Bike Racks For SUVs, Vans And Minivans – Which Are Good?

What is the best bike rack for SUVs is a question we are being asked frequently. In order to answer that question it is important to understand that SUVs need to be treated slightly different when it comes to bike carries. Most of the rack systems that are available for normal cars are also available for SUVs. The only thing that we need to pay special attention to when looking for bike racks for SUVs is that most off-road type vehicles come with a spare wheel attached to their back. Because of that some carriers might not be available at all, others might have a decreased capacity as opposed to being used with a normal car (that spare wheel takes some space after all). With that being said, answering the question is not that easy since it’s a preference thing. Some of us prefer roof mounted solutions, some of us like to go with hitch racks whilst others fancy strap- and clip-on racks or spare wheel carriers. Those are all available for almost any SUV.

Since spare wheel carriers are exclusive to SUVs and have not been dealt with in our other bike rack articles let’s take a closer look at them.

Two bikes mounted to spare wheel rack

Those carriers mostly rely on strap on systems, often coming with six tensioning straps that are used to attach the carrier to your spare wheel. They can be adjusted to offset your tire on either the right or left hand side of the vehicle and most of the racks can be folded down flat when not in use. Most of them come with protective foam to protect vehicle’s paint work. Your bikes are often held on by soft rubber cradles and secured by thick rubber straps plus two additional tie down straps to secure it to the tire and to prevent the bikes from swinging. Most of them are able to carry two bikes. With some racks there will be bike to bike contact that can potentially scratch and ruin your bikes paintjob. In case you are looking for an alternative to tow ball / hitch style solutions and / or roof mounted systems, a spare wheel bike carrier could be what you are looking for.

Besides spare wheel racks all the other systems are available too. Hitch mounted solutions might be worth looking into, since many SUVs come with a hitch. Roof racks might also be a good choice since SUVs often already have roof bars to fit them too. One thing to keep in mind is that SUVs are generally higher than your normal car so loading roof mounted carriers can be quite difficult.

Now that we have learned about the different options for our SUVs let us take a look at some specific models, to see what is available on the market.

Bike Rack For Jeep Wrangler:

The Thule Parkway hitch bike carrier is a popular choice amongst Wrangler owners.

Thule Parkway 4 bike rack

It is a high-strength steel construction that tilts away from your hatch and comes with soft rubber cradles protect your bike frame while securely holding it. There are three different versions available. If your Jeep has a 2 inch hitch receiver you can either go with the 956 that will carry up to four bikes or the 956, which will allow you to comfortably transport up to two bikes. For 1¼ inch receivers Thule offers the 957 (up to two bikes). Please note that in case you have oversized tires on the back of your Wrangler you will need to order an additional hitch extension. These carriers are great all around bike racks for your Jeep.

Bike Rack For Honda CRV:

As well as the Wrangler owners, CRV owners also favor a hitch mounted solution to securely transport their bicycles. The Swagman XTC-2 is the solution many of them are really happy with.

Swagman XTC-2 Bicycle Carrier

It is available for both 2” and 1¼” receivers. Loading the carrier is really comfortable. Simply rest the bike’s wheels in the well, ratchet down the frame hooks, and you are good to go, no more dread lifting your bike up into the frame cradles. The rack can handle up to two bikes and secures them at 3 different positions. Wheel hoops, bike hooks and wheel rubber straps tie your bikes down really good. This carrier also works great with smaller bikes (kid’s bikes for example) which is probably one of the reasons for it being so popular.

Bike Rack For Toyota RAV4:

RAV4 owners seem to like making use of their spare tire, since one of the most popular carriers amongst them is the Thule Spare Me – a spare wheel mounted system.

Thule Spare Me Carrier System

The rack comes with dual arms with anti-sway cradles for superior bicycle stability and a locking knob that secures the rack to your vehicle. You can carry up to two of your bikes with this rack. It has lots of great features you find with many Thule carriers, such as (but not limited to) Stay-Put anti-sway cradles with rubber straps to firmly hold your bikes in place on the carrier and No-Sway Cage accessories to eliminate bike to bike contact during transport. Especially the last one is a nice to have feature, since you will not risk ruining your bike’s paintjob due to scratches caused by bike to bike contact. When the rack is not in use you can conveniently fold it down. It fits to all spare tires with up to 10″ width and 32” diameter.

Bike Rack For Subaru Outback:

Outback owners sure love their Swagman XTC-2’s, as do the CRV owners. Since we already dealt with that one above let’s take a look at another carrier that is also fairly popular among the Outback community, the Thule Vertex.

Thule Vertex 4

This rack is a hitch mounted solution that can carry up to four bikes and is available for both, 1¼” and 2” hitch receivers. Not only does this rack tie your bikes down good and secure, it also looks rather sleek and stylish. Your bikes are carried on dual arched arms that provide perfect bike spacing and let you mount bikes at different heights. It also provides more space between bikes than standard dual-arm racks, minimizing the risk of scratches due to bike to bike contact. The carrier also has cushioned anti-sway cradles and a tilting mast for rear cargo area access, which is really a nice feature. Simply tilt the rack body forward to easily access to your vehicle’s rear cargo area. Tall, arching, upright mast improves both ground clearance and clearance from the rear of your vehicle.

Bike Rack For (Mini)Vans:

Don’t own a SUV, but a van or minivan? Don’t worry, we won’t let you down. Here are our suggestions on carriers for your ride: A highly popular rack amongst van owners is the Thule Parkway. We already dealt with this one during the Jeep Wrangler paragraph of this article, so let’s have a look at another one. The Pro Series Eclipse hitch mounted rack is also a good solution for minivan owners and it is significantly cheaper than the Parkway.

Pro Series Eclipse Bike Carrier For Up To 4 Bikes

It comes with a single-arm bike carrier and lets you access the rear of your vehicle by simply pulling a pin to tilt the rack down. Heavy-duty straps as well as rubber-padded cradles are taking care of the security of your bikes whilst an anti-rattle hitch pin holds the rack steady. The rack can carry up to four bikes and is available for both, 2” and 1¼” hitch receivers. The single arm works with most bikes, also with those that have somewhat awkward shaped frames. Smaller bikes, like women’s and children’s bikes, may require a bike adapter bar though. It is not included and has to be purchased separately. Another downside is that the hitch lock is also sold separately.

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