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If you’re a bike enthusiast, you know how challenging it can be to bring your bicycles along for a trip, no matter how long or short. Typically, bike racks are cumbersome devices that attach to the rear or the top of your vehicle. They’re often rigid and offer no flexibility, especially when it comes to accessing the trunk for cargo space. Still, they work better than trying to fit your bike inside the car.
Fortunately, a swing-away bike carrier provides bike owners with a more convenient solution. These racks are versatile and make it easy to take your bicycle on any trip. Whether you’re taking your bike to the park or heading on a week-long camping trip, the best swing-away bike rack is a must-have solution.
Our Pick for the Best Swing Away Bike Rack
Our favorite swing away bike rack is the Thule Apex XT. It’s rugged, convenient, and the installation is tool-free. It holds up to 150 pounds, and the arms can fold down when it’s not loaded with bikes.
Top 4 Swing Away Bike Racks at a Glance
What Is a Swing-Away Bike Rack?
As the name implies, a swing-away bike rack is a rack that swings away from the car for when you need hassle-free access to the trunk area. This convenient design makes it so you don’t have to remove the bikes or the platform to get into the rear.
As we’ll see on this list, some racks can hold just two bikes, while others can carry up to four. We’ll discuss different factors to consider when choosing a bike rack, such as the type of swing mechanism and load capacity. However, a swing-away bike rack will almost always be more convenient and easier to use than a standard rack or bike carrier.
Pros and Cons of Swing-Away Bike Racks
Before spending money on a bike rack, you must ensure it will do what you need without any significant problems. Here are some notable pros and cons you can expect from these devices:
|Trunk Access. When bringing bikes along for the journey, you may need to access your car’s rear section. These racks allow you to move the bicycles out of the way, so there’s no hassle.
|Potential Swaying. While these bike racks come with a locking swing mechanism, some are stronger than others. In rare cases, the locking pin may break, causing the bikes to swing out while you’re driving.
|Haul Multiple Bicycles. Some of these models can carry up to four or five bikes, making them ideal for family trips. Even if you’re not hauling that many rides, you can still strap one or two bicycles to the back.
|Only Mounts to Vehicle Hitch. If your car, truck, or SUV doesn’t have a hitch receiver, you’ll need to install one to use a bike rack. Otherwise, there’s no point in buying one of these racks, since you won’t be able to install it.
Top Swing-Away Bike Racks
Thule is a top brand for automotive bike racks, and the Apex XT Hitch Bike Rack is one of the most well-built models. This particular rack is rugged and dependable, and it should allow you to travel solo, with a partner, or with the whole family.
Holds Up to 4 Bikes
The Apex XT is a great family-friendly hitch bike rack for when you need to bring at least four bikes along. One factor to point out is that fitting all four bicycles can be challenging if they’re all the same size. Realistically, you can fit four if some of them are kid’s bikes. Otherwise, they’ll be too close together and could get damaged in transit.
Note: On the Amazon listing for this rack, only the “Swing 4 Bike” style is a swing-away rack. If you select the two-, five-, or the other four-bike style, you won’t be getting the swing-away feature!
Since the swing arm is designed to swing out, you need to ensure it won’t do that while you’re on the road. Thule makes a durable and reliable anti-sway cradle that should last for a long time. So when you’re making tight turns, the bicycles shouldn’t move too much, nor should they tumble or fall off.
- Holds up to 150 pounds
- Carries up to four bikes
- Anti-swaying feature to prevent accidental hitting
- Durable steel construction
- Fits any two-inch hitch
- Tool-free installation
- Bike arms fold down when not in use
- In rare cases, the tie-downs can come loose on the road
Yakima is another well-known manufacturer of bike racks, and this swing-away model works well for most vehicles. As with other frames on this list, the Yakima Full-Swing Bike Rack only fits into a two-inch hitch. So if your car has a smaller or larger hitch mount, you can’t use this rack.
Zero-Hassle Zip Strips
There are two primary attachment methods for a bike rack. The most common option is a zip strip or ratchet system like the one on this Yakima. The way it works is that you pull the strip out, place the bike on the rack, and secure it with the strip. These strips are rugged and heavy-duty, and they install faster and more conveniently than most other racks we’ve seen. Basically, you can mount your bikes quicker, which is especially helpful if you’re stuck in the rain.
AutoPin System for Automatic Installation
Installing a swing-away bike rack on your vehicle typically involves using a hitch pin to keep the system mounted. Fortunately, this rack has an AutoPin that snaps into place as soon as you pass over the hole. This way, you’re not straining your neck to verify that they’re lined up.
- Durable construction
- Holds up to four bikes
- Can carry bikes up to 40 pounds each (160 pounds total)
- No-hassle zip strips to secure each bicycle
- Same Key System (SKS) for added security
- May need a hitch extension to work correctly
- No storage options for unused tie-downs
As with the previous racks, the SportRack Ridge holds up to four bikes, so it’s a great option for family trips.
Note: On the Amazon listing for this rack, only the “Swing 4 Bike” style is a swing-away rack. If you select the two-, five-, or the other four-bike style, you won’t be getting a swing-away!
Folding Bike Carrier Arms
When hauling your bike(s), you need the carrier arms to stick straight out so that there’s somewhere for the bicycle to sit. However, what if you’re traveling without your ride? In that case, you can drop the carrier arms on this SportRack so they’re not sticking out. This convenient feature is helpful if you’re planning to keep the rack installed 24/7 and don’t want to remove it whenever you’re not carrying bicycles.
Anti-Sway Bike Stability
When you’re hauling three or four bikes on the road, you want to be sure that your bikes won’t be knocking into each other or, worse, knocking into your car. Fortunately, the SportRack Ridge’s anti-sway stability cradle helps prevent bike-to-bike contact and bike-to-vehicle contact.
- Durable steel construction
- Fits all two-inch hitches
- Rubber arms for better attachments
- Arms fold down when not in use
- Holds up to four bikes
- 140-pound load capacity
- Fast and easy installation
- Anti-sway rubber cradle
- Straps can be hard to use effectively
If you’re looking for the ultimate rack for versatility, the RockyMounts Hitch Rack is the best option. Not only does the frame fit flush against your car, but you can also tilt it or swing it out for ease of access to the trunk. Also, this is one of the most durable racks on this list.
Platform Bike Rack
Instead of using zip strips, this rack secures your bike’s tires. This option can often be more secure because there’s less chance of wobbling and shaking while you’re driving. This rack holds skinny and fat bike tires measuring between 20 and 29 inches in diameter. The wheelbases can be between 34 and 49 inches, making it easy to bring virtually any kind of bike along.
Three-Axis Anti-Wobble System
Since this swinging arm offers a broader range of motion, you need to be sure it won’t swing out accidentally while you’re driving. Fortunately, the rack has an anti-wobble system that works better than most other units we’ve seen.
- Durable steel construction
- Platform rack secures the bikes better than others
- Fits two bikes securely
- Anti-wobble system
- Tilts down 30 degrees for easy hitch access
- Hitch lock pin and cable for added security
- Product is heavy at 59 pounds
- In rare cases, the bikes may fall off in transit
How To Choose a Swing-Away Bike Rack
Many bike racks—even the ones on this list—have similar features. To help you find the best model for your needs, here are the top factors to consider before making a final decision:
Are you only bringing your own bike, or is the whole family going to ride? Bike racks can be broken down by the number of models they can hold, with the largest frames carrying up to five bicycles.
That said, you must also pay attention to the maximum weight capacity. For example, the Thule Apex XT pictured below can hold 150 pounds and four bikes, so you have to be conscious of the weight of each bike you own and how you’ll distribute bike weight across the rack.
Platform vs. Ratchet System
Most swing-away bike racks use a ratcheting system to hold the bicycles in place. While this option is fast and efficient, it may not be very strong. Also, you risk damaging your bike by tightening it too much on the bars. If you hit bumpy roads, you might accidentally dent or bend the bars.
Platform bike racks, like the RockyMounts rack pictured below, can sometimes be better because they attach to the tires, not the frame:
That said, if you have fat bike tires, you may not be able to use a platform rack anyway. Also, if the bicycles are not appropriately secured, they can easily fall off, especially when you make a tight turn.
Virtually all swinging bike racks have some kind of cushioning system to prevent the bikes from swaying too much in transit. Otherwise, there could be a lot of contact between bikes and they could knock against the rear window. That said, some systems (called cradles) are better equipped than others. One of the best ways to verify that a cradle works well is to read user reviews and look for mentions of the bikes coming loose during a drive. If that happens frequently, the cradle is pretty weak and may break easily.
If you’re a consistent bike rider, you may want to keep your rack attached to the vehicle at all times. This way, you won’t have to go through the hassle of installing the frame every time you need to transport a bicycle. Racks with folding arms are more convenient since you can fold them down when you’re not carrying anything.
That said, more folding points mean more places that can bend, break, or fail. While most high-quality racks shouldn’t have an issue, you must be more mindful of load capacities. Otherwise, your bikes could fall off while you’re on the road, causing potential collisions.
Swing-Away vs. Standard Bike Rack: Which Is Better?
When it comes to convenience, a swing-away rack will almost always be better than a standard model. Even if you’re not hauling anything in the trunk, the ability to swing the bikes out makes it easier to remove them. For example, if you have three bicycles and want the one in the back, you can swing the arm and take it off without removing the other two first.
That said, the more moving parts something has, the more likely it can break. Standard hitch bike racks are often more stable since they use rigid pieces that don’t sway back and forth.
Overall, if you need trunk access, a swing-away bike rack is the better option. However, if you don’t have to get into your car, a standard model is often cheaper and can be more reliable.
When talking about the best swing-away bike rack, we like the Thule Apex XT. This model is rugged, convenient, and easy to use. We appreciate its 150-pound load capacity and its tool-free installation. If you’re looking for a platform hitch rack, the RockyMounts Rack is the only option on this list, and it works beautifully.
Do your bikes have fenders? See our list of the best bike racks for bikes with fenders.