How to Choose the Best Hitch Mount Bike Rack for Your Car, Truck, Crossover, or SUV
If you’ve read our ‘How to Choose a Bike Rack’ post and have decided on a hitch rack, we can help!
Here’s what you need to consider before purchasing a Swagman Hitch Mount Bike Rack.
Bike Frame Material
The frame material of your bike is an important consideration when choosing a bike rack. Carbon fiber frames should not be directly clamped, whereas aluminum or other metal-frame bikes can be used with almost any rack.*
*Certain frame shapes and sizes may require the use of a Bar Adapter for compatibility with Platform or Hanging bike racks. Bikes with front fenders are not compatible with any Zero Frame Contact rack.
Carbon Fiber Bikes
If you have a bike made of carbon fiber, you want something called a Zero Frame Contact bike rack.
Zero Frame Contact Bike Racks
A Zero Frame Contact bike rack secures your bike to the rack with an arm that grabs the front tire, keeping your frame pristine and untouched.
*Zero frame contact racks are not compatible with bikes that have front fenders
If you have bikes made of aluminum or other metals, you can use a Zero Frame Contact Rack, Platform Rack, or a Hanging Rack to transport it.
Platform racks have wheel trays to support the wheels. The bike is secured with a frame hook that comes down onto the top tube of the frame, snugly holding your bike in place. Some models have wheel straps for extra security when your bike is installed.
When you are placing your bike in this type of rack, make sure you adjust the wheel trays to ensure the frame hook is positioned on the lowest point of your bike’s top tube. Certain frame shapes with an aggressively sloping top tube, or step-thru frames will require a Bar Adapter to work with these racks.
Hanging racks work like the name suggests — by hanging your bike frame from the rack’s support arm. These racks work best with simple bicycle frame shapes. Models with sloping top tubes, step-thru frames, or other non-traditional shapes may require the use of a Bar Adapter.
Weight of Your Bikes
How heavy are the bikes you plan to carry on your hitch rack? If you have a heavier bike, like an ebike, make sure to look for a bike rack that’s been engineered to handle the increased weight. Swagman’s line of ebike approved racks all feature increased weight capacities to safely transport heavier bikes.
Pay attention to the maximum weight capacity of each rack you are considering and confirm that your bikes will not exceed the per-bike or total weight capacity of the hitch rack you are considering.
Number of Bikes you Need to Carry
To decide on a hitch rack, you should consider how many bikes you will need to carry. Don’t forget riding trips with buddies – you never know when you’ll need an extra spot for a bike on your next adventure!
Due to weight restrictions of smaller hitch receivers, all of Swagman’s 1 ¼” compatible hitch bike racks can carry a maximum of 2 bikes. 2” hitch receiver model carrying capacities vary depending on the model, but the most common hitch racks carry up to 2 or up to 4 bikes total.
Hitch Receiver Size/Vehicle Type
What kind of vehicle are you planning to use your hitch rack on? If you are looking to install a rack on a travel trailer, RV, motorhome, or fifth-wheel, you need an RV-approved rack. We don’t cover those in this guide – click here to read our guide on selecting an RV-approved bike rack.
For regular cars, trucks, or SUVs, you’ll need to know what size the hitch receiver is on your vehicle. The most common sizes are 1 ¼-inch and 2-inch, however many larger trucks feature oversized hitch receivers. (If your vehicle has a hitch receiver larger than 2 inches, you will need to get a reducer-sleeve from your local hitch shop, bringing the size down to 2 inches for use with a bike rack.)
If you don’t yet have a hitch, you can have one installed at a hitch shop or your local automotive dealer.
If you have a 1 ¼ inch hitch receiver, most common on smaller cars and crossovers, you must purchase a Swagman hitch rack that fits a 1 ¼” receiver.
If you have a 2-inch hitch receiver, you can purchase any Swagman hitch mount bike rack, as all of our 1 ¼” models come with an adaptor allowing it to be used with a 2” receiver as well.
Check with your hitch manufacturer to confirm the weight capacity of your hitch before installing a bike rack.
Do you need any extra features from your bike rack? There are a variety of convenience features available on select Swagman racks. For increased security, look for racks that include integrated locking hooks.
For convenience when in use, some Swagman racks have a tilt-function, allowing the rack to tilt away from the vehicle. Even when loaded with bikes, this gives you easier access to the rear of your vehicle.
Many racks also feature folding features when they are empty – this decreases their footprint when driving around without bikes mounted, shortening the overall length of your vehicle. This also makes storing the rack easier when it’s not installed on your vehicle.
The width of your bike tires is also worth noting. Every Swagman bike rack is compatible with the most common tire sizes out of the box, covering road bikes, hybrids, mountain bikes, and more. Fat tire bikes require special wheel trays to accommodate the extra width. Certain racks are compatible with fat bikes out of the box, others require the additional purchase of fat-bike compatible wheel trays.
Ready to shop for a Hitch Mount Bike Rack? Click here to browse Swagman’s line of Hitch Mount Bike Racks for your car, truck, or SUV.