Jun 11, 2024


It holds 3 bikes, has gobs of adjustability, and there are no plastic bits to break.

With my son graduating to a 24-inch mountain bike, I was quite suddenly in the market for a new bike rack for our car. I’ve used dozens of racks over the years, and installed them professionally when I managed a bike shop. Historically, I would usually go with a fork mount roof rack, but with the taller vehicles (SUVs and crossovers) these days and a mix of different axle systems to deal with, roof racks can be a hassle. Rear mount racks, on the other hand, make a lot of sense because they don’t require wheel removal. And, if you’ve got a rear receiver hitch, that’s the way to go.

There are racks that strap on to the back of your vehicle, but if you care about your car or your bikes, I wouldn’t recommend going that route. I need to transport three bikes, which is a fair amount of weight to put on a rack that rests on your vehicle’s paint and sheet metal. Plus, the straps and hooks can abrade the paint at the edges of trunk lids and rear hatches. Aside from that, these racks generally hold the bikes by their top-tubes and the bikes can sway and move around. None of that is ideal.

Since this would be the last rack I plan on getting for a while, I carefully researched all the available hitch mount racks capable of holding three bikes and talked with my colleagues at Bicycling magazine. Now, to be up front, I was hesitant about the cost—the nice ones are expensive. But I keep considering the rack cost and comparing it to vehicle and bike costs. In that light, it’s really an investment to help protect both, while transporting the bikes safely.

I came across 1-Up racks when considering all my options and, while I had seen people using them, I completely missed one of their greatest features. That’s because one of the nicest things about the rack has nothing to do with its use: it folds up to make carrying and storing it a lot easier. I can’t overstate how much I like this feature—I hated removing the last hitch mount rack I had. It was nearly impossible to store the awkward device when it wasn’t hanging off the back of my car.

When 1-Up’s Heavy Duty Double bike rack and an accessory add-on tray for a third bike arrived, I unboxed it and discovered the next wonderful thing about it: it comes fully assembled. And, the add-on tray? It takes just 2 bolts to attach. Looking over the rack, there were more and more things to like. Virtually the whole rack is made from aluminum, with no plastic bits to break—something that had happened with my previous rack. The machining on the parts is neat and clean, and all the folding joints were tight and smooth. If you’re a fan of products made in the USA, this is a fine example of one made very well.

Installing the rack on the car is done by simply slipping it into your receiver and tightening a single bolt. The company supplies you with the necessary tool for the security hex-head bolt, which secures the rack in the hitch. You’ll need to tighten, wiggle the rack, and retighten a couple times to be sure it’s locked in. Note that the rack has a slot for the use of a locking pin—this allows you to adjust how close the rack is to the back of your car. You can move it in close, if the tail of your vehicle slopes down, or further away if you have, say, a van with a flat-ish rear.

One challenge with multi-bike racks is dealing with seats and handle bars that often interfere with each other when alternating bikes on the rack. The 1-Up’s trays are staggered with each tray slightly higher than the one before it, to help minimize interference. If there is still an issue, the arms that hold the wheels have plenty of adjustability to shift bikes left or right. This makes the game of bicycle Tetris when loading bikes a lot easier—I haven’t yet had to take bikes off to rearrange them in order to get them to fit. The other adjustable feature on the arms is the bridge that grabs the top of the tire—move it up for larger tires, down for smaller tires. This requires a hex wrench, but can be done easily in a couple minutes.

As with other hitch mount racks, when the Heavy Duty Double is empty, it can be folded up, out of the way, and lowered again to access the truck or rear hatch. The locking mechanism for this can be slightly awkward to reach, but in my experience most of them are on this style of rack. And that’s the worst thing I can say about it—to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever been this excited about a bike rack.

Brad Ford has spent most of his life using tools to fix, build, or make things. Growing up he worked on a farm, where he learned to weld, repair, and paint equipment. From the farm he went to work at a classic car dealer, repairing and servicing Rolls Royces, Bentleys, and Jaguars. Today, when he's not testing tools or writing for Popular Mechanics, he's busy keeping up with the projects at his old farmhouse in eastern Pennsylvania.

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