Editor’s Note – This list was updated on January 9, 2023, to remove unavailable products and improve content relevance, readability, and usefulness.
For cycling enthusiasts who own pickup trucks, transporting your bikes shouldn’t be stressful and difficult. Truck bed bike racks are a practical and functional transportation solution that will save you time and effort.
A truck bed bike rack ensures protection, safety, and stability when transporting your bikes and is often instrumental in simplifying the loading and unloading process.
Alternatively, if you wish to consider other bike rack options that would also work well with your truck, hitch-mount bike racks are a significant consideration, especially if you have a tonneau cover over your truck bed,
Thule 501 Insta-Gater Pro
The Thule 501 Insta-Gator Pro is a great all-rounder bike rack for your truck bed. It’s fully adjustable to fit various bikes of up to 50 pounds.
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1. Thule 201 Insta-Gater Pro
Aluminum and plastic
40.6″ x 18″ x 6.7″
Bike Rack Type:
I have always been a huge Thule fan, not only for their stellar reputation and high-quality products but also for their elegantly designed products. Thule has the right amount of functionality mixed with just the right amount of aesthetics and design. The Insta-Gater Pro is another great example of this.
I am always excited to see what Thule has come up with and has to offer. First off, this is a beautiful bike rack. It looks and feels solid, and its aluminum frame screams rugged durability. I would’ve liked it if the frame could fold completely flat for storage, but unfortunately, that is not the case. However, the rack is relatively small and compact, so it’s not awkward and bulky.
Loading a bike into this rack is no different than loading a bike onto any other bike rack that uses wheel cradles and ratcheting arms. As I would expect from most bike racks, there is no frame contact, and the ratcheting arm’s hook provides a snug fit around the bike’s wheel, provided that the wheel falls within 20″ to 29″. The wheel cradle can accommodate tire widths of up to 5 inches, so I’d say that you’ll be able to load your e-bikes and fat bikes with no issues.
If I could critique one design flaw, it would be that I would’ve wanted the wheel cradle and ratcheting arm’s hook to be rubberized rather than plastic. On a more positive note, Thule products are also well-known for their integrated security features, and the Insta-Gater is equipped with their One-Key system lock included with the Insta-Gater Pro. This is a nice feature to have. However, it isn’t entirely theft-proof, and I would not suggest you rely solely on this to keep your bike or bike rack safe. I would recommend investing in other anti-theft systems for complete security.
The Insta-Gater Pro is my go-to recommendation for single-bike truck bed racks. It has been a favorite for many years purely because it’s a top-quality product; it’s efficient, user-friendly, and durable. The Insta-Gater Pro is a premium truck bed bike rack that will offer superior functionality and use. You cannot find a happier medium other than the Insta-Gater Pro.
Does it have space for improvement? Yes. However, overall, it ticks all the necessities for bike racks, especially in terms of space, durability, quality, and functionality. It might have a bit of a heavier price tag, but this product offers premium quality—the best overall choice, in my opinion.
2. Swagman PICKUP Fork-Mount Bike Rack
6″ x 3.5″ x 54″
Bike Rack Type: Fork-mount
It has a telescoping bar that enables it to extend and adjust to fit most truck bed sizes and also makes installation quite simple and efficient. I would certainly not want to drill into my truck for any reason, and luckily, this isn’t a reality when trying to install this bike rack. It has rubberized grips at the end of each side to grip the truck bed rails quite well. The rubber grips feel solid and sturdy, and after doing a scratch test, the grips weren’t hard enough that it could cause damage to the truck’s paint.
I’m not much for fork-mounted bike racks, only because I don’t want the hassle of having to remove and re-attach the bike’s front wheel. However, a truck bed’s limited space makes fork-mounted options seem more practical. As mentioned, the Swagman is a fork-mounted bike rack, and upon going through the exercises of mounting the bikes to the rack, I was surprised at the relative ease of the process.
The fork mounting blocks offer a genuinely secure and anchored fit, and the bikes had minimal sway and movement on the road, even on dirt roads. However, I did notice that after driving around for a couple of days with the bikes loaded, some bolts around the fork mount started rattling and slightly came loose, so be aware of that possibility. The mounting blocks are fitted with convenient quick-release skewers, a standard expectation in my opinion, and help to make the loading and unloading time more efficient.
Also, another slight touch of versatility by Swagman is that the fork blocks are adjustable in that they can be repositioned anywhere along the main bar of the bike rack. This makes it possible to use the truck bed space more effectively if you’re loading different-sized bikes. And on that space-saving note, I tried to attach this bike rack to a truck bed with a tonneau cover on, and with some minor configuration, I got it properly fitted, and the bikes were loaded with no problems. I suggest doing extra research if you have a tonneau cover, as I’m not sure this will work with all covers.
Swagman is a brand with a reputation for making solid recreational gear. Apart from my dislike of fork-mounted bike racks, this stainless steel truck bed rack is a good piece of equipment; durable in its construction, practical in its design, and functional in doing what it needs to do and at an acceptable price of around $100, I’d recommend considering this one if you’re looking for value.
3. INNO Velo Gripper RT202
12.5″ x 10.3″ x 2.7″
I’m not too fond of things getting too cluttered, so compactness is a major component when I consider storage options. The INNO RT202 does a great job of maintaining organization when loading your bikes onto your truck bed while at the same time being so small and discreet that it is hardly noticeable.
I found it a versatile bike rack because it is fully adjustable to fit any bike frame. The tiny clamps easily clip onto the sides of the truck bed rails and stay put remarkably well. Rest assured, no drilling or bolting was necessary.
There was a slight wobble when driving with bikes loaded, but nothing I’d get too upset about. I used a bungee cord for extra stability, which worked perfectly. However, I do have one critique: I would prefer the plastic grip for the seat tube to be rubberized instead. The hard plastic can be pretty abrasive and might damage the bike’s paint over time and regular use.
The Inno RT 202 has no added security or anti-theft features, but it would work fine with any standard bike cable lock. I tried installing this rack onto a truck with a standard tonneau cover. It fits well enough, but I wouldn’t recommend this, as you must remove the plastic cap on top of the RT202. Otherwise, it might poke through the cover.
Another thing to note is that the RT202 isn’t compatible with all trucks with C-channel tracks. A good alternative for standard truck beds would be the Inno RT201, but I suggest ensuring compatibility with your specific truck before purchasing. For instance, the RT202 wasn’t a good fit for a Nissan Frontier due to incompatibility with its C channel tracks, but it had no problem with a 2021 Jeep Gladiator’s Mopar C-channels.
Inno has come a long way since its rack division was launched in 1976 and has since seen a growing demand for its products. I like the minimalist design of the RT202 and RT201, and apart from the fact that truck beds can only accommodate two of these bike racks at a time, it does not diminish the fact that these compact little bike racks are perfect for those who prioritize ample truck bed space.
4. Demon Tailgate Pad
54″ (Small) and 62″ (Large)
Bike Rack Type:
The Demon tailgate bike pad comes in two sizes to accommodate mid-size pickup trucks (54″) and full-size pickup trucks (62″). I feel this is a standard expected to have, and Demon delivers sufficiently. The padding on the inside of the tailgate pad is quite luxurious and plush, providing a quality buffer between the truck’s paint and the weight of the bikes. The outer layer is made from a hardy canvas-type fabric intended to be UV and waterproof. I agree that the material feels very high-quality, durable, and heavy-duty, so this is an excellent option if you want to use this bike pad during hard summer or winter weather.
The smaller 54-inch bike pad is designed to carry five bikes, while the larger 60-inch pad is designed to fit up to 7 bikes. In my experience, trying to fit seven bikes of different shapes and sizes seemed quite a challenge. I squeezed in 3 standard bikes, 2 MBTs, and one fat bike. So perhaps for a family with smaller bikes for kids or with precise maneuvering, you could get up to 7 bikes in.
I liked the quick simplicity of securing the bike pad to the tailgate. The three tailgate straps and the web cinch strap do an excellent job keeping the pad secure while I drove around, even when the bike wasn’t loaded onto it.
Regarding securing the bikes to the pad, I was disappointed with the frame holder straps made from velcro, not a more substantial rubberized strap. I am not fond of velcro as it wears down over time and becomes useless unless you replace it. However, that being said, when in good condition, the velcro straps do a satisfying job of securing the bikes and keeping them n place during traveling, with just a very slight bit of movement. No frame contact, though.
A handy little design feature is the two tool pockets to store all your essential bike tools and gear. I like this practical addition.
The Demon tailgate bike pad is a perfect choice for those who don’t cycle regularly or can’t have a bike rack take up their truck bed space on a semi-permanent basis. This quick and easy solution requires almost no effort to put on or take off. Compared to its closest competitors, such as the premium Yakima GateKeeper or the more budget-friendly LEETPIC tailgate pad, the Demon holds its ground remarkably well. It offers high-quality materials for all-weather exposure, functional practicality in its design, and a very agreeable price of just under $100. The Demon tailgate bike pad is the perfect happy medium.
5. Thule Bed Rider 822XTR
50.3″ x 4″ x 4″
Bike Rack Type:
The aluminum-made Bed-Rider is another good-looking product produced by Thule of premium quality. I’ve seen a few of these mounted onto truck beds, so they are popular among many cyclists.
As a standalone bike rack, the Bed-Rider can only carry two bikes, so for those with families, this might not be a great option to consider unless you want to add the Bed-Rider add-on block sold separately.
Like the Swagman Pickup bike rack I mentioned earlier, the Bed-Rider also has a telescoping, adjustable bar, so it’s compatible with most bed liners except over-the-rail bed liners. These are incompatible with the SoftGrip rubber feet on either side of the bike rack skewer bar. I like that a rubber coating is used rather than a standard hard plastic. This provides a much more solid grip when the rack is loaded and better protection against possible damage or scratches on the truck’s paint. This is the type of high-quality detail and standard I expect from Thule’s products.
When I installed the rack onto the truck bed, it immediately locked into place. Loading the bikes onto it was painless, with the quick-release skewer lock holding the bike frames firmly in place. I could see no wobble when driving around with the bikes loaded on, so it does a stellar job in the stability department. Thule often features locking or anti-theft systems with their products, and the Bed-Rider offers 3 One-Key lock cylinders that securely lock the bikes to the rack and the rack to the truck bed.
As far as critiques go, I have not experienced this myself, but I have heard from fellow cyclists and bike enthusiasts that the Bed-Rider doesn’t fit all bikes, particularly those with disc brakes or thru-axles. In this case, I would suggest finding appropriate adapters to fix this issue or considering other bike racks that aren’t fork-mounted.
I highly recommend the Thule Bed Rider for a solid, high-quality fork-mounted bike rack. At around $200, it does have a more premium price range, albeit a bit overpriced in some people’s opinion. Still, in terms of build quality, bike loading efficiency, and overall functionality, it is well worth it in the long run. Small touches like the soft and protective rubberized grips at the end of the bar, the One-Key lock cylinders, and the ability to add additional mounting blocks set the Bed-Rider apart from other fork-mounted bike racks, such as the Swagman Pickup bike rack.
What Are the Different Types of Truck Bed Bike Racks?
There are generally four types of truck bed bike racks, each with strengths and weaknesses.
1. Tailgate Pad
These are large, high-quality pads draped over a truck’s tailgate and can generally carry up to 7 bikes, as the Demon tailgate bike pad mentioned earlier. Bicycles are mounted by placing the fork and front tire over the tailgate while the rest of the bike remains in the truck bed. Thick foam padding prevents bikes from scratching the paint on your truck, while attached velcro straps hold the bikes in place.
There are usually two sizes available to accommodate different truck bed sizes. Tailgate pad bike racks are great value for money but are considered the least stable way of transporting bikes in a truck bed compared to other rack designs.
2. Side Clamp Truck Bed Bike Racks
Side clamp bike racks are attached to the sidewalls of your truck bed. A previously mentioned example of this type of bike rack is the Inno RT202. They use ratchet holders tightened to the bike’s downtube to keep it upright and secured.
These bike racks are popular due to their inconspicuous design, compatibility, and ease of installation and removal. However, they limit the number of bikes you can transport, as there will only be space for two bikes when using this bike rack.
3. Fork-Mounted Truck Bed Bike Racks
With these bike racks, the front tire of your bike must be removed before mounting and securing the bike. Two previously-mentioned examples of these truck bed bike racks include the Swagman Pickup and Thule Bed Rider bike racks.
A steel bar is fitted to the width of the truck’s bed, with multiple fork attachment points for attaching the bike’s front fork. The number of bikes this bike rack can transport depends on the model.
These bike racks are generally very stable, and there is little movement between the bikes. They are an excellent option for longer journeys and trucks with a smaller bed due to removing the front tires.
4. Wheel-Mounted Truck Bed Bike Racks
Wheel-mounted bike racks, similar to fork-mounted bike racks, secure bikes by fixing the tires to the truck bed but without removing any tires, such as with the Thule Insta-Gater Pro. Wheel-mounted bike racks are some of the easiest to install and use. The front tire is placed in the mount, and the bike is securely clamped. There are risks that the bikes may shift on the road due to only being secured by the front wheel.
This bike rack does take up a lot of truck bed space, so they’re not the best choice for shorter truck beds.
Why Should You Get a Truck Bed Bike Rack?
Using a truck bed bike rack offers several benefits for cyclists who own a truck.
First, it is a great way to transport your bike safely and securely. The rack is designed, so your bike won’t bounce around and be damaged while traveling.
It also keeps your bike out of the elements and away from dirt and debris, which can lead to rust and other damage.
It is also easy to install and remove, allowing you to quickly and conveniently transport your bike when needed.
And lastly, a truck bed bike rack is an inexpensive and easy way to transport your bike using a truck. It keeps the bikes stable and secure. You can fully utilize your truck bed without spending more on extra fittings, carriers, or bike racks.
A Buyer’s Guide to Truck Bed Bike Racks
Personal preference will always play its part when it comes to consumer behavior. However, some general elements are helpful to consider to narrow down your buying decision.
What Type of Bike Mount do You Want?
There are four different types of truck bed bike racks mentioned previously.
- Wheel-mounted bike rack
- Fork-mounted bike rack
- Side clamp bike rack
- Tailgate pad
When purchasing a bike rack for your truck, you must consider what mount you want and what would fit your truck bed best. Each bike rack has its advantages and disadvantages.
Consider the Size of Your Truck Bed
The size of your truck bed is essential as it will determine the type of truck bed bike rack you can fit. Shorter truck beds usually do not have enough space to carry a bike unless the front wheel has been removed.
Larger truck beds must be sized up with the width a specific bike rack can extend.
The Number of Bikes You Want to Carry
Choosing a bike rack also depends on the number of bikes you want to transport. Some bike racks allow you to add pieces to carry more bikes.
The Type of Bicycles You Have
There are two ways your bike can influence your choice of bike rack. Firstly, your bike’s frame must fit the rack style for secure mounting comfortably. Secondly, if you want a wheel-mounted bike rack, your bike’s tire size should fit the cradle space.
Straightforward installation is something to consider when choosing any bike rack. Some truck bed bike racks require you to drill into or bolt certain pieces to your truck; therefore, it is important to consider this.
Quality Build and Materials
Bike racks are usually exposed to the elements, so when choosing one, it is essential to consider its quality. If it will be used frequently and mounted to the truck bed for extended periods, investing in something robust and durable is wise. A bike rack that is hardy and won’t give in after a bit of hard work.
Is It User-Friendly?
Bike racks shouldn’t be over complicated with assembly and installation. When looking at the rack, remember the effort it might take to get the rack fitted and mount your bike to the rack itself. Will it be something you can do independently, or would you need extra help?
Additional Security Options
Having security features with your bike rack is always good, especially if you will likely leave your truck unattended anytime. Bike racks that can lock should be the first choice, and they should firmly secure the rack to the truck and the bike to the rack.
Not all bike racks have this feature, but some brands offer to lock mechanisms that you can purchase separately.
Price and Affordability
This consideration is straightforward and requires no explanation. However, it is nonetheless an essential factor in choosing a bike rack. Different bike racks are set at different prices; the same goes for brands.
There is no sense in spending a lot of money on something you will not use frequently. If you are a frequent cycler, investing in a reputable brand with high-quality products, which will be a bit pricier, is a good choice in the long term.
Frequency of Use
Investing in durable, high-quality products is necessary if you regularly use the bike rack. If you leave the bike rack on your truck bed for extended periods, it should also be hardy enough to withstand harsh weather conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a Bike Rack Be Used Over a Tonneau Cover?
Yes, it can be done through a design similar to a roof rack, using crossbars attached over the width of the truck bed. You can clamp your bike rack and bike to these bars, and you should be ready to go.
Which Is Better – A Truck Bed or Hitch Bike Rack?
The truck bed bike rack will be better if you own a truck. It is much easier to assemble and load, takes up much less space, and is usually less expensive than hitch bike racks.
If I Have a Short-Bed Truck, Will the Bike Rack Fit?
Generally, the racks fit perfectly; however, the bike length you want to load is the deciding factor. If you have a short truck bed, consider getting a bike rack that requires removing one of the wheels. Alternatively, you can let down your tailgate to fit the bike better.
How Can I Measure the Correct Rack Size for My Truck?
Measure the truck bed’s width and the height of the truck bed’s walls. This will give you a good indication of what bike rack would fit securely.
Timo is an outdoor enthusiast and gear specialist who is constantly exploring. As an avid hiker, he has completed the ADK 46ers, South Beyond 6000, GA4000, and the Colorado 14ers. He's ice climbed Mt. Hood, hiked up half a dozen mountains in the Alps, and spent three consecutive summers constructing a sustainable trail through the Colorado high country.