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How to Select the Best Bike Rack

How to Select the Best Bike Rack - CURTHow to Select the Best Bike Rack - CURT

Let Your Vehicle, Bikes and Lifestyle Make the Decision for You

Choosing the best bike rack starts by thinking about your vehicle type, bike type, passengers, lifestyle and budget. By answering a few questions in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect bike rack.

In this guide, we will help you answer the question: which bike rack should I buy? We’ll talk about which bike racks are best for each vehicle type, bike type, number of bikes and more.


Compare types of bike racks

 

Part# Style Image # of
Bikes
Shank
Size
Weight Max
Load
Attachment
Type
Ideal
Bike Type
Recommended Vehicles Tilt-Away
Post
Anti-Rattle
Included
18087 Tray Tray-Style 4 Bike Rack - 18087 2 or 4 2" 86 lbs. 180 lbs. Lockable arms and cradles Any CUVs, vans, SUVs, trucks Yes Yes
18085 Tray Tray-Style 2 Bike Rack - 18085 2 1-1/4" or 2" 46 lbs. 90 lbs. Lockable arms and cradles Any Cars, CUVs, vans, SUVs, trucks Yes Yes
18065 Premium Premium 5 Bike Rack - 18065 5 2" 43 lbs. 225 lbs. Adjustable rubber cradles Adult or kids CUVs, vans, SUVs, trucks Yes Yes
18064 Premium Premium 4 Bike Rack - 18064 4 2" 41 lbs. 180 lbs. Adjustable rubber cradles Adult or kids CUVs, vans, SUVs, trucks Yes Yes
18030 Standard Standard 4 Bike Rack - 18030 2 or 4 1-1/4" or 2" 40 lbs. 180 lbs. Adjustable rubber cradles Adult Cars, CUVs, vans, SUVs Yes Yes
18029 Standard Standard 2 Bike Rack - 18029 2 1-1/4" or 2" 35 lbs. 90 lbs. Adjustable rubber cradles Adult Cars, CUVs Yes Yes
18013 Clamp-on Clamp-On 3 Bike Rack - 18013 3 2" clamp 13 lbs. 135 lbs. Adjustable rubber cradles Adult CUVs, vans, SUVs No No

8 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Bike Rack

1. What type of vehicle are you driving?

Start by thinking about the vehicle you drive. The bike rack you choose must be complementary to its size and capacity.

The right bike rack for an SUV might be entirely wrong for a hatchback coupe. And vice versa.

If you have car or crossover, you likely won’t need or want a big, elaborate bike rack. Something small and more manageable will work best.

If you drive a minivan or SUV, you’ll probably want a larger bike rack that can accommodate the number of passengers you’re able to carry.

Learn more about the best hitch bike rack for each vehicle.

SUV Bike Rack and BicyclesSUV Bike Rack and Bicycles

2. Does your vehicle have a receiver hitch?

The next step for choosing a bike rack is to consider what your vehicle is equipped with. Does it have a rear-mounted receiver hitch? If not, your options for choosing a bike rack may be somewhat limited.

The majority of CURT bike racks are designed to attach directly to a hitch receiver.

It is key to remember the standard hitch receiver sizes: 1-1/4-inch, 2-inch and 2-1/2-inch. Most CURT bike racks have a 1-1/4-inch or 2-inch shank. Some fit both.

If your vehicle doesn’t have the correct receiver size, don’t worry! You can use a hitch adapter to ensure the right fit.

Kia Soul with Hitch ReceiverKia Soul with Hitch Receiver

3. How many bikes will you be transporting?

Answering this question is critical! Aim too high and you’ll be managing more bike rack than you know what to do with. Aim too low and you might be leaving some bikes at home.

Bike racks are available to carry anywhere from two to five bikes. If you have a family or group of friends you’re planning to road trip with, select a bike rack that has a higher capacity, four or five bikes.

If it’s just you and a buddy, a two-bike or three-bike model that’s easier to carry, set up and load will likely be more enjoyable.

Just remember to think ahead. Maybe it’s just you and your spouse hitting the trails for now, but what about next weekend? Or in two months? Will friends or family be joining you for the ride?

Select a bike rack that best suits your long-term plans and lifestyle.

Learn more about the best bike racks based on number of bikes.

Campers with 2 BikesCampers with 2 Bikes

4. What types of bikes will you be transporting?

Most bike racks can accept road bikes, mountain bikes and others that have a horizontal crossbar. However, not all of them are quite so accommodating to women’s bikes, kids’ bikes, BMX bikes and fat-tire bikes.

The CURT tray-style bike rack is able to carry virtually any style of bike. It has highly adjustable cradles and arms to be adaptable. It also has a fat-tire cradle option.

For transporting kids’ bikes, CURT premium bike racks are better suited, featuring tapered arms. The wider span of the arms fits adult bike frames, while the narrower span is specifically designed to fit children’s bike frames.

Compare CURT bike racks

Family Child Bike RackFamily Child Bike Rack

5. Where will you be driving?

Where you plan to drive with your bike rack in tow should inform your decision about which style to choose.

Your bike rack should be well-suited for your environment.

For a tangible example, consider navigating through the city in heavy traffic. In this setting, you may prefer a bike rack that’s more compact.

On the other hand, consider offroading. An offroad trail is full of bumps, dips and uneven terrain. A bike rack with a higher level of security and stability will be more successful. The CURT tray-style bike rack, for example, has lockable, ratcheting arms that clamp down onto the bike frame, keeping it firmly locked in placed for travel.

Offroad SUV Bike RackOffroad SUV Bike Rack
Easy to Use Bike RackEasy to Use Bike Rack

Ease of use vs. extra security

What’s more important to your lifestyle -- loading up your bike rack in under two minutes or locking down your bikes like Fort Knox? Maybe you need a happy medium?

Whatever your lifestyle and preferences, you will need to consider the balance between ease of use and extra security when selecting a bike rack.

Some bike racks, like the CURT clamp-on bike rack, are lightweight and made to be installed and loaded quickly to get on the road as fast as possible.

Other bike racks, like CURT tray-style bike racks, are very ergonomic to load, but they have a more elaborate construction to promote enhanced stability and security.

6. How will you keep your bikes protected?

If your vehicle and loaded bike rack are left unattended, how will you protect your bikes from being tampered with or stolen?

The CURT tray-style bike rack offers a convenient solution. It has a built-in security system in the form of key-operated arms. The arms ratchet down onto the bike frames and lock into place, keeping them secure for travel and deterring potential theft.

For other bike rack styles, a multi-use cable lock or bike lock can be used to add extra security. The cable lock can be looped around the bike and bike rack frames.

For any and all bike racks, a hitch lock or anti-rattle lock can be used to ensure maximum security, keeping the rack locked into the hitch receiver.

Locking Bike RackLocking Bike Rack

7. How much do you want to spend?

Bike racks vary greatly in cost – anywhere from $50 to $400. Just remember, you get what you pay for.

A bike rack isn’t just an investment in itself. You’re entrusting this piece of equipment with the value of your bicycles as well.

Don’t skimp and settle for something that just barely gets the job done. Make a list of your needs and preferences, compare your options and invest wisely for the long-term.

Bike Trail Sunset OutlookBike Trail Sunset Outlook

8. Which accessories will you need?

Here are some of the accessories you may need to consider when buying a bike rack:

Bike beam

This accessory attaches to the bike frame, between the handle bar post and seat post. The bike beam creates a temporary horizontal crossbar for bikes with a deep-angle crossbar, such as on women’s bikes and city bikes.

Bike Beam for Hanging BikesBike Beam for Hanging Bikes

Bike lock

Security is essential on the road and a bike lock is a great way to deter theft and keep your bikes secure while left unattended. You can also maximize security of the bike rack itself with a hitch lock.

Bike Rack LockBike Rack Lock

Hitch adapter

For any hitch mounted bike rack, it is very important that the shank fits the hitch receiver. If it doesn’t, an adapter can be used to create a proper connection.

Receiver Hitch AdapterReceiver Hitch Adapter

Hitch extender

You don’t want your bike rack obstructed by a spare tire or part of the vehicle. To give your bike rack some added clearance away from the back of the vehicle, a hitch extender can be used. Just be sure to select the right size!

Receiver Hitch ExtenderReceiver Hitch Extender

Specialized ball mount

If you want to tow a trailer with a hitch mount bike rack installed, you can easily do so with a specialized ball mount, such as a dual receiver or raised receiver ball mount.

Specialized Dual Receiver Ball MountSpecialized Dual Receiver Ball Mount

Fat-tire cradles

When loading fat-tire bikes on the CURT tray-style bike rack, fat-tire cradles must be used. They easily replace the existing cradles and have a 4-7/8-inch inside width.

Fat-Tire Bike CradlesFat-Tire Bike Cradles

Safety strap

To add stability to your bike rack, you can install a safety strap that connects from the rack to your vehicle. Safety straps are included with and required for bike racks with a 1-1/4-inch shank.

Bike Rack StrapBike Rack Strap

Auxiliary lights

You can increase the safety of any bike rack by adding auxiliary LED indicator lights. These lights plug into the vehicle’s 4-flat connector and synchronize with your taillights.

Auxiliary LED Indicator LightsAuxiliary LED Indicator Lights
Mountain Biking Outdoor TrailMountain Biking Outdoor Trail

Best Bike Racks by Vehicle Type

Best Car Bike RackBest Car Bike Rack

Best bike rack for car

For a car, a lightweight and more compact bike rack is best. It should complement the number of passengers, dimensions of the receiver hitch (likely 1-1/4-inch) and overall size of the vehicle.

A CURT 2-bike or 4-bike standard rack is recommended as a hatchback bike rack, coupe bike rack and even a sedan bike rack. The 4-bike model has extendable arms, allowing it to be reduced down to a 2-bike configuration.

These bike rack car options also have a built-in receiver adapter to fit virtually any car hitch.

Best Crossover Bike RackBest Crossover Bike Rack

Best bike rack for crossover

For crossover vehicles (CUVs), one of the best trailer hitch bike racks is the CURT tray-style bike rack. It is all-around sturdy, versatile and can accommodate you and a friend or the whole family.

The 2-bike tray-style model comes with a hitch adapter that allows for use with virtually any crossover hitch receiver. The 4-bike model comes standard with a 2-inch shank, so note your CUV receiver size carefully.

All CURT tray-style bike racks are highly adjustable to fit any bike type. They also have an anti-rattle pin for a quieter ride and a tilt-away frame for easy trunk access.

Best Minivan Bike RackBest Minivan Bike Rack

Best bike rack for minivan

Assuming your minivan or even full-size van is being used as a family vehicle, the best van bike rack is the CURT premium model. It is uniquely designed with tapered arms, making it well-suited for adult bikes and children’s bikes alike.

Premium bike racks are available in 4-bike and 5-bike configurations, providing helpful accommodations for families.

Before purchasing a bike rack, remember to verify compatibility with your hitch receiver size and supplement with a receiver adapter if needed.

Best SUV Bike RackBest SUV Bike Rack

Best bike rack for SUV

SUVs are highly versatile, being as much a family vehicle as they are an offroader. As such, choosing the best hitch bike rack for an SUV will depend on your lifestyle.

The CURT tray-style bike rack is great for adventurous SUV owners. It has a highly secure design to keep your bicycles locked in place during travel and when left unattended. The 4-bike tray-style model #18087 is particularly well-suited.

For family SUVs, the CURT premium 5-bike rack is recommended. This bike rack is easier to move and install, and it fits both adult and kids’ bikes.

Best Jeep Bike RackBest Jeep Bike Rack

Best Jeep bike rack

The best bike rack for a Jeep is one that can keep up with the fun, free spirit of this type of vehicle. Having a taste for offroading, Jeep owners should especially consider capacity and security.

For a Jeep, the CURT 2-bike tray-style bike rack is recommended, especially as a Jeep Wrangler bike rack. This model is solid and secure enough to handle the offroad trails, while keeping your bikes well protected. Yet, it is also more compact compared to the 4-bike tray-style model, complementing the Jeep’s agility.

Best Truck Bike RackBest Truck Bike Rack

Best bike rack for truck

Two of the best pickup truck bike rack options are the CURT 4-bike tray-style bike rack #18087 and standard 4-bike hitch rack #18030. Both are ideal for the number of passengers common to trucks, and both have a tilt-away feature that allows for easy access to the tailgate.

For regular cab trucks and couples, the 2-bike model of the tray-style or standard may be better suited.

It is worth noting that some trucks come with a 2-1/2-inch receiver tube. For such cases, a hitch adapter may be needed.

2 Racing Bikes Open Road2 Racing Bikes Open Road

Best Bike Racks by Bike Type

Road BikeRoad Bike

Road bike

The CURT standard bike rack is ideal for road bikes. With their narrowed tires, the option to hang the bike by its frame may be preferred to setting the bike in a pair of cradles, as used with tray-style racks.

Mountain BikeMountain Bike

Mountain bike

The CURT standard bike rack is perfect for most mountain bikes. It’s easy to move, install and load, and its cradles are adjustable enough to fit larger tube frames.

BMX BikeBMX Bike

BMX bike

With their smaller frames, the best hitch mount bike rack for BMX bikes is the CURT premium bike rack. Its tapered arms are better accommodating to small bikes. If the crossbar of the BMX bike is especially angled, a bike beam can be used.

Folding BikeFolding Bike

Folding bike

The best bike rack for a folding bike is the CURT clamp-on bike rack. As folding bikes are all about compactness and easy portability, so is the clamp-on bike rack. A bike beam may be needed to accommodate the low crossbar.

Step-Thru Womens BikeStep-Thru Womens Bike

Women’s bike (step-through)

For women’s bikes, also known as step-through bikes, all CURT bike racks are compatible. However, the bike beam #18016 should be used to create a temporary horizontal crossbar for properly hanging the bike. If you’d prefer not to use the bike beam, CURT tray-style bike racks bypass the need for this.

Kids BikeKids Bike

Kids’ bike

The best bike rack for kids’ bikes is the CURT premium bike rack. It’s a bike rack made for families. The tapered arms allow for both adult and kids’ bikes to be loaded and transported with ease. The premium bike rack also has rubber cradles that are easily adjustable to fit a variety of bike frame sizes.

Vintage City BikeVintage City Bike

City bike

For city bikes or vintage bikes with a deep-angled crossbar, the CURT tray-style bike rack is preferable. The adjustable cradles and arms accommodate virtually any bike frame. However, for something more compact and lightweight, a CURT standard bike rack may be used in tandem with a bike beam.

Fat Tire BikeFat Tire Bike

Fat tire bike

Many bike racks can accept bikes with fat tires, but our top recommendation is a tray-style rack with the addition of fat tire cradles. The CURT tray-style bike rack is built to handle the extra weight and the fat tire cradles fit tires up to 4-7/8 inches wide.

BMX Bike Rider Forest Dirt TrailBMX Bike Rider Forest Dirt Trail

Best Bike Racks by Number of Bikes

Best 2 Bike RackBest 2 Bike Rack

Best 2-bike hitch rack

The best 2-bike rack is the CURT tray-style bike rack #18085. It has a highly adjustable design to accept almost any type of bike, and it comes with a built-in hitch adapter to fit most standard trailer hitch receivers.

Best 3 Bike RackBest 3 Bike Rack

Best 3-bike hitch rack

The best 3-bike rack is the CURT clamp-on bike rack #18013. This highly portable bike rack folds out and clamps onto any standard 2-inch x 2-inch shank. It holds up to 3 bikes with a maximum weight capacity of 135 pounds.

Best 4 Bike RackBest 4 Bike Rack

Best 4-bike hitch rack

The best bike rack for 4 bikes is the CURT extendable bike rack #18030. It’s easy to set up and can be converted from a 2-bike rack to a 4-bike rack by attaching the extender arms. It also has a hitch adapter to fit most receiver hitches.

Best 5 Bike RackBest 5 Bike Rack

Best 5-bike hitch rack

The best bike rack for 5 bikes is the CURT premium bike rack #18065. It’s ideal for families, able to accept both kids and adult bikes with ease. The premium bike rack comes with a 2-inch shank to fit most class 3, 4 and 5 receiver hitches.


FAQs

Which type of bike rack is best?

Choosing the best bike rack all depends on the vehicle you drive, where you’ll be driving, the number of bikes you have, the types of bikes you have and how much you want to spend. The best rear bike rack for you is one that fits your vehicle’s hitch, your family size, lifestyle and budget. Use the question above to help you decide which bike rack to choose.

 

Do bike racks damage your car?

No, a bike rack will not damage your car if it is properly installed. A hitch-mounted bike rack attaches to the car’s receiver tube, and most require a safety strap that helps stabilize the rack. The bike rack must be properly assembled, following the instructions and torqueing all hardware to the correct values. Bikes must also be loaded securely.

 

Are platform bike racks better?

Platform bike racks or tray bike racks are better for some people and more cumbersome for others. It all depends on your needs and lifestyle. If you want something highly stable and adaptable to any bike type, a platform bike rack is best. If you prefer something lightweight and quick to install or remove as needed, a platform bike rack may be more of a challenge than a help.

 

What is the easiest bike rack to use?

The CURT tray-style bike rack is perhaps the easiest to use. Each bike can be loaded or unloaded independently of the others, and the vertical arm makes securing the bikes fast and simple. Just press it down onto the bike frame to lock it in place.

 

Can I put a bike rack on my car?

Yes, as long as your car has a trailer hitch receiver, you can install a bike rack. Remember, the shank of the car hitch bike rack must match the receiver tube size. If it doesn’t, a hitch adapter may be needed.

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