Truck Bed Bike Racks
Quality bicycles can be quite an investment, so it makes sense to have everything you need to make it easier to enjoy your bike. It’s a no brainer before hitting that new riding trail to take a few minutes and go down your checklist. Water, a protein filled snack, definitely a helmet. That last fall hurt. But before chucking that expensive bicycle in the back of your pick up and flooring it, it’s a pretty sound idea to rethink how you’re going to haul it around.
A truck bed bike rack is a solid investment to protect the longevity of your bike while you drive. They keep your bike standing up nicely so that it isn’t banging into other bikes or the stray shovel that’s been hanging out in your truck bed since you helped your buddy put in a new fence a few months ago. There are a few different styles to meet different needs and trucks. What you choose really depends on factors like how many bikes you need to support and if you’re okay with removing the front wheel to dock it. We’ve got a break down of the five best truck bed bike racks to help you pick one that works for you and makes it a breeze to get riding.
1. Thule Bed Rider XTR
Thule is a huge name in the world of add-on vehicle racks. You’ve seen them before on the roof of every Subaru Outback ever parked at a Whole Foods. They’re so big because they provide quality products for a massive range of applications. Their truck bed bike rack is definitely no exception to the rule.
The Bed Rider XTR is an aluminum telescoping bar with two rubber feet on either end to grip the sides of the truck bed. Because it telescopes, the XTR will fit the narrow bed of a small pick up like an old Jeep Comanche or pull out to accommodate the wider bed of a full size truck. This rack holds two bikes and can be locked onto the truck bed.
The locking mechanism for the Bed Rider XTR has to be assembled when you get your rack. This job requires a little bit of care and attention: the lock has been known to fall out when you pull away the plastic cover. If this happens you need to take the lock and carefully screw it back into the hole, it will not pop in.
- Adapts to most trucks
- Easy installment requires no hardware
- Holds bikes securely in place
- Additional mounts to hold more bikes have to be bought separately
- Not all bikes are compatible with the mounting system
- Some users have experienced damage to their bikes from the bolts of the through-axle mounts
The Thule is a good choice for someone who only needs to haul one or two bikes around. It is light weight and easy to install quickly. If you have a family it may not be the best choice for you. The cost of additional adapters and mounts adds up quickly if your needs can’t be met with the standard set of two 9mm through-axle mounts. Also, if you’re loading multiple bikes, removing the front wheel to lock the axle into the rack may not be appealing. It is also not compatible with specialty bikes like tandems.
2. Thule Insta-Gater Truck Mount
Another solid rack from Thule, the Insta-Gater is maybe even more of a testament to Thule’s awesome pun skills than their savvy as rack makers. This bike mount is for a single bike and is secured to the truck by a bar that gets wedged when you close your tail gate. (Get the pun now?) A ratcheting arm hooks to the wheel, securing the bike to the rack with no tools. There is a lock to make sure someone doesn’t just unhook your bike and walk away.
Thule’s Insta-Gater is made from steel and a vinyl coating. The hook makes it compatible with any bike with a wheel width of 3″ or less. The ability to hook it on using the back wheel if you have a short bed is a nice option. By doing this you can angle the front wheel so that the bike will fit in the bed. With a long bed this isn’t really a concern and you can use the hook on your front wheel as usual.
- Really fast to install
- Easily comes out to clear up bed space when needed
- Locking hook helps prevent theft of bicycle
- Will only hold one bike
- Can’t be used for bikes with fat tires greater than 3″
The Thule Insta-Gater Truck Mount is a fast, easily installed bike rack. It’s definitely a good buy for someone with one bicycle. The sturdy build ensures a good, long life out of the rack and your bike. The price may be prohibitive to buy multiple racks for a family. A rack that will hold two bikes can be bought for only $50 more than the Insta-Gater. This one is highly recommended, but only if you only need to haul one bike at a time.
3. Pipeline Racks Truck Bed Bike Rack
Pipeline Racks has made a really sturdy, economic option for families – or anyone with a few bikes to move at once. The rack is made of tube aluminum and fits truck beds that are 58.5″ wide. Depending on which one you purchase, up to five bikes can be mounted side by side in the bed of your truck.
When we said economical, we meant it. The Pipeline Rack has the lowest price per bike so far. While the up front may seem more expensive, it breaks down to $100/per bike on average. That’s half of what it is for the single bike rack from Thule we reviewed. The cost won’t go up, either, because no attachments are necessary to purchase to increase the carrying capacity of this rack. The price may be lower, but it’s no bargain basement deal you’d be getting – and regretting.
Bikes are easy to mount into the rack. The tires just slide into each mount and you’re done. The mount curves upward to cradle the wheel and keep it from dislodging. Wheel diameter shouldn’t be a problem – the rack can hold most wheel sizes, as long as they’re 2″ wide or less. So, yes, your daughter’s princess dream bike can come, too.
- Easy to install the rack, mount and un-mount bikess
- Can be used in a long bed truck even if it has a tool box in the bed
- Able to get bigger groups of bicyclists on the road
- Not compatible with a small truck
- Locking hardware must be bought separately
This rack is a good choice for families or groups. It doesn’t fit into the bed of small trucks, however, so really can’t be recommendedfor the solo bicyclist with a Tacoma. But if you need one of these, chances are you also need a larger truck, anyway. There’s no compromise on materials and the ease of use is really appealing when you have a few bikes to load and unload.
4. Heininger Automotive 2025 Advantage Sports Rack Bed Rack
No, you don’t have to say that one five times, fast. The Heininger rack is like the nice little brother of the Pipeline rack we just reviewed. A little less beefy, a little less impressive, but a great deal.
If you purchase Heininger’s bed rack, be prepared to do a little light assembly. Nothing like putting together an IKEA bed, though, so no worries. It comes with foam pads to protect the bike’s paint and fits up to four bikes. Most pick ups can easily accommodate this rack. Its minimum size is 54.5″ wide, but there are spacers included to get it up to 72.5″. There are padded bolts that screw out to make contact with the inside of the bed to secure the rack in place. It can be used as a stand alone bike rack in your garage, too, which is pretty nifty.
- Easy installation and adaptability to truck size
- Lockable cable included
- Fits 29″ tires and below
- Known to experience loose fit in some trucks
- Lock for cable is not included
- Thin steel construction may lead to bending of the rack
This rack is a bargain, and maybe not in the best way. It uses cheaper materials than the other brands we reviewed. Reports of the rack putting pressure on disc brakes and bikes -or the whole rack- wobbling and getting damage are too uncommon to be comfortable. Sure, you won’t be paying much to purchase the rack, but your bicycle repair bill may offset that if you’re one of the unlucky ones to experience damage. This rack is not very highly recommended, unless you really need a lower cost option. As a bike rack in your garage it would probably do better. There’s no jostling from the truck’s movement there to jeopardize the hold on your bikes.
5. Swagman Patrol Pick Up Truck Rack
Swagman Patrol’s 2 bike rack is similar to the first rack we reviewed from Thule. It telescopes to fit over the bed rails and mounts two bikes with fork mount blocks. More blocks could be added to allow more bikes to be hauled, but at an additional price.
- Fits most trucks
- Cheap quality metal bolts that rust after just a few months of use
The comparisons between Thule’s and Swagman Patrol’s versions really end there. While Thule enjoys great reviews, Swagman Patrol does not. They still charge premium brand prices, however, for their rack. With many users experiencing rack failure, breaking during installation, or a general lack of quality from the rack, it’s a difficult one to recommend. The fact that it isn’t very secure within the truck bed is a turn off, so is the quick rust time on the bolts that the bike mounts to.
Buying Guide and FAQs
So we’ve got a good break down of our five racks and their individual features. We can break these five down into two categories: through axle mount racks and the simple wheel mount racks.
In the through axle mounts category are the Thule Bed Rider rack and the Swagman Patrol rack. They work by removing the front wheel of your bike and engaging the fork mount of the wheel onto the bolt. There’s the obvious problem of what to do with the wheels after they’re removed – most people just tuck them in the cab of their truck and call it a day.
Thule is a Sweden-based company, but engineers and manufactures about 70% of its products in the USA from local materials. They really focus on producing high quality products that answer all the questions for you about how to securely haul your bikes.
Swagman Patrol is also in North America, based in British Columbia. They focus heavily on vehicle accessories to get you outdoors and exploring.
Through axle mount FAQs
Q: Do I have to remove the wheels to use these racks?
A: Yes, you do. However, removing the front wheel from most bikes is pretty easy, with quick releases.
Q: Can I use these racks on a bed with an over the rail liner?
A: No, unfortunately you can’t.
Q: Do I need to bolt this to my truck?
A: These racks don’t require hardware to securely attach to your truck. They use tension, instead, and have padded ends that hold onto the rails of your truck bed.
The wheel mount racks consist of the Pipeline Racks bed rack, Heininger’s bed rack, and for the sake of simplicity, the Thule Insta-Gater is included here because it works by grabbing the wheel of your bike without wheel removal. The first two work by dropping the bike’s wheel into the gap between the mount’s bars. Easy. The Thule ratchets and has a hook which grabs onto the wheel. Also easy.
Pipeline Racks is a relatively new company. The founder worked for 22 years as an engineer, but after a sudden lay off was asked by friends to build them versions of the bike rack he had constructed for himself years before. Seeing his opportunity, he began to make and sell his racks, and Pipeline Racks became his new career.
Heininger is an American company based in Washington state. They make a wide variety of products to make life a bit easier, not all of them are vehicle accessories. One cool one is a combat gear stand designed and built by soldiers to accommodate the needs of servicemen.
Wheel mount rack FAQs
Q: Can these racks hold fat tires?
A: No, none of them holds a tire of more than 3″ wide.
Q: Will I be able to fit a large wheel diameter in the rack?
A: These racks work for 29″ wheel diameters.
Q: Will the rack fit my truck bed?
A: The Insta-Gater will fit any truck bed, as long as the gap between the bed and the bottom of the tail gate is no more than 3″. The Pipeline Racks and Heininger racks need a minimum bed width of 58.5″ and 54.5″, respectively, to fit.
Q: Do I need to bolt the rack to my truck?
A: No, but attaching them with the included method is required. This varies by brand and design and the needed equipment is included with the rack.
Taking your bike for a ride on a trail should be easy. By purchasing a rack you’ll make sure that your bike stays in good shape and is ready for those trails when you are. From top of the line racks to multi-bike family friendly versions, we’ve reviewed the ones that fit the widest spectrum of needs we could.
All of these brands offer the ability to tote your bike without throwing it into the bed and hoping for the best. Which one you choose will depend on your budget and needs. Reading this guide will hopefully have given you a clue about which rack is the best fit. If you didn’t find one that suits you and your bikes, no worries, all the brands we reviewed offer other racks that can handle more styles and sizes of bikes. Even the niche bike rider can find the one for them without having to look far.