The 10 Best 3 Bike Car Racks
October 15, 2018: We moved the Saris Bones 801 up to the number two spot on our list because we felt its reasonable price point coupled with ease of installation and overall durability made it a standout option for most users. We also decided to include the BuzzRack Entourage because of its ability to safely transport bikes with the increasingly popular fat tires. The SportRack Anti-Sway was removed from the our rankings as we didn't feel it offered anything that the Allen Sports 103DN Deluxe doesn't, which comes for a lower price.
Put The Rack In The Back
When I was a kid and my family would take short road trips to the New Jersey Shore, we often brought along our bicycles. That terrain was ideal for riding. It was flat and wide open, with clear views of the traffic coming at you from every direction, and a cool ocean breeze to fight back the heat of the Sun. Riding around with my father and sister on those streets is among my earliest and fondest memories, but they wouldn't have been possible if we didn't have a rack to bring our bikes down there with us.
The bike rack that my father chose to transport our cycles to the beach attached to the back of the car. He preferred this kind of rack for the same reason that we recommended it here, most notably that it removes the need for you to concern yourself with overhead clearance. While it is relatively easy to attach bicycles to the roof of many cars and SUVs, especially those with side rails already installed, doing so increases the height of your vehicle to a point that may not be safe on some roads that feature low-hanging bridges. Things get even more complicated if you need to pass through short toll booths, parking structures, or other passageways that have a hard ceiling. The last thing you want to see when you're driving down the highway is one of your bicycles flying off behind you and causing an accident.
With a rack attached to the back of your car, however, there is little to nothing that you have to change about the way you drive. Depending on the rack and the bikes you attach to it, you may find a little added wind resistance that you have to account for, and it's generally a good idea to observe speed limits when toting bicycles, but beyond these considerations your driving experience should be relatively unchanged.
The other advantage to having your bike rack attached to the back of your vehicle is that you can keep an eye on it. With a simple glance in the rearview mirror, you can ascertain whether any parts of the bicycles have come loose due to a poorly tied not, or whether the worst has happened and one or more of the bicycles has simply gone missing from the rack. In the event that you do find a bicycle to be poorly secured as you check them in your rearview mirror, you can simply pull over and secure it.
What Kind Of Bike Rack Is Right For You?
The bike racks on our list primarily fall into one of two categories. They either attach to your car by leveraging their weight against the rear bumper, often with a strap system designed to integrate with the trunk, or they're designed to attach to the trailer hitch at the back of your vehicle. Obviously, if you don't have a trailer hitch, that style of rack isn't going to be of much use, but if you do, you still have the opportunity to choose from among the various styles the market offers.
The primary advantage of a bike rack that rests against the back of your vehicle instead of using the hitch, is that it can be installed on almost any kind of car. This is useful for those who don't have hitch connections, but it is also useful for those who want to use that trailer hitch for something else. If you have an SUV with a hitch, you can install a bike rack against the back door of your trunk while using your hitch to attach a small trailer for pulling jet skis or a small U-Haul. This style of bike rack also usually comes with some way to ensure that the bikes are firmly attached to it, whether by clamps, rubber straps, or some other means.
On the downside, trunk-style bike racks often leave the front wheel of a bicycle free to turn with the momentum of the vehicle, which can decrease how securely a bike is attached. Many of these models also position the bicycles in a spot that can inhibit your vision out your rear window, and anything that reduces the amount of roadway information you can gather as you drive is a danger.
Hitch bike racks, on the other hand, are easy to install, easy to use, and relatively safe. They don't block your vision, as they position the bikes slightly below your rear window, and their frames safely secure both tires of any bike you place on them. Hitch racks do tend to stick out a little farther than their trunk counterparts however, which can make maneuvering in certain parking lots and other spaces a little more difficult. They also tend to have fewer means by which to fasten your bicycles in place, often necessitating the use of bungee cords or ratchet straps to make sure that your bikes don't go flying if you hit too large bump at too high a speed.
Beyond those considerations, it would be wise to closely scrutinize any strapping mechanism designed to keep your bikes in place, as well as the material out of which a given rack is made. Its overall weight, while not a safety issue, may come into play with regards to gas mileage and ease of installation.
Staying Safe while You Ride
Once you get to your destination, whether that's a serene mountain trail, or a long flat beach path, you want to make sure that you're as safe as possible while you ride. Make sure that everyone along for the trip has a good helmet. These items are more reliable today than they've ever been, and they're available in a pleasant number of fashions.
If you're going to be riding anywhere at night, make sure that all riders are wearing reflective material, either in the form of a safety vest or reflective armbands. Also, it's a good idea to have headlights and taillights installed on every bicycle in the group.
Lastly, make sure you have the means for simple repairs should something go wrong. A small patch kit and a CO2 tire inflator are essential tools that you should keep in your backpack or bike pouch.