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How can I fit 6 bikes on a hitch rack for my Toyota Sienna van? Thank you!

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You can strap 2 bikes on top after mounting 4 bikes the usual way, but it bounces distressingly. Not recommended. Mine is in here somewhere: imgur.com/RBG5o –  freiheit May 19 '12 at 6:10
    
When you say 'van' I presume you don't mean a light commercial truck (a UK van) which might be able carry several bikes inside as well as racked outside? Remember you have an international audience who won't necessarily have the same knowledge or assumptions as you. –  Unsliced May 21 '12 at 16:11
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Be mindful of your van's maximum hitch load! A serious hitch-mounted bike rack might be 15-20lbs and with 6 bikes at ~30lbs each, that would put close to 200lbs on the hitch. –  WTHarper Sep 5 '12 at 16:16
    
I think that the net-net is that you can't practically put 6 standard bikes on a hitch rack and hope for bikes, rack, and hitch to survive a drive of any distance. Even 4 bikes is too much, IMO. (And I'm talking a 2" class 3 hitch here.) –  Daniel R Hicks Sep 6 '12 at 11:35
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6 Answers

Well, not to encourage spammers, but the Totem Pole is an interesting design. It does have the advantage that the weight is carried fairly close to the vehicle, so there's less torsion on the hitch -- maybe this isn't sufficient to really allow the weight of 6 bikes to be carried, but it likely handles 4 better than the standard horizontal beam rack.

I would be a bit concerned about carrying the bike's weight solely from the front wheel, as this design does. At the very least you'd want your bikes to have "lawyer lips", and on a long ride I'd be concerned about stressing/distorting the wheel. Plus it's not clear (despite the cavalier statements to the contrary) that bikes wouldn't bump/rub each other while being jostled on a rough road.

Also, the rack probably has trouble with kids bikes, since the wheels will not hit the bottom bar.

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I also have a Sienna. I put two bikes in upright racks on the roof. And, as someone else said, can you put any inside? That's what I usually do if I don't have people in the third seat; I can put four bikes inside if I arrange them carefully.

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The hitch is not designed to take the kind of forces that 6 bikes can produce. A trailer sits on the ball and cannot twist the hitch, a rack adds twisting forces in all directions. The end result (I have a mate who manages a bike shop) can be pretty expensive - like the guys who's hitch (with 4 bikes on the rack) failed while being followed by a 30 ton B-Train. Luckily for him the remaining scrap metal only damaged one truck tire - you would think the cost of replacing the bikes was all you need you worry about.....

If you do, you need to strap the top of the rack to the roof of the car, and strap the rack and bikes to limit the twisting forces in the hitch.

The addition of 6 bikes on the back of the vehicle will also upset the balance. Most cars have a ball weight limit - some as low as 60kg, few above 100kg. I imagine your van is on the higher end of the scale, but 6 heavy mountain bikes + rack will be close to 100kg. (if you are US/UK and think pounds, thats 130lb - 220lb). You may find you are overloading the hitch and voiding warranty / breaking laws / voiding insurance

There is a reason most manufacturers stop at 4. Above 2, they almost always recommend/require straps and heavy duty hitches.

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I don't have any experience with hitch racks holding more than 4 bikes, but I do have an option that you may not have considered.

Forget the hitch rack and buy a small utility trailer. Most hardware stores sell trailer frames like this to which you can add a simple plywood box enclosure ore something more elaborate.

It looks like the market for a 6 bike rack is fairly small, and the racks are expensive ($700+ US). I am sure you could buy a small utility trailer for much less, you would be able to haul at least 6 bikes plus equipment and you would have none of the drawbacks of a hitch rack like:

  • Difficulty accessing the rear doors of the vehicle.
  • Rattle, hum and road shake as the torque/lever forces shake the bikes on the rack.

If you decide to go the trailer route you can use plans like these to build your own PVC racks to keep the bikes upright.

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I have a utility trailer like that one that I used to use for hauling bikes (back when I was working with Scouts). I contrived a way to mount pieces of galvanized water pipe vertically to mount the bikes to, with rings on the "floor" to run straps through to secure the wheels (though I never did work out very good way to tie the bikes to the pipes). This trailer could handle eight bikes with relative ease. (The PVC racks seem a little flimsy to me.) –  Daniel R Hicks May 21 '12 at 17:54
    
You would want to use 'bungies' to tie loops or something to secure the bikes, but a PVC rack I made from those plans and had in the back of an old pick-up was my primary bike rack for about 5 years. I build it with different size slots for road or mtn bikes, though in a pinch I could use the mtn slots for additional road bikes. I had no problems that indicated the rack was flimsy. YMMV. –  Gary.Ray May 21 '12 at 18:15
    
I also, like you, moved 8 bikes in a trailer for the Boy Scouts - I used two of those pvc racks; one in each end of the trailer and offset so the bikes interleaved in the middle. –  Gary.Ray May 21 '12 at 18:17
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Keep in mind that hitch racks intended to carry large numbers of bikes (including the North Shore six bike rack) tend to require heavy duty 2" receivers. Ensure your vehicle is properly equipped.

If you have room inside the van, you can use one of these to carry a few bikes (perhaps in addition to 4 bikes on a more typical hitch rack):

http://www.biketote.com/store/category.php?category=12

I use the Bike Tote in the back of my Toyota Tacoma pickup to carry two bikes. It works well -- it holds the bikes securely, and is very easy to install/remove the rack to/from the vehicle.

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Here's a rack that will do six. I have no personal experience with this one and the fact that neither of the top two rack companies (Thule and Yakima) do a six bike rack makes me think you should approach with caution.

http://www.ihatebikes.net/site/gear/racks-gear/shopping-for-a-hitch-rack-the-northshore-6-bike-rack/

I have seen, with mixed success, 4-bike bike racks where folks have strapped an additional bike into the mix. Again, proceed with caution.

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That style is probably a better choice than the more typical hitch rack with the bikes transverse. The problem with even 4 bikes is that the arm is so long that the torque on the hitch is quite high -- it's not the weight, it's the lever arm. –  Daniel R Hicks May 19 '12 at 11:17
    
If you solve the lever arm problem (strapping the upper part in the car?), this is probably the best way to pack bikes: side by side with the handlebars half-turned. After lots of trials this is my preferred method at home, where the bikes lean against each other. –  heltonbiker May 19 '12 at 12:26
    
Along lines of @Daniel R Hicks comment - the center of gravity of the bikes is quite a long way behind the hitch, adding to the torque. The dynamic forces in play when driving add up significantly - way more than the static forces. –  mattnz Sep 5 '12 at 23:59
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