Finding a rack that works for your bike and fits your budget and vehicle can take forever. The number of options you will find on the market will surely dazzle you. There are so many variations with one end goal: to safely transport your bike to a location without having to contort it to fit inside your vehicle.
Among the popular varieties, you can attach these racks to become semi-permanent extensions of your car called hitch mount racks or rooftop racks. You can also pick more portable racks such as a trunk mount rack.
To make your job easier, we have selected five bike racks with exceptional quality and functionality for carrying and transporting mountain bikes. Some of these are high quality with an equally high budget, and some provide excellent functionality with a budget that won’t cost you a fortune. The options are many, and you can easily take your pick according to your needs.
Best All-Rounder Mountain Bike Rack
Thule T2 Pro XT/XTR Hitch Bike Rack
Item Dimensions: 54 x 43 x 15 inches
Weight: 52.04 Pounds
Bike Capacity: 2, 4 with add-ons
- Best in class tilt lever
- Broad wheel/tire size compatibility
- Reliable security system
- Heavy-duty construction
- User-friendly tilt mechanism at the rear of rack
- Limited side-to-side rail adjustability
Thule T2 Pro XT/XTR is a versatile design suitable for almost all bike styles up to 60 lbs. In our opinion, this is the best hitch-mounted rack that will support your bike, whether it is a downhill mountain bike or a lightweight carbon fiber road bike.
The rack is designed and executed beautifully with particular attention to detail. It is the most spacious bike rack on the market. From fat tire bikes to mountain bikes, this rack can hold any 20”+ bike you want.
The ease of use is what makes this model so desirable. The model relies on a tray and shepherd’s hook system to secure the bikes. Next, an easy-to-use ratcheting wheel clamp system is employed, which smoothly cinches down to hold the bikes in place.
The HitchSwitch lever’s tilt release mechanism makes the rear of your vehicle accessible.
The wide wheel trays can accommodate wheels of all sizes and widths.
The security system is remarkable, with no need for any adapters or extra velcro straps to secure the bikes. There is significant space between the bikes, approximately 12”, ensuring the bikes don’t hit or rub against each other.
Best Budget Mountain Bike Rack
Item Dimensions: 5 x 34 x 11 inches
Weight: 12.7 Kg
Bike Capacity: 2
Folds for storage
Highly adjustable for a broad range of bike, wheel, and tire sizes
Lacks any security features
No straps to secure the wheels
If you are looking for an average mountain bike rack for light-duty use and that doesn’t cost a limb, Swagman XC2 is the pick for you. It has a relatively simple, no-frills design that falls on the non-fancy spectrum of mountain bike racks.
The rack is well-suited for everyday use if you are an occasional bike rider who does not indulge in heavy riding. The clamps make contact with the bicycle frame, and it can be a bit annoying. The wheel trays are adjustable using plastic knobs.
What makes Swagman XC2 more desirable is its storage flexibility. It comes with mounting hardware that you can easily assemble and remove as you please. Hence, it takes a lot less space than its rivals.
However, Swagman XC2 has no security features, so there is no way you can lock the bikes to the rack or the rack to the vehicle, which makes it inconvenient. If you are unlikely to leave your bikes unattended on roads, it shouldn’t be a problem for you.
Best Lightweight Mountain Bike Rack
Kuat Rack Sherpa 2.0
Item Dimensions: 45 x 15 x 11 inches
Weight: 32 lbs
Bike Capacity: 2
- Foot pedal tilt mechanism
- Rear tire cradle features
- Lack of long-term durability
- Lacks versatility
Among the lightweights, Kuat Rack Sherpa 2.0 takes the lead with a whopping 32 lbs, making this rack easy to install and easy to remove.
The tilt mechanism allows you to access the vehicle’s rear even when it is loaded with bikes. The foot lever tilt release makes it easy to use, and the simple design adds to its desirability.
An integrated security system comes in the form of a semi-integrated bike lock that aims to secure the bikes with an included cable. Kuat Sherpa 2.0 also protects wheels by using a molded strap.
The only major downside we find in Kuat Rack Sherpa 2.0 is the lack of versatility evident by its 40 lbs per bike limit, 3-inch maximum tire width, and fixed trays.
Best Adjustable Mountain Bike Rack
Yakima Dr. Tray
Item Dimensions: 52 x 12 x 16 inches
Weight: 45 lbs
Bike Capacity: 2, 3 with EZ + 1 extension
- Low loading height
- Easy tray adjustment
- Tool-free removal
- Sticky tilt release handle and front wheel clamps
- Cable locks are difficult to use
What stands out about Yakima Dr. Tray is its unique and innovative style that appeals to the masses. The unique design offers a great range of adjustability by allowing tool-free adjustment.
In terms of versatility, this rack is not far behind. The new design offers dual support channels with a wide spectrum of accommodation using quick-release clamps that allow trays to fit any combination of bikes.
There is no risk of the bikes coming into contact with each other, and the trays can support plus-sized tires.
It is easy to remove and store since it requires relatively less space. The tool-free locking SpeedKnob improves the installation process, and the SKS cable lock system secures the bikes to the rack.
While it is easy to be impressed by its versatility and adjustability, the tilt mechanism is not that impressive. Yakima Dr. Tray requires two hands to release the tilt mechanism, making it inconvenient and not user-friendly.
Best Roof Mountain Bike Rack
Item Dimensions: 56.5 x 8.5 x 10 inches
Weight: 18 lbs
Bike Capacity: 1
- Allows full access to the rear of the vehicle
- It can hold a variety of bikes
- It does not require front wheels for the removal
- Easily assembled
- No frame contact
- It does not include locks
- High loading height
If you are looking for a roof mount rack, the exceedingly convenient Yakima FrontLoader is the best way to go. The rack is equipped to carry different kinds of bikes, including thru-axles, full-suspension bikes, and disc brakes. It can easily fit wheels up to 20″ to 29″ and tires up to 3″.
What makes it stand out is its easy loading, evident by the fact that you can mount your bike fully assembled and remove it without using front wheels.
For carbon fiber and custom paint jobs, Yakima FrontLoader is a go-to rack due to its no frame contact feature. The rack only secures the wheels of your bike and not the entire frame. This way, it saves your vehicle from potential damage.
It is well-designed and sturdy and is a great pick for sedans and low-height vehicles. Since it doesn’t come with a lock system, you need to get one yourself if you decide to go for this model.
Key Considerations For Mountain Bike Racks
Once you decide to get a mountain bike rack, you will be dazzled with the countless options you have and the first step you have to take is to pick the style of the rack you want to get. From hitch mounts to roof mounts, you have tons of varieties.
Platform racks win this round-up for most people. These designs are compatible with a wide variety of bikes and provide excellent stability. On the other hand, hanging racks are much lighter, compact, and relatively inexpensive. Roof mounts offer lower bike capacity, and trunk mounts cause paint damage.
Generally, bike capacity in racks ranges from one to four, depending on the style and extensions you get with it. If you are a single rider, you can opt for one or two bike capacity racks, but investing in extensions or hanging racks is a good option if you have a family that travels with you.
Bike Weight Capacity
The weight capacity is an important consideration if you want to mount heavy downhill mountain bikes. Platform racks usually rank higher on these listings, while other lightweights such as Kuat Sherpa 2.0 with 40 lbs weight capacity rank lower. It is crucial to invest in a rack that can handle the weight of your bike instead of risking a break.
If you are a frequent rider, the chances are that you are unlikely to remove your rack from your vehicle every other day. Keeping your rack on for extended periods of time indicates that you will eventually need access to the rear of your vehicle; hence a built-in tilt-release feature is necessary.
Platform mounts take the lead in this feature as they don’t need you to unload your bikes before you tilt, while hanging models require you to unload your bikes first. Thule T2 Pro XT/XTR is a great example of an ideal lever system in terms of functionality.
Bike Frame Compatibility
Depending on your bike’s style, the frame contact of your bike with the rack is an important concern. If you have platform racks like Thule T2 or Yakima Dr. Tray, there will be no frame contact, and only the tires or wheels of the bike will be secured to the rack. However, other bike styles carry the risk of paint damage to your vehicle if their frame comes in contact with the rack for long periods of time.
If you face this issue, it is best to get a top tube adapter as an accessory to protect your vehicle from paint damage.
Durability is another factor that you should consider if you like to ride a lot and are in for a long-term investment. You get what you pay for, literally. While you can get low-quality products with excellent functionality at low prices, such as the Swagman XC2 rack, it is unlikely they will last for long. Material plays a crucial role in the longevity of the product. All-metal constructions with strategic use of plastic-like Thule T2 can outlive all-plastic constructions.
Mountain bike racks range widely in their weights. A sturdier construction with heavyweight is bound to have some added excellent features but makes installing and removing a challenge. On the other hand, lightweight racks are easier to assemble and remove and easier to store. Lightweights like Yakima Dr. Tray or Kuat Rack Sherpa 2.0 often miss out in terms of carrying-ability and longevity.
While prices of the racks may vary according to the specifications and bonus features of the rack, it is imperative to invest in a rack that meets your budget while maintaining quality.
Price ranges of mountain bike ranks depend on the kind of material used, the rack style, added accessories like integrated locks or lever system, and other considerations.
If you have an expanded budget, feel free to invest in a high-quality rack like Thule T2 that will last longer. If you are only an occasional rider, go for lightweights and cheap racks like Swagman XC2.
Mountain bike racks come in all shapes and sizes, and there is one out there for you. The only thing you need to decide is what suits you best according to the kind of bike you own. This article has only featured five of our favorite picks, but our guide will help you decide which feature is most attractive to you and hence, which rack is the right pick.