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    Best Bike Racks

    We evaluate several options for transporting bicycles and come up with one clear winner

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    Loading a platform bike rack from Thule with bikes
    The Thule EasyFold XT rack makes it easy to load heavy bikes.
    Photo: John Powers/Consumer Reports

    Just as with bicycles, the landscape for bike racks has changed considerably in recent years. There are now many choices available in roof-, trunk-, and hitch-mounted racks, with models spanning from low-priced to premium. And pickup truck owners have the option of utilizing what’s known as a tailgate pad. With so many options, it can be difficult to determine which is best for your bikes, vehicle, and budget. 

    Because we have several cycling enthusiasts at the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, we decided to take a deep dive into bike racks and carriers by purchasing several models to evaluate. We researched the market, spoke to riders and bike-store owners, and gleaned information from major retailers and industry analysts.

    more on bicycles

    We decided on a sampling of hitch-mounted platform racks, including a low-priced option, one designed with heavy electric bikes in mind, and another intended for serious cyclists who use their bike rack on a regular basis. We also evaluated low- and high-priced hitch-mounted hanging racks, and we tried two different-sized pickup truck tailgate pads to see what all the fuss is about with this rather ingenious setup just for trucks. 

    We ordered the racks and tailgate pads online, assembled them in the Auto Test Center main garage, and tried loading all manner of bicycles. A few colleagues and I hit the road to our favorite trails and riding locations to see which racks kept the bikes the most secure while traveling and were the easiest to live with on a daily basis. So yes, we did a whole bunch of bike riding in the name of “science.” 

    Below, we go through the basic details, and what we like and don’t like, to help you choose the right type of bike rack or tailgate pad for you.

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    We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.