How to Keep Bikes from Swaying on Bike Rack

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You know that feeling while driving your car and watching your beloved bike sway back and forth?

Well, you’re not the only one who despises it.

First off, the rattling noise it makes is intolerable. But it’s not just that; too much sway can even end up damaging a bike (and the car, too), depending on the situation. Therefore, it’s essential to minimize that sway as much as possible.

The method through which you can do that drastically varies, though. Hitch rack, trunk rack, roof rack, bumper rack — each of them requires a different fix to stop the bike from swaying.

I’ll relieve you of that headache in this article by showing how to keep bikes from swaying on bike racks. Moreover, there will be a bunch of tips for new buyers to minimize the possibility of any issues right from the get-go!

Why Does a Bike Sway on a Bike Rack?

How to Keep Bikes from Swaying on Bike Rack

Most bike racks will result in some sway — there’s no changing that. The reason behind this is their mechanism itself. It’s not the manufacturer’s fault or anything (at least in typical cases); it’s just how the racks hold the bikes.

This is especially true if you’re using something along the line of a hanging hitch rack or trunk rack. On the other hand, some racks (fork-mount roof racks, for instance) allow for significantly less wobble by design.

This is why I think it’s beneficial to have a clearer idea of what works how. That allows for not only a better buying experience but also an easier time minimizing the wobble. I’ll be explaining the reasons behind the swaying and providing ways to alleviate the issue.

Bike Racks and Swaying

Bike racks would fall into four main categories:

  1. Hitch-mount bike racks.
  2. Roof-mount bike racks.
  3. Hitchless or Trunk-mount bike racks.
  4. Spare tire-mount bike racks.

These are usually the most common types of racks one might find.

Hitch-Mount Bike Racks Swaying

Hitch-Mount Bike Racks Swaying

Hitch racks connect to your vehicle’s trailer hitch and are one of the most popular variants of bike racks. Now, there are two parts where unwanted movement can occur. The first one is the hitch connection itself, as there is usually a little wiggle room there.

This part is intentional(to some extent) because it would become difficult to slide the rack in and out of it otherwise. However, how much leg room there is can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Another aspect is that the receiver becomes a little loose over time, which is caused by the wear and tear on it. And even a little bit of expansion in that area can result in a significant boost in the swaying.

Secondly, the type of hitch rack you’re using can also allow the bikes to move a bit. Generally, there are two types here — hanging and tray hitch racks. Hanging racks hold the bikes by the frame and typically allow for a bit more movement.

Platform or tray hitch racks, on the other hand, are better at controlling the sway because the bikes rest on a… platform. Hence, the type of your rack can also play a significant role.

How to Minimize Bike Sway on Hitch Bike Racks

As I said above, the biggest reason behind the movement in hitch racks is the connection itself. Therefore, it’s essential to minimize the wiggle room between the tray and the hitch receiver.

Hitch Clamps

Hitch Clamps

The first solution you can try is using a hitch clamp. So, how does a hitch clamp work? Essentially, it just clamps down on the rack’s tow bar and the vehicle’s hitch receiver.

Doing so ensures that the parts won’t have the space to move around as much anymore. You have complete control over how tight you want the clamp to be as well. Another bright side about these products is that they work with everything, including the typical 2″ or 1.25″ hitch receivers.

You can find hitch clamps that work on all sorts of racks, be it class I, II, III, or IV. There’s no effect on the rack’s capacity either. That means you can carry just as many bikes as you could before attaching the hitch clamp to your rack and receiver.

Check top 4 hitch clamp from Amazon

While these are also pretty affordable, they can get slightly costlier in one case — if you’re using an adapter. Since there are now two points that we have to worry about, you’ll probably need to use two hitch clamps to minimize the swaying properly. And doing so will increase your overall expenditure.

Anti-Rattle Kits

Anti-Rattle Kits

Another way to minimize swaying is to use an anti-rattle kit or receiver lock pin. This is an excellent method to reduce the wiggle room between the hitch receiver and the tow bar.

You’ll find what’s essentially a piece of metal to insert in the drawbar or tow bar. After insertion, the bar needs to be put into the hitch receiver and connected with the threaded pin. The package should also come with a washer, and together, these tighten the connection as much as possible.

Of course, using adapters would create another point that may cause a bit of wobble, so keep that in mind. Otherwise, an anti-rattle kit can get rid of any swaying or rattling noise with ease.

Check top 3 anti-rattle kits from Amazon

Anti-Sway Cradles

Anti-Sway Cradles

This solution isn’t exclusive to hitch racks. Now, this might not be as essential for platform racks since they don’t sway as much, but you can always see some improvement by using these little tools.

As you can imagine, the equation is different for hanging hitch racks. These racks allow for significantly more movement, and an anti-sway cradle may be necessary in some cases.

These small cradles essentially attach to the rack and minimize the legroom to prevent the bikes from moving. Many racks come with these out of the box — a good option if you’re yet to buy one.

Anti-Sway Straps

Anti-Sway Straps

These solutions do precisely what their name suggests — strap the bikes tightly and minimize their movement. You get the top-heavy portion of your bike to settle down, allowing significantly less wobble.

Nevertheless, they can’t completely eliminate horizontal movement if there aren’t any other sway-reduction methods at play.

Check anti-sway straps on Amazon

Roof-Mount Bike Racks Swaying

Up next, we’ve got roof racks. These racks can be a bit dangerous, as the bikes are resting at the top of the vehicle. But the good news is that they don’t sway nearly as much as hitch racks do, and the experience is relatively stable.

There are primarily two types of these racks — fork-mount and upright roof racks.

Upright roof racks hold the bike as is, meaning you don’t need to take anything off or make any modifications to it. These take a bit more space and introduce more drag, increasing the bikes’ movement as aresult.

Fork-mount bike racks require you to remove the front wheel of the bike, however. That’s because they hold the bikes by the frame. These are generally much more stable than upright racks.

Once again, this is by design. Fork-mount racks hold bikes by their frames to ensure a tight fit, while their counterparts are a bitshaky, to say the least. 

As I said earlier, these racks can be dangerous due to where the bikes are mounted if you’re not wary. While a fork-mount rack is the better option among roof racks, there are other ways to minimize swaying.

How to Minimize Bike Sway on Roof Racks

How to Minimize Bike Sway on Roof Racks

One easy way to do this would be using a tie-down strap.

Hey, straps may seem like a generic solution, but they’re nothing to scoff at. In fact, one of the easiest ways (although not the perfect one) to get a wild roof rack to settle down is through a strap.

There’s not much to the mechanism here. The straps increase the amount of downward pressure on the rack, and therefore, it has less wiggle room.

Nevertheless, it probably won’t be able to get rid of all of the wobbling, so keep that in mind.

A crossbar adaptor can also be a decent solution for rook racks. These don’t require any assembly, and it’s reasonably easy to get them set up. A well-built product of this category does well to reduce the bikes’ movement without damaging the bike.

Trunk-Mount Bike Racks Swaying

Trunk racks are like the hassle-free brother of hitch racks — they go to the back of the car and don’t require much of a setup process. One can mount them to the trunk or hatch of the car and usually carry up to three bikes at once.

These primarily rely on a combination of straps and hooks to secure themselves to the vehicle. That makes the whole setup process much quicker.

Furthermore, they’re lightweight and efficient, making things much easier. However, that also makes them prone to swaying when you’ve got a noticeable bit of weight on. Not only can the swaying damage the car’s finish, but it could also hurt the bikes.

Furthermore, you need to be mindful of the damage risks related to adjustments (or lack thereof) when using the rack on another car.

How to Minimize Bike Sway on Trunk Racks

How to Minimize Bike Sway on Trunk Racks

Unlike other racks, the installation’s success of a trunk rack largely relies on you. And in many cases, it’s indeed possible to reduce the movement by installing the rack properly.

That’s why the first thing to ensure little sway on it is to get the hooks and straps adjusted. But that’s not the only thing we can do. We still have our good old friend — anti-sway stability cradles.

Having these soft rubber cradles to clamp down on the area of movement allows the user to get rid of a lot of the sway. Many racks come with these out of the box, which a new buyer should keep in mind.

Another way to get rid of the sway is using extra straps.

Yes, even more straps.

If getting the rack’s straps set up properly and using anti-sway cradles don’t work as expected, this is a path you could pursue.This might be a necessity especially if you plan on carrying multiple bikes on a trunk rack.

Sure, it can be a bit tedious, but combining these solutions can help eliminate most of the sway.

Spare Tire-Mount Bike Racks Swaying

Spare tire-mount bike racks aren’t as common as the other options above. Moreover, they can’t be used with a vehicle if it doesn’t have a spare tire (for instance, an SUV might have one).

Nevertheless, we’ll be taking a look at these as well. It’s necessary to remember the performance of these racks can vary with the tire’s size, and in turn, their own size. The bad news is that these racks can often sway quite a bit, especially with a heavier workload.

How to Minimize Bike Sway on Spare Tire Racks

How to Minimize Bike Sway on Spare Tire Racks

Unfortunately, we don’t have as many solutions with these as we do with, say, a hitch rack. Arguably the best solution you can opt for is an anti-sway cradle or cage.

As mentioned above, these cradles are mounted below the arms that hold your bike. They are usually made with a rubbery or stretchy material that can minimize the overall movement of the bikes and absorb the shock more efficiently.

A lot can depend on the spare tire, as well. Hence, you should consider any modifications to that area if that can help.

That’s about it. While there are a few other types of racks, they usually fall in these categories in one way or another, or they can use the same methods to reduce swaying.

My Thoughts

I realize how it feels to have your bikes moving left-right and up-down while you’re driving — not a pleasant feeling. And it’s not just the higher heart rate; it may end up damaging your car or bike too. That’s why knowing how to keep bikes from swaying on bike rack is exceptionally important. The methods above should be able to cut down on the god-forsaken movement. Follow them, and enjoy a worry-free ride!

Also read:

  1. Roof Bike Rack or Hitch Bike Rack
  2. Trunk Rack vs Roof Rack
  3. How Much Do Bike Racks Cost
Jeff Phillips Racktutor
About the author

Jeff Phillips is the able founder of In his professional life, he has been offering Paintless Dent Repair and Hail Repair services in North Texas since 1990. He is the owner of DentMasters. He is still passionate about outdoor adventures with his family, bikes and cars. So he has first-hand experience on bike racks. He is regularly testing suitable racks for his upcoming trip. His aim is to create a user-friendly free website where bikers can easily read bike rack informations without any hassle.

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