The 7 best bike lights for better visibility while cycling at night

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Bike lights keep you visible in low-light conditions, alerting oncoming traffic or anyone else on the road.
  • The best should be easy to take off and put on and have a battery capable of lasting for hours of riding.
  • Our top pick, the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL, comes with a headlight and taillight and has several light modes.

Living in New York City means my go-to mode of transportation is my bike. Whether I need to run errands during the week or want to get some exercise on a long weekend ride, there aren’t many days during the spring and summer that I don’t spend at least a little bit of time pedaling around Brooklyn.

But just as I’d never leave my apartment without a helmet, I always make sure to pack along a set of bike lights – no matter how long I plan on being out. Bike lights are an indispensable part of any cycling kit and one that can very well save your life.

Throughout my years of cycling, I’ve learned firsthand the immense value of a quality set of bike lights (and how dangerous a poor set can be). I’ve also come across my fair share of bike light variety; there are some designed to be highly portable and easy to install, while others are intended for trail riding.

Below, I’ve rounded up seven of my favorites from brands like Malker, NiteRider, and MPowerd. At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to show for a bike light, as well as insight into the testing methodology I used in deciding which lights ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best bike lights:

The best bike light overall

cygolite

For a reasonable price, the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set includes a bright headlight and taillight to make your early morning or late night commutes safer.

Pros: Incredibly bright, long battery life, easy to mount, several useful lighting modes

Cons: Uses Mini USB (rather than the more common Micro USB)

The Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set comes with the Streak 450 Lumen headlight, which lasts for up to 100 hours on a single charge, and the Hotshot SL 50 Lumen taillight, which lasts for 200 hours on a single charge.

The lights charge using a Mini USB cord that you can plug into your computer or a cube. Since many electronics these days rely on Micro USB (not mini), you may want to keep a Mini USB cord with you on your rides so you aren’t stranded with dead lights. Or, if you see the low battery indicator turn on, be sure to charge the light before you go out.

The headlight has seven lighting modes: boost, high, medium, low, steady pulse, walking, and daylighting, which consists of powerful flashes that make you stand out in broad daylight. The taillight also has a lightning mode as well as five other modes of varying flash tempo and brightness. — James Brains, home & kitchen reporter

The best easy install bike light

bike light

If you’re looking for a light that’s just as easy to install as it is to take off your bike, consider picking up the surprisingly well-built and bright TeamObsidian Bike Light Set.

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

Cons: Doesn’t come with batteries, not designed for trail riding

One of the benefits you sacrifice with the low cost of the TeamObsidian Bike Light Set is usability out of the box. Batteries aren’t included. Despite having to buy five AAA batteries (I recommend getting rechargeable versions), there’s a lot to like about this set.

The headlamp produces 200 lumens of light. Both lights have three lighting modes — high, dimmed, and flashing — and are designed to withstand water, snow, heat, and dust. Installation is effortless and tool-free. And, the lights have quick-release mounts so you can take them with you and avoid potential thefts.

TeamObsidian stands behind the quality of its bike lights by offering a “100% no-hassle lifetime guarantee.” The company specifically states that it will refund your money if you’re dissatisfied for any reason. And, if the lights break, it will send you new ones. — James Brains, home & kitchen reporter

The best budget bike light

MalkerLights1

Malker’s bike lights are a great budget buy for anyone looking for a set of easy-to-install front and taillights — they even have a variety of light settings which add to their versatility. 

Pros: Easy to strap onto a bike’s handlebars and seatpost, comes with front and rear lights, has multiple light settings including a strobe function

Cons: Light modes can be hard to toggle, not robust enough for all riding conditions

These LED lights from Malker have been a go-to of mine for several years, as they’re extremely easy to put on and take off and incredibly cost-effective — I often see them on sale for under $10. The fact they come as a set of four (two standard, front-facing lights, and two red, rear-facing lights) only adds to their utility. 

Aside from their price and ease of use, what I like about these lights from Malker is how lightweight they are. I’m able to stash them in my backpack before I head out for a ride, but can also just leave them attached to my bike and they don’t take up too much space or get in the way of anything while I bike.

If I lock my bike up, their strap-on style makes it easy to just unhook them and put them back in my bag (or even a pant pocket), though it is worth noting to make sure the lights are completely off when stashing them. Several times I thought I’ve turned them off, only to find them still on but on a different light setting next time I go to use them (or the battery would just be completely sapped). 

The best bike light for trail riding

niterider

If you prefer to take your mountain bike off-road at night and you have a little extra to spend, consider the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light.

Pros: 1800 lumens output, long distance beam that maintains uniformity, excellent for trail riding at night

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

What sets the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light apart from the other lights in our guide is that it gets brighter than your average car headlight. There are five modes: high, medium, low, walk, and flash.

The light is designed to stand up to the elements with Dupont fiberglass reinforced nylon housings and a borosilicate glass lens, which is resistant to extreme temperature changes. The eight-step power gauge tells you how much battery power is left, and you can easily swap out batteries so you aren’t left in the dark while you wait for your light to charge.

The best solar-powered bike light

LuciLight

MPowerd’s Luci Solar Bike Light is a convenient, versatile light that runs for upwards of 15 hours on a single charge and is easy to install almost anywhere on a bike’s frame.

Pros: Recharges via solar power, close to around 15 hours of use on a single charge, easy to attach all over a bike, lightweight, offers four different light modes, comes with a rear light

Cons: Full solar recharge takes close to 8 hours

It’s easy to see the versatility of MPowerd’s Luci Solar Bike Light; not only does it deliver more than enough capacity for even the longest of day rides but its ability to recharge while I ride is a wonderful perk. Add in the fact that this kit also comes with a solar-powered taillight, and this bike light package is quite intriguing.

Both lights are easy to attach via an adjustable silicone strap that works well on just about any part of a bike’s frame. The straps keep them snug, too, as I never felt as though the light would fall off, even if I was riding off-road or on a particularly bumpy street. I did think that the light’s magnetic clasp into the solar charger would come apart, but it stayed secure the entire time. 

Output-wise, the front light delivers 100 lumens while the taillight provides 40 lumens. Each has multiple light modes including a flashing option or different brightness levels, and a built-in battery level indicator lets you know when it’s time to recharge it. The lights also have a Micro-USB slot, so they aren’t only dependent on solar power for juice. 

Its $65 price tag is on the higher end for bike lights, but I do feel as though its versatility as solar-powered light makes it worth the investment — this is something that’s designed to last for several years while also being able to save you heaps of money on replacement batteries.

The best rear bike light

LezyneLight

The Femto Tail Light from Lezyne is a lightweight, easy-to-use tail light that helps dramatically improve nighttime visibility, both behind your bike and on the sides. 

Pros: USB rechargeable, easy to install, lightweight enough to pack in a backpack when not in use, 270 degrees of visibility

Cons: Strap isn’t very durable

Front bike lights are important, of course, but it can be just as vital to have something on the back of your bike to improve your visibility, as well. The Femto from Lezyne is one of the best I’ve used, as it’s light weight enough to not take up much space in my backpack when not in use and easy to install when it starts to get dark out (I can even pop it on without having to fully get off my bike). 

Although tail lights may seem like a dime a dozen (there are plenty available via Amazon), this one from Lezyne nabs this spot thanks to its wide range of visibility (270 degrees) and decent price point (I often find it for under $20). Tack on its easy-to-use mounting strap that lets you attach it almost anywhere, and you have a highly versatile rear bike light that can be used on everything from commuters and road bikes to mountain bikes and cruisers.

It’s also USB chargeable which I found to be quite useful as I could just plug these in after a few sessions of riding with them instead of looking around my apartment for or buying batteries.

The best waterproof bike light

urban bike light

The Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight keeps you visible from the front and sides with its powerful headlight and helpful sidelights.

Pros: Has sidelights, 500 lumens, lightweight and compact, easy to remove, two-year warranty

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

When mounted just right, the Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight has two amber safety sidelights that make you visible to drivers on your sides. There are four light modes: high (500 lumens), medium, low, and pulse.

On high, the battery lasts for about 90 minutes, and on pulse, it lasts for up to 12 hours. The light mounts right onto your handlebars and has a quick release feature so you can take your light with you. It charges using a Micro USB charging cable. And, Light and Motion backs the quality of this product with a two-year warranty.

How to shop for a bike lights

When choosing a bike light, look at the number of lumens it’s capable of producing, as this tells you how bright the light is. Many models give you this number right in their name and, based on our testing, the advertised lumens rating is accurate for the best units, though the brightness may dwindle as the battery loses juice.

For headlights, the number of lumens you need depends on where you’ll be cycling. For riding trails at night, you need at least 1,000 lumens. For urban roads where there are streetlights, 200 lumens will do. And, taillights should produce between 40 and 100 lumens of output since they are mainly there so others can see you.

Do be careful not to use extremely bright flashing headlights while cycling, too. This can disorient drivers and make it harder for them to see you.

Also, anything above 300 lumens could potentially blind oncoming traffic. So, consider dropping down to a dimmer setting when cars are coming — much like you might use the high beams on your car. If you’re concerned about drivers seeing you from behind, consider installing two rear lights: One that flashes and one that remains steady.

How we test bike lights

Each of the bike lights featured in this guide went through a series of tests to determine how well they compared across these four categories: Brightness, ease of use, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into deciding which lights made this guide:

Brightness: Judging a bike light’s brightness isn’t just about its lumen output or its actual brightness, but more so the quality of the light and what kind of settings it offers. As mentioned in the section on how to shop for a bike light, quality bike lights can vary in lumen output between 200 to 1,000 lumens, though this depends on where you plan on riding. To test for this, we looked at how effective the light was at making us visible without blinding oncoming traffic, while also providing some illumination of our surroundings. 

Ease of use: A bike light that’s hard to install, or even difficult to turn on and switch between its light settings, isn’t one that’s going to be particularly thrilling to use over and over again. If the light is easy to use, you’ll be more inclined to use it. Plain and simple. It’s also preferred that a light doesn’t require much toggling while you’re riding (or, at the very least, is easy to use).

Versatility: Being able to use a single set of bike lights on multiple bikes isn’t exactly a dealbreaker but it is nice to have that flexibility if need be. Additionally, a light that offers multiple brightness settings or a variety of light modes makes it far more valuable than just a standard, single beam light. 

Value: A bike light’s value isn’t just what its sticker price says but more so a combination of the three categories above, and how that compares to what it costs. There are plenty of valuable lights in the $15-$40 range, capable of fitting a range of budgets without sacrificing much quality. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best bike lights for better visibility while cycling at night

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Bike lights keep you visible in low-light conditions, alerting oncoming traffic or anyone else on the road.
  • The best should be easy to take off and put on and have a battery capable of lasting for hours of riding.
  • Our top pick, the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL, comes with a headlight and taillight and has several light modes.

Living in New York City means my go-to mode of transportation is my bike. Whether I need to run errands during the week or want to get some exercise on a long weekend ride, there aren’t many days during the spring and summer that I don’t spend at least a little bit of time pedaling around Brooklyn.

But just as I’d never leave my apartment without a helmet, I always make sure to pack along a set of bike lights – no matter how long I plan on being out. Bike lights are an indispensable part of any cycling kit and one that can very well save your life.

Throughout my years of cycling, I’ve learned firsthand the immense value of a quality set of bike lights (and how dangerous a poor set can be). I’ve also come across my fair share of bike light variety; there are some designed to be highly portable and easy to install, while others are intended for trail riding.

Below, I’ve rounded up five of my favorites from brands like Malker and NiteRider. At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some tips on how to show for a bike light, as well as insight into the testing methodology used to decide which lights ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best bike lights:

The best overall

cygolite

For a reasonable price, the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set includes a bright headlight and taillight to make your early morning or late night commutes safer.

Pros: Incredibly bright, long battery life, easy to mount, several useful lighting modes

Cons: Uses Mini USB (rather than the more common Micro USB)

The Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set comes with the Streak 450 Lumen headlight, which lasts for up to 100 hours on a single charge, and the Hotshot SL 50 Lumen taillight, which lasts for 200 hours on a single charge.

The lights charge using a Mini USB cord that you can plug into your computer or a cube. Since many electronics these days rely on Micro USB (not mini), you may want to keep a Mini USB cord with you on your rides so you aren’t stranded with dead lights. Or, if you see the low battery indicator turn on, be sure to charge the light before you go out.

The headlight has seven lighting modes: boost, high, medium, low, steady pulse, walking, and daylighting, which consists of powerful flashes that make you stand out in broad daylight. The taillight also has a lightning mode as well as five other modes of varying flash tempo and brightness.

The best easy install

bike light

If you’re looking for a light that’s just as easy to install as it is to take off your bike, consider picking up the surprisingly well-built and bright TeamObsidian Bike Light Set.

Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, lifetime guarantee

Cons: Doesn’t come with batteries, not designed for trail riding

One of the benefits you sacrifice with the low cost of the TeamObsidian Bike Light Set is usability out of the box. Batteries aren’t included. Despite having to buy five AAA batteries (I recommend getting rechargeable versions), there’s a lot to like about this set.

The headlamp produces 200 lumens of light. Both lights have three lighting modes — high, dimmed, and flashing — and are designed to withstand water, snow, heat, and dust. Installation is effortless and tool-free. And, the lights have quick-release mounts so you can take them with you and avoid potential thefts.

TeamObsidian stands behind the quality of its bike lights by offering a “100% no-hassle lifetime guarantee.” The company specifically states that it will refund your money if you’re dissatisfied for any reason. And, if the lights break, it will send you new ones.

The best on a budget

MalkerLights1

Malker’s bike lights are a great budget buy for anyone looking for a set of easy-to-install front and taillights — they even have a variety of light settings which add to their versatility. 

Pros: Easy to strap onto a bike’s handlebars and seatpost, comes with front and rear lights, has multiple light settings including a strobe function

Cons: Light modes can be hard to toggle, not robust enough for all riding conditions

These LED lights from Malker have been a go-to of mine for several years, as they’re extremely easy to put on and take off and incredibly cost-effective — I often see them on sale for under $10. The fact they come as a set of four (two standard, front-facing lights and two red, rear-facing lights) only adds to their utility, too. 

Aside from their price and ease of use, what I like about these lights from Malker is how lightweight they are. I’m able to stash them in my backpack before I head out for a ride, but can also just leave them attached to my bike and they don’t take up too much space or get in the way of anything while I bike.

If I lock my bike up, their strap-on style makes it easy to just unhook them and put them back in my bag (or even a pant pocket), though it is worth noting to make sure the lights are completely off when stashing them. Several times I thought I’ve turned them off, only to find them still on but on a different light setting next time I go to use them (or the battery would just be completely sapped).  — Rick Stella, fitness and health editor

The best for trail riding

niterider

If you prefer to take your mountain bike off-road at night and you have a little extra to spend, consider the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light.

Pros: 1800 lumens output, long distance beam that maintains uniformity, excellent for trail riding at night

Cons: Expensive, hard to remove

What sets the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light apart from the other lights in our guide is that it gets brighter than your average car headlight. There are five modes: high, medium, low, walk, and flash.

The light is designed to stand up to the elements with Dupont fiberglass reinforced nylon housings and a borosilicate glass lens, which is resistant to extreme temperature changes. The eight-step power gauge tells you how much battery power is left, and you can easily swap out batteries so you aren’t left in the dark while you wait for your light to charge.

The best side light

urban bike light

The Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight keeps you visible from the front and sides with its powerful headlight and helpful sidelights.

Pros: Has sidelights, 500 lumens, lightweight and compact, easy to remove, two-year warranty

Cons: USB port cover falls off easily

When mounted just right, the Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight has two amber safety sidelights that make you visible to drivers on your sides. There are four light modes: high (500 lumens), medium, low, and pulse.

On high, the battery lasts for about 90 minutes, and on pulse, it lasts for up to 12 hours. The light mounts right onto your handlebars and has a quick release feature so you can take your light with you. It charges using a Micro USB charging cable. And, Light and Motion backs the quality of this product with a two-year warranty.

How to shop for a bike lights

When choosing a bike light, look at the number of lumens it’s capable of producing, as this tells you how bright the light is. Many models give you this number right in their name and, based on our testing, the advertised lumens rating is accurate for the best units, though the brightness may dwindle as the battery loses juice.

For headlights, the number of lumens you need depends on where you’ll be cycling. For riding trails at night, you need at least 1,000 lumens. For urban roads where there are streetlights, 200 lumens will do. And, taillights should produce between 40 and 100 lumens of output since they are mainly there so others can see you.

Do be careful not to use extremely bright flashing headlights while cycling, too. This can disorient drivers and make it harder for them to see you.

Also, anything above 300 lumens could potentially blind oncoming traffic. So, consider dropping down to a dimmer setting when cars are coming — much like you might use the high beams on your car. If you’re concerned about drivers seeing you from behind, consider installing two rear lights: One that flashes and one that remains steady.

How we test bike lights

Each of the bike lights featured in this guide went through a series of tests to determine how well they compared across these four categories: Brightness, ease of use, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category specifically factored into deciding which lights made this guide:

Brightness: Judging a bike light’s brightness isn’t just about its lumen output or its actual brightness, but more so the quality of the light and what kind of settings it offers. As mentioned in the section on how to shop for a bike light, quality bike lights can vary in lumen output between 200 to 1,000 lumens, though this depends on where you plan on riding. To test for this, we looked at how effective the light was at making us visible without blinding oncoming traffic, while also providing some illumination of our surroundings. 

Ease of use: A bike light that’s hard to install, or even difficult to turn on and switch between its light settings, isn’t one that’s going to be particularly thrilling to use over and over again. If the light is easy to use, you’ll be more inclined to use it. Plain and simple. It’s also preferred that a light doesn’t require much toggling while you’re riding (or, at the very least, is easy to use).

Versatility: Being able to use a single set of bike lights on multiple bikes isn’t exactly a dealbreaker but it is nice to have that flexibility if need be. Additionally, a light that offers multiple brightness settings or a variety of light modes makes it far more valuable than just a standard, single beam light. 

Value: A bike light’s value isn’t just what its sticker price says but more so a combination of the three categories above, and how that compares to what it costs. There are plenty of valuable lights in the $15-$40 range, capable of fitting a range of budgets without sacrificing much quality. 

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The 6 best bike racks for cars in 2021, including hitch, trunk, and roof racks

  • The best bike rack will hold your bike securely for 5 to 500 miles, without damaging your bike or car.
  • You also may want a bike rack that’s easy to unload solo and doesn’t prevent the trunk from opening.
  • Our top pick, the Thule T2 Pro XT 2, is durable, hitch-mounted, but allows trunk access and holds most bike sizes and tires.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Whether you’re loading your mountain bike to head to the trail, transporting your roadie to a race, or taking the entire family’s commuters for a scenic ride, a bike rack is an essential piece of equipment for any cyclist of any level.

Read more: The best spring cycling gear

Being able to safely and securely carry your bike wherever you go truly opens up the possibilities of where and when you can ride. For that reason alone, having a bike rack at your disposal proves just as handy as owning a bike lock or tire pump.

While testing the best bike racks currently available, we examined options from some of the top brands including Thule, Yakima, and Kuat. Our guide features racks that are user-friendly, can fit an array of bike types, and will keep your car from getting scratched. At the end of this guide, we go into more detail on what to look for in a bike rack and how we tested those on this list.

Here are the best bike racks:

The best bike rack overall

Thule bike rack

If you’re looking for a heavy-duty hitch bike rack that still allows you to access your hatchback or truck bed, the Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Rack is an expensive but incredibly well-designed solution.

Pros: Tilts for easy hatchback access, holds a broad array of bike types, durable, versatile, and expandable

Cons: Expensive, confusing assembly instructions, heavy

The Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Rack is easy to install on your hitch (although it does weigh more than 50 pounds, so you might need a hand). And, once on, it has the ability to tilt up and down when needed, which lets you move it out of the way to access a hatchback or trunk. The entire process is actually simple enough to do with just one hand.

This bike rack has a frame-free ratcheting arm that quickly and easily secures up to two bikes with wheels from 20 to 29 inches, even fat tire models up to 5-inches thick. You can also add two additional trays to the T2 Pro XT, expanding its carrying capacity to four bikes.

As you’d expect from legacy brand Thule, this rack gets high marks for durability. It’s incredibly well-built and provides excellent stability, holding bikes of various sizes securely in place. The T2 Pro XT’s dual ratcheting arm system is intuitive, too, making it easy to transition to and from a ride with a minimum amount of hassle. 

When designing this bike rack, Thule put a great deal of thought into the needs of its customers. Little details like being able to widen the distance between the wheel trays in order to accommodate larger bikes is a much-appreciated feature, and the kind of touch that makes this pick stand out as the best overall bike rack available. 

That said, there are a few minor downsides to the T2 Pro XT: The durability makes it quite heavy compared to other models, and it’s expensive. 

Best roof rack

Yakima HighRise rack

The Yakima HighRoad Top Car Bike Rack allows for quick-loading of bikes and is ideal for cyclists who prefer hauling gear on top of their car.

Pros: Holds a variety of bikes securely, doesn’t come in contact with the frame, easy installation

Cons: Must be used with crossbars, doesn’t come with built-in locks

The Yakima HighRoad Top Car Bike Rack is different from other roof-mounted bike racks in that you don’t have to remove your bike’s front tire to load it, and it’s able to hold your bike in place without directly touching the frame. 

The HighRoad is easy to install and works by having two hoops that clamp securely onto the front wheel, holding it firmly in place. Once the wheel is in position, you turn a torque knob to lock it down further, limiting movement without damaging the wheel or frame. The rear wheel is then held in place with a strap, adding extra security and stability in the process. 

Overall, this makes for a speedier load and unload while also minimizing the chances of scratching the paint or bending the frame. This is especially important for those who ride costly carbon fiber models.

Yakima’s HighRoad is fairly versatile in what it can carry. The rack accommodates bikes with 26- to 29-inch wheels and tires as wide as 4 inches, which should cover most road bikes, mountain bikes, fat tire bikes, and kids’ bikes. 

As with all roof racks, the HighRoad keeps sight lines clear and doesn’t inhibit access to the rear of the vehicle. Loading and unloading can be quite challenging however, particularly for shorter riders or those with heavier bikes.

There also seems to be one blind spot in the design of this rack: While the HighRoad does support lock cores, it doesn’t include them out of the box. That means you’ll have to buy your own, adding about $60 to the overall cost.

Yakima HighRoad Top Car Bike Rack

Best trunk rack

Saris bike rack

The Saris Bones EX 3-Bike trunk rack is designed to fit nearly any vehicle, making it a great investment for any cyclist. 

Pros: Lightweight, compact, easy to install, compatible with a wide range of vehicles for longeviety, made from recycled plastics

Cons: Restricts access to trunk or hatchback, pricier than other trunk racks

The most recent of the company’s classic Bones model, the Saris Bones EX 3-Bike brings updated styling and a new system for attaching the rack to a vehicle that makes it compatible with 90% of the cars, hatchbacks, and SUVs on the market, including vehicles with spoilers. This expanded compatibility means there’s a good chance the Bones EX 3-Bike will not only fit your current car but your next one, too. 

The Bones EX is held in place by some of the best ratchet straps we’ve seen on a trunk rack. When properly installed, this model locks securely into position, holding two bikes, up to 35 pounds each. The entire system is designed to avoid touching the vehicle, which prevents scratches, scrapes, and dings. Those same ratchet straps also release quickly, making it a breeze to remove the rack when not in use. 

The EX is made from 100% recycled injection-molded plastic, so it’s environmentally-friendly, highly durable, strong, and resistant to rusting. What’s more, it’s surprisingly light, tipping the scales at just 11 pounds. As with all of its products, Saris backs the Bones EX with a lifetime warranty. 

It also features an integrated strap management system for a clean look that keeps the straps out of the way on the back of your car. The design also positions the 3 bikes on separate levels, lowering the chances the bikes will become intertwined while driving. 

As with most trunk racks, the Bones EX makes it challenging to get into a trunk or hatchback. It’s also a bit expensive at $205. That said, the EX’s ability to fit on a broader range of cars makes that added cost a good investment for the future. 

Best lightweight rack

kuat bike rack

The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is a lightweight hitch rack that’s durable, easy to load, and still allows access to your trunk.

Pros: Very lightweight, tilts for hatchback access, plenty of space between bikes, easy to load

Cons: Doesn’t hold bikes with fat tires or those that weigh over 40 pounds

The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is surprisingly light at just 31 pounds, thanks to its all-aluminum construction. What’s more, it’s incredibly easy to install and, because it’s so lightweight, it’s easy to handle with just one person. This is truly invaluable for anyone who wants to remove the rack for everyday driving and re-install it for a few cycling adventures a year.

That lightweight does not compromise quality: The Sherpa 2.0 secures your bikes using a system that includes a front tire ratchet arm and a rear tire strap, locking your bike in place without the rack coming into contact with the frame. Folding tire cradles click neatly into place when in use, but efficiently slide out of the way when they aren’t needed. Each of these features work seamlessly together, making it easy to load and unload two bikes that weigh as much as 40 pounds each. All in all, loading and unloading bikes takes about a minute, which is ideal. 

The Sherpa 2.0 also has a clever foot-activated pivot system that lets you open the rack and move it into position with the tap of your foot — incredibly helpful when your hands are full. And the rack is built to tilt out of the way, allowing unfettered access to the back of the vehicle it’s mounted on. 

Unlike some hitch racks, the Sherpa can’t expand in size nor can it accommodate fat bikes. It’s lightweight limits the size of the load it can carry, too, which is why it caps out at bikes that weigh 40 pounds. Most conventional bikes fall below that threshold, of course, but this model would have issues with heavier e-bikes for instance. 

Best budget roof rack

IMG_1233.JPG

Swagman’s Upright roof-mounted bike rack is inexpensive, easy to install on cars with crossbars, and lets you quickly mount your bike without taking a tire off. 

Pros: Inexpensive, installs easily onto existing crossbars, features a locking mechanism to hold the bike in place, fits a wide range of bike styles

Cons: Holds just one bike

I’ve had a car roof rack for many years, but I never had the proper accessories to mount my bike on top. Since I’m riding my bike a lot more now, I decided it was finally time to get one. When I started doing research on bike mounts, I realized they can be rather expensive, especially if you go to popular name brands.

I got a great deal and paid $119 for my mountain bike during eBay’s Prime Day-adjacent sale a few years ago, so paying a couple hundred for a single bike mount didn’t sit well with me. I went with the Swagman Upright mount simply because it’s cheap (I got two of them for less than one mount from a name brand) and it turned out to be great. It was easy to install, it keeps my bike secure, and is lockable. I did add a bungee cord for extra security, but I would’ve done that even with a more expensive mount. — Amir Ismael, style and grooming reporter

Best budget trunk rack

bike rack 5

The Allen Sports Premier Trunk Rack doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it does have a simple, elegant design that easily meets the needs of most riders.

Pros: Affordable, holds a wide array of bike types, can easily fit in your trunk when not in use, lifetime warranty

Cons: Metal hooks could potentially scratch your vehicle, no locking mechanism

Allen Sports Premier Trunk Rack is very simple, but it’s surprisingly versatile for a budget model. It can hold two bikes, and of a wide variety of bikes, including road bikes, mountain bikes, kids’ bikes, and even fat bikes, provided they don’t exceed the 35-pound weight limit.

Installation isn’t especially difficult, but it can be a bit confusing the first few times you put it on your car. Allen Sports even designed it to be compatible with most cars, hatchbacks, SUVs, and even minivans. Removing the rack is equally easy, requiring just a few seconds to take it off when not in use.

Loading bikes on and off the support arms is quick and easy, and the simple-yet-rugged straps ensure your bike doesn’t jostle about. There’s even a strap prevent the front wheel from bouncing back and forth, protecting your vehicle from potential damage. The Premier Trunk Rack does a great job of securely holding its cargo in place. 

The price kicks in with the quality of the materials used; however, the Premier Trunk Rack still feels plenty sturdy and will likely last for quite a long time. Allen Sports even backs that up with a lifetime warranty on the Premier Trunk Rack

There are a number of small details that remind us that it’s a low-cost model. For instance, over the course of a long drive, the securing straps can come loose, so you should check them at every gas stop. The metal clips on the ends of those straps also lack any type of protective coating, which could scratch a car’s paint. In another cost-saving move, the rack doesn’t have a locking mechanism to protect the bikes from would-be thieves. Those may seem like small oversights but they are important to consider, nonetheless. 

Of course, the best thing about the Allen Sports Premier Trunk Rack is its price. At $110, it’s a bargain when you consider everything it brings to the table. 

How we tested

Each bike rack featured in this guide went through a number of on-vehicle tests to judge how well it compared across four categories: ease of installation, ease of use, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category factored into our decision making for which racks made this guide:

  • Ease of installation: Ordering a bike rack online means that you’ll most likely be tasked with installing the rack onto your car or truck yourself. Regardless if it’s a roof-, hitch-, or trunk-mounted rack, the installation process isn’t always an easy chore. This isn’t a complete dealbreaker but it is definitely a vital consideration.
  • Ease of use: A bike rack is inherently somewhat complicated, but it should be intuitive enough that you don’t have to references the owner’s manual to load or unload your bikes after the first go. Ideally, a rack will take just a few minutes to load or unload to not take time out of your actual ride.
  • Versatility: It’s hard to judge a rack on how many bikes it can carry since almost all racks are designed to haul a specific number, so it’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Versatility, however, is a much better distinction, even if it’s a broader term. This means that a bike rack may be able to carry several at once but also that it has the ability to be used on different vehicles or could even offer the option of carrying something other than a bike.
  • Value: A bike rack’s value is the sum of the three categories above, as well as how much the thing actually costs. It’s smarter to spend a little more on a premium product than to spend less on a cheaply-built product, though there are plenty of budget bike racks that are solid and get the job done — two of which are featured in this guide. 

How to shop for a bike rack

Having loaded and unloaded my fair share of road and mountain bikes from sedans, vans, trucks, and everything in between, I’ve learned that one bike rack does not fit all. Selecting the right rack requires research beyond just the type of riding you plan on doing. You’ll want to consider your vehicle, how many bikes you plan on transporting, how much you want to spend, and your preferred style of rack itself.

Depending on how you answer the above considerations, expect to decide between these three separate styles of bike rack:

  • Hitch rack: A hitch rack connects to your vehicle’s trailer hitch for easy loading and unloading. This style tends to limit rear visibility, weighs more than others, and can interfere with accessing the trunk or hatchback, but it also provides excellent carrying capacity and stability and is very easy to load and unload for one person. Tray hitch racks are generally better than hanging hitch racks because they’re easier to load and don’t grip the bike frame, which is important if you’re concerned about scratching your paint job.
  • Trunk racks: This style connects to the trunk or hatch of your car using straps, buckles, and hooks. When firmly secured in place, it can be surprisingly stable, although they do hinder rear visibility and make it difficult to access the trunk. On the plus side, these racks are lightweight, affordable, and easy to use. 
  • Roof racks: Roof racks mount on top of your car or truck, meaning they don’t get in the way of sightlines or prevent you from accessing the back. They can also be fairly versatile, making it easy to transport things like kayaks or stand-up paddleboards, too. The downside of a roof rack is that they tend to be expensive and loading bikes all the way up onto the rack can be a challenge, particularly for a solo rider and shorter people.
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