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How Do You Use A Hitch Bike Rack?

How do you use a hitch bike rack Posted On
Posted By Michelle C. Painter

Using a hitch bike rack is pretty simple and intuitive. Although different models have different mechanism, most hitch bike racks work in similar ways.

WIth that said, there are about 6 steps involved to get used to your bike rack and use it comfortably.

Let’s see the steps in details right below!

Step 1: Installing the rack on your vehicle

Installing The Rack On Your Vehicle
Installing The Rack On Your Vehicle

When using a hitch bike rack, you do need to install a trailer hitch on your truck or car. Commonly, class 3 or 4 hitches will be suitable for SUVs and vans. Here are some good brands you can check out:

  • Towever
  • CURT
  • Connor

Once you’ve got a hitch installed, you can set up the hitch rack on. Imagine the rack kind of like the letter L. Now, you will slide the horizontal bar, or the receiver, into the hitch opening.

Depending on your hitch size, the opening can be 1.25 inches or 2 inches. After you slide that part in, you can secure it with a pin and some type of wire.

On many models, you will have a hand turn knob to tighten things up. You can then turn the knob to adjust the tension and make sure the connection is tight.

This is basically all you need to do in step 1.

Step 2: Tightening the rack column

After you slide the receiver in, you can begin adjusting the rack column. Some models have knobs and locks so you can unlock the column and adjust the tightness however you want.

If you choose the platform style hitch rack, then you basically don’t need to do anything at this point.

Once you’ve set it up, you’re very much ready to hook your bikes on and begin your trip.

With the hanging style bike rack, you need to adjust the column that holds the carrying arms. And that’s totally up to you and your specific bikes.

Step 3: Hooking your bikes on the rack

Hooking Your Bikes On The Rack
Hooking Your Bikes On The Rack

This step varies a lot depending on the model of rack you choose. But usually, the hanging hitch rack will give you a tie-down system to hold the frames of your bikes.

All you need to do is load your bike on, tie it down with the ratcheting ties on the top tube and seat tube. If you’re more careful, you may get some straps or cables to secure the bikes.

This also prevents the swaying problem if you have fat tire bikes. And that’s basically all there is to it.

If you use the platform hitch rack, however, there may be more steps involved. So first, you set the bikes on the rack. You can adjust the balance with the knobs.

After the balance has been set, you can pull the rubber hook down to secure your bike in place. We understand it can be quite hard to imagine without pictures. So, check out this video right here to see how it goes:

Step 4: Accessing the back of your vehicle

When using a hitch bike rack, it would be a hassle to have to remove it every time we want to open the back door of our vehicle.

But you don’t have to worry about this because now many hitch racks have the tilting feature.

When you open the trunk door, you can tilt the rack outward to create space for the door to open.

This way, we don’t have to uninstall and reinstall things every single time.

This can be a bit tricky with platform bike racks. If you’re driving a truck or van, then this is not much of a problem.

But when you’re using a platform hitch rack, you may only be able to open your trunk door half way. That’s kind of unfortunate, but it’s one of the downsides of having a platform style one.

See the 5:11 part of this video to see what we mean:

Step 5: Unloading your bikes

Unloading Your Bikes
Unloading Your Bikes

This is so simple. All you need to do is the reverse of what you did when you hook the bikes on.

So for hanging bike racks, you untie or unlock the cables, and use your muscles to take the bikes down.

For platform bike racks, you may need to turn the knobs a bit loose, then lift the carrying arms up, and take your bikes off the rack.

When you’re not using it, you can fold many hitch bike racks up to save space, especially in parking spaces.

Step 6: Uninstalling the hitch rack

To uninstall the hitch rack, you need to take the pins out of the securing holes (if you have installed some).

Then, loosen the knob and begin pulling the horizontal tube that connects the rack with the hitch out.

Many hitch racks weigh around 20 lbs or more and can be folded up. After uninstalling, you can put them in the garage, in your trunk, or somewhere in your house if you have space.

The overall process is not too difficult and you will figure it out!

Important Step: The Initial Assembly

We focus on the usage process in the earlier part of this post, but we can’t miss one important step that every hitch rack users must go through before using their racks.

And that is the assembly step. If you’re not very handy, then this is a good point to grab the most handy guy in your family and ask them for help.

Many manufacturers will include an instruction manual with pictures and step-by-step guides to help you set this thing up.

If you have tools like a wrench or some bolts laying around your garage, then they will be of tremendous help.

Also, check out many tutorials on YouTube to see exactly how other users have set the racks up.

A good example is this video right here:

All it takes is about 10 minutes and you’re pretty much ready to hang your bikes on.

Best Hitch Bike Rack Brands

If you’re still wondering what the best hitch rack brands are, then check out some of the choices below:


The Thule Raceway Pro 2
The Thule Raceway Pro 2

Thule is “the man” in the bike rack world. Their racks are more on the expensive side, however, the quality is top notch. Thule T2 Pro is a great platform hitch rack that many users like and trust.

Allen Sports

Allen Sports is another heavyweight in our category. They make great hanging style hitch racks. The price is more affordable than Thule but their products still deliver.


Another cool guy in the hitch rack industry. They make awesome bike racks that you can install directly on the spare tire of your vehicle. There are many more models of hitchless racks if you’re interested.


The Kuat NV 2.0
The Kuat NV 2.0

Kuat is a reliable brand when it comes to hitch bike racks. They make both hanging and platform styles. The setting up process is easy and using the racks is a breeze. You can check them out if you want high-quality products.


As you can see, there are several steps involved in our usage process. First, we set the hitch bike rack up. Then, we tighten everything. We will load our bikes on next. And when we need to, we can open our trunk door to get some stuff easily. Unloading the bikes takes a few turns of the knobs and unlocking of cables. If you don’t use the rack anymore, you can unscrew it, fold it up, and store it away in your garage.

This whole process is so easy as you can see. We hope the videos helped. The best way to know how to use a hitch bike rack is, well, to get one and experience it for yourself. That said, hope this post helped answer your question and see you later!