We have already introduced you to the wide range of bicycle carrier accessories that we offer, including trunk-mounted, roof-mounted, trailer hitch-mounted, and pickup truck bed-mounted. In this article, we will spend additional time exploring your options when it comes to selecting a hitch-mounted bike carrier.
There are many positive attributes about the receiver hitch-mounted bike carrier: the low lift height, the ability to carry multiple bikes, the freeing up of space on the roof or in the vehicle itself. If you have not looked at bike carriers in a while, there have been some new and innovative designs to make the loading job that much easier for you.
It's likely that you are familiar with the traditional style of hitch bike carrier: a vertical post with a pair of top bars extending out 90 degrees. Anywhere from two to five bikes can be carried on this style carrier. The bikes are secured by elastic straps which wrap around the bike frame. Some models feature "anti-sway" brackets which further secure the bikes and prevent them from rocking back and forth. While the lift-up height is nowhere near as high as roof-mounted carriers, bicycles still need to be lifted up high enough to clear the top bars. That height will vary depending upon the height of your receiver hitch.
The latest style of hitch-mounted bike carrier is called the platform or tray type. Instead of the previously described "hanging" style, the bikes' tires sit in a cradle on a platform. The bikes are secured in place with straps which wrap around the wheel/tire combo. Some of these carriers also use an upper clamp which grips the top of the tire. You'll read that the platform-style carrier manufacturers brag that their clamp designs have "no frame contact". That's especially important for those riding high-end products. Tray-style carriers not only have lower lift height; some of them offer ramps for the greatest convenience in on-off loading.
Before we look at specific bike carriers, there are THREE things you must consider before making a purchase:
1. Know your receiver size (either 1 1/4" or 2"); 2. Make sure your carrier of choice can carry ALL the bikes you need to move; 3. Decide how important a 'tilt' or 'swing' function is in order to access the back of your vehicle.
Hanging Style Hitch-Mounted Bike Carriers
If you are looking at the traditional "hanging style" hitch-mounted bike carrier, one of the value leaders in this category is the Pro Series Translite Carrier. It can accommodate both 1 1/4" and 2" receivers, and can carry up to 4 bicycles. Yakima, a brand well-known for its outdoor equipment, makes a number of different hanging style bike carriers. Their value-priced carrier is the ProRack Hitch Bike Rack. Even at this price point, there are 2-bike and 4-bike models, and anti-sway cradles. The Yakima BigHorn Hitch Bike Rack is for 1 1/4" receivers and holds 4 bicycles. Their DoubleDown Ace Hitch Bike Rack fits either size receiver, can carry up to 5 bikes, and can be tilted back for vehicle access.
Curt, one of the country's best-known trailer hitch brands, sells a Premium Hitch Mounted Bike Rack which is the hanging style. Available in 3-, 4-, and 5-bike configurations (which you will find within the Product Options drop-down), the Curt carrier is designed to fit 2" receivers.
The Thule name is synonymous with outdoor recreation, and hitch-mounted bike carriers are one of their many specialties. Hanging style carriers from Thule start with their Parkway Hitch Bike Rack. It's still packed with features including choice of 2-bike or 4-bike versions (note that the 2-bike carrier only fits 2" receivers, while the 4-bike carrier can fit either size). The Thule Helium Hitch Bike Rack can hold either 2 or 3 bikes, and will fit either size receiver. Its claim to fame is its aluminum construction, which means it is about half the weight of the typical hitch-mounted rack. Their Vertex Hitch Bike Rack can carry 2, 4, or 5 bikes and is loaded with features such as hold-fast cradles, anti-sway cages, and arced rack arms to simplify loading and keep the bikes better separated. Thule's top of the line hanging bike rack is the Apex Hitch Rack, available in 4-bike (for 1 1/4" or 2" hitches) or 5-bike (for 2" hitches only) configurations. Hold-Fast RDT Cradles absorb road shock, the Snug-Tite Stinger locks the rack to the hitch, and the built-in cable lock secures the bikes against theft. Both the Vertex and Apex models are available in "swing" versions, which pivot away from the tailgate without the need to unload the bikes.
Platform Style Hitch-Mounted Bike Carriers
Based on all the neat things that the hanging-style hitch bike carriers can do for you, why even consider a platform style? Actually, there are several reasons. For one, the lift height during loading is lower. Instead of raising the bike so that its top bar clears the top of the hanging rack, platform carriers only require you to lift the tires above the (low) platform. To further ease loading, some platform carriers have ramps to get the bikes on and off the carriers. Some bikes, such as off-road bikes or electric bikes, have gotten heavy, so this is a convenience worth reviewing if your bikes are not super light. As we mentioned earlier, some platform style carriers offer "no frame contact" mounting points, typically around the wheels and tires. Do keep in mind that most platform carriers are limited to 2 bikes, although some offer the option of an additional 2 bikes for a total of 4.
The Curt Tray-Style Hitch Mounted Bike Rack is available in either 2-bike or 4-bike configurations. The 2-bike carrier fits either 1 1/4" or 2" receivers, while the 4-bike carrier only fits the 2" one.
Yakima's platform carriers include the economical ProRack Hitch Bike Rack which will carry 2 bikes in either size hitch receiver; and the HoldUp Hitch Bike Rack which has an optional extra carrier so that you can carry 4 bikes.
Thule has several platform hitch carriers; the T2Hitch Bike Rack will fit either size receiver and has the option of an add-on to carry 2 more bikes in addition to the standard 2. Their Doubletrack Hitch Bike Rack can carry 2 bicycles on either a 1 1/4' or 2" receiver.
For what is likely the "ultimate" in hitch-mounted bike carriers, be sure to check out the Yakima Rack and Roll Trailer (gotta love that name). This very cool trailer is custom-designed to carry your bicycles OR a combination of bikes and other sporting gear such as boats or cargo boxes. The loading platform is just 2 feet off the ground, and the loaded rig can travel at highway speeds with ease.
If you're like us and spend just about every weekend during riding season taking the bikes somewhere, there is no way to beat the convenience of a receiver hitch-mounted bicycle carrier. You have lots of options when it comes to features, so 'pedal' through our digital shelves to find the carrier that best meets your needs.