When you’re on the hunt for the best bike rack for your SUV it can feel as if the only type that are available are hitch-mount racks. That’s all fine when you’ve got a hitch receiver on your vehicle. But, if you don’t have one, then it can be an extra unnecessary expense. Particularly if you’re only going to be using it now and again.
I think hitch-mount bike carriers are great, but they’re not the only solution for SUVs.
So, I’ve done some research on your behalf and tracked down a range of excellent bike racks for SUVs without hitch receivers. There are a few different options for you to choose from, depending on your requirements and the type of SUV that you’re putting your bicycle rack onto. There are 2-bike and 3-bike racks, a spare tire bike rack, and there’s also a platform bike rack that doesn’t require a hitch. There’s also a handy 3-bike rack that can fit around your SUV rear spoiler. What all these cycle carriers have in common is that they strap on to your SUV. No hitch. No suckers. Just hooks, straps, and away you go.
I’ll describe each of the different options in a moment and take a look at the key features to look out for. Before that, I’ve got a short list of my recommended trunk bike racks for your SUV. Let’s dive in.
Where can you carry bikes on a SUV?
Apart from the hitch, there are a total of three places where you can put bikes in/on SUVs. These are:
- Casually thrown in the trunk
- Precariously placed on the roof
- Carefully fitted to the trunk hatch
As you might guess from this list, I’m not really a fan of the first two. I do, however, love the third option. Why?
Thrown in the trunk
In my youth, I thought I could save some money, not bother with any kind of bike rack, and put my bikes in the trunk. Trouble was, it never went well. I damaged various bikes, various cars, and never had enough room leftover in the trunk for any other luggage. In total, I reckon I’ve caused more dollars of damage to bikes and cars than a premium bike rack would have cost me.
My advice? Don’t be a cheapskate like me. Just buy a rack in the first place.
Stuck up on the roof
You’ll also see lots of SUVs with bikes on roof racks. Whilst these look great when you see them zipping along the highway, there are two major issues with them:
They’re dangerous – imagine trying to lift a 35-pound bike way up over your head and onto the roof of your vehicle. Then hold it steady (with one hand) whilst you try and strap it into place with the other. What’re the chances of your arms getting a little fatigued and dropping the bike on your car or on your head? Yeah, high.
They’re a disaster for fuel economy – putting a bunch of bikes on the roof will dramatically impact the head-on shape of your vehicle, making it much larger. This will create much more drag and increase your fuel consumption. It might not be a consideration for short, infrequent trips. But, over the lifetime of your car, it will have quite a sizeable impact.
So, for me, there’s only one option: get the best no hitch bike rack for your SUV. Forget about the roof racks and throwing bikes in trunks.
Let’s have a look at the best types of trunk bike racks for SUVs.
Trunk mount platform bike rack
Many premium hitch cycle carriers are platform bike racks – these are a type of rack where you lift your bikes onto the rack base, then lock them on to the rack with an arm that fits to either the bike frame or wheels. The benefit of a platform rack over a hanging rack is that, because the bikes are held at the top and bottom, they won’t have a tendency to move about in transit and potentially damage your other bikes or the car itself. They’re excellent – very secure and stable – but it’s unusual to see them for non-hitch vehicles.
So, it’s very exciting to see this trunk-mount platform rack from top-class manufacturer, Thule. This rack attaches to your trunk with the AcuTight securing system, locking it into place, and then uses the AcuTight tech again to hold your bikes firmly. It takes 1 or 2 bikes and can support up to 66 lbs of total bike weight.
Spare tire bike rack
Finding a bike rack for SUVs that have a spare wheel fitted to the trunk can be particularly challenging. Luckily, there are a few hidden gems out, like this rack from Thule, that are ideal for fitting onto a spare tire. Whether or not that spare tire is regular or over-sized – though you will have to remove the tire cover in order to fit the rack.
The rack locks onto your spare tire central fixing and then your bikes hang on to the rack, before also being locked into position. This makes both rack and bikes safe from opportunistic thieves.
The frame of the rack means that it won’t sway when you’re driving along and the bike-hanging arms will fold down when you don’t need them. Carries 1 or 2 bikes.
Bike rack for car with spoiler
If you’ve got an SUV with any kind of spoiler fitted then it can be tricky to find an appropriate trunk bike rack. Luckily, rack manufacturer Saris have come up with the goods here. Whilst the Saris Bones EX may look like a standard trunk-mount rack, look a little closer at those two upper legs. Note how they’ve got the dogleg bend to them? That’s the magic right there. Those bends in the legs allow them to fit under the spoiler with the rack straps then going over the spoiler to secure the rack in position.
There’s a couple extras that it’s worth teaming the Saris Bones up with. Firstly, a rack lock to secure the rack to your vehicle to prevent theft. Secondly, for bikes without a horizontal crossbar – women’s bikes, low step bikes, full suspension mountain bikes, etc – you should get yourself a top tube frame adapter. These are easy to fit and enable you to fit bikes onto hanging racks where the style of frame would otherwise make it impossible.
How to install Saris bike rack on SUV? That’s easy, just take a look at this YouTube video.
Hanging bike racks for cars
It absorbs impact during transit and fends off thieves with the locking system.
If you want to leave it on your car, but aren’t hauling bikes, then just fold the arms down and it has a low-profile barely-there look.
Stylish, secure and good for two bikes with a total weight of 66 lbs.