So you want to take a vacation, but not just jetting off to somewhere else in the world, you want adventure, outdoorsy and action, you want to head off in to the mountains on your bike and escape from it all. However, there’s a problem; how do you transport your bike(s) in safety? Without them getting damaged?
There are a few different options – dismantle them so they can fit inside your vehicle, which isn’t that practical, especially if you need to take things like clothing and luggage, or you could strap them to your roof on a special cycle carrier, but getting the bikes on and off isn’t fun, and of course there’s the constant headache of thinking you’re going to smash them off on a low overhanging tree / sign post / person hanging from a window … surely there is a better way?
Of course there is, and the solution works for most vehicles – sedan, hatchback or SUV. I’ve chosen five of the best trunk mounted bike racks, these five cycle racks seem to offer great value for money, good construction and one of them even has a built-in bottle opener - just what is the right product?
Fit & Finish
It’s important to understand that some trunk bike carriers are model specific, and some are generic, and while the generic ones should fit pretty much any vehicle, that’s not always the case, so you need to double check (usually on the manufacturers website) fitment before ordering it. Trying to fit an incompatible bike rack will lead to frustration and quite possibly damage to your vehicle.
Secondly, it’s super important to follow the fitting instructions properly, even if you think it’s obvious, it’s worth checking; a poorly fitted bike rack can bounce around, damage paint work, even shatter the car windows if it hits them right.
You should also try and research fitting of the bikes. Some manufacturers will tell you that their 3-bike trunk rack will ‘easily fit 3 bikes’ and yet you may find that it either doesn’t, or that you need to load the bikes in a specific way to ensure it can handle three bikes (or however many). The final thought is weight … not just how heavy the product is, but how much weight can it hold? Some limit per bike, others give a max weight.
You may also want to think about how easy it is to remove the rack when you’re done – going on vacation for example, taking your bikes is great, but you don’t really want to lug around the bike rack un-necessarily, and what about how it affects access to the rear of the vehicle? Some racks need to be completely removed to access the trunk or rear door, and some will allow for a little access easily.
And that also leads to another, very crucial point – SECURITY. How easy would it be for a thief to steal your cycles when they’re attached? Or even steal the rack itself? Can the bikes be locked to the rack? Can the rack be locked to the car? Or are you just hoping that people won’t bother trying?
Best Truck Mounted Bike Racks Reviewed
1. Allen Sports Deluxe Trunk Mounted Bike Rack
Product weight: around 8lb
Max weight: 70lb
I said this was the least expensive, to give you an idea, it’s a third of the price of the next lowest rack, but it isn’t a third of the job … this thing is awesome. This particular model is for two bikes, but there are options for a three, and even four bike rack. Unlike the other manufacturers here, Allen Sports list a total weight, so in theory that could be one super-heavyweight bike, or two medium weights.
It’s a patented design, and will work with almost any regular vehicle, be that hatchback, SUV, minivan or sedan. It’s also fully assembled which means you can pretty much use it right out of the box, although of course it does need fitting properly, which they say you can install it in seconds.
It comes with extra side straps to give your bikes a little more lateral security, and individual tie-downs to ensure the bike(s) can’t go anywhere. On top of that, the lower sections of the frame are padded – help protect both the car and the cycles, and it works well.
There isn’t much security with it, you can’t lock it or the bikes, but that’s about the biggest drawback (and to be honest, it’s not the only product in the list that can’t be locked). Has a lifetime warranty.
The #1 budget choice.
2. Saris Bones 801 3-Bike Trunk Mount Rack
Product weight: around 11lb
Max weight: 35lb each bike
I actually really like the style of these racks, they come in a variety of colors – black, blue, gray, pink, red, orange and yellow, and depending on which color you buy, you could be making a donation to a worthy cause: Orange is National MS Society, Red is World Bicycle Relief and Pink goes to Breast Cancer Research, all very worthy causes, such a great idea from Saris.
The material is 100% recyclable, non-rusting (most of it is injection molded plastic) and offers a huge amount of strength. They claim that the arms and legs are the strongest on the market, and given the arc design, that’s entirely possible, and keeping with the design theme … thanks to the arc design, it will fit over most factory-fit spoilers easily, and it’s one of the few that can do that without damaging them, especially when most of them are quite thin plastic.
This model also has a neat feature which allows the rack to tilt forward, meaning that access to the rear of the vehicle is easy, of course, dependent on the vehicle. It’s easy to install, however, only con - there’s no locking facility, either for the bikes to the rack, or the rack to the car.
Finally, the three bikes are held at slightly different levels, which means they’re not battling with each other, and everything is held firm with quality straps that ratchet up tight.
3. Thule Passage Trunk Mount Carrier
Product weight: 10.8lb
Max weight: 35lb each bike
This is the entry level model from Thule, and is available in either two or three bike configuration. It’s worth noting that if you have anything other than a ‘standard’ bike (like a child’s or woman’s ‘step-thru’), you may need to get an adapter for them to fit properly. Also, this can be locked to keep it secure, but you need the Thule locking strap (which of course, is extra).
The Thule bike carrier uses their patented ‘FitDial’ to optimize the fit to your car, and there are soft rubber cradles to hold the bike’s frame securely, without causing any damage. Coupled with the ‘Stay-Put’ anti-sway cages, you get the feeling that only God could make your bikes move when they’re strapped in properly, and that of course helps to minimize any other damage – to the car or paintwork for example.
Anything that comes in to contact with the bikes or car is either padded or coated or rubberized, and the whole thing feels like it’s quality engineered, despite being Thule’s lowest model in the list. Once the bikes have been removed, it’s possible to fold down the arms to make it look less conspicuous, but the reality is, it offers no real gain – you’d be better off just taking the rack off the vehicle.
I think this would be your number one choice if you wanted a ‘brand’ behind the product.
4. Hollywood Racks F4 Heavy Duty 4-Bike Trunk Mount Rack
Product weight: around 17lb
Max weight: 35lb each bike
They’ve classed it as a heavy duty trunk mount bike rack, but the reality is that it can still only match the other brands here – 35lbs per bike, although it can carry four bikes. It’s made from heavy duty steel tubing and comes fully assembled, you just need to fit it to the vehicle, which by all accounts is relatively easy.
I like the Hollywood F4 rack because it spreads the load of the rack and cycles across two firm points – the bumper and the trunk, so it isn’t all just hanging from the roof, or sitting on top of the trunk, and it’s this design that allows it to fit across a huge array of vehicles.
The tie-down straps are all integrated, and it also includes extra side straps, so once the bikes are in and tightened up, they are solid and secure – no fear of moving or rubbing against each other, it’s a great bike rack.
The best rack for carrying four bikes – it has the space and spreads the load evenly.
5. Yakima Fullback Trunk Mount Bike Rack
Product weight: 20lb
Max weight: 30lb each bike
This is the two bike model, but there is also a three bike carrier in this lineup. The Fullback is the most expensive carrier in the list, although still very competitive price-wise … there are also some handy dandy features like being fully lockable – bike to rack, rack to car. For some reason, Yakima also feel that a built-in bottle opener is also a necessity for ‘the modern rider’. Weirdly.
The ‘SuperCush’ zip strap cradles hold the bikes firmly and securely, and there’s enough padding along the frame (where it counts) to ensure that the bikes can’t damage each other or the car. The frame is also padded where it makes contact with the car – you’d actually have to go some way to manage to cause an issue with the paint.
It’s simple to fit, and uses four straps to ensure that it can’t move anywhere, and as already mentioned, it can be locked to the vehicle.
For my money, I think it would be a choice between this and the Saris, as they’re both really good quality. If you’re more security conscious, then the Yakima is the #1 product for you, purely for the locking functionality built in.