How to Transport Bikes Without a Hitch

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So, you’re ready for your next adventure, and you need to get your bike with you. A bike rack sounds like the perfect solution for that, only that your vehicle doesn’t have a hitch mount.

This is a situation many of us are familiar with. Getting a hitch mount would require extra work, and not all of us want to spend the extra money either. That being said, what other options are there?

Well, we aren’t totally out of luck. There are numerous alternatives depending on the fit, number of bikes, and vehicle types. We also need to determine the best course of action depending on the case scenario.

Hence, this article will show you how to transport bikes without a hitch for various setups and situations. Let’s get started!

Various Methods of Transporting Bikes Without a Hitch

How to Transport Bikes Without a Hitch

There are a bunch of alternatives to hitch-mount bike racks out there. Roof racks, spare tire bike racks, truck bed racks (if you have a pickup truck), trunk bike racks — you name it.

Sure, one could even throw the bike in the back of the car and call it a day. But that’s far from being the most elegant solution, and it takes up valuable space. For example, if you’re going on a camping trip, you wouldn’t want the bike taking up half the space.

With that in mind, here are some alternative methods to transport your bike without a hitch mount.

Transporting Bikes with Roof-Mounted Bike Racks

roof mount bike rack

The first method of transporting a bike with your vehicle is using a roof mount. As the name suggests, you put these racks on the roof of your automobile, and that’s it.

Well, I might have simplified it a teeny bit. Let’s dig in further.

Mounting Roof-Mounted Racks to the Vehicle

These racks usually come with some sort of feet that you can securely attach to the rooftop. Most of them are mounted to the crossbars on your vehicle’s rooftop.

That means you should have a clear idea of the crossbars’ size, shape, and how much space there is between the front and rear crossbar. There are many approaches to this style ofmounting too. Using clamps or mounting plates are two such examples.

On the other hand, many of them use vacuum cups. Don’t worry, they are pretty secure, and your bike won’t be going anywhere.

The usage of this method means you don’t have to be as worried about the vehicle’s dimensions to get a rack. They’re also easy to mount and take off when the need arises.

Also read: Should you get a hitch rack or roof rack for your bike?

Bike Mounting Styles for Roof-Mount Racks

Bike Mounting Styles for Roof-Mount Racks

You can find various styles of these racks like fork mount, wheel mount, or frame mount. Depending on what you choose, these can significantly change the way you move with your bike.

Many fork mounts, for example, require you to remove the front wheel of the bike. That’s a step many users prefer to avoid.

Some fork mounts are slotted, meaning the wheel and axle will drop out when you loosen them. On the flip side, non-slotted forks require you to remove the axle from the side.

If taking the wheel off sounds like a chore that you’d rather avoid, a wheel mount can be of service, where removing the wheels is not required at all. These can also carry most types of bikes, even the ones with disc brakes.

There are also frame mounts, where the bike is held by its frame. These are also quite versatile (except for bikes with composite frames, which is to be expected).

Benefits and Drawbacks of Roof-Mount Racks

The first benefit of using this type of rack is that you aren’t limited with their usage.These products are quite versatile, meaning you can use them to transport various styles of bikes or other gear.

Another reason to get such a mount is if you want to use your vehicle’s trunk, hatch, or rear door without any obstruction. The bike and the rack remain up on the roof, saving valuable space and allowing for easy access to everything.

And if you have crossbars, you don’t have to spend extra to install a trailer hitch either!The issue, however, is with clearance up above.

If you’re going through somewhere with a lower ceiling, chances are that you’re going to bump that beautiful bike against something.

Moreover, many users don’t like having to lift the bike every time, so that’s another aspect to consider.

Transporting Bikes with Trunk-Mount Bike Racks

Trunk-Mount Bike Racks

As suggested by the name, you attach trunk-mount racks to the back of the vehicle’s trunk. These have been the go-to option for users looking for versatility and cost-efficiency.

One can easily find suitable racks within a tight budget and still retain all the features. Now, let’s look at how one might mount them to vehicles.

Mounting Trunk-Mount Bike Racks to the Vehicle

Trunk-mount bike racks are some of the most accessible racks to mount to your vehicle. Most of these rely on straps for mounting. That means, unlike roof-mount racks, these don’t typically require any specific measurements.

Of course, the user isn’t limited to installing these on the trunk. It could be the hatch or the bumper too, as the mounting mechanism allows for that versatility.

There is a caveat, though. Many of these products may not be compatible with your vehicle if it has a spoiler. Don’t worry, there are options that still work with spoilers. All you need to do is ensure this part before making the purchase.

Overall, these can be ideal for the occasional user and the regular one alike (or someone on a budget).

Mounting Bikes on Trunk-Mount Racks

If you want to opt for a trunk-mount rack, your best bet would be a bike with a horizontal crossbar and a large frame.The crossbar allows for enough clearance to ensure that the bike doesn’t get in contact with the ground during transportation.

Unusual frames may require some planning beforehand, however. For instance, bikes with smaller frames might not have a great fit with these racks.

In such cases, you can use an adapter bar. But doing so would make things more tedious and require precise measurements. After all, it does contradict the idea of these racks being the most easy-to-set-up ones.

Typically, you can haul up to three bikes with these products, which is plenty for most.

Should You Transport Bikes with Trunk-Mount Racks?

Should You Transport Bikes with Trunk-Mount Racks

One of the most significant benefits of using these products is their ease of usage. You can set them up with your vehicle in a matter of minutes, thanks to the strap mechanism. That also means that they’re compatible with most automobiles, even the ones without hitches or crossbars. Read Hitch vs Trunk Bike Rack for more clarification.

Trunk-mount racks are usually more affordable than other options. And given that you don’t need to buy additional parts to mount them, they’re suitable for anyone on a budget.

However, there are some issues that one should be mindful of. First off, most of the cheap options don’t come with any quality security measures, which is a bummer.

Secondly, there is a chance that the rack might damage your vehicle’s paintwork, depending on the design and mechanism. And since the experience is largely dependent on the fit, there is a tiny amount of risk.

Transporting Bikes with Spare Tire Bike Racks

spare tire bike rack

If your vehicle has a spare tire on the rear, you could easily mount the bike to it. Many people with Jeeps or SUVs have a spare tire, so this is a great way to make use of it.

Mounting Spare Tire Racks to the Vehicle

A spare tire bike rack typically mounts to the spare tire directly. That means the user has to take the tire cover off for proper installation. And unlike the previous style of racks, these products require you to measure things properly.

For example, the tire’s depth can render your rack incompatible with your vehicle. Many bolt-on bike racks wouldn’t even fit your tire if it’s too deep for them to reach.

It’s also necessary to measure the tread of the tire. Many bolt-on products won’t be compatible if the tire is more than 10″-12″ wide from one side to the other.

In terms of the mounting mechanism, these racks usually use straps combined with the bolt systems to secure things in place. Many of them come with options for offset spare tires to ensure maximum compatibility, so we’re set on that front too.

Mounting Bikes on Spare Tire Bike Racks

The method in which these products haul the bikes isn’t too different from what we’ve seen before. Usually, the rack would either be dual or single-armed.

The former comes with two cradles/arms that hold the bike’s frame, while the latter has one. Dual-arm racks are quite simplistic, and they’re well-suited with standard frame bikes. It’s also possible to use them with unusual frames, but you may need an adapter.

Single-arm racks require users to use the topplate to keep the bike frame in place. The benefit of this is better compatibility with many types of bike frames.

The number of bikes these can carry is somewhat limited too. These racks typically hold up to 2-3 bikes at once and are pretty secure for the most part.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Spare Tire Bike Racks

Benefits and Drawbacks of Spare Tire Bike Racks

Spare tire bike racks are pretty affordable, making them accessible for everyone. They are easy to mount as well, provided that you have the right size and measurements. If you don’t have a hitch but have a spare tire, this method is an easy recommendation.

It’s possible to transport multiple bikes as well. And since they’re mounted to the rear, you don’t have to lift the bike like top-mount bike racks.

However, that very advantage might put you at a disadvantage.

For one, many of these require the user to take the bike off if the vehicle has a hatchback.You can keep them mounted if you have doors that swingout.

But even then, it’s necessary to ensure that the bikes don’t exceed the door’s maximum weight-bearing capacity. Other than that, these racks can be a fantastic choice.

Other Methods of Transporting Bikes Without a Hitch

The options above are some of the most efficient ones in the absence of a hitch. However, there are a few other methods that you can resort to.

For example, one can opt for a truck bed bike rack for a pickup truck. These products are secure, and it’s possible to haul even 5-8 bikes with ease.

They also avoid any sort of frame contact, which is a load off the user’s mind. It’s also not necessary to remove the front wheel.

But as I said, most people don’t own a pickup truck, so these options are not as universal as those above. However, you can certainly opt for them if they’re applicable to your vehicle.

Things to Remember for Transporting Bikes without a Hitch

Now that we know the methods to haul bikes even without a hitch mount, here are some tips that can make that whole process much more manageable.

  • The first thing to know is the number of bikes you want to transport. The options can drastically change depending on that number. Moreover, take a look at the rack’s weight capacity as well to be on the safe side.
  • In the case of a roof mount, ensure that you’ve got the mounting mechanism down. The crossbars and their measurements are essential.
    You may also need to take the bike’s front wheel off in many cases. Keep an eye out for that, as it’s something many users prefer to avoid.
  • Security is an aspect that people often overlook. For example, many trunk-mount racks aren’t nearly as secure as they should be. Therefore, paying attention to this aspect is of utmost importance.
  • Along with the vehicle’s measurements, the bike’s design plays a significant role. Let’s say you have a bike for your child, which doesn’t have a standard frame. In such cases, make sure that you can haul the bike without having to buy other tools.

Final Thoughts

While hitch-mounted bike racks are pretty secure and effective, many other solutions work just as well. And if you were wondering how to transport bikes without a hitch on your vehicle, you should now have your answer.

Make sure that you have your requirements and measurements right, and have an exciting adventure!

Also read:

  1. How to Keep Bikes from Swaying on Bike Rack
  2. How to Transport a Bike without a Rack
  3. How to Transport a Tandem Bike
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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