Best tow bar mounted bike racks 2018

Which tow bar friendly products make loading up your car for a cycling break quick and easy?

The boom in cycling has seen a similar rise in bike rack sales as riders load up to seek new challenges away from home. But due to lightweight tailgates, roof or towball-mounted racks have become more popular, with the latter the most user-friendly option. The bikes don’t have to be lifted far (unlike roof bar solutions), they have little effect on fuel economy and are quick to fit and remove.

This has enhanced the appeal of racks that simply click on to a tow bar ball. Better still, some secure to the tow bar assembly rather than the ball itself, meaning towing is still possible. So which is the one you should go for? We hooked up nine to find out. 

How we tested them

We rated ease of use, security and potential damage for the bikes. Also considered were extras like tilting to allow boot access and light boards, as was value.

Verdict 

Maxxraxx’s 4 Bike Voyager Easyfix is a testament to simple but effective design, and wins here. Close behind is the Atera Strada. Buzzrack’s Buffalo 4 also takes a Recommended award; it’s our budget buy.

  • 1. Maxxraxx 4 Bike Voyager Easyfix
  • 2. Atera Strada DL3
  • 3. Buzzrack Buffalo 4
  • ReviewsMaxxraxx 4 Bike Voyager Easyfix

    Price: £295 
    Max load: Up to 4 bikes or 80kg
    Rating: 5.0

    Our Best Buy remains at the top of the podium because it’s such a great all-rounder. The modular format allows it to fold easily for storage, and it can be upgraded to free up the towball, allowing towing while using the rack, even with removable swan-neck towbars. But the real genius is the speed and ease of loading and unloading. Slide the bar supports apart, load the bikes onto them, weave the retaining strap into place and then use the ratchet to lock the frame supports to the bar, and the cycle frames into the supports. A £20 price rise since our last test is cancelled out by improved towball-to-rack security, and you will need to add a light board.

    Buy it from Maxxraxx

    Atera Strada DL3

    Price: around £345 
    Max load: Up to 3 bikes or 45kg
    Rating: 4.0

    Former champion from Atera has to settle for a commendation this time, but it’s still a great rack. It’s pricier than our winner, but it includes a light board to keep you within the law if the tail-lamps are obscured. Bikes are secured and kept from clashing using support bars and wheel straps.

    It also includes a security system for the rack on the car and cycles. We like the button-operated tilt system for great access to the boot. 

    Buy it from Roofbox

    Buzzrack Buffalo 4

    Price: around £160 
    Max load: Up to 4 bikes or 60kg
    Rating: 4.0

    If fighting with instructions and flat packs is not for you, this Buzzrack could be ideal because it arrives assembled and ready to drop on the tow ball. It’s a similar concept to our winner. But it is quite hefty and tricky to manoeuvre and tighten single-handed. There are some neat touches like the foot-operated tilt mechanism, bike to rack and carrier to car security, but there is nothing to secure the bottom of the bikes so clashes are inevitable.

    Buy it from Roofbox

    Witter ZX503

    Price: around £390 
    Max load: up to 3 bikes or 60kg
    Rating: 4.0

    This was the most expensive rack on test, but you get plenty for your money. It even comes with its own wheels so you don’t have to carry it around. Bikes are held in the same no-clash way as the Atera with crossbar clamps and wheel straps. Mounting it is unusual, but it works and the platform can be locked upright and the light board tilted rearwards when the rack is not carrying bikes. However, all this comes with a weight penalty; the ZX503 weighs more than 20kg.

    Buy it from Amazon

    Auxtail Towball Mount 2 Bike Carrier

    Price: £495
    Max load: Up to 2 bikes or 50kg
    Rating: 3.5

    A fiver short of £500 for a two-bike rack seems steep, especially when features such as a tilt facility or built-in security are missing. But Auxtail’s aim was not to make another me-too rack. Instead, the Mount 2 caters well for a couple of gaps in the towball-mount carrier market.

    Firstly, it is safe for premium carbon-fibre frame bikes thanks to support arms and pivoted wheel chocks that grip each cycle around its front wheel. The system simplifies e-bike use, too, because their frames are often too bulbous to be secured with traditional clamps. Even with standard bikes, Mount 2 is impressive due to its speed and ease of use, plus minimal need for bending over or crouching during loading and removing.  

    Exodus 2 Bike Towbar Mounted Cycle Carrier

    Price: around £55 
    Max load: Up to 2 bikes or 30kg
    Rating: 3.5

    Bike racks don’t get any faster to fit than this. Pulling the folded rack apart forces together the tow ball clamp’s two halves. Fold out and lock in place the two support arms, then load the bikes. Velcro straps retain the crossbars in their mounts; below, pull straps hold the bikes together and to the rack’s vertical bars, so contact is inevitable. The rack locks to the tow ball, but not to the bikes.

    Buy it from Halfords

    Thule Xpress 970

    Price: around £50 
    Max load: Up to 2 bikes or 30kg
    Rating: 3.5

    This works along identical principles to the Exodus, which is the easiest rack to store and the most intuitive to use on test. But a couple of differences may sway your choice. First, Thule doesn’t include an integral lock to secure rack to tow ball – a couple of holes mean a padlock can be used to stop the rack being collapsed and removed; just Thule doesn’t supply one. On the other hand, we prefer this rack’s rubbery, more grippy crossbar supports.

    Buy it from Amazon

    Mont Blanc BikeCarrier TowVoyage 4

    Price: around £330
    Max load: Up to 4 bikes or 60kg
    Rating: 3.0

    A four-bike platform carrier that undercuts the Atera and Witter models may seem a bargain. And it is. But not enough, we think, to justify a design that’s harder work than the competition. While fastening the bikes in place relies on the usual wheel clamps, up top, pull straps tie bikes one and two to the upright, then double-ended clamps secure together bikes two, three and four. It works well, and prevents contact, but it’s fiddly. And although the rack can be locked on to the tow ball, there are no bike-to-rack locks.

    Buy it from Amazon

    Halfords 4 Bike Tow Bar Cycle Carrier

    Price: around £180 
    Max load: Up to 4 bikes or 60kg
    Rating: 2.0

    It’s pretty obvious where Halfords has cut back to achieve this platform rack’s great price. There’s no tilt option, no lockable security and the rack requires self-assembly. Fortunately it’s straightforward to build; just allow 30-45 minutes. The completed rack is easy to fit to the tow ball, and straightforward to load. As usual, the wheels are clamped. But the bikes’ upper sections are strapped to a couple of fold-up towers. While they stop the frames hitting one another, there’s still contact against metal.

    Buy it from Halfords

    If you don’t fancy having a bike rack behind you, why not read our review of the best roof mounted bike racks  here…

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