Tell me 'bout bike racks
November 3, 2017 3:28 PM   Subscribe

I have two kids with new bikes, and the three of us would like to go places to ride them. How do we choose a car-mounted bike rack for our 2009 Nissan Rogue?

The bikes in question are a Woom2, a Woom4, and a "vintage" Trek women's bike (similar to this).

The Rogue does not have a trailer hitch. I'd consider installing one for these purposes.

My primary concerns for the bike rack are:
- Obviously, needs to carry the bikes. There's some possiblity in future we'd want to add a fourth bike, but not 100%.
- EASE OF USE. Cost is a factor too, but I'm willing to pay a little more for something I'll be happy to use.
- I'd like it to be relatively easy to take on and off the car. If it interferes with opening the back then that increases the priority of easy-to-remove.

Also, I've never had a car mounted bike rack, so I don't know what I don't know! I'd love recommendations for specific models; pitfalls to watch out for; and any other details or considerations that make you love or hate your bike rack. If you're recommending we go the trailer hitch route, I'd also like to know your thoughts on trailer hitches!
posted by telepanda to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have a hitch mounted rack--a Yakima Ridgeback. Its very easy to put on and take off the hitch--takes about a minute in either direction--and folds down for hatchback access (I have an Outback). The arms also fold down so if I'm driving around with the hitch on but no bikes, the profile is lowered somewhat (it's still kinda sticky-outtie, but you'll have that with most racks).

I already had a hitch installed so it was an easy choice. Car mounted racks just seem really...complicated. If you do go the hitch route, be aware that there are two standard hitch sizes. Some racks have an adaptor so they work on both but some don't. Be sure you're getting the right size hitch for the rack you want.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:15 PM on November 3, 2017

Car mounted racks just seem really...complicated

I have one that goes on my roof rack. It's not exactly complicated, but even though I'm tall and my car's not as tall as a Nissan Rogue, it's still a minor hassle to hoist bikes up there. So I recommend against a roof rack for you.
posted by aubilenon at 5:38 PM on November 3, 2017

Go to U-Haul and get a hitch installed for probably less than $225 installed. You don't need a ball mount, wiring, or a ball , just the receiver and a pin . You can even go to the U-Haul site and price it. Then get a nice rack ~ $225
posted by lobstah at 6:11 PM on November 3, 2017

We have a Thule trailer hitch model and love it. It is a "swing away" model so that you just swing it to the side to have access to the back of your vehicle - works great even with bikes on it. We had the fold down type and it was more difficult. The model we have can handle 4 bikes but it is very tight if all adult bikes. It is expensive but well worth it. We put it on in the beginning of the season and leave it on until its too cold to ride. It also has an integrated lock so its easier to keep them locked.
posted by MrsMGH at 6:15 PM on November 3, 2017

Car mounted racks are often really hard with smaller kids bikes like the woom 2. They depend on the frame being big enough to go over two parts and there isn't a lot of room for them. I really like the hitch mount ones that have a tray that the wheels sit in when dealing with less standard bikes, but not entirely sure which would work well with the tiny bikes.
posted by advicepig at 6:25 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding advicepig. Small bikes are hard with the car-mounted racks (and in my experience the car mounted are also far more of a pain to deal with). My bikes are S/XS adult frames and the only person who can get them on my car-mounted rack when my husbands’s bike is on it is me- and even then it involves a lot of swearing, mashing of parts and gnashing of teeth. You can get an extra dealie to make this work better if the bike geometry is the biggest problem, but they’re expensive ($50? $100) and it still won’t fit the bike with the XS frame.

My friend has a hitch-mounted Thule that you just strap the tires into and every time I put my bike on hers I decide it would be worth it to get a hitch and the same rack, over time (haven’t sprung for it yet but each time I’m dealing with cold dirty bike rack straps in the winter I become more resolved).
posted by charmedimsure at 7:37 PM on November 3, 2017

Thanks for the tips thus far - I realize that I may have made a terminology error, and by "car mounted bike rack" I mean anything that transports bikes via automobile, including trailer hitch or trunk-mounted. Didn't realize that "car mounted" was the opposite of "trailer hitch mounted". Goes to show that I don't know what I don't know!
posted by telepanda at 8:09 PM on November 3, 2017

I like my Swagman XC rack a lot. 30 seconds on/off and fits a variety of tires like the fat beach cruisers. I have a larger vehicle which has a 2" hitch, I think there's an adapter for 1 1/4".
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:17 PM on November 3, 2017

(Oops, forgot you have 3 bikes, so the XC wouldn't work. There's a 4-bike Swagman rack but I have no experience with it.)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:23 PM on November 3, 2017

I'd recommend a hitch-based rack over any of the racks that use straps to secure a foam-padded rack to your bumper and back window.

The strap-based racks are such a monumental hassle. I once tried to get something out of the trunk without taking the whole rack apparatus apart – and I broke the rear windshield.

Some (all?) of the hitch-mounted racks can tilt out of the way to let you open the rear liftgate.
posted by reeddavid at 9:03 PM on November 3, 2017

How soon do you need it? Saris’s Glide is on Kickstarter for a theoretical February delivery. (I backed it but am otherwise uninvolved/uninformed.)
posted by supercres at 9:20 PM on November 3, 2017

I have a Nissan Versa, and a Thule Helium Aero 3-bike hitch rack. I bought that model because it was one of the few offered hitch racks that holds 3 bikes, because it’s lightweight (25-odd lbs as opposed to 35-40 for most hitch racks) and therefore easy for me to install and uninstall myself (I’m a 5’2 woman), and it folds down so that I can still use the hatch compartment in my car with the rack in. It’s quite sturdy and easy to use, and does a good job of holding the bikes securely. I have a mountain bike and a road bike.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:26 AM on November 4, 2017

The type of rack which cradles the wheels is, in my experience, preferable to the ones which suspend the bike from its frame. The latter is always problematic with women's / step-through bikes, even when a support bar is used.
posted by megatherium at 4:38 AM on November 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

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