Hitch Bike Rack: What Are the Benefits Of A Hitch Mount Bike Rack?

hitch bike rackA popular type of bike rack for many reasons and in this article we will examine in detail what the benefits of a hitch bike rack are whilst also taking a look at some of the weaknesses as well, to hopefully give you a full understanding of the pros and cons of the hitch mount bike rack.

Stable Bike Carrying

There isn’t much point loading your bike(s) onto a bike carrier that is weak and consequently hazardous. Well the principle of sliding a heavy-steel hitch bike rack into a hitch receiver on the back of your vehicle is an extremely secure method of attaching bike rack to vehicle. So much so that some hitch bike racks are capable of carrying up to 5 bikes of all shapes and sizes.

Quick Install Bike Rack

Fast installation means less hassle and simply sliding a bar into a hitch receiver and tightening it is about as simple a process as you can get.

Fast Bicycle Loading

Because the rack is sited at the back of the vehicle it is the most convenient position for you to load your bikes on and off. There is no need to haul bikes above your head in fact in some cases you literally only have to lift your bike a few inches which makes bike loading real easy.

Variety Of Styles

Hitch bike racks provide the biggest selection of different styles which gives you lots of options before buying.

Hanging Hitch Mount Bike Rack

Supports bikes by seating the frame in padded cradles fixed on support arms, so that the bikes hang down. There are two types:

  • 2 support arms on the hitch rack – A padded cradle on each arm hold the bike frame which provides even support.
    • Compatible with;
      • standard road bike and mountain bike frames
      • different shapes and sizes of frames, women’s bikes without a crossbar, smaller kid’s bikes
    • Arms – widely spaced
      • Gives more bike support
      • Better for carrying larger bicycles
      • More difficult to load smaller bikes
    • Arms – narrowly spaced
      • Fits all types of bike sizes
      • Easy to load smaller bikes.
        nb. A crossbar adapter may be required to get the best fit possible
    • Capable of safely carrying up to 5 bikes
  • 1 support arm on the hitch rack – the bicycle sits in one padded cradle one a single support arm
    • Compatible with;
      • all types of bike frames
        nb. A crossbar adaptor may still be needed to get the best fit possible

These racks either provide 1 or 2 points of contact between the bike and the rack. As the bikes hang they will sway when the vehicle is moving. To overcome this better bike racks have anti-sway technology.

Anti-Sway Technology

This incorporates anti-sway straps or cradles onto the bike rack which adds more points of contact to the bike frame which holds the frame in a more stable way. The result;

  • Stops the bikes swaying
  • Stops bikes banging into one another and prevents damage
  • Stops the inner bike swaying into the vehicle and prevents damage
  • Stops rocking when traveling which reduces vibration

Platform Hitch Mount Bike Rack

This increases bike stability by having 3 points of contact between bike and frame. (1) the frame, (2) the front wheel, and (3) the rear wheel.

The wheels are seated in cradles and strapped down and then a frame clamp hooks over the crossbar holding the frame securely. This is an easy way to load bikes onto a frame very securely and the good news is there won’t be any bike sway.

The bike trays are adjustable to fit a wide variety of bike sizes.

Access Vehicle Through The Hatch/Tailgate

The downside attaching a bike rack to the back of the vehicle is if it stops access into the back through the tailgate or hatch. This has been overcome with many hitch bike racks by incorporating tilt or swing away features.

Swing Away Hitch Rack

This swings the rack with the bikes loaded on it completely away from the back of the vehicle which gives unhindered access into the back. It is simple to operate, usually by removing a pin, or unclipping.

Tilt Hitch Rack

The rack tilts away from the back of the vehicle. The rack is still sited at the back, but the tailgate will open and access can be gained into the back of the vehicle although it is a little more restricted than the swing away method. Bikes should be removed before tilting because the weight of several bikes will be difficult to handle and the ground clearance may not be sufficient to tilt away with many bike loaded.

Stop Thieves

Hitch Locks on some better hitch bike rack brands lock the rack to vehicle which is just as important as locking the bikes to the rack.

Aerodynamic, Eco-friendly Transporting

Because the bikes are sited at the back there isn’t any wind drag, so the fuel efficiency should not be impaired too much. Unlike roof mounted bikes where this is much more of a disadvantage.

We have looked at different types so far and examined plenty of benefits but are there some drawbacks to hitch bike racks.

Hitch Bike Rack – Some Drawbacks

If your vehicle doesn’t have a hitch receiver you will have to get one fit. And again when you change your vehicle you will need to make sure you have a hitch receiver fitted to that car and so on, which more limiting. As a consequence you won’t be able to swap the rack between vehicles without compatible hitch receivers.

If you get a vehicle with a spare tire sited on the back of your vehicle, the bike rack may not have enough clearance to fit and will need a shank extension.

Although the racks are simple to install, they can be pretty heavy, particularly a heavy-steel 5 bike carrying hitch rack. Consequently they become difficult to manhandle and cumbersome to stow-away.

The racks must have an effective anti-wobble device otherwise the rattling will be hazardous.

They are usually more expensive than other types of bike racks. However, throughout this site you will find that our opinion is pretty unequivocal about deciding to buy a bike rack based on price. A cheap bike rack that isn’t safe and secure may end up being the most expensive biking purchase you ever make.

And remember, a good bike rack that does the job well for you may last you a lifetime!

For more information and to find out about some top quality hitch mount bike racks read our reviews.

Happy cycling
Steve & James

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