One of the many joys of owning a bicycle is its ability to help you explore new places. However if you want to travel any great distance by car with your bike, and don’t have space in the boot (or trunk), you’ll be looking to invest in a suitable bike rack.
We’ve also produced a comprehensive guide to the best caravan and motorhome bike racks, which you can find here.
Rear racks are popular as they don’t require additional equipment. Essentially you just clip them on the boot or trunk of your car and off you go. However, as you’ll see from our reviews it’s not always quite as straightforward as that.
Roof racks attach to roof bars (unless you opt for the Seasucker brand). This means some added cost if your car doesn’t currently have them fitted. Likewise towpoint mounted racks connect to a towbar or towball. Unlike roof bars these will need to be fitted by a garage, which again means additional expenditure.
We’ll get into some of the benefits and potential pitfalls of all three types of racks at the end of this guide. Bur first here are our picks of the bunch. Let’s rack ’em up.
Our pick of the best bike racks for cars
The Advanced 4 bike tow bar rack is a heavy duty item. Weighing in at almost 20kgs it’s certainly robust but it does mean that it’s not the easiest to fit. We tried it on our own and concluded that it’s a two-person job! Halfords do offer an installation service for an additional £35. However it’s likely that you’ll have to remove and refit the rack again at some point.
We also found the fitting to be a tad fiddly. The mechanism that secures the rack to the tow bar requires several stages and it’s hard going if you’re attempting this alone. The lightboard also needs fitting as it’s not integrated into the rack. This is done using cable ties but the fact they’ll need to be cut and replaced each time you use the rack is a mark against the Advanced.
When set-up the rack will hold four bikes, with a maximum weight of 15kg per bike. This is somewhat limiting if you’re hoping to carry an e-bike. Equally the maximum wheelbase length of 109cm rules out many contemporary mountain bikes – however the majority of road and gravel bikes will be fine as should all children’s bikes.
The rack does come with a cable lock although we were left unconvinced that it would be sufficiently strong enough to do the job if you were planning on leaving the bikes unattended.
Removal is pretty straightforward, although you still have the weight factor involved here. However, once removed it folds up nicely and can be stored away in the garage or hallway without taking up too much space.
The Thule Easyfold XT2 is easy by name and easy by nature. It comes ready to fit out of the box. That means no pre-assembly, which means not having to faff about with bolt, straps and allen keys!
The rack weighs 17.9kgs but the built-in carrying handle is well-place resulting in a perfectly balanced product that’s easy to carry to the car and lift onto the tow hitch. It means that fitting the Thule Easyfold is a genuine one-person job.
The XT2 only carries two bikes. However the combined maximum carrying weight is 60kg, which means that it’s a rack that can comfortably handle the extra weight of an e-bike. There’s an optional bike ramp available to make the loading and unloading of heavy bikes easier as well as carry bag that’s useful when storing the rack. However, both come at an additional cost.
Even without the added extras, the Thule Easyfold XT2 is an expensive option, especially when you consider its two-bike capacity. But you get what you pay for, and the XT2 is a well-made with a considered design. The result is a robust rack that’s easy to fit and once removed one that packs away neatly.
Halfords sell car racks produced by a wide range of manufacturers – but they do also their own models, too. This basic version will take one bike, weighing up to 15kg.
It comes fully assembled and is simple to use, with clamp that connects to the bike’s downtube and two padded wheel straps. It works with wheel sizes from 20″ to 29″ and can be used in unison with up to three other racks, should you need it.
SeaSucker shocked the cycling world when they arrived with their suction operated bike racks – doing away with nuts, bolts and fixtures. We were sceptical, too – until we had one in to review, to great success. The rack weighs just 2.12kg in total, making it a highly convenient, easy to store option.
Fitting was as easy as a simple pump action, and even with exuberant driving there was no sign of any undue movement.
The Thule Easyfold XT is a tow bar mounted bike rack designed to carry heavier loads. The pre-assembled rack carries two bikes, with a 30kg limit per bike. This makes it a sensible option for heavier mountain bikes and e-bikes. It even comes with extra long wheel buckles to accommodate fat bike wheels.
As you’d expect at this price range, the Thule Easyfold XT allows you to lock your bikes securely to the rack and the rack to the tow bar. Both locks are included.
The Thule Easyfold XT retails at £675.00.
Arriving fully assembled, this option offers a construction free solution – but it is essential that the six supporting straps are well applied to prevent the rack from wobbling. On test, we found that as long as we could give the rack a good grip on a solid bit of the car, the rack and its load stayed movement free and up to three bikes can be transported.
The car’s paintwork is protected by rubber tabs and the rack is designed to fold neatly into the boot when not in use.
Saris makes cool bike racks, and this is no exception. It takes a bit of preparation to get the ‘bones’ shaped right to fit your car — the rack’s legs and arms have to be completely removed and then refitted at the correct angle — but that means it is adaptable to a great range of rear ends.
The Bones comes with everything you need — such as bike-retaining straps. As denoted by the name, Saris also makes similar racks for one and three bikes.
The Peruzzo Lucky 2 bike rack is an affordable roof mounted ca
rrier designed to hold one bike.
As you’d expect at this lower price point there’s no capacity to lock the bike and it requires you to have roof bars installed on your car. However a locking knob is available as an additional accessory.
All Peruzzo bike racks are made in Italy.
What type of bike racks are best?
In effect there are three main types of carrier: the rear rack which clips around your boot lid and rests on the rear of your car; the roof rack which attaches to roof bars; and the towpoint mounted rack which can either fit on the towbar or towball.
If you don’t already have roof bars, they are easy to fit and can be bought for around £100. A towpoint, on the other hand, is a garage-fitted option and will cost significantly more.
You’ll also need to consider how many bikes you are planning to transport. Roof racks are great for quickly loading one or two bikes or, if you put a little care into arranging them, even a full complement of four cycles. If you’re a little challenged in the height department, however, they can be a difficult to reach.
Rear racks can be loaded more easily but face other pitfalls: often the bikes have to be packed together so tightly that rub damage is a common occurrence unless you’re very careful to wrap and isolate the tubes, and fully-loaded rear racks have a tendency to obscure your number plate and lights, making your car illegal.
Do all bike racks fit all cars?
While most bike racks are adjustable they don’t offer a universal fit. They are just simply too many different shaped vehicles for that to be possible.
If you’re planning on buying a rear rack you’ll need to be aware of the shape of your car’s rear end. Different rear racks are designed to work best with saloons, hatchbacks or people carriers. If you are in any doubt, log on to the rack manufacturer’s website where you should find a vehicle checker, showing which products fit your motor.
Likewise a specific roof rack may not be compatible with your current roof bars. These come in two shapes: traditional square-profile and more modern oval, aero bars. The oval bars are designed to cut through the air, reduce drag, and in the process cause less wind noise. Just make sure when you pick your roof rack it will work with whichever shape roof bars you have fitted.