Some basic facts about hitch mount bike racks
If you're a cyclist, or family of cyclists, on the go, a safe and efficient way to transport your bikes to and from your destination is absolutely essential. The idea is to safely carry your bikes without at the same time doing any damage to the body of your vehicle.
Of all the methods available for bike transport, by far the easiest to use and least expensive are the hitch mounted bike racks. These carriers fit on or in the trailer hitch of your vehicle and are a snap to install or remove. Most are heavy duty steel construction, making them durable to withstand many long road trips.
Bike Rack Basics
Hitch mounted bike carriers fit on the trailer hitch of your vehicle, either the hitch receiver, or the ball affixed to the bumper. Hitch mount back racks that fit into the receiver, come in either 1.25-inch or 2-inch shank sizes, so it is essential that you know the size of your receptacle. Consult the vehicle owner's manual for this information. Many racks, however, can be adapted to fit either trailer hitch.
The size and style of carrier you buy will depend upon the type and number of cycles you have to transport. Know the tongue weight (TW) of the bike rack you plan to buy, which is not a difficult task as there are only two. The 1.25 TW (1.25-in shank) can safely carry one or two bikes, while the 2 TW (2-inch) can handle up to five.
If you opt for a towing hitch mount bike rack, the kind that allow you to transport bikes and tow at the same time, be aware of the maximum tow weight (normally from 2,000 to 3,500 pounds). Some of the towing hitch mount bike racks come with a tow bar attached, but you can still only tow small loads, such as small trailers or boats.
With the exception of the fixed frame rack, most of the hitch mount bike racks fold or tilt for ease of access to the rear of the vehicle or for parking. Racks that fold down do not allow easy access to the vehicle's rear cargo area, but are convenient for parking.
If you have more than one type of bike to tow, the best choice for transport is the tray hitch mount rack, which accommodates all types of bikes, and can carry up to four safely.
Look for locking features in the bike rack you buy. Most will have a method of locking the bikes in place, and also a pin for locking the rack securely to the trailer hitch. You will also want to consider a rack with anti-vibration technology to prevent your bikes from banging together on bumpy roads, or worse, bumping against your vehicle and damaging the finish.
Hitch mounted bike racks are the least expensive way to carry your expensive bikes. Available at many Internet sites, they can be purchased for prices starting as low as $90 and up to $300.
Styles of Hitch Mounted Bike Racks
Hanging: This is the most common type of hitch mounted bike rack, and comes in a number of sizes to accommodate up to five bikes. They do not, however, accommodate non-standard bikes.
Full Tray: In the full tray hitch mounted bike rack, bike wheels rest on a tray; and this type will accommodate any type of bike, and can carry multiple types at the same time. Most have a two bike capacity, but a converter kit can be purchased to carry two additional bikes.
Towing: This type of hitch mounted bike carrier will hold three to four bikes and can tow a load of 2,000 to 3,500 pounds at the same time.
Ball Mount: This bike holder is for vehicles that have a bumper-mounted ball hitch rather than a hitch receiver. Bear in mind, though, that the weight bearing capacity of a car's bumper is less than it would be with the receiver. Most ball mounted do not fold.
Fixed Frame: These are sturdy racks that can transport up to four bikes. They do not, however, fold or swing.