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Recommended 4-Bike Hitch-Mount Carrier for Subaru Outback

Question:

I am looking for a trailer hitch mounted bike rack for a Subaru Outback to carry up to 4 bikes. My wife has a comfort bike that does not have a conventional crossbar. Can I use any of the hanging racks or do I need to get one of the platform racks. I also want something that holds the bikes so they dont bang against each other. Any recommendations. I am a recreational rider, not a pro racer.

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Expert Reply:

You can use either a platform-style hitch bike rack that suspends the bikes at their tires or a hanging-style rack to transport your 4 bikes on your Subaru Outback. Each type offers a mix of advantages.

Platform racks do not require you to lift your bikes up as high to load them but these carriers also extend further to the rear of the car. This can mean reduced ground clearance, which can matter especially if you have a steep driveway entrance. Hanging racks tend to weigh less than platform types, which is an important consideration if you intend to frequently remove the rack from the car's hitch, and they often cost less too. Adapter bars like the Swagman Easy-Out # 64005 are available for bikes like your wife's that do not have a top frame tube to allow them to mount on a hanging-style rack. It really comes down to preference and your particular bikes. The linked articles will help you decide what makes the most sense for your particular bike types and for the best fit on the Outback.

Your car, depending on its model year, could have available as many as three different hitch classes. For instance, a 2010 Outback Wagon has 1-1/4-inch Class I, 1-1/4-inch Class II and 2-inch Class III trailer hitches available for it. You'll want to confirm the hitch receiver size and class rating before selecting a rack. Your bike carrier must be class-rated the same as your hitch to ensure a proper fit and safe operation. To transport 4 bikes you MUST have at least a Class II hitch or better still a 2-inch Class III hitch.

Hitch racks vary in how much clearance they provide at the rear of the vehicle. One of the articles that I linked for you includes a simple method to measure how much clearance you need from a bike carrier for it to clear your rear bumper. All of our bike rack specs include this clearance information to make it easier to find a compatible carrier with the features you want.

Once you know your hitch size and class you can use the linked page to view and select a 4-bike hitch rack. The page has filters you can click on to narrow the results shown to those racks of the correct class rating and with your preferred features, such as locks.

Let's say you have a 2-inch Class III hitch and prefer a tilting hanging-style rack that gives you better access to your rear cargo area and that includes locks. Just click on those features to see racks that will work for you.

If you prefer a versatile platform carrier you might consider the Pro Series Q-Slot # PS63138 that also fits 2-inches hitches. This 4-bike rack can also be used as two separate 2-bike carriers, one each in the 2-inch and 1-1/4-inch hitch sizes. This is a great option if you have two vehicles with different size hitches.

Please feel free to let me know your car's model year and hitch size and I will be glad to offer more specific recommendations.

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