There are also a couple additional benefits that make them a great choice for bike storage: They keep the bikes upright, add no significant drag to the experience, and make it effortless to mount the bikes up. The issue, however, is deciding which side to choose between the platform and hanging bike rack.
Even though there is a common mounting mechanism among these two types of hitch racks, their performance and capacity can vary greatly even if they use the same mounting mechanism.
This article will solely discuss the differences between the two and see which one is better suited to the user’s needs. I will also provide recommendations for different case scenarios so it is a tad easier to choose. Let’s get started.
Hitch Racks: What You Need to Know
Before making a decision about hitch racks, it is very important to understand the basics of them before getting into their differences. By doing this, you will have a better understanding of their characteristics, which makes it easier to make your choice.
A hitch mount rack relies solely on the trailer hitch in your vehicle. That means you will need to install a hitch mount on your vehicle, and the experience will be dependent on how big your hitch is.
Furthermore, it is important to point out that these racks have quite impressive weight capacities. For example, you will find several different classes of these racks depending on the type of hitch (e.g., class I, class II, class III). Although there are higher classes, these are the most common ones you will find.
It is one of the best things about these products is their compatibility with a variety of vehicles. As long as you have the correct hitch receiver, it can be used with almost any hitch rack that you want without any issues whatsoever.
By now you should be aware of the fact that there are two basic types of hitch racks – hanging and platform-mounting (also called tray racks).
Platform Hitch Racks
As the name suggests, platform style hitch racks provide a tray or platform for your bikes to sit on, so they’re not as small, lightweight, or minimalistic as some of the other options.
Aside from the fact that they are also known for their high costs, which is somewhat understandable given the design and material costs involved. They have also been designed in a way that makes mounting the bikes much easier.
Moreover, there are slots made for the front wheel of each bike to fit into, and then a locking mechanism is used to secure them. In general, these racks are very different from hanging hitch racks because they do not come into contact with the bike’s frame. Another defining characteristic of these racks is the fact that they remain relatively close to the ground.
Hanging Hitch Racks
This type of rack is characterized by a mast-style design that holds bikes by their frames, resulting in a compact and cost-effective design. They are well-known for their cost-effectiveness, which is further highlighted by their minimal size and minimal mounting mechanism.
A great thing about these racks is that they come in direct contact with the frame of the bike. The design makes it effortless to use them, especially with bikes with standard frames. The racks themselves aren’t heavy, so it’s possible to carry a few bikes at the same time.
As far as wheel-mount hanging hitch racks are concerned, there are also a number of options available. However, they are not as popular and so you have fewer options. That is why we will mainly discuss the frame-mount options in this article.
Besides the ability to provide a decent amount of ground clearance, another characteristic of these racks is that they have a cost-efficient and lightweight design, which make them a very popular choice for many people.
As soon as we have gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to our comparison.
Platform vs Hanging Bike Racks
I’m gonna divide everything into a couple of categories so that you can weigh the pros and cons according to your preference once we have a good grasp of how these racks work. So now that we have a better understanding of how these racks work, it’s time to move on to the meat of the discussion.
There is no doubt that the cost of bike racks plays a significant role in the decision making process for these racks. Therefore, let’s start by discussing how much they cost.
Price of Platform Hitch Racks
As a general rule, hitch-mount racks carry the reputation of being more expensive than most other alternatives, and if you turn to a platform rack, that reputation (and the price) goes even higher.
Personally, I think that it is somewhat justified – these products do cost more to manufacture and assure remarkable quality for the most part (which we will be discussing in the future).
Pricing for these strollers doesn’t always fall into the same bracket, though. That can vary greatly depending on the carrying capacity, as well as other features (for example, swing-away models cost significantly more than other strollers).
The truth of the matter is that these racks are more expensive than a typical rack, which may put them out of reach for many people.
Price of Hanging Hitch Racks
Unlike platform racks, hanging hitch racks are the more affordable siblings of platform racks. It’s easy to see why because there are no platforms, and the design is rather minimal (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
Although these racks are less expensive since the manufacturing costs are lower. But contrary to popular belief, there are many high-end hanging hitch racks on the market, so you are not out of options there either.
In particular, swing-away models are more expensive than standard hanging racks. This is due to the fact that they offer better rear access than traditional hanging racks. The cost can also increase if you are planning to carry many bikes simultaneously.
Nevertheless, these racks are the way to go if you have a limited budget and aren’t able to stretch it any further. However, there are other factors that are going to determine which rack is right for you, so let’s discuss them now.
Mounting the Rack to the Vehicle
It is important to note that before we can mount the bikes to the car, we first need to mount the racks on the car. Both of the options use hitch receivers to connect to the hitch receivers, but their varying form factors play an important role in creating a contrast between the two options.
Mounting Platform Hitch Racks
There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to mounting platform racks, because of the platform racks’ larger size and more pronounced shape. Therefore, you may have some difficulty getting your platform rack mounted onto your vehicle.
The problem only becomes even more challenging if you have something with a higher capacity, since the rack itself becomes larger and chunkier, which can be a real problem if you are frequently mounting and unmounting the rack. That’s when a hanging rack would be more advantageous.
Depending on the hitch receiver, you may also need an adapter if it is not compatible with the rack, but this applies both to hanging racks and platform racks.
Mounting Hanging Hitch Racks
Because of their excellent form factor and lightweight, hanging hitch racks fare much better than platform racks. Even if you have a rack that is capable of holding multiple bikes, you will find that it is comparatively easier to mount the rack to the car than a platform rack.
The advantage of these racks is that one can easily move them from one hitch receiver to another, so these are the ideal option for people who frequently take their racks on and off their vehicles.
Mounting the Bikes
We are now going to talk about the second type of mounting: getting the bikes on the rack. This is by far the most crucial aspect of a bike rack.
Mounting Bikes to a Platform Rack
Platform racks offer a great deal of convenience when it comes to mounting bikes on them. The main reason for this is that they are built onto a platform or tray that allows the bike to rest on. As a result of the lower distance from the ground, these racks are more accessible to you and require less effort for them to be mounted.
When the bike is in place, a strap is attached to the front wheel of the bike and holds the bike in place. There are other elements like straps in many cases, which can act as a secondary line of defense. Once the bike is secured in place, an arm holds the bike by going over the wheel and holding it in place.
Firstly, thanks to the allotted slots, you don’t have to worry about accidentally hitting your bikes against each other when mounting them. This pretty much removes the need for you to be extra vigilant during the mounting process.
It is also important to note that the arm is capable of fitting most bikes, so you don’t have to spend any time making sure everything is compatible or adjusting anything.
Mounting Bikes to a Hanging Rack
The problem with hanging or frame-mount racks is that they hold bikes by their frames so we are going to have to lift the bikes up and attach the frames of the bikes once we have them on top of the rack’s arms and secure them with the straps.
I think that the compact form factor gives this product an edge, but there are some issues when it comes to mounting the bikes. The first complaint is that the bikes need to be lifted pretty high from the ground, which is a bit of a hassle when mounting and unmounting the bikes.
It is also important to keep in mind that one needs to be very careful when loading bikes onto the racks. Since they do not have slots for every bike, there is a possibility that the bikes will hit each other or the vehicle if they are not loaded carefully.
While the racks have some form of padding to help prevent scratches on your bike, the majority of users still end up leaving scratches on their bikes regardless of the padding. Apart from this, mounting these racks is quite simple.
Due to the different working mechanisms used in platform and hanging hitch racks, there can be significant differences in their stability. This is to be expected, since the two types of racks work differently.
Stability of Platform Hitch Racks
In terms of quality and stability, platform racks are outstanding. First of all, having individual slots for each bike means that there is very little risk of your bikes hitting each other or hitting the back of your vehicle.
Also, it means that there isn’t much room for the bike to move, so it will stay very stable, even on bumpy terrain. This is especially important when you hit a bump or go over a ramp, as those sudden movements will potentially damage your bike.
This rack also comes with a clamp that attaches to the bike frame making it even more secure, regardless of the bike’s frame or size. Additionally, bikes that come with suspension are also compatible with these racks and pose no risk at all when used with them.
There is no doubt that platform racks are one of the best options if stability is a priority for you.
Stability of Hanging Hitch Racks
There is no denying it – hanging hitch racks aren’t quite as stable as their counterparts when it comes to stability. And this is a deliberate design choice.
Since there isn’t a stable tray to place the bike on, we must rely on the straps to ensure that the bikes are stable and secure on these racks, as opposed to platform racks. Unlike platform racks, the only thing that holds the bikes on these racks is the cradles.
It has to be said, however, that things are a bit wobbly, to say the least. Since bikes can move pretty wildly when mounted on these racks, especially if they are mounted on rougher terrain, this can result in both scratches and dent for both your vehicle and your car.
As a result of carrying multiple bikes, things get a lot worse because the bikes start to hit each other as well as the vehicle, putting things in even more danger. There are a number of security measures that manufacturers take to prevent this from happening, but they are not foolproof.
It can be beneficial to use anti-sway bars when choosing a rack so that you can reduce the amount of movement. But not every rack comes with anti-sway bars, so that can be an additional hassle that you may have to deal with. All in all, keep the stability issues in mind when choosing a hanging hitch rack.
We now come to the next part of the question – which bikes are compatible with these racks?
Compatibility with Platform Hitch Racks
It is safe to say that hitch racks excel at ensuring maximum compatibility, period. And it’s easy to understand why – as they don’t use any bike-specific parts like is the case with frame and fork mounts. Instead, they use platforms to rest the bikes on and lock them with arms that can also be found on the majority of products.
Having said this, you won’t have to worry about compatibility issues for the most part. Whether it’s a frame, size, or suspension that is unusual – platform racks shouldn’t have any difficulty with it at all.
Unlike hanging racks, these products can accommodate virtually any type of bike, such as women’s step-through bikes and children’s bikes, which is not the case with hanging racks. Therefore, these products are a good choice if you intend to transport a variety of different kinds of bikes that do not have a common design or model.
Compatibility with Hanging Hitch Racks
There are a few things you need to know about frame-mount hitch racks to help you determine how compatible they are with your vehicle. Spoiler alert – they aren’t as capable of doing this as hanging racks.
This means that there has to be a size limit for bicycle frames to ensure quality performance, since the bikes will be held by their frames and there is no platform to place the bikes on. This means that non-standard bike frames (children’s bikes, for example) won’t work as well, as they don’t have enough space to accommodate the frames.
There are some solutions to this problem, however, if there is any wire running under the bike’s top tube, it’s best not to hang a rack, as it will clamp down on it and damage the bike. However, there are some solutions to this problem.
In order to maximize compatibility between bikes and racks, cyclists can find adapter bars that clamp on the head tube and seat post of their bicycles and provide the rack with a compatible attachment to hold onto. However, these methods can feel a bit hacky to some cyclists, and a bit of difficulty for others.
I would advise you to be careful about compatibility before you decide to go ahead and buy a hanging hitch rack for your vehicle.
A hitch rack’s carrying capacity is a crucial consideration if you intend to transport more than one bike with it. And once again, there is a significant difference between these two types of hitches.
Carrying Capacity of Platform Bike Racks
There are several things you should keep in mind before you do anything to your platform hitch racks. The first thing you should keep in mind is that platform hitch racks are fairly heavy in themselves. Further, your hitch receiver has a limit on how much it can handle. To find out what that limit is, refer to the tongue capacity (usually 10% of the total towing capacity).
The amount of headroom you have depends upon the hitch class, as I mentioned previously. So, if you have a hitch receiver whose tongue capacity is on the lower side, you may not have a lot of headroom.
You may not be able to carry more than two bikes on the platform hitch rack even if it is capable of carrying many more bikes than that. Therefore, you should consider both the weight of the rack as well as the capacity of your receiver before purchasing the rack.
The larger the class, the more likely it is to see platforms with bike racks for four or five bikes, which is pretty impressive. This number does not go too high, as these racks are pretty bulky to start with and need to leave some space between each bike in order to work.
Carrying Capacity of Hanging Bike Racks
Because of their minimal and lightweight design, hanging bike racks are much better than other kinds of bike racks when it comes to maximum capacity. That’s because the hitch receiver has more headroom due to the lighter rack, allowing you to carry more bikes when it comes to maximum capacity.
A secondary benefit of the rack is that it does not leave much room between bikes, which means that you can hold a larger number of bikes at the same time. Of course, you might be restricted by the class of the receiver on your hitch, which is true for both types of hitch racks.
It is possible, however, to find hanging racks that will allow you to carry up to six bikes as long as you have the headroom to do so.
Although it is true that there are some risks involved with these racks, as I mentioned above, in the event that you have to carry multiple bikes, then you can easily imagine which side of the race will win.
Do you need a platform bike rack or a hanging bike rack? Which is the best choice for you?
I believe the discussion above has made things clear about where we need to go. However, if that hasn’t been the case, here are some pointers to get us started:
- As a first tip, go for platform racks if you need to ensure the stability of your bikes, as they come with trays and securing arms to secure your bikes. Moreover, platform racks are perfect for those who have bikes with non-standard designs, as the process of mounting and unmounting your bicycles is simpler and takes less effort. Platform bike racks are also a good choice for individuals who frequently mount and unmount their bikes. However, they can be quite expensive, which is something you should be aware of. Check out Amazon for more details on platform bike racks.
- However, if you frequently take your bike on and off of your vehicle, hanging hitch racks may be your best choice. They are lighter than platform racks and can be folded up easily when not in use. They are also a great alternative if you are on a budget. Moreover, these racks are better at holding multiple bikes, since they do not require so much space. However, keep in mind that they aren’t as sturdy, so during transportation your bikes might come into contact with one another or with the vehicle. Visit Amazon to get more information about hanging hitch racks and to check their prices.
That’s a wrap for today. These are some of the most noteworthy differences between the types of hitch racks to be considered when purchasing a vehicle.
This was a comprehensive discussion of the platform vs hanging bike racks. In spite of the fact that they share the same mechanism, the right choice for you can change drastically depending on the circumstances. Several scenarios have been considered and suggestions have been made for each use case to help reduce confusion. Choose whichever one works best for you, and enjoy the ride.