bikers, hitch mounts seem to prevail. We are not sure if it’s because we tend to drive trucks with Reese hitches or because they’re so convenient, but they are a favorite. These racks require your vehicle to have a 2” or 1¼” hitch receiver mounted to the frame. If your vehicle doesn’t already have this type of hitch, then you can have one installed, but it will add considerably to your overall cost.
Hitch-mounted racks range from simple and inexpensive (Pro Series 2-bike carrier) to ultra-convenient and rugged. The Kuat NV 2 Rack has won many awards and stands apart as one of the best choices around. It can be adapted to fit either size Reese hitch and mounts the bike by the wheels so it won’t damage the bike itself. For convenience and style, it’s pretty hard to beat.
Here are some top rated hitch racks:
- Yakima RidgeBack
- Hollywood Racks HR1400 Sport Rider SE
- Hollywood Racks Trail Rider
- Allen Sports Premier Hitch Mounted 2-Bike Carrier
Roof Mount Racks
These are pretty common, but not necessarily because they’re the best choice. Roof racks have two main advantages: they can allow for the carrying of the largest number of bikes (roofs are large!) and they are sometimes the cheapest option. The latter is only true for vehicles that already have a roof rack system installed. If your vehicle doesn’t already have a roof rack to which you can attach the bike rack, then forget about it being the most cost-effective option. Another consideration is the actual height of your vehicle; if you have a tall truck – especially a lifted truck – then you will have to climb up fairly high to place and remove your bike. Every time.
If you already have a factory roof rack with crossbars, then check out this for a cost-effective bike rack: Yakima ForkLift.
Here are some top rated roof racks:
- RockyMounts BrassKnuckles
- Thule 598 Criterium
- Inno Racks Fork Lock III Universal Mount
- Apex 1-Bike Upright SUV Roof Rack
Trunk Mount Racks
Trunk mounts typically attach with a series of straps. The straps hook around the rim of the trunk, or on SUVs and hatchbacks, the edge of the rear hatch. These systems range from inexpensive to fairly costly, depending on the materials and manufacturer. The downside to these racks is that they usually come with weight limits and aren’t always the easiest of the systems to install.
For a fairly simple, inexpensive, and reliable rack for 1-2 bikes, we recommend something like this model.
Here are some top rated trunk racks:
There are also racks that mount to spare tires, a good option if your vehicle has a rear-mounted spare. These work pretty similarly to standard trunk mounts, except that they usually feature a top rail that hooks over the spare rather than straps that hook into the trunk.