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What sets pick-up trucks apart from other vehicles is their versatility. They are the workhorses of the highway.
It might be tempting to just chuck your bikes in and head for the trails but that is no way to treat your pride and joy. Thankfully, there are excellent and practical bike racks that make transporting your bike easier than ever.
In this article, we take a look at the best truck bed bike racks and give you all the information you need to pick the right one.
Best Tailgate Pads
1. Yakima GateKeeper Tailgate Pad
- Bike Capacity: 5 (medium), 6 (large)
- Weight: 7lbs (medium), 8lbs (large)
- Material: Nylon with felt lining
The Yakima GateKeeper Tailgate Pad can hold up to five bikes securely whilst protecting your truck from damage.
Loading the bikes is as simple as hanging the front wheel over the tailgate in the well-designed grooves of the pad and cinching the padded strap over the downtube.
The combination of the Sit-Tight cushion and straps with oversized buckles prevents any bike-on-bike action on the drive to the trail.
The nylon outer material is tough and built to last whilst the felt-lining underneath protects your truck paintwork. Three straps hold the pad in place and installation could not be easier.
The rear flap can be stowed to give access to the tailgate handle.
- SitTight bike cradles – add an extra layer of bike protection on top of the Velcro straps.
- Durable – nylon outer can take the worst of the road and the weather.
- HindSight – rear flap can be tucked away so that it doesn’t interfere with rearview cameras.
2. Race Face T2 Tailgate Pad
- Bike Capacity: 5 (medium), 6 (large)
- Weight: 7lbs (large)
- Material: PVC tarpaulin with micro-brushed inner lining
The Race Face T2 tailgate pad comes in two sizes depending on the size of your truck. The smaller version will carry up to five bikes and the larger version holds up to six bikes.
In common with other tailgate pads, the front wheel of the bike hangs over the tailgate and the downtube is secured to the pad itself. The downtubes rest on evenly distributed bumpers with individual straps to secure the bikes in place.
To improve compatibility, the Race Face uses an adjustable rear panel that is easily moved for access to the tailgate handle and any rear cameras.
- Durable and scratch-free – the pad is made from tough PVC tarpaulin on the outside to protect it from the elements and soft micro-brushed inner materials to reduce wear on the tailgate paintwork.
- Adjustable window – increases truck compatibility and allows unhindered access to the tailgate handle without impeding reversing cameras.
- Hook and Loop Straps – hold the bikes securely at the downtubes.
3. Dakine Pickup Pad DLX
- Bike Capacity: 5 (medium), 7 (large)
- Weight: 5lbs (large)
- Material: PVC outer with micro-fleece lining
Dakine was one of the first to popularise the tailgate pad for transporting mountain bikes. You get a sense of this pedigree with the top of the line Dakine Pickup Pad DLX.
The pad is kept securely in place using four nylon straps and is easy to install. Unlike other tailgate pads, there has been at least some thought given to security thanks to the metal grommets that can be used to lock the bikes using a cable lock.
This should be enough to give peace of mind if you are stepping away from your vehicle for a few minutes.
Depending on the size of your tailgate, two sizes of the pad are available; the large pad carries seven bikes and the small pad carries five bikes.
No matter what size you choose, the bikes are secured firmly using Velcro straps that prevent any bike-on-bike fighting out on the road.
- Kind on your truck – the underside of the pad is made from microfleece fiber to protect your tailgate from scratches. The 1000D UV polyester outer keeps everything weather resistant and durable.
- Oversized Handle Flap – the flap can be secured in the open position using Velcro straps to take advantage of rear cameras found on modern pick-up trucks.
- Bike Security – The individual Velcro straps used to secure the bikes are woven into the pad and do a much better job than bumpers found on cheaper tailgate pads. The metal grommets for a cable lock are a neat extra security feature.
Best Fork Mounts
1. Yakima BedHead
- Bike Capacity: 1
- Weight: 2.2lbs
- Material: aluminum
The Yakima BedHead takes a different approach to fork-mount racks. Here the fork mount is clamped to the inside lip of the truck bed side rails with no drills or holes required.
Once the front wheel of the bike is removed, a 9mm long-throw skewer holds it firmly in place. For added security, there is an optional locking version.
- Quick and easy to install – no-drills are required as the clamps hold everything tight around the lip of the side-rails. It is a great option for those that lease their truck but still want a secure bike mount.
- Security – locking version available that should be enough to make bike thieves think twice.
- Discreet – you can leave these on the truck all year round as they are weather-resistant and take up next to no space.
2. Thule Bed-Rider Bike Rack
- Bike Capacity: 2
- Weight: 9.25lbs
- Material: aluminum and rubber
It would not be a proper list of bike racks if there was not a Thule rack. Having been in the business since 1942, it is fair to say that they know a thing or two about rack design.
The Thule Bed-Rider is no exception. It is a simple and effective design that fits most trucks.
Installation on the truck is quick and then it is a case of removing the front wheel of the bike and securing it in place using a quick-release mechanism that will be familiar to most riders.
As with most Thule rack systems, security is taken seriously and with the Bed-Rider you can be confident that opportunists will have second thoughts if you are away from your truck grabbing a coffee for the road.
- Easy to install – the simple and secure design means that you don’t need to drill any holes in the truck. Instead, it clamps onto the edge of the truck and rubber pads prevent any damage.
- Security – there are three locking cylinders to keep your bikes secure. One to lock the bar to your truck and one on each of the two bike clamps. The same key is used for each lock.
- Durable – the arm is made of aluminum which is both strong and lightweight. It is easy to carry but you can also leave it in place as it will not rust.
3. Swagman Patrol Pickup Truck Bike Rack
- Bike Capacity: 2
- Weight: 11 lbs
- Material: aluminum
The rack fits at the cab end of the bed and an easy to use telescopic design makes it extremely easy to install without having to drill any holes.
The rubber pads at each end push against the sidewalls of the bed and a rotating handle give it that little extra bit of friction to stop it from going anywhere.
Once in position, the handle can be locked with a key so that it cannot be removed against its will.
- Easy to install – with no tools and no drilling required, friction alone holds the rack in place securely.
- Security – the handle locks to make this a theft-resistant rack.
- Capacity – the rack comes with two fork mounts but more can easily be added to carry additional bikes.
Best Wheel Mount Racks
1. Thule Insta-Gater
- Bike Capacity: 1
- Weight: 11lbs
- Material: aluminum
The Thule Insta-Gater uses an innovative and simple ratcheting system to secure the rack to the bed. The straps are placed between the tailgate and the bed and then ratcheted tight to give an “Insta” bike rack.
Locking the tailgate then provides an extra layer of rack security.
Bike installation is just as easy as rack installation since you don’t have to remove the front wheel. The rack is suitable for bikes with a tire width between 20 and 29-inch.
- Security – the ratcheting arm that holds the front wheel of the bike can be locked with the one-key system common to most Thule racks. A lockable tailgate will lock to the rack itself to the vehicle.
- Instant Installation – no drilling or bolting is required to install the rack. A simple ratchet strap keeps everything secure.
- Compatibility – suitable for a wide range of bikes from mountain bikes to road bikes.
2. Heininger Automotive 2025
- Bike Capacity: 4
- Weight: 8 lbs
- Material: steel
The Heininger Automotive 2025 is easy to install and easy to remove since it can be secured in the bed without needing to drill any holes or make modifications to your vehicle.
Loading the bikes into the rack is easy once you have lifted them onto the bed. Simply wheel the bike into place and slide the security bar down against the wheel and that is it.
Security is taken care of by a 72-inch cable lock that can be used to lock the bikes to the rack and the rack to the bed with the appropriate tie-down points.
- Easy to us – loading the bikes is as simple as placing the rear wheel in the rack and securing with the sliding bar.
- Security – integrated cable lock is probably enough to keep opportunists at bay.
- Versatile – when not in use on the vehicle can easily be used as a self-standing bike rack in your garage.
Best Side Clamps
1. INNO RT201 Truck Bed Bike Rack (best overall)
- Bike Capacity: 1
- Weight: 4 lbs
- Material: aluminum
The INNO RT201 Truck Bed Bike Rack is a great side-clamp design that can be fitted tool-free to most pick-up trucks.
The design couldn’t be simpler. A couple of mounts secure the rack to the side rails and then rubber grippers securely hold the bike upright in the bed. By doubling up and having one on each side you can transport two bikes.
The rubber grippers are strong enough to hold the bike firm but won’t damage your frame out on the road. They can be articulated in multiple directions so that most bike frames can be held firmly.
- Easy installation – no tools or drilling required.
- Secure – ratcheting straps hold the bike securely and are a more elegant solution than just putting them in the bed of the truck.
- D-Rings – Built-in feature to secure a cable lock.
Different Types Of Truck Bed Racks
Tailgate pads provide a more elegant solution to simply hooking your bike front wheel over the tailgate and hoping for the best.
They are made to be durable on the outside and soft on the inside to protect the pickup truck paintwork. Think foam pads support the downtubes and a simple strap holds the bikes in place to stop them from bashing into each other.
Commonly, two sizes are available to fit different size trucks and it is possible to transport between four and seven bikes at a time.
They are great value for money compared to other rack designs and are simple to install and use.
Video: Keep Your Tailgate Pad And Bikes Secure
Suitable for – shorter journeys but great for loading bikes on the way to another gravity run.
Fork mount racks consist of a bar that spans across the width of the bed of the truck and is secured in place by pressure on the sides of the pickup truck, clamps, or a combination of the two.
Once installed in the truck you must remove the front wheel of the bike and the fork is then secured using a quick-release skewer that most cyclists will be familiar with.
The number of bikes that can be transported depends on the model.
There is very little movement when out on the road and the additional security that some manufacturers offer makes these racks great if you plan to step away from your vehicle.
The main drawback with fork mount racks is the fact that you have to remove the front wheel.
Suitable for – longer journeys where you want security. Great for smaller pick-up beds as removing the front wheel shortens the bike length.
As the name suggests, the front wheel of the bike is held securely in place in wheel mount racks and so you don’t have to remove the wheel, unlike fork mount racks.
They are easy to use since you just have to roll the bike into place and secure the clamps around it.
Since they only hold the front wheel, there is a risk that the bikes can sway at the rear wheel, especially on bumpy roads.
They also tend to take up more space than other rack options and would not be suitable for trucks with a short bed.
Suitable for – trucks with larger beds and for those who do not want to remove the front wheel every time they transport bikes.
Side clamps are secured to the side rails and secure bikes using ratchet holders. To improve security, a simple cable lock can be integrated through the D-rings that are found on most side-clamp racks.
Compare to other rack types, side clamp racks are extremely compact and are easy to store when not in use. They take up so little space on the truck that you could leave them on permanently without interfering with the rest of the storage space.
They might not be suitable for short beds since the wheels are not typically removed and using side clamps will limit you to transporting two bikes, one on each side of the bed.
Suitable for – those who only need to transport a couple of bikes and want a discreet solution.
How To Choose The Right Truck Bed Bike Rack For You
The type of pick-up truck rack that you choose and the size of your bed will have a bearing on the bike capacity.
Tailgate pads usually come in two sizes depending on the size of your truck and usually fit between four and six bikes. The more bikes, the higher the chance of any bike-to-bike damage on the journey.
Side clamps hold one bike and by definition, the number of bikes you can transport per truck is limited to a maximum of two.
No matter where you cycle, there will always be opportunists who will take great interest in a bunch of bikes in the bed of a pick-up. For that reason, rack and bike security should be a top concern when buying a rack.
The best way to transport a bike in a vehicle is to adhere to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Unfortunately, it will be unlikely that, with bikes loaded in the bed of the truck, that you will still be able to fit a canopy over to keep them out of sight.
Fork mount racks typically offer the best overall security since the rack can be locked to the vehicle and then the bikes are locked to the rack itself.
This means that even when you are out on the trails with your bike, your rack should be safe.
The convenience of tailgate pads must be offset against their lack of security overall. When the bikes are off, tailgate pads are easy to remove for a thief.
To get around this you could remove the tailgate pad when you are out on the trail and put it in the cab but this dilutes the overall convenience.
If you own your pick-up truck and don’t lease it then you may be able to bodge together a DIY security option using tie-down points and cable locks. Every little helps and it could be enough to make an opportunist think twice.
Storage When Not In Use
On those (hopefully rare) occasions when you are not transporting bikes, it is important to look for a rack that is easy to remove and easy to store.
Before buying a rack you should consider where you are going to store it. That could even be in the cab itself so you need to know how compact the rack is when stored.
The telescopic design of most fork mount racks makes storage easy and side mount racks are already small.
On the other hand, wheel mount racks usually take up more space when not in use but it is worth noting that most can be used as a standard wheel rack in your garage. This could be an excellent way to keep your garage organized.
Read more: Best bike hoists for a garage
Fork mount racks require the front wheel of the bike to be removed for installation. If you are planning to load a lot of bikes then this can be tedious and then you also have to consider the extra space you will need for the front wheel.
The main advantage is that fork mount racks do generally provide more security for the bike.
Tailgate pads, wheel mounts, and even side clamps don’t require any wheels to be removed and are more convenient for shorter, frequent trips.
What you gain in convenience you lose in security.
Truck Bed Mount
Unless you are going down the DIY rack route, there is no need to worry about having to drill holes into your pick-up. Modern racks go out of their way to make installation quick, straightforward, and mostly tool-free.
Can Bike Racks Be Used For Anything Else?
Side clamps are extremely versatile and can be used to secure not just bikes but other bulky items in the bed. If you use a fort mount rack, an extra side-clamp would be a great addition for holding the removed front wheel rather than getting your cab dirty.
Wheel mount racks are not just great on the bed of the truck but also make a great rack in the garage when not in use.
Bar-type fork mount racks essentially become load holders when not being used to transport bikes.
Video: Build Your Own Bike Rack
Truck Bed Racks – FAQs
Do You Have Recommended Truck Bed Bike Racks For Electric Bikes?
E-bikes are heavy, so any rack must be able to safely withstand that extra weight. One option is to remove the battery and then use a standard rack as long as you are within the load limits.
Do You Actually Need A Truck Bed Bike Rack?
You could simply put your bike in the bed of the pick-up truck and hope for the best. If you are transporting multiple bikes then a rack is the best way to avoid any bike-on-bike fighting on the journey to the trails.
A rack helps to keep everything organized and leave more space in the bed for all the other things you need for your epic bike trip.
How Do You Clean Truck Bed Bike Racks?
For most racks, a hose and soapy water are enough to give them a good clean. To prevent rust it is a good idea to dry them thoroughly although this is less of a concern if your rack is aluminum.
Will Bike Rack Mounts Fit In A Short Bed Truck?
The rack itself should fit in the bed of any size of truck but the main limiting factor will be the length of the bike. Look for racks that mean removing the front wheel (and rear if possible) as this will shorten the length of the bike considerably.
After that, it may be a case of running your tailgate down to fit the bike in. This might be fine for short journeys but impractical if you have other items stored on the bed.
Do Bike Racks Prevent A Bike From Being Stolen?
A bike rack will not protect a bike from theft but if security is a worry then some racks are better than others. Some fork mount racks have integrated security that will likely prevent an opportunist from stealing your bike.
There are so many great rack designs out there, each with its advantages, that there is no excuse for slinging expensive bikes into the bed and hoping that they make it to the trails in one piece.
If you are looking for something to get you and your mates to the top of the gravity run as conveniently as possible then it is hard to look past a good quality tailgate pad. They protect your truck and your bikes with minimal fuss.
A true original, DAKINE Pickup Pad DLX is one of the best tailgate pads and it even has some novel integrated security for your bikes.
If you want something more secure, especially for longer journeys, the Thule Bed-Rider fork mount rack lives up to its price tag.
Side mounts are a great innovation for carrying bikes in a pick-up and since they take up next to zero space, they can be left on the truck and forgotten about until you need to load the bikes. The INNO RT201 Truck Bed Bike Rack is simple yet effective.
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