Swagman XC2 Hitch Mount Bike Rack Review: Budget-Friendly Product My Frugal Buddies Out There!

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The Swagman XC2 is a reliable option, given you have to work within a tight budget. Of course, this is not the brightest star in the galaxy of the bike racks. But it’s a star nonetheless. So, what are the main selling points of XC2?

Well, the Swagman XC2 hitch mount rack is very affordable. You can keep this on your list if you’re not looking for something hardcore. Besides, it has a compact design, works with both class 2 and class 3 hitch receivers, and is quite versatile.

Here you’ll learn everything there is to know about this rack. I’ll discuss its features, flaws, and how you can make the best out of it. Also, in the end, I’ve added a small segment where I’ll present you with some alternative bike racks to help you further evaluate things a bit better.

With that said, let’s take a quick look at this product.

A Quick Run-down of Swagman XC2

Swagman XC2

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The whole structure of Swagman XC2 is made from alloy steel. So…yes, the rack is quite sturdy and solid. It also wears a black powder coat finish to fight off rough weather conditions as well. The overall weight of this product is 28 pounds which makes it super easy to move around.

As a matter of fact, you won’t have a hard time assembling it also. Following the instructions shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to have the whole thing set up. And after that, attaching the bike rack to the hitch of your car is even simple. 

Now, the weight capacity. Honestly speaking, this thing is not made for transporting heavier bikes. The rack has a 35-pound maximum weight capacity per bike. So, if your bike’s weight tends to exceed this limit, do look elsewhere. You can also check the alternative bike racks below.

The rack doesn’t have any security feature whatsoever. Hopefully, it won’t make much difference because everyone uses aftermarket locks to secure their bikes and the rack. Yet the total absence of it hurts the eyes.

Focusing on the bright sides, this rack has a compact design. When you’re not using it, you can just fold it like a sleek origami piece and store it anywhere you’d like. Also, it is surprisingly versatile for a bike rack having a 200 dollars price tag. 

Speaking of which, it can accommodate bike frames up to 23.2-inches. So, unless you have a bike with a really low frame, you will be just fine. One last thing you’ll love about this rack is that it can be used with class 3 and 2 hitches.

Let’s Do a DetailedSwagman XC2 Hitch Bike Rack Review

Swagman XC2 Hitch Mount Bike Rack Review

Let’s assume you want to learn more about the Swagman XC2. Well, in that case, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve already mentioned that this bike rack is not the brightest of the bunch. However, it still packs quite a punch.

So, we’ll see how hard it can punch and where are the weak spots. We’ll also try and see if they can be worked around to give this bike rack a chance.

Strong Alloy Steel Construction

You have to keep in mind that this bike rack wasn’t designed to do heavy work. Still, you’ll find the XC2 reasonably strong. It has an alloy-steel construction which makes sure the rack has what it takes to withstand rough terrains.

Now, let’s get specific with the parts of the Swagman XC2. Starting with the stinger, you’ll notice that it has a curve design. I’m quite sure you’ll feel the sturdiness of it while assembling the rack by yourself. This statement stands true for the resting arm as well.

Given the relatively lower price point, you’ll understand why the design of the rack is so primitive. There’s no extra fat whatsoever. While it makes the rack slim and sleek, it also gives the rack a more compact posture.

Moving on to the wheel trays, they should withstand a reasonable number of bumps when you’re driving on the road. Just make sure you don’t trust it too much though. Anyway, they are also made of steel and will securely hold the bikes in place. And nope…there aren’t any ratcheting straps to secure the tires to the rack. Touché.

On the other hand, the plastic parts of this rack won’t disappoint you as well. The wheel tray knobs and the ratcheting switch, both are made from high-quality plastic and will not break that easily. The rubber on the clamp hook is also quite good.

Don’t worry, the rubber won’t wear off that easily even if you use it under rough weather conditions. Moreover, the grip is pretty strong and the rubber won’t scratch the frame of your bike at all.

Weigh Less (28 pounds), Carry Less (70 pounds)

The compensation has to be made in this department. As a result, Swagman XC2 has a lower weight capacity than most bike racks in the market. I mean, if you keep the 200 dollars price tag in your hindsight, I don’t think you’ll complain much about it.

After all, this bike rack wasn’t targeted at hardcore cycle enthusiasts in the first place. With this bike rack, you can carry up to two bikes. That’s 35 pounds per bike. So, if your bike fits this weight profile, then, by all means, you can consider this.

As for the weight of the rack itself, it is only 28 pounds. So, carrying it around while you’re not using it shouldn’t be a problem at all. And given its rather compact design, you can store it anywhere in your garage…you won’t even notice it.

Fun and Easy to Assemble

Once you open the package, you’ll be surprised to see how well-protected the parts are. In the box, you’ll find a bunch of screws and washers kept separately in a plastic bag along with the main parts. There’s also an easy-to-follow guide tucked away in the package so you can assemble it yourself.

So, the first thing you want to do is pull out the pins to unlock the sidearms. Once they are in the stowed position, just simply reinsert the pins. Now, you can go ahead and install the wheel trays.

First, slide them in and make sure you offset them. In this way, your bikes won’t come into contact with each other. After you’ve decided on the position of the trays, use the bolts and the knobs to tighten them in place.

Here’s a tip: don’t tighten the knob all the way at the beginning. Wait until you’ve mounted the bikes on the rack. In this way, you can adjust the wheel trays properly and offset the bikes efficiently. Once that’s done, you can tighten the plastic knobs until you’re happy.

After that, simply slide the clamp arms down the middle, and that’s it. You don’t have to use any tools for this. If you notice closely, you’ll see that the middle bar has some cutouts. The clamp arms/hooks use a ratcheting mechanism that locks onto them and keeps them in place.

And when you want to move the arm, you can just press the grey switch on it and move it up or down. The switch is spring-loaded, and it’s oddly fun to operate. Now, you do want to put the more extended clamp arm on the side of the hitch, and the shorter one on the other side, just like the manual says.

Finally, just join the horizontal and vertical bars using the bolts. Remember to use the washers that also come with the package while joining them together. And that’s petty much it. Overall, the process shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, even if you’re a novice.

Adjusting the Bikes on The Rack can be Challenging

One of the perks of being lightweight is that you’ll have no problem maneuvering it. The problem with bulky bike racks is that they give users a hard time while installing or storing them.

This is certainly not the case with the Swagman XC2. Remember, this thing only weighs 28 pounds. So, you can use it with ease. Most Swagman XC2 Hitch Mount Bike Rack Reviews will whisk by this challenge.

We won’t.

You already know how to assemble this, right? It was super easy. But how about installing it on your car? Well, it’s pretty rudimentary as well. Just lift the rack while the arms are spread on both sides.

Hold it in a vertical position because, in that way, you’ll have more control. Then, insert the stinger into the hitch receiver and tighten the threaded bolt.

You’ll notice that the Swagman XC2, just like Thule T2 Classic, doesn’t use a regular hitch pin in this case. Instead, they use traditional threaded bolts. This creates a more secure connection between the vehicle and the rack and, most importantly, eliminates wobble.

Moving on, the loading height of the XC2 is not high at all. You can easily load your bikes onto this rack. Hold them by the mainframe, slowly place the front wheel on the wheel tray first, and then work with the rear wheel. After that, lock the clamp hook on the lowest point of your bike’s frame.

However, one of the issues with the design of the Swagman XC2 is that when you load your bikes, you will have to adjust the wheel trays manually. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Given that you have bikes with different wheelbases, you’re guaranteed to have difficulty adjusting them.

If you remember correctly, to adjust the wired loop-like wheel trays, you have to work the plastic knob. The process is tiresome and annoying, and you’ll have to go through a lot of trial and error.

Let us imagine another scenario where you are loading your bike closer to the back of your vehicle. Naturally, you’ll be cramped a little, given the design of the XC2’s vertical clamp arm. Therefore, you will have to be more creative in maneuvering your bikes in between the clamp arm and your vehicle.

Versatile to a Certain Degree

This 200-dollar bike rack is surprisingly versatile. As long as you don’t exceed the weight capacity, you’ll be just fine. Since the wheel trays are highly adjustable, you can transport a wide range of bikes on this rack.

Speaking of which, it can house wheelbases within the range of 15-55 inches. Now, that’s pretty impressive if you ask me.

Moreover, the wheel trays can accommodate wheel sizes from 20-29 inches in diameter. But the Swagman XC2 does fall short regarding tire width since it can only support tire widths up to 3.5 inches. 

The massive downhill bikes and E-bikes weigh more anyways. So, you won’t be transporting them on this rack. Their tire widths exist between 3 to 5 inches. However, you can purchase after-market wheel trays that are fitted for this purpose. So, there’s a way, after all!

Moving on to the vertical bar, the ratcheting length of this bike rack is 29 to 15 inches. Therefore, you can carry from small kid’s bikes to tall bikes without any problem. However, if you have a mountain bike that has a lower frame height, you’ll have a problem with the clamp arm. Why?

Well, the clamp arm should contact the lowest part of the frame to have a firmer grip on the bike’s frame. The clamp will slide back and forth along the frame in the circumstance mentioned above. As a result, your bike will be unstable and move in its place quite a bit.

Also, there’s no option to tie down the tires to the rack. So, take this matter into account if you intend to transport a lower-framed mountain bike on this rack.

Let’s end this segment with something positive about this rack. The Swagman XC2 features an adapter that lets you use this rack with both a 1.25 and 2-inch hitch receiver. I think it’s a nice touch from Swagman since you can use this on multiple vehicles having different-sized hitches.

The bottom line is Swagman XC2 is a capable bike rack with some understandable limitations. The rack would be more desirable if there were some integrated security features on top of everything else.

Yes, you could argue that it has a low weight capacity, and adjusting the bike on the rack is quite tricky. Well, you’re right, but again, this wasn’t meant for those kinds of heavy usage anyway. So, if you’re not into hardcore cycling and want something to get the work done, you can definitely check this one out.

Swagman XC2 Bike Rack’s Alternatives

Swagman XC2 is mainly for people who will use it for lighter purposes. To go with this bike rack means you’ll have to stick to smoother roads. And given the nature of its non-existent security features, you can’t wander off leaving your bikes unattended. If you do, it’ll be basically open season for naughty pedestrians.

So, there are a lot of Ifs if you still want to try this bike rack.

This brings us to this: a bunch of cool alternatives can replace the Swagman XC2 hitch mount bike rack in a flash. Spoiler alert: they will be a lot costlier than the former. So, if you want to go for something more premium, you’re more than welcome to take a look at these:

Thule T2 Classic

This one is better than the Swagman XC2 in every single way. It is more reliable, durable, and capable of taking much abuse when transporting your bikes. It doesn’t have an alloy-steel body like the latter, no. Instead, it has an aluminum construction and still weighs 20 pounds more than the XC2.

Assembling the T2 is easy, and you can install it within 5 minutes. Everything you need to set this up comes with the package. Loading the bikes is also relatively easy, and you don’t have to go through much trouble like the XC2.

Besides, it has an impressive 120 pounds weight capacity and is widely compatible with any kind of bike. You can also adjust the sidearms in all directions to keep your bikes from coming into contact with each other.

Since, its clamp hook holds firmly onto the bike’s front tire, you don’t have to worry about the paint job anymore.

Kuat Sherpa 2.0

The Kuat Sherpa 2.0 is less expensive than the Thule T2 Classic. It does fall short in some areas compared with other premium bike racks, yet it shows great promise. It has a robust aluminum body weighing just 30 pounds and has a carrying capacity of 80 pounds.

Don’t worry. You won’t have a hard time adjusting your bikes. Even better, when you load your bike on the rack, the rear wheel tray adjusts automatically. Sadly, Kuat Sherpa 2.0 has one significant shortcoming compared with the Swagman XC2.

The former cannot accommodate bikes that have a 3-inch plus tire width. Besides that, this bike rack is a clever upgrade in place of the XC in every way. Speaking of which, it offers quite a bit of security to your bikes and the rack itself. This aspect is entirely absent in the XC2.

Yakima HoldUp Hitch Mount Tray Bike Rack

If you want a better bike rack than the Swagman XC2 but don’t want to spend more, this could be an excellent option for you. It has a solid steel construction, and the plastic parts are really well-made, to be honest. The wheel trays, especially the ratchet straps, are made of quality plastic. So… yes, this thing will hold up pretty well in rough conditions.

Moving on, the Yakima HoldUp is heavier and more capable than the Swagman XC2. It weighs 50 pounds and has a carrying capacity of a whopping 120 pounds; hence, you won’t have any issues transporting heavier mountain bikes on this one.

Again, like the Sherpa 2.0, this one is also limited to 3-inch wide tires only. And the tilting mechanism is hard to reach when you have bikes loaded on the rack. Besides these, Yakima HoldUp is a versatile bike rack that works with both 1.25 and 2-inch hitch receivers.

Thule T2 Pro XT

This is a dream bike rack for any cyclist. It has everything an ideal platform-style bike rack should have. Yes, this one is the costliest of the bunch but with excellent reasons.

Thule T2 Pro XT is a bike rack made to go the distance. It doesn’t care about the roads or weather conditions…the thing is built like a beast. It has a steel body with a superb weld job. It weighs 50 pounds and can carry up to 120 pounds.

So far, all you’ve seen are racks that accommodate 3 or 3.5-inch wide tires. This model, however, can carry bikes that have 5-inch wide tires.

As a result, you’ll be able to carry whatever bike you like on this rack without fuss. Simply put, if you’re not bogged down by a tight budget, get this one. It will serve you for life.

Final Thoughts

Swagman XC2 has its charms, and there’s no denying that. I mean, you won’t find a better bike rack like this one here for under 200 bucks. And when you put this price tag into perspective, you will see that this thing will perform nicely if you intend to use it for basic purposes only.

Of course, you can go crazy with any of the racks that I mentioned in the alternatives section. And every single option there is better than the Swagman XC2. They offer you better service in every aspect, so you’ll have to spend more. The equation is that simple.

So, where does the bike rackstands amidst all the fancy alternatives? Well, as I’ve said before, if you want something basic to get the job done, you can trust my Swagman XC2 Review and go for it. Just keep in mind that you have to be a bit more calculative with this one when you’re using this.

For example, you’ll have to stick to decent roads, be more forgiving about the paint job of your bike’s frame, and be more patient while adjusting the cycles on the rack. But I hope, with time, you’ll get over that part quickly. In short, if you want an affordable bike rack that will meet your basic bike rack-related needs, you know Swagman XC2 is the answer. Not a brilliant solution but a decent one indeed.

Jeff Phillips Racktutor
About the author

Jeff Phillips is the able founder of RackTutor.com. 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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