The strongest, simplest to install, and most dependable bike racks on the market are roof racks and trailer hitches. Hence, the debate between bike trailer hitch and roof rack is perpetual.
In general, where vehicle clearance is not an issue, roof racks are more preferred for transporting one or two heavy motorcycles. For transporting more than two lighter bikes in low-traffic regions, hitch trailer racks are more preferred.
Yet, there are still other factors that I’ll go into detail about in this piece that set the two bike racks apart. Depending on your demands for transportation, I’ll also assist you in making a decision.
Comparing Bicycle Roof Racks and Trailer Hitch
a) Bicycle Roof Racks
As its name implies, roof racks are fixed to the top of the car. Some rooftop racks require you to remove one or both of the wheels before you can install the bike, whereas others will let you mount the bike without any modifications.
Removing the wheels has the benefit of lowering the vehicle’s clearance height, which makes it simpler to pass through a tunnel or under a bridge.
This is true with the Thule ThruRide Roof Bike Rack, which enables you to transport a bike that weighs up to 35 pounds safely by removing the front wheel.
In addition to lowering the height, removing the wheel makes it possible to firmly mount the bike on the roof of your car.
Rooftop bike racks have the following benefits:
provide you a nearly permanent bicycle transportation choice
They are rather adaptable and let you transport both bikes and non-bike goods, including kayaks and surfboards.
They can transport large bikes. This is true with the Thule ProRide XT Roof Bike Rack, which can transport bikes up to 44 pounds in weight.
Because opportunist thieves have less access to them, roof racks are safer.
When you’re driving, they don’t block your view or the license plate.
Do roof racks have all the aforementioned benefits, then, making them ideal? Are they perfect?
Obviously not! Let’s examine the drawbacks listed below.
Rooftop racks raise the clearance height of your car, making it more difficult to pass through a tunnel or under a bridge.
Rooftop racks make you go slower because they promote wind drag. Also, you use more fuel on the road when you drive slowly.
Only a few of these racks can support two bikes, with the majority carrying just one.
It takes substantial effort to lift the bike and carefully remove it from the racks.
Bicycle Trailer Hitch Racks
The vehicle’s hitch receiver is where trailer hitch racks are mounted. Hitch racks are therefore mounted on the back of the vehicle, as opposed to roof racks, which are mounted on the roof.
These racks fill up the gaps left by rooftop racks. They give you additional biking capacity in particular.
Up to 5 bikes can be mounted on trailer hitch racks, as is the case with the Allen Sports Deluxe 5-Bike Hitch Rack.
They also make it possible for you to drive through tunnels and underneath bridges without having to worry about running into anything.
Overall, installing and loading bikes into these racks is simple.
Bicycle trailer hitch racks have the following benefits:
If your car has a hitch receiver, they are simple to install because you only need to slide them in. If not, you must first install it.
As opposed to using a rooftop rack, you don’t have to lift the bike as much.
As the racks are more ad hoc, they are simple to remove.
You may conveniently transport several bikes thanks to them.
Some hitch racks are foldable, enabling you to flatten them when not in use to prevent obscuring your view.
Both rooftop racks and trailer hitch racks have flaws. Also, they have a number of worries, such as:
They limit back access or may even entirely block it. Contrary to roof racks, which do not obstruct rear access to the car, this.
Most high-quality hitch racks are more expensive than average, especially swing-away models.
A swinging or hanging hitch rack increases the possibility of the bike swinging while being transported by public transportation.
These racks lengthen your car, making it more difficult to maneuver through dense traffic and confined locations.
Hitch Rack Or Roof Rack
Which bike rack should you choose: a roof rack or a hitch rack?
The decision between a roof rack and a trailer hitch rack is influenced by a number of variables, such as:
a) The quantity and size of bikes
For hauling more than two bikes, especially lightweight ones, hitch trailers are preferable. However a rooftop rack is a preferable option if you want to move one or two big bikes.
Although they limit back access to the vehicle, hitch racks make it easier to access the bike. In contrast, rooftop racks do not make the bikes conveniently accessible but do not obstruct back access to the vehicle either.
Although a hitch rack makes it possible to haul more bikes, it is only suitable for bicycles. Nothing else may be brought.
On the other hand, as long as you don’t overburden a rooftop rack, you can transport a bike, a kayak, equipment, or whatever else you like.
Rooftop racks limit your movement through tunnels and under bridges by increasing wind resistance. Hitch racks, on the other hand, impose restrictions on you in congested areas.
A variety of bikes can fit on hitch racks, which are compatible with cars that have a hitch receiver.
On the other hand, roof racks are appropriate for cars with strong roof systems and can hold various bikes.
Roof Rack vs. Trailer Hitch Suitability
If: A hitch rack is more appropriate
You favor riding two or more motorcycles, especially smaller, lighter bikes.
The issue is the overhead clearance.
There is a hitch receiver on your car.
You struggle to hoist the bike in the air.
Is a Roof Bike Rack Better Than a Hitch Rack?
Roof racks are more appropriate if
You need to get inside your car’s backseat.
Your car is missing a hitch.
You would rather keep the bicycle on the rack.
There is no problem with the overhead clearance (height).
You can easily lift the bike.
- Which is better, a roof bike rack or a hitch rack?
In situations when vertical clearance is not a concern, rooftop racks are preferable for carrying one to two big bikes.
For transporting 2–5 lightweight bikes, where the vertical clearance is problematic, a hitch rack is preferable.
- A Bike Rack: Is It Worth It?
You can easily and securely move a bike in a car thanks to a bike rack. It safely supports your bike so you can transport it while protecting it.
- Does a Bike Rack Need a Trailer Hitch?
You need a trailer hitch if you want to place a bike rack on your car. Consider having it added if it isn’t already there before putting the bike rack.
- Are Bike Racks on Roofs Safe?
Your bike is carried on the roof of the automobile using rooftop bike racks. They don’t encroach on the car’s body or prevent entry from the back because of this.
Most crucially, it makes it possible to firmly fasten down the bike frame. In general, these racks are safer.
- What Bike Rack Is The Simplest To Use?
The easiest to use racks are typically those positioned on the back of the car because they are more easily reached. These comprises bike racks with spare tires, hitch trailer racks, and trunk racks.
- Do Bike Racks Experience Theft?
When bike racks are not fastened to the car or are left unattended for an extended period of time, they are stolen.
In general, bike racks dissuade burglars from taking your bike, making it safer to have it on one than not.
- Roof racks: Do They Harm Your Car?
The car is unharmed when a roof rack is mounted properly to it. The bike racks that are most prone to separate are those that are loose and insufficiently fastened.
In addition, loaded roof racks run the risk of damaging the roof.
- Why Do Bike Racks Cost So Much?
Bicycle racks are made of durable yet expensive materials. They are pricey in part due to their sophisticated engineering and elaborate designs.
Also, you will probably pay extra for bike racks that can carry more bikes.
Final Thoughts On the Roof Rack vs. Trailer Hitch Debate for Bikes
In general, if you plan to transport one or two heavy bikes somewhere where you don’t have to go through a tunnel or under a bridge, you should acquire a rooftop rack.
But, if you wish to transport up to 5 cycles, you should get a hitch trailer rack.