There are three main types of bike racks; hitch mounted, strap mounted and ceiling mounted. Each one comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Hitch mounted racks
These attach to a hitch at the rear of the vehicle. There are two kinds.
• Class I carriers are compatible with a large number of small cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). Depending on the design, they can hold up to three bikes.
• Class III roof racks are designed for use with large trucks and SUVs. They can hold a greater number of bikes than Class I bike racks. Unfortunately, they cannot be used in smaller vehicles without costly modifications.
These mounts are extremely easy to install and in general there is less chance of accidentally scratching the paint on a vehicle while riding the bikes.
However, without proper installation, they can block the rear windows, increasing the possibility of causing accidents when reversing, or cover the license plates, which is considered illegal in many jurisdictions.
Trunk Mounted Racks with Strap
These racks are strapped to the trunk, rear bumper or hatchback and can carry up to three bikes. They come with padded or plastic coated frame mounts to protect the bikes from scratches and other damage.
The straps on the shelves are cheap and easy to store when not in use. They are also versatile and can be used on virtually any model, making them especially suitable for leased vehicles.
Unfortunately, like hitch mounted racks, they can lock up the rear window if not installed properly. They are also less secure, as thieves may untie or cut the straps that secure the bike racks to the vehicle.
These are attached to the vehicle’s upper door frames or rain gutters or, when available, cross bars or roof racks, which are generally cheaper. Depending on the size of the vehicle, up to seven bikes can be transported. A special case can be added if additional storage space is needed for tools and other equipment. When not used to hold bicycles, the roof rack can also be used to transport canoes and skis.
While roof-mounted racks ensure an unobstructed view from the rear window, they are more difficult to install. Other disadvantages include increased air resistance, which can lead to increased fuel consumption and wind noise, and a greater likelihood of scratching the paint when the bikes are raised on the roof of the vehicle.
Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of the main types of bike racks on the market can make it easier to decide which one to choose.