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How to Choose a Bike Rack for a Truck

You have several options for carrying bikes on a pickup truck. Trucks are great utility vehicles, and chances are good that you are using your truck for more than carrying bikes. The best solution for you depends a lot on how you use your truck.

Learn more about these four main types of bike racks:

Hitch-Mounted Bike Racks

Thule hitch-mounted bicycle carrier installed on Ford F-150 truck with bike loaded Thule hitch-mounted bicycle carrier

Hitch-mounted racks are a good solution for hauling bikes if you need to maintain the use of your truck's bed. However, a hitch-mounted rack can interfere with opening your truck's tailgate. Racks that fold or swing away will help you access your truck while the rack is installed. These racks either tilt down or swing out on hinges away from your vehicle. Hitch-mounted racks are easy to use. Just slide them in or out of your truck's hitch, and secure them with a pin or lock. Bikes are easy to load, too, on a hitch-mounted rack. You don't have to lift them very high off the ground or remove any wheels. To find racks that are the easiest to mount, look for lighter models. Hitch-mounted racks don't make contact with any painted surfaces of your truck, so they won't damage the finish.

Your vehicle must have a hitch if you want to use one of these racks. Many trucks have a hitch, but if yours doesn't, consider installing one. Most hitches can be installed with basic handtools, and most of them don't require drilling. See our fitguide to find a custom-fit hitch for your truck.


  • Easy to install and remove
  • Easy to mount bikes
  • Large capacity - up to 5 bikes
  • No damage to vehicle finish


  • Requires a hitch
  • Interferes with opening tailgate
  • Prevents use of hitch for towing

Roof-Mounted Bike Racks

Rhino-Rack roof-mounted bicycle carrier with bike Rhino-Rack roof-mounted bike rack

A roof-mounted bike rack can be a good choice for carrying a bike on your truck because it frees up your hitch and bed for other uses. However, the length of a standard-size truck cab is usually too short for crossbars to be practical. But trucks with longer cabs like extended, king, and crew cab models usually can be fitted with crossbars. Or you may be able to install crossbars on a campershell or cap if your truck has one. See our fitguide to find a custom-fit rack for your truck.

Like bike racks that attach to a hitch, roof-mounted bike racks don't make contact with your vehicle. This helps prevent damage to your truck's paint. To mount a bike on one of these racks, you have to lift it to the top of your vehicle's roof. This can be difficult to do on a tall truck. A step stool might be helpful for loading and unloading bikes if your truck's roof is a long reach for you.


  • Easy to install and remove
  • Allows full access to back of vehicle
  • No damage to vehicle finish


  • Bike loading can be awkward
  • Requires crossbars
  • Requires a rack for each bike

Truck Bed Bike Racks

Rocky Mounts truck bed-mounted bicycle carrier installed with bike loaded Rocky Mounts pickup truck bed-mounted bicycle carrier Swagman clamp in pickup truck-bed-mounted bicycle carrier

Truck bed bike racks either bolt on or clamp into the bed or sides of your pickup truck. They allow you to carry 1 or more bikes in the back of your truck. Truck bed bike racks are a good choice if you don't have a campershell or cap and you don't need much space for other cargo in the back of your truck. The bolt on types are usually small so that they don't take up much space when you aren't using them. The clamp in style can be removed so that they take up no space when you want to use your truck bed for something else.


  • Easy to mount bikes


  • Takes up bed space

Truck Tailgate Bike Pads

Softride pickup truck tailgate protector bicycle carrier with bike installed Softride pickup truck tailgate protector bicycle carrier with bike installed

Truck tailgate bike pads lay over your truck's tailgate and provide cushioning to prevent scratches and dents when you set bikes on them. They usually include straps that secure the pad to the tailgate and the bikes to the pad.


  • Easy to load bikes
  • Carries up to 6 bikes
    • (Depends on size of truck)
  • No modification to truck required


  • Uses truck bed space

Swagman tailgate protector bicycle carrier Shop for tailgate bike racks

Additional Articles

How to Choose a Hitch-Mounted Bike Rack

How to Choose a Roof-Mounted Bike Rack

How to Choose a Truck Bed Bike Rack

Written by: Raymond P.

Last updated: 1/12/18



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