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N. Hollywood, CA
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm shopping for a hitch mount bike rack for my Outback wagon. Probably 1-1/4" hitch, if it matters. With plans for a 2nd kid, I'm assuming a 4 or 5 bike rack is best for the long term.

If I get a hanger style hitch rack, the kind that cradles the top tube, and tilts away from the rear of the vehicle for hatchback access, can I assume that we'll be able to tilt the rack with 4 road bikes attached? I guess it would be heavy to lift back to vertical, but would the bikes "hang" correctly when tilted without ruining the paint on my custom frame? I'm just thinking that we have to be able to open the lift gate even with the bikes on.

Yakima has a 5-bike hanger style hitch rack. Reviewers on the REI website say the arms are long enough for 4 bikes. Reviewers for 4-bike racks generally say it's too tight a fit for 4 bikes. At least if you don't want them banging together.

Otherwise I suppose there's the tray style hitch rack, but they probably only fold up when empty, not down when loaded with bikes. So I don't think that's an option. Or is it?

I assume we'll be paying top dollar for the 'best' rack that we'll truly be happy with for a long time for many bikes. Thanks for any advice...
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Also curious about locking methods for the hitch rack itself. I don't want someone walking away with the rack since it will be parked outdoors every night. Yakima's 2" receiver racks are matched to an optional locking cable. But their 1-1/4" rack does not appear to use the same accessory. I don't know if the same cable works for either receiver size, or if there's a better option?
 

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Check out Softride racks. As hanger models go, they're the tops. Nice cradles that include anti-sway clamps, and they don't hinge down, they move away from the tailgate in a parallelogram motion. They come with a locking hitch pin, and include a cable that allows you to easily lock bikes to the rack.

I haven't yet seen a hanger, tip-away model that I'd trust to hold a bike securely enough to not bang them around at least a little.

Models that tip away - whether tray or hanger - don't leave much room for access to the tailgate, for what that's worth. I chose the softride because it easily allows the doggies in and out of the back with the bikes loaded.

The fit is a little tight for four bikes, but it depends on the individual bikes and how creatively they are loaded. Road bikes typically fit a bit easier than mtn or kid's bikes, because of the width of the handlebars and odd frame shapes.

Thule and Yakima both make models that swing to the side, but those need a 2" receiver.
 

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A couple of bits of advice, based on my experiences with a Rhode Gear rack

-For a 4-bike rack, think hard about getting a 2" receiver. The bigger tube is much more rigid, and that large load (on a long lever arm) will bounce around much less.

-as for swaying and bouncing together, any rack loaded with 4 bikes of disparate sizes and shapes will have some tendency to bang things together, so a little creative packing is advisable. Get yourself a bunch of bungee cords of various sizes, and a piece of carpet padding that can be cut to fit, and spend an extra 5 minutes when you load them tying everything together with padding between where necessary. Then it'll ride nice and securely.

-for locking, I used a cable with loops at both ends. Ran it around a frame member under the car, ran the end through the loop, then through all the bike frames, then around the outermost bike frame, where it was secured with a big padlock. Obviously the cable could be cut with the right tools, but it was secure enough for well-lit situations.
 

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Satanic Watch Winder
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I doubt you'll be able to use a 4 (or 5) bike tray rack because the combined weight / leverage load it places on the floor pan, where your reciever hitch is mounted, will likely exceed the strength of the floor pan. Remember, towing capacity is only the weight being pulled, not the downward force at the hitch. We have a fold up Saris reciever mounted tray rack ( about 45 lbs) on my wife's Accord and the combined weight of the rack and bikes is just under the limit of what the floor pan will take.
 

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floor pan?

oily666 said:
I doubt you'll be able to use a 4 (or 5) bike tray rack because the combined weight / leverage load it places on the floor pan, where your reciever hitch is mounted, will likely exceed the strength of the floor pan. Remember, towing capacity is only the weight being pulled, not the downward force at the hitch. We have a fold up Saris reciever mounted tray rack ( about 45 lbs) on my wife's Accord and the combined weight of the rack and bikes is just under the limit of what the floor pan will take.
The better hitch receivers mount to frame members, and I'm sure such a hitch is available for the Outback. They typically handle tongue weights of more than 200 pounds, more than enough for a loaded bike rack,
 

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Captain Obvious
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Satanic Watch Winder
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JCavilia said:
The better hitch receivers mount to frame members, and I'm sure such a hitch is available for the Outback. They typically handle tongue weights of more than 200 pounds, more than enough for a loaded bike rack,

Modern 3 box unibody cars don't have frames so, ultimately, the hitch is attached to sheet metal of the trunk floor. It has nothing to do with the hitch you select and everything to do with what a structure designed to absorb collision impact will bear. Because of this, there are many small to mid-size cars that nobody makes reciever hitch assemblies for because the hitch will literally tear out of the sheet metal.
 

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Satanic Watch Winder
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I just checked the Saris site at http://www.saris.com/p-302-cycleon-pro.aspx Saris says it has two reciever racks that fit a car that no one makes a reciever hitch for.....mine. It is, however, the rack we use on my wife's Accord. IMO this is a very good rack and the attachment and lock are bomb proof however, it weighs 40-45 pounds empty and that's the two bike version.

OP: Check with a reputable manufacturer or installer of hitch assemblies first. Then select a rack, if you can, with their information in hand. That's how I found out no one makes a hitch for my car and, after crawling underneath, I can see why.
 

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true

oily666 said:
Modern 3 box unibody cars don't have frames so, ultimately, the hitch is attached to sheet metal of the trunk floor. It has nothing to do with the hitch you select and everything to do with what a structure designed to absorb collision impact will bear. Because of this, there are many small to mid-size cars that nobody makes reciever hitch assemblies for because the hitch will literally tear out of the sheet metal.
The don't have separate frames, but they do have parts of the box that are shaped to stiffen and reinforce the structure, and well-designed receivers attach in those places.. And while many small cars have the limitation you mention, Subaru says the Outback can pull 2700 pounds, with 200 pounds on the tongue.

I'm not surprised many small cars have that limitation, but the Outback is a bit more of a utility vehicle.

45 pounds empty, for a 2-bike rack? That's some heavy metal. Must be a very rugged thing.

So which is your car that nobody makes a hitch for
 

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Low rep power
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You absolutely want a hitch rack, and not one on top? I know loading's a little easier, but....... We have a 3-bike hitch rack that works well (2" receiver), but have been nearly rear ended a couple of times..... I generally use racks up top now.
 

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How old is your Outback? If it's newer than 2005, they've got pretty solid, fairly easy to install receivers in 2" (assuming you don't already have that.) 2" really is more stable and versatile, whether you use it for anything more than bike racks or not.
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
For the record, the 2008 Outback has a frame. 1.25 and 2" receiver hitches are common for Outbacks. I suppose 2" doesn't limit my vertical clearance (for unpaved road travel) much more than 1.25", so perhaps bigger is better as suggested. Good advice.

I'm shopping for a hitch rack because on Sunday I ruined a Yakima roof rack when I drove into the carport (which was ~1" too low). Also tore up a Brooks saddle (the high point) and bent the seatpost real good! Thank goodness the Yakima wheel trays are much more flexible than a steel bike frame. I'll post some photos on my flickr account later this week.

Thanks for the tips and the links. The Softride looks like the only product with a realistic lowering feature. Guess that's why they patented the parallelogram approach. I'm a mechanical engineer, so this seems like a no-brainer. Hooray for helpful folks on the forums!
 

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"I'm shopping for a hitch rack because on Sunday I ruined a Yakima roof rack when I drove into the carport (which was ~1" too low). "

Sorry about your accident, but this is exactly why the owner of the LBS I ride with absolutely refuses to sell a roof mounted rack. He carries pleny of highend racks, just not roof mount. His theory is that eventually someone will forget the rack and ruin a bike and, even though not his fault, it will come back to haunt him. He must be right, he's been in business a long time and sells a lot of bike racks.

Personally, 4 bikes may be a bit much for a tray style rack on an Outback. It will be pretty wide behind the hitch and you could have some problems with the rack rubbing if you go over a curb with much incline.
 

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Take a look here for a hitch for your outback. http://www.etrailer.com/c-H.htm I bought my hitch for my Impala here and installed it myself. I needed the same thing as you able to haul four bikes at times. You might also want to check out the Thule Ridgeline four bike rack.http://www.thuleracks.com/product.asp?dept_id=8&sku=954 I went with this rack because of the four bike carring ability and locking the rack to the car and bikes to the rack. Oh yea almost forgot I have a 1 1/4" hitch and it does great. I hope this helps you in your search for a hitch and a rack.
 

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Satanic Watch Winder
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JCavilia said:
45 pounds empty, for a 2-bike rack? That's some heavy metal. Must be a very rugged thing.

So which is your car that nobody makes a hitch for
The Saris rack is bomb proof. There's no twisting or bouncing to it. I've seen one carry two 30 pound recumbents with no flex at all.

Acura CL
 

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As a veteran family guy who has used bike racks for many, many years: DO NOT GET A HANGING TYPE CARRIER. They are worthless if you value the condition of the bike at all. Plus, they are difficult to use with small bikes with sloping top tubes. Very difficult. I've used top quality (if price is any indication) big name receiver carriers and also a couple-three different kinds of "hatch back" types.

I traveled in Europe for 1/2 year with my family and we carried 4 bikes in tray type carriers (three on the back, one bolted to the front bumper) and it was not only easier to use, it was more fool-proof and did not damage the bikes because of it's inherant design features like the hanging types do.

I would never, ever, ever buy a hanging type rack again, even for a single bike. Never. I drive a Suburban and a pickup, so I just put my bike in the back. We also have a couple of Subies and I'm going to buy a Saris tray-type hitch carrier this summer.

With a family of four you might end up putting two or three on the back in a tray type receiver hitch and put one or two on the roof. Just my guess based on my own experience.
 

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On going with a 2" receiver if possible and being wary of hanging racks if any of your bikes have a sloping top tube, I completely agree.

I think systems such as the Thule T2 work really well, as the design makes it easy to get bikes on and off and holds them securely without actually touching the frame(s). You can also get some additional locking accessories for the rack where it bolts to your hitch and where it locks into place on your bicycle wheels. But you'll need the larger receiver to be able to get the add-on to hold 4 bikes and it becomes a very bulky and long attachment at that point. The weight and length may make it quite possible to drag the bottom if you're not careful although I suspect your Outback would be less prone to that than my Camry. The rack folds folds up and locks into place, but you can also swing it down to the ground as well.

I think the Saris rack someone linked a few posts back looks to be pretty similar, but I haven't seen one in person to compare.
 

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N. Hollywood, CA
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I can see the benefit of the Saris or Thule T2 type trays. In fact I originally considered a similar product by a company with a name like "one up" or something. Very well made, similar to metro buses, but poorly marketed.

Anyway, looking at the photos of the T2, it's clear that a bike with long fenders, rando front rack and rando front bag would impede the function of the rack's grab arm.

Now you've got me focusing on the issue. Maybe a Yakima Stickup, Thule Doubletrack, or Softride Versa tray style would work since they only grip the lower radius of the wheels. Hmmm... Anyone have experience with either of these?
 
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