The Bike Rack Test – Learn How You Choose The Best Bike Rack From A List Of Bike Racks

The Bike Rack Test - Learn How You Choose The Best Bike Rack From A List Of Bike Racks

Why do we need the Bike Rack Test? Some Background…

A few years ago I had a car packed full of family, holiday gear, bikes strapped to a bike rack and great expectations. And just like Dickens’ novel it didn’t quite work out as planned, our hopes were dashed when the bike rack became detached from the car and dropped off with all our bikes on it. As we zoomed down the highway our expectations were somewhat deflated as the carnage behind us unfolded and the pile of bikes bounced along the tarmac at 60 miles per hour!

I had made the not uncommon mistake of thinking a bike rack is just a bike rack and will just do its job as it is supposed to do. But oh no, as I discovered to my cost, bike racks are not so reliable, well my basic rack wasn’t at any rate, and subsequently I’ve learnt that this is an all too familiar story.

Since that episode I have become a bit geeky about bike racks in an effort to make sure I never repeat the misadventure. And then after a bit of time I decided to impart whatever helpful knowledge I may have gained on the bike rack subject on this website in an attempt to give some unbiased help to those who are thinking of buying a bike rack and require a bit of helpful guidance.

It is wholly possible to purchase a bike rack that will just do the job it’s intended to do perfectly well, which is of course to transport your bicycles from A to B without any hassles or problems every time.

On this site our aim is to review many bike racks so that we can find the best in all categories and give detailed information about them from our research. We look at the technology and features on each bike rack and listen to lots of opinions, customer feedback and user reviews.

bike rack disaster

Don’t drive into an underground car park with the bike on top?!

Not choosing the best bike rack is a costly mistake!

Strong crosswind and oops it’s blown off the roof rack!

The Challenge – how do you know if it will be any good?

But the main challenge for us has always been, how can we get you, who is looking to buy a bike rack, into the best informed position without uncertainty or confusion, to actually know that your choice of bike rack is going to be the best choice for you?

There are lots of bike racks to choose from, and obviously it is advisable and sensible to research a few racks before buying. But that’s easier to say than in reality to know you are choosing the best one.

But is there a measure to use that will enable you to compare bike racks in a way that will give you the confidence to know you are making the best choice? Not hoping you are!

After deliberating over this problem for a long time, we have introduced the Bike Rack Test to implement a more objective method for comparing bike racks and ending up with a clear winner.

Grades

bike rack test - the challengeBut first consider this. Remember school (if you can bear it)? Time after time we were tested, what grade did you get and was it a pass?

We know the reasoning behind giving out grades, it is to compare where we are against where we should be in our learning and it is also to compare where we are against each other, they provide a comparison chart!

Grading is a proven comparison technique, so it makes sense to use a grading system when we want to choose the best bike rack from a selection of bike racks, doesn’t it?

Reading user reviews that give 1 to 5 stars is far too simplistic on its own. Three user reviews giving 5 stars and then two giving 1 star can leave you even more confused. Reading manufacturers’ sales literature is hardly unbiased.

No, we decided there must be a better way, because the consequences of choosing a bike rack that’s not up to the task can result in an expensive disaster, as I know through experience!

What is The Bike Rack Test?

In order to be able to choose the best bike rack, we need to be clear about what things we demand from a bike rack every time it’s used.

As soon as we can list those necessary things or ingredients that go into making a good bike rack we are then capable of giving each one of the necessary things a grade.

For a bike rack to be worth considering it must reach a pass grade in all of the necessary components. Failure in any one of those elements means excluding the rack from your list of possibles’ because it’s not up to the job.

If no rack on our list passes everything we keep looking until we find one that does.

If we are left with just one bike rack, that’s the one for the job.

However, if we are left with a few bike racks that pass every one of the essential components, that isn’t a problem because our Bike Rack Test gives each bike rack a total score when we add all the grades for each component together. The results let us compare the good bike racks against one another to find the best.

The good news is by implementing the Bike Rack Test we have a reliable measure for choosing the best bike rack for the job before we buy.

How Does The Bike Rack Test Work?

Through a combination of experience and listening to hundreds of bike rack users on their opinions about what a bike rack must do well and if it doesn’t it causes problems, we have established 7 essential components that make up a good bike rack. If a rack is not good in any of these elements then it won’t be problem free and as a result I would not buy it.

So let’s look at what the components are and why they are so essential, and then we can grade a bike rack in each of the 7 components.

7 essential ‘components’ that go into making a good bike rack

1. Quick and simple to install –

The attachment system which secures the rack to the vehicle really should be quick, simple and straight-forward to install. Why is it important? Because the more complicated and fiddly the attachment process is, the greater the chance you won’t securely attach it every time and that’s an accident waiting to happen. The simpler the system is the less hassle it is and the easier it will be to install the rack securely every time.

[Grade component 1: 1 to 10 (Pass grade is 7) 1-very bad, 3-bad, 5-average 6-okay, 7-good, 9-very good 10-excellent]

2. Attaches very snugly –

Good bike rack manufacturers incorporate solid technology into their bike racks to make sure they have well designed attachment systems that are always snugly attached and securely clamped. When a bike rack is attached there should be no movement whatsoever, no rattle, no wobble, no sideways or up and down sliding. Rock solid is essential, because any movement will get worse on a journey and things start to work themselves loose and that’s hazardous.

[Grade component 2: 1 to 10 (Pass grade is 7) 1-very bad, 3-bad, 5-average 6-okay, 7-good, 9-very good 10-excellent]

3. Quick and easy to load and unload bikes –

What’s the point of making a task difficult to do when it can be very simple? If it’s awkward to load up your bike it increases the chances of mistakes particularly at the end of a day of hard riding. Good design allows you to securely load (and quickly unload) each bike in seconds.

[Grade component 3: 1 to 10 (Pass grade is 7) 1-very bad, 3-bad, 5-average 6-okay, 7-good, 9-very good 10-excellent]

4. Loading system that fits a variety of bike frames and bike sizes –

We know bicycles come in all shapes and sizes. Adult men’s, ladies, kids, road bikes, mountain bikes, different shaped tubes, tires, suspensions and on the list goes. Make sure the bike rack’s loading features uniquely cope with the shape and size of each bike. Each different bike should be clamped down individually and securely no matter what its shape or size.

[Grade component 4: 1 to 10 (Pass grade is 7) 1-very bad, 3-bad, 5-average 6-okay, 7-good, 9-very good 10-excellent]

5. Secure 2x locking system –

A robust anti-theft locking system incorporated in the bike rack is essential to safeguard your bikes. Get a 2x locking system that first securely locks the bike rack to the vehicle and second safely locks bikes to the bike rack. Of course we know there’s no such thing as a 100% secure locking system if a thief is determined enough, but we can say the same about your vehicle. Just make sure the locking system and a good design and robust.

[Grade component 5: 1 to 10 (Pass grade is 7) 1-very bad, 3-bad, 5-average 6-okay, 7-good, 9-very good 10-excellent]

6. Designed to stop damage –

Bikes that bang into one another, rub against each other and reach your vehicle when they sway, is damage waiting to happen when you are driving. Safe design creates space between bikes and between bike and vehicle that is maintained when you are on the move, even on uneven roads. Bike racks that touch the bodywork of a vehicle (eg. trunk mounted) must use good quality rubberized contact points with no sliding to avoid paint damage to the vehicle. Racks that clamp bike frames also need good quality rubberized contact points with no sliding to avoid paint damage to the bike(s).

[Grade component 6: 1 to 10 (Pass grade is 7) 1-very bad, 3-bad, 5-average 6-okay, 7-good, 9-very good 10-excellent]

7. Anti-road vibration technology –

Road vibrations when you’re driving is unavoidable, roads have bumps and hollows which inevitably causes potentially hazardous shaking and rattling. To overcome this a well designed bike rack incorporates certain technologies such as anti-sway and anti-wobble, ratchet locks, good quality padded soft cradles and other clever technology to stop swinging, swaying, rattling and vibrating bikes from causing any kind of damage or working themselves loose.

[Grade component 7: 1 to 10 (Pass grade is 7) 1-very bad, 3-bad, 5-average 6-okay, 7-good, 9-very good 10-excellent]

How to choose the best bike rack

Start picking some bike racks to compare:

Now we know what the 7 essential components are we need to know how to grade each component for each bike rack, we explain this below. But before we can do that we must decide on where we want the bike rack to be mounted on our vehicle. On the roof, at the back either trunk mounted or hitch mounted all mounts have pros and cons, go to step 1 below and take time to decide which will suit you best and then pick a selection of racks that fall into that category to compare (step 2 below).

The Bike Rack Test

Step 1 – Where is the bike rack going to be located on your vehicle

Where do you want the bikes carried? Consider the pros and cons
Top of vehicle: Roof mount Back of vehicle: Trunk mount Back of vehicle: Hitch mount
Roof mount pros:

  • Rack and bikes don’t touch bodywork
  • No need to keep installing and uninstalling
  • Doesn’t impede rear cargo access
  • Doesn’t block rear sightlines
  • Can carry bikes and other items
  • Space between bikes
  • No bike sway
  • Can fit different sizes and shapes of bikes

Roof mount cons:

  • More complicated to install
  • Restricts roof clearance – possible hazard
  • More difficult to load and unload bikes
  • Wind drag and noise
  • Roof racks don’t fit on some vehicles
  • Not much flexibility to swap onto other vehicles
Trunk mount pros:

  • Most flexible type of rack
  • Can be easily swapped onto other vehicles
  • No hitch receiver needed
  • No roof rack or crossbars needed
  • Easy to install and uninstall
  • Can stow away compactly
  • Can carry up to 4 bikes
  • Incorporate technology to prevent bike swaying
  • Easy to load and unload bike(s)
  • No wind drag or noise
  • Can fit different sizes and shapes of bikes

Trunk mount cons:

  • Access into trunk or through hatch may be restricted
  • The rack touches the bodywork
  • Uses attachment straps / cables, means more chance of poorer rack attachment with some makes
  • Rear sightlines may be impeded
Hitch mount pros:

  • Stable bike carrying
  • Quick and easy to install
  • Easy to load and unload bikes
  • More flexible bike carrying options:
    • Hang bikes on support arms
    • Stand bikes upright on platform
  • Bike rack does not touch the vehicle
  • Can carry up to 5 bikes safely
  • No wind drag or noise
  • Swing away and tilt away makes access into the trunk or tailgate/hatchback possible
  • Good racks have good anti-wobble features
  • Can fit different sizes and shapes of bikes

Hitch mount cons:

  • Need to purchase a hitch receiver
  • Can’t swap onto another vehicle without a compatible hitch receiver
  • Rear sightlines may be impeded
  • Tend to be heavier and more cumbersome to stow
Where do you want the bikes carried? Your decision
Top of vehicle: Roof mount Back of vehicle: Trunk mount Back of vehicle: Hitch mount
Yes/No Yes/No Yes/No

Step 2 – Pick a selection of racks to consider

Essential components Research includes:
Features; Manufacturer Marketing Literature; Customer comments, Review site, User reviews
Grade – 1 to 10 (Pass is 7)
[1-very bad, 3-bad, 5-average, 6-okay, 7-good, 9-very good, 10-excellent]
1. Easy installation    
2. Solid Attachment    
3. Easy bike loading / unloading    
4. Fits many bike sizes & frames    
5. Secure 2 locking system    
6. Damage prevention design    
7. Anti-vibration technology    
    Total grade:

Step 3 – From the racks that pass compare

1. Total grades – the higher the grade the better the bike rack

Step 4 – Compare racks with the same total grade

1. Decide which essential components are most important to you and compare the grades the racks achieved in those components
2. Price – if you have 2 or 3 racks that all have the same total grade and are equal in components that matter the most to you, then choose the lowest price bike rack

What do you get by using the Bike Rack Test?

take the bike rack test - get great resultsThe Bike Rack Test enables us to use an objective test to compare bike racks against one another. Uncertainty and confusion is removed which can only be a good thing.

Knowing before we buy that we have chosen the best bike rack results in a rack that will last for years and it will do the job we require it to perform without any hassle or hazard.

Our bike rack top picks for all categories have passed The Bike Rack Test with flying colours and proved to be winners. Take a look below and see how they achieved their Top Pick accolade.

Best Bike Rack Reviews, Our Top Picks: