BIKE RACKS 101
You’ve got a bike and now you and your bicycle are ready to hit the road and explore – welcome to the club! You’re almost done making all these big, bike-related decisions.
What Is A Bike Rack?
A bike rack is a type of bicycle accessory that attaches to a vehicle to transport one or more bikes.
Often times when someone hears the phrase “bike rack” they may picture a rack that attaches to a bike or a bicycle parking rack (although we make those too). And while these are also considered “bike racks”, our bike racks attach to vehicles to transport your collection of bikes wherever the compass may lead.
Which Bike Rack is Best For Me?
When starting your search for a new bike rack, the best place to start is by asking yourself: where on your car do you want to carry bikes? In the car rack world, there are three locations to choose from: trunk, hitch and roof. Here at Saris we only manufacture trunk and hitch racks, and will touch on the benefits of each below.
And if you’re looking for something specific to fit inside vans, SUVs and trucks, we have the Traps Single and Traps Triple Track.
Trunk Bike Racks
- Easy to mount and remove from car.
- Carries 1-3 bikes, depending on model.
- Lightweight and easy to store.
- Compact solution for bike transportation.
- Transports bikes from top tube.
Be sure to check the manufacturer’s fit guide to ensure that your new rack will work with your vehicle.
Hitch Bike Racks
We make two types of hitch bike racks: platform, or tray-style, and hanging, or mast-style.
And if you’re leaning towards a hitch rack, know that a hitch can be installed on almost any car. Automotive or hitch installation experts can help you determine if your car is hitch compatible and what type of hitch you may need.
Be sure to measure its size since that plays a role in which hitch rack will work for your setup.
Platform Hitch Racks
- Unparalleled bicycle compatibility and versatility.
- Carries 1-4 bikes, depending on model.
- Easy access to the hatch.
- Easy to load and unload bikes with minimal lifting.
- Transports bikes by tires with little to no frame contact.
Want to learn more about our different platform hitch racks? Check out our comparison guide
Hanging Hitch Racks
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver.
- Carries from 2-5 bikes, depending on model.
- Coated bike hold-downs and anti-sways to protect bike frame.
- Easy access to the hatch.
- Transports bikes from top tube.
Want to learn more about our different hanging hitch racks? Check out our comparison guide
Which Bike Rack is Best for My Bike?
Now that we’ve got the mount location figured out, let’s dig deeper into which car rack is right for your bike. Here are three central questions to get started:
1) Can the Rack Touch the Bike's Frame?
Most bike owners have strong feelings about whether they are comfortable with a car rack coming into contact with the frame of their bicycle. That’s why we make bike carriers that cater to both persuasions: car racks that hold the bike by its frame (aka: hanging, or mast-style) and those that do not, instead transporting bikes by their wheels (aka: platform, or tray-style).
Unsure if this feature matters for you? Follow this general rule: if your bike has a carbon frame, opt for at platform rack. When in doubt, contact the bike’s manufacturer for a bike-specific recommendation.
2) How Much Does Your Bike Weigh?
Almost all car racks list the maximum bike weight in their specs, and for good reason: to protect you, your car, your bike and everyone else traveling around you.
Here at Saris our bike racks are divided into two weight classes: 1) car racks that can carry bikes up to 35 pounds; and 2) car racks that can carry bikes up to 60 pounds. The former is a spec tied to the hanging-style racks for both trunk and hitch locations; while the latter applies to our entire line-up of platform hitch racks.
An additional consideration regarding bike weight is maneuverability. If it’s difficult to lift a bike to shoulder height, aka: the required distance from the ground to hang the bike from a mast-style rack, we strongly recommend the easier to load platform hitch rack.
Not sure how much your bike weighs? Most hybrids, commuter bikes, road bikes, and kid’s bikes fall under the 35-pound mark; while downhill bikes, mountain bikes, fat bikes and electric bikes (minus battery) tend to be under 60 pounds.
3) What Do You Want to Transport?
Last, and certainly not least are the big questions of how many and what types of bikes you want to haul.
First, let’s address how many bikes you want to transport. Our line-up has bike-carrying solutions for one bike up to five. In fact, the number of bikes a rack can carry is so important we’ve put it in each rack’s name so that it’s fast and easy to find.
Now that you’ve established the number of bikes you want to transport, let’s take a closer look at what types of bikes you’re hauling. In addition to frame type and bike weight, factors such as wheel size and wheelbase length can dictate which car rack best accommodates your needs.
For example, downhill mountain bikers with longer rigs will need to pay extra attention to wheelbase specs, while fat bike owners will be on the lookout for trays that can hold big, juicy treads. And if you have a collection of step-through bikes and want a hanging-style rack, know that you’ll likely need an accessory, like the Bike Beam to properly fit your bike onto the rack. Similarly, if you have a family of bikes of various sizes and builds, you’ll want to take rack versatility into consideration.
In short: take stock of your bike collection and think about how your fleet will impact your choice of bike rack.
Looking to haul more than just bikes? Try our Cargo Accessory
Blog Post: Which Car Rack is Best for My Bike?
What Else Should I Consider?
Now that we’ve got the big, bike-related questions figured out, let’s talk other features worth considering.
This feature allows you to access the gear, snacks and pets that frequent the rear of a vehicle. If you find yourself stopping frequently to get into your hatchback, truck bed or trunk then selecting a bike rack that tilts away will save you headache down the road.
- Trunk racks do not provide hatch access.
- Most hitch racks feature hatch access, but not all do. Look for the on our catalog to show which Saris hitch racks have hatch access.
There are three things that make a bike rack e-bike compatible, and that’s: 1) the ability to carry the weight of the bike; 2) the ability to transport an array of e-bike frame geometries; and 3) the ability to be loaded lower to the ground. A platform hitch rack checks all three of these boxes. Additionally, our e-bike friendly hitch racks come in two sizes: for use in 1 ¼” and 2” receivers.
In other words, when it comes to hauling electric bikes, there’s only one good choice – and that’s a platform hitch rack.
- Trunk racks do not transport e-bikes that weigh more than 35 pounds.
- Hitch racks can, but not all do. Look for the on our catalog to show which Saris racks are e-bike friendly.
It's no secret that cycling can be an expensive sport. From the bike to the rack to the gear, the price tags add up. And once you take the plunge you want to be sure that both bicycle and car rack are not going anywhere. Take a look at the locking mechanisms used to not only keep the bikes secure on the rack, but also for the rack to the vehicle.
- Truck racks often lack the double security of locking bikes to the rack and the rack to the car, but not all do. Look for the on our catalog to show which Saris trunk racks feature locking.
- Most hitch racks feature integrated bike and hitch locks, but not all do. Look for the on our catalog to show which Saris hitch racks feature locking.
We've all seen RV's humming down the road, loaded to the gills with gear for every outing - bikes included. But did you know that very few bike racks are actually approved for use with RV's or motorhomes? It boils down to needing one heavy duty rack, capable of withstanding the extra force created by these do-it-all, homes-on-wheels. Here's what to look for:
- A true 2" receiver. Not a 1.25" receiver with a 2" adapter (which work great for non-RV use), but an actual 2" receiver.
- RV Approval Class A, B & C motorhomes.
Within our own hitch rack line-up, the SuperClamp HD checks all the boxes.
Since all Saris bike racks are used on the rear of a vehicle, you’ll get more miles per gallon cruising down the highway. Why? Racks located elsewhere can add a lot of drag and can decrease your car’s efficiency. For example, How Stuff Works noticed a 27.3% drop in MPG on their test car equipped with a roof rack and bike. Good to know!
Want to Learn More?
Check out our Frequently Asked Questions watch our Instructional Videos or check our Manuals.