How do you use a hitch bike rack?

You are probably familiar with roof bike racks, but for large vehicles like SUVs, crossovers, vans, or trucks, installing a track there is not always possible.

One of the alternative solutions is hitch bike racks, which provides easier access due to the shorter distance to the ground. It means a reliable approach for attaching gear without taking up interior space of your car. As long as your car has a hitch receiver, you can use a hitch bike rack.

But do you know the preparation and steps needed to install it?

The information below will cover the benefits of hitch bike racks, when you could install one, and how to do it.

Benefits of hitch-mounted bike racks

The Retrospec Harper Bike

Hitch bike racks are an amazing product!

They can secure your bike behind the trunk safely, saving your car space to give you and your family or friends more comfort. A hitch rack won’t rub and scratch on the car frame and damage its paint.

They are usually heavier compared to other bike racks, which can cause some difficulties during the installation, but once entirely attached, they are incredibly stable.

Standardized size

Remember to choose and purchase a model that is compatible with your car’s hitch receiver size. In the U.S., they usually come with two sizes: 2-inch for mid-to-large SUVs and typical trucks, and 1 and 1/4-inch for small SUVs and standard cars.

Capacity

A hitch-mounted rack has the biggest carrying capacity compared to other solutions, giving you more than enough space to attach bigger bikes, multiple bikes, or even a bike trailer in some cases.

Compatibility

The Pure Fix Original

This is probably the most notable selling point of them. Designed with standardized hitch receiver size in mind, they will clear your worries about whether they will fit your car.

You won’t have to think about your bike having an unusual shape or too big or small size. With a rack attached to the rear of the car, these are not the troubles anymore, making it the universal mounting method out there.

How to install a hitch bike rack

Compared to other bike racks mounting solutions such as roof or trunk methods, the installation of a hitch-mounted one is a pretty much easier process. If you are in luck, some models even require almost no tools. You can use your hand to position it, clamp it to the hitch while keeping the correct connection.

Determine hitch class, tow capacity, and rack type

Buy and install a hitch if your car doesn’t already have one (which we talk about later). With a hitch receiver, your car now will likely to accept any compatible hitch-mounted gear.

We have many hitch classes, which range from I to V. Typical racks are compatible with hitch receivers in Class II, III, and IV.

Before buying any hitch-mounted gear, you should pay attention to the towing capacity of your car.

Different car models will have different tow capacity, which determines if it can support the type of your mount and your bike.

Some mount can fold away or swing from the car itself to enable you to open the rear door. So make sure you know whether you need to access the rear door and the number of bikes you want to carry.

Installation

The Golden Cycles Single Speed Fixed Gear

Put the rack arm to the hitch mount of your car, then position the receiver’s holes to make sure they are aligned correctly with those of the hitch mount.

Ensure that below the bolt heads are the lock and flat washers, in that order, when you take out the bolt.

Screw it tightly, then put the mount in the hitch receiver and tighten them together by using a wrench.

In the final step, lock the pin in place after inserting it to the bolt.

Testing

It is NOT COMPLETE YET.

Before taking the bike in your long trip with the rack you just installed, you need to verify if it works as intended first.

Use the bikes you want to bring in a real journey, attach it tightly in the rack, then head off for a short testing drive.

Ideally, this testing trip should involve multiple turns or bumps at high speeds. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a thorough assessment if you the hitch rack could support your beloved bikes.

Other issues and recommendations

Accessing the trunk

The SXL Expressway Bike

Many customers want to access the trunk without removing the rack and the attached bikes. Many products can solve this strongly desirable feature by using a tilting solution.

With most car models, you can open the trunk without the need of tilting the rack too much. But at the end of the day, the result also depends on the design of your car.

Ground clearance

This is an issue that many car owners usually forget, which can cause a lot of troubles.

With a car with short clearance, you will likely to encounter situations in which the rack may contact the road while going over deep potholes or large inclines. This will introduce a lot of load and stress to the rack and bikes, even damaging them.

You will need a model that raises the mast height if you see this issue in the testing drive.

For example, hitch bike racks from Thule include this function, making more compatible with more vehicles and ensure the safety of the bikes and the racks. You will also have a more stress-free and comfortable drive.

Threaded Bolts

You are strongly recommended to buy a hitch rack that comes with threaded bolts. This will help you connect the rack to the receiver easier compared to the models with unthreaded pins.

Hitch racks with big bolts, which you can stick them through the hitch and rack’s holes, bring much stability when you are driving.

What if my car has no hitch?

The 6KU Aluminum Fixed Gear

Well, there is a workaround.

In this case, you can do the research and find a hitch on the aftermarket at your local shops. They are widely available and easy to buy from a dealer, for example, depending on your car model.

Even if you don’t use the hitch as a mounting point for the bike rack, you can use it in many other situations. So if you don’t have one, install a hitch is highly recommended.

Many offers from reputable brands, like Yakima and Thule, come with a receiver lock, which can make sure the mounted gear is correctly secured. But you can also buy a hitch lock by yourself, which causes more hassle but will fit your tight budget.

Conclusion

Hitch-mounted bike racks are one of the easiest methods to install if you want to bring your bike around with your car.

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