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I am shopping for a bike rack for my Toyota Camry. I don't currently have a hitch but am thinking that is likely the best way to go so that I am able to use my rooftop box while carrying bikes.

I am presently trying to choose between a hanging rack (like the Thule Apex XT - $550 CAD):

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Or a platform rack (like the Thule DoubleTrack Pro XT - $630 CAD):

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Generally, I prefer the hanging rack because:

  • Compatible with mountain bikes with 3" tires, gravel bikes with fenders, etc
  • Can fit 4 bikes (2 adults + 2 kids)
  • Cheaper

BUT I am worried that it will not have enough ground clearance with a hanging rack. While borrowing a friend's car several weeks ago, and using their hanging rack, the front wheel on my mountain bike touched the ground while pulling out of my driveway. I am wondering if that was a odd nuance of their setup or if that was a general issue with hanging racks.

My possible setup:

  • 2016 Toyota Camry

  • Thule Apex XT - Looks like it has a height from hitch to hanging of 37":

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Any advice is appreciated :)

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    Since you'll need a hitch fitting on the car, another option is to buy and own a trailer. These can carry bikes and whatevers in your cargo box and more besides. Downside, its another large item to store, people often ask to borrow your trailer, but it's also incredibly useful around the home.
    – Criggie
    Jul 6, 2023 at 19:28

3 Answers 3

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With the hanging rack, it will work. Worst Case scenario, you have to take the front wheel off.
Thing with ground clearance on the hanging rack, because the bikes are fixed at the top, they able to swing to some degree, they can move out of the way when needed. As long as you don't go overboard on testing that theory. You can also experiment with how you position the bikes to mount them a bit higher. When I've got my XL trail bike on the back of my wife's car I mount it under the downtube/seat stays for example. Guessing it murders the aero dynamics (even more than any bike on the back solution), but it's well clear of the ground. I also take the front wheel off as it sticks out a fair amount both sides of the car, mounting high and of centre with the wheel off minimises this

The Platform rack, should work again, will depend on extract length of wheelbase. Would suggest looking at the geo of that bike, even the XL isn't overly long so don't see it being much of an issue. Still have a ground clearance issue, but this time it's the bike rack itself, and something that doesn't have much in the way of give. Although, reality if you've got that issue with a two bike mount, there is something else to consider.

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Internally routed cables, so no cables on down tube. Put the rack under the downtube, not the top tube. This is how I solved the problem with my bike that had this problem.

(EDIT: only one of the rack arms goes under the downtube. The rack arm towards the front of the bike. The rack arm towards the back of the bike goes under the top tube as usual.)

And about bikes swinging out of the way - they do swing out of the way, until they don’t.

Imagine backing down a hill, the bike is “leaning back” in the rack, and then the downhill starts to go uphill slightly, enough for the bike wheels to hit the ground. So the bike is pinned between the rack and the ground, so the bike pushes up out of the rack, or snaps the straps, or worse.

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My personal preference is very strongly a platform rack for more than one bike.

Modern bikes need different racks to what was designed years ago. Not only tires, but frame tubes and axle widths are wider. You need to buy a rack suitable for the bikes you plan to carry. Make sure the rack is designed with modern MTB's in mind. (My rack was built before Boost, while a three-bike rack, it only fits two modern MTBs easily). Many hanging racks have some problems with various bikes (tube diameter too big, wider spacing needed MTB's etc).

The reason for my preference for a platform rack is bike installation is usually quicker and safer for the bikes. Hanging racks, you need to be very careful to make sure the bikes are not touching. "Shuttle Rash" is a real and sometime expensive problem and bikes are more prone to it on hanging racks. With fenders on a hanging rack, I can envision all sorts of problems protecting them while tying the bike down. With a platform rack and a frame clamp, I imagine no problems at all.

Platform racks protect the bike from ground strike in two ways - its impossible to accidently have the bike lower than expected, as happens sometimes with hang racks, and if you do get a ground strike, it is the rack that takes the scraping, not the bike.

An advantage of hanging racks is they are usually smaller to store when not in use.

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  • Awesome answer. Thanks for the help. What do you think about cheaper priced platform racks? Jul 10, 2023 at 23:02
  • There are good, cheap bike racks. Worth asking another question (avoid shopping recommendations, focus on things to look for/avoid).
    – mattnz
    Jul 11, 2023 at 0:03

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