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I've been looking into getting a trunk-mounted bike rack for two bikes. However, I've heard a few people say that I actually need a 3-bike rack because there isn't really enough space on a 2-bike rack for two bikes.

Is this true? If so, why do 2-bike racks even exist? Does it just depend on the brand? 3-bike rack models are a bit more expensive than their 2-bike counterparts, and I don't plan on ever transporting 3 bikes, so I'd rather not buy a 3-bike rack if I don't have to.

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Currently comparing and The 3-bike version doesn't look much bigger, but is $30 more. – Bob Aug 26 '10 at 18:15
Depending on your vehicle, the Saris Bones 3 only supports 2 bikes (as is the case with my 2010 Honda Civic). The recommended use is to use the 2 slots closest to the vehicle and leave the third open. – Russ Warren Aug 27 '10 at 13:05
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think it depends on the type of bikes you'll be loading onto the rack.

I have a 4-bike hitch-mounted rack (similar to this rack). My wife's cruiser is just large enough that it takes some attention to position when I load the next bike to get them all to fit. What I've run into is that the handlebars of smaller bikes tend to get in the way of the seatpost of the next bike (I load each bike facing the opposite way). In my case, her brake lever likes to get caught on my rack, so it takes some practice to get around these problems.

If you can, I would try purchasing a 2-bike mount from a place that will let you return it, take it home and try it out. If it can hold both bikes, you're good to go, and if not, you can take it back and purchase a larger rack.

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It depends on how... scratch averse you are for your bikes.

A 4 bike trailer hitch rack by Thule can get 4 bikes on it. If you want to ensure that there is never any pedal to frame contact, then you can get 2 bikes on it.

In general with some wiggling and possibly removing a wheel or two, you can always get as many bikes as advertised on a given rack. Just be aware that there will be some rubbing as you fiddle with the bikes to get them on.

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It depends on the bike rack and the geometry of your bikes. Typically, from what I've seen, if it says it can hold two, then your fine. I typically recommend the Thule T2. It's a great rack and is super easy to use; I never worry about the bikes when they're on it.

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I have one of these:

(for some reason that site insists I look at in Mobile view on my phone, it won't let me view the full site, I'll fix the link later when I'm on my computer)

With a bit of fiddling I can get 3 adult bikes on there. Depending on the bikes I sometimes have to alternate the direction they face and sometimes not. To preserve the paint from scratches you can buy foam pads to insert between the bikes, plus I've found that either wrapping the pedals in old teatowels or removing them completely can make life easier.

You should be able to get two bikes on a two bike rack with a bit of manoeuvring (it may be quite straightforward), but if you can afford it a three bike rack might be easier to use and gives you more leeway in the future.

I found that for peace of mind I needed to add two extra straps to the bottom of the rack to secure the bottoms of the bikes and stop the whole lot from bouncing away from the car when you hit a bump (this was probably unnecessary but it made me feel better).

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