What Type Of Bike Rack You Need And How To Install It

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Have you ever wanted to take your bike out of your everyday route? Have you wanted to visit some of the great natural parks across the country and check out a new bike trail. Well if you don’t live within biking distance to a trailhead or park, you’re going to need to attach your bike to your car. If you want to jump straight into review of bike racks check out this article. So let’s talk about the different options you can choose from that’ll be specific to your automobile.


What types of racks exist?

Different bike racks will fit different cars and each will have their own benefits and 

drawbacks. Bike racks will range in price from $30 to a few hundred dollars depending on the brand and utility of each rack. Each type of rack will have its own installation method and may even require professional help. But most bike racks are simple and easy to install. 

Hitch Mounted Racks
If you have a vehicle that can tow you can take advantage of this type of rack which will go right into your hitch receiver. Although this is something many trucks and SUVs can take advantage of, there are some cars that have hitch capable of holding a bike rack. If you have a wheel on the back of your car like in many jeeps then you can also attach the bike there but may have to remove the spare tire. 

Be aware that when choosing this rack that the rack you buy can attach to your hitch receiver. Hitch receivers have Class I, II, III, and IV so make sure your bike rack will be compatible. As a general rule most racks are capable with class II to IV. You can choose between getting a platform hitch rack or a hanging hitch rack. The platform will secure the tires and can carry more than one bike. The hanging type is available if your bike has skinny tires as you would find in some road bikes. Here is an example of a hitch mount rack.

Roof Mounted Racks

The roof mounted racks are considered the most stable and secure among all the bike rack types. This is because the bike is secured at the wheel and is fastened down across the roof. This is a great option for those who have a car that is low enough to where placing the bike on the roof is doable with ease. You can also use the roof rack for more than bikes. The rack and crossbars can be used for storage, snowboards/skis, kayaks and more. 


Although they are secure, the roof racks are also one of the more difficult mounts to install. It will take more work than the other racks and has the most potential to be damaging to the paint on your car. You can get this done by a dealership or professional for an extra fee to mitigate this risk.


The roof mounted racks are great for the forever outdoor person who is going to need to transport a bike often. And whether that’s biking or any other outdoor activity a roof rack is a great choice. Here is a great affordable choice to look at.

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Trunk Mounted Racks

The most common type of rack, and the rack a beginner should consider buying first, is the trunk mounted rack. The utility of a trunk mounted rack is great for a number of reasons. Starting with how easy and fast it is to take off your car or SUV. This means if you’re not using the rack you can take it off and store it in your garage. Now the trunk isn’t usable when the rack is attached but again the ability to take it off nullifies this drawback.

This type of bike rack will come in more economical starting prices as well. Some considerations to think about is if your automobile will have enough of a distance between the bike and the trunk. If the bike rack is not installed correctly or the bike isn’t fastened down right, the bike might sway and chip the paint.

I would recommend this type if you’re only taking your bike with you on certain occasions. The price and practicality of this rack make this a great first choice. Here is one from Allen Sports that will allow you to carry two bikes.


Why use a rack anyways?


You will have to decide if this is a necessary purchase for you so here are some questions you should ask yourself. The first question to ask yourself is what kind of biker you are. Are you the kind of biker that just likes to bike around the neighbourhood or maybe a daily exercise routine that starts and ends at your house. Then for this group of people a bike rack is probably not necessary. If you want to still buy a bike rack for the once in a while trip then its recommended to get a rack that will be easily detachable. On the other end of the spectrum if you go to a new biking trail every weekend then a great bike rack of high brand quality will be a good investment. It’s a great tool for those who can’t store their bikes inside of their automobiles.


How do you install your bike rack?


When learning how to install your bike rack to your car, always start with the owner’s manual and make/model of your vehicle. The installation will be different for each type of rack, require different tools, and require different expertise. So let’s take a look at each type now.

Hitch Mounted Rack
This rack is very easy to install but you must keep some considerations in mind. First off make sure your vehicle has a hitch and then determine what class of hitch you have. Vehicles come with different tow capacity and the higher the class number the more it can tow behind. So for starters make sure when buying your rack you choose the correct hitch. After that it is as simple as putting the rack into the hatch and then tightening the bolt keeping the rack in place. If you’d like to see a visual representation of this I’ll make some video recommendations at the bottom.

Another thing to keep in mind is if you choose a bike rack that requires hanging the bike then you need to make sure your bike has a horizontal bar. Most bikes have this including mountain, road, and bmx bikes. But there are bikes out there like beach cruisers for example that don’t always have an easy horizontal bar to choose from. To get around this you will need to buy a cross bar adaptor that you can attach to each end of the bike. This is a quick and easy fix that you can apply to any bike without a horizontal bar. The trunk bike rack that hangs bikes can use the same solution. You can find a cross bar adaptor around a price range of $20-$50. Here’s a simple adaptor that will get the job done.

Roof Mounted Rack

This can be harder to install depending on your setup of your vehicle. So how a roof mount works can seem complicated but let’s think of it in 3 steps or 3 parts. The first part of your vehicle are the side rails that go along your roof by the car doors. These side rails may be raised from the factory which will make this process much easier. If not then you’ll have to find a way to access the side rails under the roof mold. This may be an extra step that may make the installation harder and you should consider if you want to have this installed professionally. 


The second part you’ll need are crossbars. They go across and attach to the side rails of your car. This will allow a roof rack of any kind. It will allow for cargo attachment, kayak attachment, and more along with the bike rack. Cross bars will be easier to attach if your side rails are raised. Here is an example of the cross bar you’d want for your bike rack.


The third step will be to attach your bike rack to the crossbars. They will be detachable so you can change racks for whatever you want on your roof. The roof rack is great and can attach almost all types of bikes. So if you can handle the installation this is a great option for transporting your bikes. 



Trunk Mounted Rack

This is the most portable type of rack and uses a strap system. Make sure you go to a manufacturer’s website to learn if the bike rack will work for your vehicle. How this rack will work is that the main rack component will be placed above your license plate so it’s visible. Then you will attach each strap to your trunk and then pull the straps snug. When all the straps are attached then you can tighten all of them and make sure the bike rack is secure.


Each trunk mounted rack will be different and have variations so please check the owner’s manual. Below is a video from Bell Garage which is a company that makes great helmets. There are many videos on the internet you can watch on installation but I like their videos so I’ll leave you with their trunk bike rack video. You’ll find a video for both roof and hitch videos on their channel as well. 




Build your own rack!

If you’re someone who loves projects or are crafty, you can make your own bike rack. This is something lots of people with pickup trucks do. People with pickup trucks have this advantage of just throwing a bike into their trunk and strapping it down. If you’d rather the bikes be upright to avoid them getting damaged then you should add a bike rack. Doing a DIY rack is easy and fun which is why I created one with my brother.


Since this is a DIY project there is no one or right way to do this. You can find many different instructions on how some people did it and try to achieve their same results. Also you can spend as much as you want and accessorize the bike rack to your heart’s desire. 


My brother has a Dodge Ram pickup truck that he would take when him and his wife wanted to go biking. What he decided to do was to go to Home Depot and have some lumbar cut for his specific bed width. After that he sanded it and painted it black. Then for the bikes he bought some wheel locks that would screw in the front forks of the bikes when the wheel was off. Taking the wheels off the bike was also necessary because he had a short bed. After that he had to secure the rack down which took some figuring out. Truck people usually have to figure out how to secure the things they put in their truck bed anyways so it was a good learning experience for us. 


The biggest expense was probably the bike locks. The end result was an awesome bike rack and fun project to do with my brother.




When considering the legality behind using a bike rack make sure to always first check your state laws and local ordinances. For the most part there are a few rules to keep in mind. Law enforcement does not want your bike rack to obstruct your license plate for obvious reasons. This won’t affect roof racks but you should make sure your hitch and trunk mounts allow you to see your license through the rack and bike. The same will go with your taillights as this can be a safety concern.




So if you’ve made it here you’ve learned a few things. There are three types of bike racks; hitch mounted, roof mounted, and trunk mounted. Each has their own features that make them great for people and one of them will fit your vehicle specificity. Installing the bike racks is easy to hard depending on your bike rack type. You can make your own if you have a pick up truck or have a professional install your rack. At the end of the day if you like to travel to new locations to bike you need a rack. Check out some awesome bike racks with our Amazon link and check out our reviews on bike racks on our site. Enjoy the new adventures you take!




1 thought on “What Type Of Bike Rack You Need And How To Install It”

  1. You made a good point when you said that bike racks are a great tool for those who can’t store their bikes inside their vehicles. My husband loves going for bike rides every week or at least twice a month if he is busy. He always complains about not being able to bring his bike back home every after ride, so I will share your tips with him.

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