There are two main mounting systems for carrying bikes on your car - roof bar and tow ball
The best bike car racks for mountain bikes will depend largely on what fits your car but here are some features to look out for and reviews of our favourites.
Best bike racks for mountain bikes
- Thule Proride 598, £100 – ROOF BAR WINNER
- Thule VeloCompact 927, £435.00 – TOWBALL WINNER
- Pendle Fork Mount Roof Rack, £88.25
- Scorpion Rack, £349.99
- SeaSucker Talon, £299.99
- Thule ThruRide, £175.00
It can be nice to just get out and ride from your front door but there’s no doubt that at some point you’re going to want to take your bike further afield. There are a few options for transporting your bike but if you don’t want the faff of taking the train and you want to keep the inside of your car clean then a bike rack has to be the obvious choice.
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Thule ProRide 598, £100.00
Thule’s ProRide is one of the easiest and quickest roof racks to get your bike into, and while this second generation version might look almost exactly like the old 591 it replaces, it has a couple of worthwhile improvements.
Pendle Fork Mount Roof Rack, £88.25
If you’re not a fan of roof racks that clamp the down tube, there is another option. Fork-mount racks, like this British-made Pendle, fasten the dropouts securely using the fork’s own 15mm (or 20mm) thru-axle, coupled with a simple toe strap at the rear wheel. Simple and safe, they cause little damage to the bike.
Thule ThruRide, £175.00
If speed and convenience are your number one priorities, then the Thule Thruride’s sophisticated refinement and tool-free clamp will be irresistible. If you can live with a more awkward mount, but want to carry your bike in a similar way, there’s also Pendle’s cheaper Fork Mount rack, above.
SeaSucker Talon, £299.99
Due to the unique set-up of this bike carrier, it was very hard not to worry about our precious cargo when using the SeaSucker Talon QR-1 roof rack. The extremely effective sucker pads stuck like glue, but trundling down the motorway it was always in the back of my mind that the bikes weren’t being held in place by traditional, sturdy nuts and bolts.
Thule VeloCompact 927, £435.00
The VeloCompact differs from its predecessors by being smaller and lighter. The wheel trays and lights slide inboard by 30cm when not in use, meaning it’s more convenient to carry and store. Yes, there are less expensive tow bar racks out there, but you’ll only buy a rack like this once, so it’s worth the investment.
Scorpion Rack, £349.99
Slotting the bike into the Scorpion’s prongs literally takes seconds, and securing the ratchet at the bottom a few seconds more. The set-up feels rock solid, and the fact that it doubles up as a workstand is genius. It’s just a shame the weight restriction rules out e-bikes.
Where it mounts
There are two main mounting systems for bike racks – roof bar and tow ball – each of which comes with its own pros and cons:
These are probably our favourite option as they don’t obstruct any doors and we reckon they’re a bit more secure. However, you should be careful under low bridges, they can be a pain to put bikes on and they will hinder your fuel economy.
Tow bar mount
These racks are strong and secure but you will need a tow bar to be able to fit one and they tend to be more expensive.
What about strap mount?
Strap bike racks are probably the most universal design so if you’re struggling to find a rack that will fit. These racks tend to be the cheapest, however we’ve never been convinced by their security from bumps on the road or potential thieves.
Ease of mounting
Ideally you want the process of fitting a bike to your rack to be as easy as possible. It may seem intuitive in a dry car park but will it be as easy with a slippery, muddy bike in the middle of winter after a long hard ride?
This can mean two things, how securely your bike is attached to the car and how secure it is from thieves.
No bike racks will have zero play in them but you want the bike to move around as little as possible. It can be very disconcerting driving around country roads with it swaying around on top of you.
Similarly no bike rack can ever be thief-proof, but a securing bar is definitely going to be more of a deterrent than some fabric straps. It’s worth saying that we recommend you keep your bike in your sight at all times if its on the bike rack.