Jerry / Ride88
Comparing Truck Bike Rack Options
Updated: Mar 28
Durability, style and function are key ingredients to great products. Many truck bike rack systems on the market offer solutions but lack in one or all of these categories.
OK, so this is written from our perspective, that’s true, but we did a lot of testing, and we believe you can learn something here that will help you make the best decision possible.
We talk to a lot of people who tell us they have been seeking out a truck bed bike rack system for their truck. They tell stories about their current systems and there’s always something they wish it did better. Either the bikes aren’t stable, the bike rack is a pain to install or they have to take off the front wheel, etc. Believe me, we were in the same boat before making our own solution for all these problems. So, we decided to write up an overview that runs through why a quality rack is important when carrying bikes in your truck bed.
Why Not Use a Tailgate Pad?
Seems like a cheap "no brainer" right? We know tailgate pads have their place, but they do come with a mixed bag of issues. It seems like a great solution as long as you don’t care much about the finish on your bike and truck. In the end you may pay a higher cost than you expected.
Tailgate pads will scuff the gloss off your truck’s paint. Take care to ensure no dust is under the pad and clean it often. This is compounded when driving off road on dusty fire roads for example.
Tailgate Pads will wear the paint on your bike at the contact points.
They are not ideal with carbon fiber frames as they apply acute pressure against your frame, especially on bouncy roads.
Not the best for e-bikes due to weight and acute pressure on the frame
Leaves bikes exposed in a rear end collision
Bikes can rub and bump each other causing rapid wear and potential damage
How About Hitch Racks?
There are some advantages to hitch racks, like freeing up bed space and easy access. But here are the problems we’ve experienced and why we prefer an in-bed solution.
Having bikes hang off the back of your truck exposes them to road grime. Typically, you will arrive with dirty bikes on a longer drive. This can be especially bad if roads are wet.
Stability can be a concern on hitch racks. Some are better than others, so for those who choose this method, get a really good one with a robust connection to your truck. Check to see if the rack can handle the weight of your bikes with no problem.
Consider the cost if you are rear ended. Even a small hit could damage all your bikes.
Loading up can be a time-consuming event. Some systems are better than others but it’s something you want to consider.
You can’t pull a trailer if the rack is in the hitch receiver so you will need to consider putting your bikes even further back on your trailer’s hitch, If it has one.
Is Your Rack Rigid Enough?
Think about how your bike is mounted in a bike rack. Typically, it will be secured down low at the wheels or forks. The lower the mounting point the greater the effect of movement will be at the top of the bike. Then the rack is often attached to the vehicle even lower, below the wheels. That is why a rack needs to be rigid. Any little movement in the rack construction will lead to a lot of movement in the bike itself. This is most noticeable in cornering, over bumps and dips, anywhere where your truck starts to rock left to right suddenly.
For an in-bed truck rack system to be worth the money it must be strong enough to do the job. In fact, it should be stronger than what it takes to do the job. We build our racks with welds, similar to how bike frames are made. Be cautious of thin metal and plastic joints. Even metal joints that are bolted together can become wobbly over time. We prefer heavy duty metal construction with strong welds. This produces an extremely rigid structure that reduces sway and can be trusted to keep your bike in place without failing over time. The main reason thicker metal with welded construction is not common is because it’s more expensive to manufacture, plus a welded systems will be larger because it is pre-assembled. This will add cost in shipping compared to bolt together systems. This cost vs. quality is something to consider when making a decision on which system will be right for you.
Does Your Rack Contact Your Frame?
It is difficult to find a system that avoids touching painted surfaces of your bike. Even racks that claim to only contact the tire can often still rub the fork crown or fork tubes. These contact points can wear through painted or anodizes finishes. If you add dirt and dust into the equation this can happen fast, even in one trip to bike park. We have been careful to keep this in mind and took our time to be certain our system would only press the tires with no frame contact at all. The last thing you want is to get paint or frame damage from your bike rack.
Fast Loading.. Be Spontaneous!
This is one area you don’t want to skimp out. Imagine loading up bikes for the crew into your truck bed. Some racks can take a while to load up and are not worth the hassle for a quick ride. The whole crew may want to head out for a last minute ride but you just don’t have time with loading and unloading factored in. With the QR3 it takes the turn of a handle to get loaded up. 4 bikes can be loaded up in seconds. No excuses, you can be spontaneous and that adds value in our book!
Making sure your bikes don’t get stolen is a big deal. What about the rack? It costs a pretty penny too. It can be impossible to have anything be 100% theft proof, so manufacturers do their best to make it difficult for thieves to have an easy grab. The more difficult the better! The RIDE88 QR3 system has premium lock options that offer a heavy-duty steel shackle that shields the locks and make getting to them a nightmare for thieves. That of course is exactly what we wanted.
Having a bike rack system that integrates into your truck seamlessly, without drilling, was critical to us. We wanted it to install and remove fast, but it needed to look like it was part of the truck, seamless and sleek, not an afterthought attachment. This is truly one area we feel we have the only system like that on the market. It actually makes your truck look nice and adds a sporty look.
These are all the points we have for now. Look for more info to come on the subject of truck bike rack systems and solutions.