An SUV is a great, versatile vehicle for families who love to spend time in the great outdoors. These vehicles typically have plenty of room for the entire family and their luggage, but adding a bicycle or two or three to the mix may pose a problem. If your family is fond of biking and want to go on cycling adventures that stretch further than a few blocks from your home, it might be time to start looking for a bike rack for your SUV.
A wide variety of bike racks exists, in all kinds of shapes, capacities, and designs. However, not all of them are suitable for SUVs, and even the ones that are, might not fit your specific vehicle. Before purchasing an SUV bike rack, it is very important to weigh all of your options and to know the pros and the cons of each model. Our favorite SUV bike rack manufacturers include Thule, Allen, Yakima, and Swagman. Bike rack mounting configurations for SUVs can be categorized into 4 groups and we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each below.
Note: If you’ve read this far and are in a rush to just get something, we suggest you grab one of the 5 SUV bike racks below. These are the current bestsellers on Amazon.com. They sport some solid discounts and have been tested and reviewed to the hilt!
SUV Hitch Mount Racks
If you are looking for something that requires less muscle power from you to load and offload the bikes, an SUV hitch mount rack might just be the solution for you. That is if you don’t have a Jeep or one of the other types of SUVs that have the spare tire mounted at the rear. Most vehicles come with a hitch mount, but you need to figure out what class your hitch belongs to, to ensure you get the right fit.
Hitch mount bike racks come in a huge variety shapes, styles, and sizes and can carry anything from 2 to 5 bikes at a time, depending on the design. Although they are not as multipurpose as a roof rack, hitch mount bike racks for SUVs will keep the bicycles out of the wind, so your vehicle will be more aerodynamic and consume less gas. Hitch receivers come in two main sizes, the 1 ¼ inch and 2-inch size, with the mounts simply sliding into these receivers. They also come with all kinds of solutions to keep the SUV rear door accessible, with swing, tilt or fold up options. Bikes will either be held in place with Velcro straps, trays or a vertical staff. Hitch mounts are arguably the most popular way to fit a bike rack to a vehicle at the moment. there’s a good reason for this as you are working from a very sturdy stable platform and the number of options and ease of access really works in favor of this configuration.
- Wide variety of choices to suit each budget
- Solid sturdy mounting option
- Easy to install
- More ergonomic
- Not permanently attached to SUV
- More aerodynamic
- May block rear door
- Won’t always fit with spare tires on the back
- Suspended bikes are prone to sway
- Swing-away models are expensive
- Ground clearance might be an issue with some models
- Extends vehicle length, making it harder to maneuver
- May obstruct rear license plate and taillights, or driver’s rear view
- Alternative frame bikes may need special adapters
Our pick for an SUV hitch mounted bike rack is the Allen Sports Deluxe 4-Bike Hitch Mount Rack. There are 2 and 5 bike models available as well but this is the most popular model. Your vehicle will need to be fitted with a 2-inch trailer hitch – we suggest you get a Class III or IV hitch professionally installed if you do not have one already.
The carrying arm protrudes 22 inches and is fitted with a tie-down system to secure each bike individually. The arms can drop out o the way when no bikes are fitted or to make storage easier. The initial setup and assembly of the rack are pretty easy and simple – as simple as you could expect from any hitch-mounted rack really – and once in place, fitting the bikes and transporting them safely is a breeze. Removing the rack from the hitch is simple enough with a single pin. The Allen Sports Deluxe is made from steel (so they do weigh a bit more) but combined with a classy black powder coating and Allen’s lifetime warranty you have a high-quality piece of equipment that will last for many years.
Take note that there are two 4-bike models in Allen’s Sports Deluxe series; the Model 542RR and the Model S545 Both these racks carry 4 bikes and up to 140lbs. The S545 has a few extra features which include quick fold carry arms, quick secure straps & dual compound cradles, a rapid tilt-away mast and a dual compound spine shield. We’re not convinced the additional utility justify the price difference, so we’d suggest you buy the standard 542RR model, but if you do look at it and feel it’s missing any of those features the Allen Sports Premier Hitch Mounted 4-Bike Carrier S545 may be the answer.
Available at: Amazon.com
SUV Strap-On Trunk Bike Racks
If you don’t have a hitch receiver on your vehicle and don’t want to carry bikes on the roof, a trunk rack is a simple solution. They are usually very easy to install and don’t require many accessories to make them work for different bike frames. Trunk style racks are also usually very lightweight, making it easy to use on different vehicles in one family, but they can typically only carry one or two bikes at a time and have a weight limit.
These racks are definitely a better solution for a sedan or hatchback than an SUV. Most trunk mounts only use cables or nylon straps with hooks, so security against theft may be a concern. You will also not be able to access the rear door with the rack installed. Also, be sure to gather some feedback from friends or online sources and look for a design that will not damage the paint on your car. While most trunk bike racks are designed in a way that mitigates this potential hazard, you can, unfortunately, get an unhappy surprise in the form of small scratches or even dents to your trunk if not careful.
- Versatile; can fit many different vehicles
- Easy to install and remove
- Compact storage (usually fold away)
- More portable
- Less expensive
- Great for occasional use and short trips
- More aerodynamic than a roof rack
- Best suited for smaller numbers of bikes
- Block rear access to vehicle
- Stability relies on how securely you attach the straps
- May obstruct your rear view, or taillights and license plate
- Won’t work with a rear spare tire installed
- Not always lockable
- Risk of scratching the vehicle when attaching the hooks
- Require constant checkups during transit to ensure rack hasn’t shifted
Our Pick: Allen Sports Premier 2-Bike Trunk Rack
We’re not going to lie, we’re not the biggest fans of trunk mount racks – something about all those straps and hooks to the car that just feels weird – but we’re very willing to admit that that’s a personal preference and there are some very well-designed and easy to use trunk mount bike racks for your SUV in the market. We suggest you look at the Allen Sports Premier 2-Bike Trunk Rack.
While you do find 4 bike trunk mounts on the market the sheer nature of this mount actually dictates that most trunk mount systems are designed to carry 2 bikes or less, and that makes sense. 4 Bikes on a single rack present quite a weight and we suggest you look at a hitch mount system if you need to carry more bikes.
Allen Sports Premier 2-Bike Trunk Rack fits most all sedans, hatchbacks, minivans and SUV’s. They come with Allen’s patented quick snap set-up system which makes it easy to do your in initial fitting and getting the rack onto the vehicle. On this rack, the arms are 12 inches long and can accommodate 2 bikes at a combined 70 lbs.
The bikes are held in place by Allen’s dual compound tie-down cradles and once fitted you can rest assured that your bike will be secure and safe on the back of your vehicle. Take the necessary precautions to ensure the 2 bikes do not bump into each other if you’re going to go onto backroads or gravel roads. The rack also sport some extra large car pads to ensure the rack doesn’t cause any paint damage where it touches the vehicle. Our suggestions would be that you consider a strap mount system if you have a single bike to transport – they are relatively easy to fit and the light weight compliments this design. For that, look at the Allen Sports Ultra Compact Folding 1-Bike Trunk Mount Rack
Available at: Amazon.com
SUV Spare Tire Bike Racks
If your SUV carries the spare tire at the back and you only need to carry one or two bikes at a time, a spare tire bike rack might be a good solution. Most spare tire racks can carry only two bicycles at a time and are easy to install. Just like the trunk bike racks, spare tire racks also strap onto the back wheel and are light, compact and easy to store. Chances are your spare tire tilts away before you can access your car from the rear or in some cases the tire is attached to your rear door. Some spare tire bike racks are actually designed to allow you easy access to the rear of your vehicle even with the bike mounted. This is pretty important. Be sure to test or evaluate and potential tire rack purchase with your specific vehicle. Besides being able to access the car make sure the bike will not scratch or damage other unexpected parts of the cars when swung open while mounted. There are some good reasons to choose an emergency wheel mounted bike rack though.
- Not too expensive
- Easy to install and remove
- No high lifting involved
- No direct contact between vehicle and bikes
- Have to remove tire covers
- Suspended bikes may sway when traveling
- Limited anti-theft options
- May obstruct rear view or license plate and taillights
Our Pick: Yakima SpareRide Bike Carrier
The Yakima SpareRide bike carrier is an improvement on models like the Yakima Sparetime Bike Rack and is our choice of spare tire mounted bike rack. The bike rack is made of steel for strength and to ensure your rack lasts for many seasons. The SpareRide is equipped with their new “super crush zipstrip” cradles and TireTread pads for stability. The design and construction of this rack is of the highest quality and holding it in your had just instills confidence that your bike will be safe and secure on the back of your SUV
While fitting the mounting plate of a spare tire mounted SUV bike rack is oftentimes more challenging than some of the other mount options, once that is done attaching the rack is very simple. The Yakima SpareRide sports a universal mounting plate and comes with a handy extension so it fits most spare tire lug patterns on the market. It fits nearly any size spare, including oversized truck tires. Also included is a tool-free locking knob to make fitting the rack to the base plate a total breeze. The cradles on the Yakima have a really nice anti-sway design which ensures minimum movement of the bikes when mounted. We really like the cradle design on this bike rack.
Finally, just to totally knock it out of the park, there’s a signature Yakima bottle opener on the rack… yes, you read that right, a bottle opener! Go buy it.
Available at: Amazon.com
Roof Bike Racks for SUV
Roof racks are very versatile, and with the right accessories, a roof rack can not only carry bikes but just about any other thing you can think of, from kayaks to cargo boxes. Roof racks are very stable and allow you to carry the bikes out of sight. But a big downside is that SUVs are typically already high-roofed vehicles and require you to lift the bikes over your head. If your name is Chuck Norris, or you look like Arnie in his golden days, you may be able to do it with one hand behind your back, but a roof rack is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
This is especially true if you are planning on going on biking trips regularly. Also keep in mind that, with bicycles on the roof, your SUV might not make the height restrictions of many restaurant drive-throughs and parking garages. If your vehicle is already equipped with a roof rack or crossbars, simply getting an adapter for bikes may be a cost effective solution. You get different types of mounts, some will clamp onto the bike’s front wheel while others hold the bikes upright by their frames.
Our SUV Roof Mount Rack Pick: Yakima Forklift Rooftop Bike Mount
- Very versatile solution
- Can store other cargo as well
- Often holds up to 5 bikes
- Supports alternative-frame bikes
- Very stable, so bikes won’t sway
- Don’t obstruct the driver’s rear view
- Relatively low costs
- Need to lift bicycles overhead
- SUV will be less aerodynamic, which will make it heavier on gas
- More wind resistance may make for a more noisy drive
- Vehicle may become unstable in high cross winds
- Height restrictions may apply
- May not fit vehicles with a curved roof
Our choice of roof mounted bike rack for your SUV is the Yakima Forklift Rooftop Bike Mount. Our choice is strongly influenced by its versatility and the quality of the design and construction. It goes without saying that the Forklift fits Yakima round, square, factory and aerodynamic crossbars right out of the box, but what makes it special is that it also fits almost any other brand name car rack systems with round or square bars as well as most factory crossbars that may come with your SUV. Fitting the bike mount to your car roof rack system is a simple and tool-free process.
The wheel tray on the rack is easy to adjust which takes the pain out positioning the rear wheel. The Forklift will comfortably hold a mountain bike with 29″ wheels as well as bikes with a longer wheelbase. A secure and lockable skewer with integrated adjustment knob for single-handed, easy access holds the bike firmly in place. If your bike has a thru-axle, you will need a thru-axle adapter which can be bought from Yakima or online. The front mount will fit most any disk brake and while some may feel a little tight, it really is hard to find a configuration that cannot be securely mounted on the Yakima Forklift.
The design of the Yakima is elegant and simple and even when compared to similar racks like the one by Thule, you’ll quickly come to understand that they’ve minimized the amount of parts (for example there’s only a single bolt per clamp, but that’s all that’s needed as opposed to 4 bolts on the Thule) This makes mounting and dismounting the Yakima really easy.
Finally, as expected the Yakima Forklift is designed to not touch the painted surfaces of your bike and makes for a great bike mount even for modern carbon bikes.
Available at: Amazon.com
When looking for a SUV bike rack, you have a lot of options, but your final choice will depend on your vehicle’s design, how many bikes you wish to carry and how often you will transport your bikes. If you and your partner are planning to only go cycling occasionally, a trunk rack or a spare tire SUV bike rack will suffice. If you and your whole family go biking all the time, often to far away locations, you will probably have to look into a hitch bike rack with adapters for alternative frame bikes.
If you don’t need to carry bikes very often but also enjoy other outdoor sports such as kayaking, surfing or skiing, a roof rack is just the thing for you. Whatever you choose, be sure to do some thorough research and read the reviews for the specific product you have in mind.