Are you wondering how to transport your bikes in your truck without spending an arm and a leg? You might be in the market for a truck tailgate bike pad. Before spending hundreds of dollars on an expensive truck bed bike rack, consider if a tailgate bike pad will work for you.
What Is a Tailgate Pad?
A tailgate bike pad is a specialized accessory that helps transport bikes. The pads are made of nylon or polyester with well-cushioned interiors. They are usually mounted with a strap system that wraps around the tailgate. A tailgate bike pad can stabilize bikes on dirt roads and in tough environmental or geographic conditions when positioned correctly.
These handy devices are large rectangular pads that fold over, cover, and attach to your truck’s tailgate. They can be used for a variety of situations when trying to avoid abrasion and friction between your bike and your truck bed. A tailgate bike pad serves the same purpose as a dedicated bike rack without the high prices. If you’re looking to transport some bikes using your truck bed instead of an added bike rack, this article is for you!
The Demon Tailgate Pad Is the Top Choice
Boasting a great price point, excellent construction, and easy, secure installation, the Demon United tailgate bike pad is our pick for the best overall tailgate pad.
The pad is made with ¾-inch foam and has a heavy-duty vinyl cover on the outside. The inside is soft, so the tailgate itself doesn’t take any paint chip damage. You can also close the tailgate normally while the pad is attached.
The padded construction is well-made and durable, meaning you can be a little rougher with your setup and not have to worry about breaking or tearing holes in the pad. This all equates to peace of mind. The pad won’t survive a hurricane, but it can easily handle downpours, storms, and light rain.
The small pad size fits most truck beds; all larger trucks can use the large pad size. Thread the straps through your tailgate (when it’s down). Close the tailgate and cinch it all down tight. Just like that, you’re ready to go. With the ability to carry 5-7 bikes, the Demon Tailgate Pad can easily support an entire family’s worth of bikes.
The size of the pad and its position may block a bit of your backup camera. This won’t be a huge concern on lightly trafficked roads, but this may be an issue in an urban environment or with poor visibility. For newer trucks (2020-current), the pad may slip over the truck bed handle. This may be an issue if you have a backup camera under the tailgate handle.
Budget Friendly, Yet Durable
Short on cash? Don’t panic; plenty of cheaper and surprisingly reliable options are available. The Himal Outdoor Tailgate Pad quickly emerged as our pick for the best budget tailgate bike pad and can be yours for under $75.
The padding is nice and thick, with a tougher outside edge that can handle abrasion from bike wheels and a softer inside to help prevent damage to your truck. The material is weather and waterproof, which is a great bonus.
This tailgate pad also has two tool pockets, so you can carry around screwdrivers and extra hardware for your bikes wherever you take them. Like other tailgate pads, the installation is quick and easy and is a full $20 less than the next cheapest variety, the price alone is a reason to consider the Himal Outdoor Tailgate Pad.
The tailgate pad doesn’t reach down far enough for larger trucks to cover the whole tailgate. This is more of a cosmetic con since the pad still covers up where the wheels of your bike would impact the tailgate.
Fox Tailgate Cover Is Great for Mountain Bikes
Mountain Bikes are burlier than street bikes and need a little extra space to strap into any tailgate pad. For its thoughtful design and capacity, the Fox Tailgate Cover is our pick for the best mountain bike suitable tailgate bike pad.
The pad is thick enough to ward off typical abrasion and soft enough on the underside to protect your tailgate. However, the padding may not be thick enough to cover all abrasion points with a series of heavy bikes loaded. Like the Himal tailgate pad, the LEEPTIC has two usable tool pockets. This is a great way to cart around hardware you may need for bike or truck maintenance.
Just note that the pad may not sit well if your truck has a thicker or heavier tailgate.
Each bike slot has a channel for the tube and two pads on either side to help lock it in and prevent movement. The pad is weather and waterproof, which gives you added peace of mind for longer transport.
For Mid to Full-Sized Truck Bed, Get the Yakima Gatekeeper
Trucks come in all shapes and sizes, so some tailgate pads fit better than others. The Yakima Gatekeeper is our pick for the best bike tailgate pad if you have a mid to full-sized truck bed.
The rugged nylon material on the outside is abrasion resistant and appropriately tough. The padding on the inside is nice and soft to protect the paint on your tailgate. The materials are tough and durable. Plus, there are cradles and neoprene straps for your bike. Between the pad thickness, bike cradles, and straps, you start to understand why the pad costs more. The materials are better.
Like other tailgate pads, thread the straps underneath the tailgate and attach them to the clips on the other side. Cinch it all down tight to keep the pad secure and watch your fingers when threading the straps under the tailgate.
The large flap allows plenty of space to unearth a rearview camera, and your tailgate handles and show off your truck’s logo. Despite the size being positive, the flap is also a potential negative. When the flap is open, you want to position your bike with the wheel pointing out, or the bike tire can rub off paint through the flap opening. If you’re transporting more than one bike, probably best to close the flap, but you can’t use your rearview camera.
Yakima quality comes with Yakima prices. It’s durable and well-made, but it’ll cost you nearly twice what a Demon Tailgate Pad will.
Sklon Offers a Great Best Anti-theft System
If you live in a heavily urbanized area with the potential for theft, check out the Sklon tailgate bike pad. With a patented anti-theft locking system, which includes an integrated lock and cut-resistant steel cable, the Sklon Tailgate Bike Pad is our best anti-theft tailgate bike pad.
The pad is well-made with a rugged exterior and soft interior to set gently against the tailgate. The flap design makes it easy to open and reach the truck tailgate handle. The pad is well-made with a rugged exterior and soft interior to set gently against the tailgate.
The anti-theft locking system protects your bikes and tailgate pad with the anti-theft system. It’s a great inclusion and elevates the entire setup.
Installation is pretty easy and straightforward. Using the same strap-under-the-tailgate method as others, you can have this bike pad installed and ready to go within 10 minutes. The pad works well for most bikes except e-bikes which don’t sit as nicely on the pad.
Sporting an attractive price and the cradle design of the Yakima Gatekeeper, the MICTUNNING Rear Tailgate Pad is runner-up to our best budget bike tailgate pad. The materials and design help bikes sit firmly in place while limiting abrasion and contact with your tailgate.
Like the Yakima Gatekeeper, the MICTUNNING has great cradles for bikes. This is a much more secure fit for bikes. This bike pad also features a large flap, which you can open to get to the tailgate handle and expose a rearview camera.
Like others, the pad is secured via straps that wrap around the tailgate. Installation is easy and should only take 10 minutes maximum. There’s no Velcro strap to hold the flap open, so you must tuck it underneath the pad.
If you have a thick-tubed mountain bike, in some cases, the cradle straps may not reach all the way around the bike.
This solid buy comes at a good price, has two side pads for your bike to sit between, and fits most truck models with average and thinner tailgates. The LEEPTIC Tailgate Bike Pad is our runner-up for best mountain bike tailgate pad.
The pad is thick enough to ward off typical abrasion and soft enough on the underside to protect your tailgate. Like the Himal tailgate pad, the LEEPTIC has two usable tool pockets. This is a great way to cart around hardware you may need for bike or truck maintenance. The pad is weather and waterproof, which gives you added peace of mind for longer transport.
Each bike slot has a channel for the tube and two pads on either side to help lock it in and prevent movement. The padding may not be thick enough to cover all abrasion points with a series of heavy bikes loaded. The pad may not sit well if your truck has a thicker or heavier tailgate.
With a ton of nice tailgate bike pad options, it helps keep a few key points in mind. Consider what’s listed below before purchasing your first (or next) tailgate bike pad.
Bike Carrying Capacity
Ideally, you want a tailgate bike pad that can carry multiple bikes in a way that won’t hurt the bikes or your tailgate. Bike pads with higher capacity can support families or friend groups with wildly-different sized bikes.
Each option selected for this list can carry at least 5 bikes. Some options include a larger pad size that can accommodate up to 7 bikes. When shopping around, looking at capacity will help you determine quickly which pad will work for you.
Tailgate Pad Flap
This is a sneaky aspect that many people forget to check until they’ve already bought a tailgate bike pad that doesn’t quite fit. Each tailgate pad comes with at least a small flap that opens up. This is purposely designed to grant easy access to your tailgate handle and let your backup camera work as advertised.
Check the measurements of the flaps, or read user reviews, to see how big they get. A smaller flap has a greater chance of blocking the tailgate handle or backup camera. Once you’ve checked the size, ensure they match your truck bed. Buyers’ fatigue may arise if you constantly have to reposition the flap.
The flaps are also potentially problematic if there’s no way to hold them open. You may have to tuck the flap under the rest of the pad and cinch it all down to keep it open. If you do keep the flap open, make sure your bikes are positioned the right way. With the flap open, bike wheels could come into contact with the tailgate paint underneath. Either position the wheel away from the flap or, if you have multiple bikes, close the flap to prevent abrasion damage. Tires on the tailgate will almost certainly result in scratches and chipped paint.
Most popular tailgate bike pads do not come with added security features. Therefore, it is up to you to lock down your bikes and pad them to the truck. In most cases, this isn’t a huge deal breaker, but it is something to be aware of. Some pads also come with security features, like the Sklon Tailgate pad.
The trade-off here is almost always pricing. The Sklon is more expensive than a budget item. Still, the included security features give you peace of mind without buying or attaching additional security pieces to your setup. Ultimately, the price/safety trade-off is up to the customer.
In lieu of included security features, ensure you have extra bike locks and some way of fastening the pad to the tailgate. Another suggestion, although it takes a bit longer, is to store the pad in your truck cab once all bikes are unloaded.
If you want the best tailgate bike pad, padding is a critical element to consider. The padding is what separates your bike from the tailgate. If both of these elements come into contact on rough roads, the paint will be chipped, and your bikes could also end up with some damage.
You want to quickly and decisively determine if the padding is thick enough to prevent rubbing and damage to the tailgate. Anything less than ½ inch may not do the job. Most tailgate bike pads reviewed here have at least ¾ inch of padding.
Another important consideration is the overall durability of the pad. Is the pad waterproof? UV proof? Or at least resistant? Transporting bikes to a trailhead may have you going through a few weather issues. Using a truck tailgate bike pad with no weather-resistant features will mean quicker degradation of the pad materials over time.
The durability component is usually where the more expensive models win out because they use stronger materials. Each option listed here has endured years of abuse, so none of them are of poor quality, but a reinforced padding system with burly straps and hooks will serve you better over time.
The design of the tailgate bike pad can be important as well. Measure your truck tailgate, and pick the size that best fits. Most tailgate pads come in multiple sizes. Another concern is the included flap. Make sure it is either big enough or centered enough to open and allow you to grab the tailgate handle. A pad that opens well and covers up your rearview camera is a notable trade-off.
Fancier setups will have grooves, extra pads, or cradles for your bike to attach to. These features offer a better fit with minimal movement. Check the strap quality as well; cheap straps and buckles will break faster. Lastly, ensure you’re ok with the aesthetic look of the pad. Does the pad look good? After spending money on a product that will be visible to others, you should be happy with how it looks on your truck tailgate.
Spending a lot of money on something that doesn’t work is a recipe for frustration. Cheaper products are nice, but the material may not be as tough as a more expensive model. In either scenario, you’re making sacrifices. The big question is, does the added price offer enough peace of mind to pass up a budget model? With the Yakima Gatekeeper and Sklon, many reasons exist to argue yes.
However, for most bike-transporting folks, you may not need all the extra features of premium tailgate bike pads. You don’t need a fully integrated security system if you already have bike locks and extension cables. Similarly, if you need a bare-bones pad, you might not need extra padding or more expensive material to do the job. The Demon Tailgate gets you Yakima quality at a much lower price.
Last but not least, figure out how easy it is to get the tailgate bike pad securely fastened to your truck. In most cases, you can tie down a pad and have it fit inside for ten minutes. There are, however, exceptions and things to keep in mind.
If you have a smaller truck, you won’t need a bigger pad that can obscure taillights or droop lower than the tailgate. If you have a larger truck, you don’t want a smaller item that won’t cover the whole tailgate or may block handles and backup cameras.
Start by fitting the pad around an open tailgate when installing the strap component. Thread the straps through or lift the gate slightly to open the window between the tailgate and the truck bed. Then, slip the straps through and close the gate. From there, you should be able to climb into the bed and fasten all the straps down to their appropriate hooks. As always, watch your fingers when your threading the straps. The gate under a tailgate is a bad place to get a finger stuck.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Tailgate Bike Pads Safe to Use for Your Bike?
Yes. The whole purpose of a tailgate bike pad is to minimize and, in many cases, completely eliminate the bikes from rubbing against your tailgate. The best tailgate bike pads are safe and considerably cheaper than competing bike racks. With a high-value tailgate bike pad, you should be able to safely and gently transport your bikes to whatever trail catches your eye.
Can I Use a Tailgate Cover With a Tonneau Cover?
It’s not advised that you do this. Few people have been 100% successful, with most complaints coming from trying to close the tonneau. If you’re determined, you’ll have to adjust and force the pieces to fit together. In most cases, this is not worth it, and you risk causing damage to the bike pad and/or the tonneau. The easiest method is to remove the pad before putting the tonneau on.
Can You Use Tailgate Bike Pads Without a Tailgate?
No. The purpose of the pads is to fit around a truck tailgate. If you don’t have a truck or vehicle with a tailgate, it’s best to invest in a bike rack or some supplementary device to make your vehicle bike transport capable.