Best bike racks 2023

There are a vast number of bike racks on the market, which makes shopping for one a bit of a daunting prospect. So why not let us help? We’ve hunted down the best on sale...

Bike Racks 2021 Header Image

Bike racks have become one of the best selling motoring accessories, especially during the time when overseas holidays were not an option in the Covid years. But what rack should you choose?

Well, racks can be divided into three main types: roof-mounted, tow bar mounted, and tailgate-mounted. Roof-mounted racks are by far the most popular, tow bar mounted kits are closing the gap and are the fastest-growing sector, and tailgate models are somewhat in decline for various reasons, one being that they shouldn’t be used on the lightweight plastic tailgates are becoming increasingly popular.

PT Cruiser Bike Rack

In this product test, we’ll focus on roof-mounted and towbar-mounted racks, but before diving into the detail, it’s prudent to muse over the pros and cons of the two types. Roof mounted racks are affordable (the cheapest here is less than £30), compact and easy to store when not in use and can be fitted on almost all vehicles. But it’s not always easy to get bikes up onto roof racks, especially atop tall SUVs and 4x4s. Plus bikes on the roof do nothing for aerodynamics; you’ll hear extra wind noise and your fuel economy will take a hit. Car parks with height barriers, or ferries, can also be an issue. 

Changes in vehicle design are making it less viable to carry cargo on the roof, too. Many SUVs have surprisingly low maximum roof load limits, as do cars with multiple sunroofs, which are becoming popular. And long gone are the days when gutters, or raised roof rails, meant that a set of roof bars would fit most vehicles. Now, when you change your car, a new set of model-specific bars is almost always required.

Tow bar-mounted bike racks, in contrast, are a universal fit. But going down this route means that you will need a car with a tow bar and those are not cheap. Price aside, however, tow bar-mounted racks have many advantages. With the rack at ground level, the bikes are easy to load and unload. You don’t get the extra noise and fuel economy hit that roof systems cause. And even the traditional bugbears of difficult boot access, and the racks being too big to store easily, have largely been overcome. Most models slide or tilt so you can get to the boot, and many either fold or break down completely so they can be stashed away without taking over your garage.  

PT Cruiser Bike Rack Mount

Some important considerations apply equally to both rack types. The max weight your vehicle’s roof/tow bar can support is your starting point. Remember to consider not only the bikes’ weights but also the weight of the rack and – with roof systems – not only the roof bars’ weights, but their maximum load limits too. Clearly, the lower a rack’s own weight, and the higher its max load capacity, the more flexibility you have.

Security is another critical issue. Systems that can be locked to the vehicle, as well as allowing bikes to be locked to the rack, have a massive advantage. And whilst the vast majority of bikes will happily fit onto the bulk of racks available, look especially closely – before buying – if your bike has exceptionally fat tyres or an unusually chunky frame.

With roof-mounted racks, check what types of roof bars each rack is compatible with. For example, T-Track bolts, which work in conjunction with T-Tracks (an accessory channel that’s cast into premium bars), make installation easier but don't work on traditional square-section bars. We’d also pay close attention to how much preparation the rack needs before being mounted. On the best models, everything is adjustable even after the rack is fitted in place and the bike is placed upon it. More basic systems require much more adjustment prior to fitting.

 Compatibility with current roof bars, and bars you may buy in the future, is a major consideration with roof-mounted racks.

Lastly, it’s worth thinking about versatility. For example, a number of tow bar-mounted racks are multipurpose, doubling up as luggage racks and even cargo box carriers, both of which offer benefits over roof racks and roof boxes. And whilst most tow bar racks fit on the tow ball itself, some brands provide the option of using a dedicated mount on the tow bar assembly, leaving the tow ball itself free for a caravan or trailer. Clever. 

The products or services referenced in this story have been reviewed independently by our experts. When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network. However, this will never influence our opinion or ratings.

Top 5 Tow Bar-Mounted Racks

1. Maxxraxx 4 Bike Voyager Easyfix – Best Buy

Maxxraxx 4 Bike Voyager Easyfix

Overall score:  5/5
Critical weights: Self – 12.30kg Load – 4 bikes, 80kg max

The Maxxraxx Voyager starts off as a compact collection of square tubes. It's marginally faster than the Bak-Rak to mount and assemble, but the product's show-stopping feature is the speed and ease at which you can load bikes onto the rack. Free sliding crossbar supports make bike spacing effortless, then a single heavy-duty ratchet strap – tightened in seconds – locks the supports in position, and all the bikes to the supports, in one operation. Maxxraxx accessories allow rack use on vehicles with bulky rear-mounted spare wheels. Another optional mount, attached to the tow bar assembly, leaves the tow ball free for towing. 

2. Bak-Rak Bike-Rak with Box or Tray Capability – Recommended 

Bak-Rak Bike-Rak with Box or Tray Capability – Main Image

Overall score: 4/5
Critical weights: Self – 8kg Load – 4-5 bikes, 70kg max

It takes just minutes to slot this lightweight 84 x 11 x 12cm pile of four laser-cut square tubes together into a car-mounted bike rack. And bikes can be fixed on quickly with ingeniously anchored bungee cords (a leftfield but effective restraint design). Versatility is another major plus with this product. The "bike" arms can be repositioned lower down to carry other Bak-Rak accessories such as a large carry tray or an enormous 400-litre back-box. And while the rack doesn't come with a light board or any security features, all are inexpensive optional extras.

3. Westfalia BC60 Portilo

Westfalia BC60 Portilo – Main Image

Overall score: 4/5
Critical weights: Self – 17.5kg Load – 2 bikes - 60kg max. 3rd bike optional mount available 

Westfalia's BC60 is pricey for a two-bike rack, but its combination of versatility, storage ease and Atera DL3-matching user-friendliness make that cost somewhat justified. No tools are required to mount the folded BC60 (measuring 58 x 69 x 22cm) onto a tow bar. You can then use it as a bike rack or slot on Westfalia's optional rear tray or 200-litre back-box. Integral locks secure the rack to the tow ball, and the bikes’ (or box/tray) to the rack. A rear-mounted tilt mechanism provides excellent boot access.

4. Atera Strada DL3

Atera Strada DL3 – Main Image

Overall score: 3/5
Critical weights: Self – 14.5kg Load – 3 bikes, 45kg max. 4th bike optional mount available

Despite carrying one bike fewer, Atera’s Strada DL3 is almost double the price of Halfords’ rack. But this long-running, highly respected design delivers where the Halfords model falls short. Installation onto the tow bar is a simple tool-free procedure, complete with a reassuring 'safe to go' indicator. The tow coupling and each of the bike stabiliser arms have locks to secure the rack and the cargo placed upon it. Tough plastic-coated steel wheel straps add another layer of protection. And an ingenious slide-back-and-down mechanism means that even a full rack won't obscure boot access.

5. Halfords 4 Bike Tow Bar Cycle Carrier

Halfords 4 Bike Tow Bar Cycle Carrier – Main Image

Overall score:  2/5
Critical weights: Self – 15.1Kg Load – 4 bikes, 60kg max

Perhaps the cheapest four-bike platform rack on the market, but there’s a degree of getting what you pay for. Not from a quality viewpoint; the rack is sturdy and feels well screwed together. But it’s rather sparse when it comes to features. Forget, for instance, accessing your boot whilst the rack is fitted – this model doesn't tilt or slide for easy access. And there's a distinct lack of security in terms of locking bikes to the rack or the rack to the vehicle. Aftermarket wire/chain security locks, or padlocks, are one solution, but you should factor in their costs before choosing this product.

Top 5 Roof-Mounted Racks

1. Atera Giro AF+ – Best Buy

Atera Giro AF+

Overall score: 5/5
Critical weights: Rack  2.9kg Max bike weight – 17kg 

Sheer attention to detail makes the Giro AF+ unbeatable, because while it has no show-stopping features, it simply gets all the important stuff right. It provides locks to secure the bike to the rack and the rack to the roof bars; it’s compatible with all common bike tyres and frames and should work with practically all roof bar types, plus its maximum weight capacity is decent and its own weight is low. It’s important to set the arm pivot’s lateral position and side of operation prior to the rack being fixed in place, but everything else can be done, easily, with the rack fitted and the bike on it.

2. Thule Proride 598 – Recommended 

Thule Proride 598 Main Image

Overall score: 4/5
Critical weights: Rack  4.2kg Max bike weight – 20kg

The odd hump in this rack’s track isn’t just wacky styling. The idea is that the bike rolls into a natural resting position and you simply adjust the chocks around the wheels and strap them down. The concept works well in practice, too; there’s no need to position the arm’s pivot prior to fitting the rack on the roof. Changing the side of operation is recommended, though, and it’s quite a fiddly process. Another gripe is that this rack only comes with T-Track mounts, so budget for an adapter kit if you plan to fit it onto traditional square bars.   

3. Yakima Frontloader

Yakima Frontloader

Overall score: 4/5
Critical weights: Rack – 6.2kg Max bike weight – 18.1kg 

Ironically, the heaviest rack here is the only one suitable for ultra-lightweight carbon fibre frame bikes, due to the double arm arrangement that stabilises the bike around the front wheel rather than by gripping the frame. You also don’t need to make any prior adjustments before fitting the rack – for ultimate convenience, you may want to remove and flip around the rear wheel chock so that the release button is facing you, but even that is possible with the rack on the roof.

4. Cruz Bike-rack

Cruz Bici-rack

Overall score: 3/5
Critical weights: Rack – 3kg Max bike weight – 15kg 

Being closely related to the Halfords’ Roof Carrier, it’ll surprise nobody that it has broadly the same pros and cons. But there are subtle differences that make the two racks slightly better suited to different purposes. The Cruz can be mounted, for example, to a wider variation of roof bars: it comes supplied with narrow U-Clamps, purely for traditional square bars, but a separate Cruz kit converts the rack to the more modern T-Track mounting system. However, we prefer the Halfords model’s standard fit 'Fasty' wheel straps and narrow tyre adapters.

5. Halfords Roof Mount Cycle Carrier

Halfords Roof Mount Cycle Carrier

Overall score: 3/5
Critical weights: Rack – 3kg Max bike weight – 15kg 

Some chunkier frames may be too much for this rack’s clamp, but this is a great value option for transporting the vast majority of bikes. However, the low price brings with it some compromises. The simple U-clamp mounts only work with ‘aero’ and traditional square roof bars. And while the clamp has a lock to secure bike to rack, there’s no easy way to secure the rack to the roof bars.  Like most racks, it’s necessary to position the arm’s pivot and side of operation before fitting the rack to the roof. On this basic model, this entails removing and re-tightening the bolts. 

The products or services referenced in this story have been reviewed independently by our experts. When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network. However, this will never influence our opinion or ratings.

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