Reviewed & Compared
by Daniel Atlas
When you want to carry one or more bikes and the people to ride them all together on your car, there’s no substitute for a good bike rack. Particularly for an adventure vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler, having a bike carrier can make a huge difference in the places you can explore by bike.
In this article, we’ll review five products that vie for the title of being the best bike rack for a Jeep Wrangler.
There are a huge variety of bike racks available on the market, including racks specific to the Jeep Wrangler. Here, we’ll break down some of the key features to look for and Things to know when looking for the best bike carrier.
There are three primary styles of bike racks:
Hitch mount racks
Roof racks are designed to allow you to mount the car on top of your Wrangler. While these racks can be ideal for sedans and other low-roof vehicles, they are often not the best options for a Wrangler simply because the car is so tall, to begin with – mounting your bike on the roof requires lifting it over your head to reach the rack.
While this is still doable for tall and strong people, it is certainly inconvenient, and you will likely only be able to mount two bikes since reaching the center of the bars for to place more roof mounts will be nearly impossible. Plus, with bikes on the roof, the car will be tall enough that even driving through low-clearance tunnels could become an issue. The primary advantage of a roof rack is that you’ll be able to access the trunk easily, without removing the bikes.
Hitch mount racks are much more suitable bike carriers for a Jeep Wrangler and are easy to attach to the Wrangler’s rear hitch, but they often block access to the trunk when the bikes are on the rack.
Tray-style hitch mount racks are often favored because of their simplicity to load – they simply offer a platform to place the wheels, a front bar to fix the bike onto the mount, and a rear wheel strap to keep the bike from moving.
These mounts are also ideal for carbon bikes since they do not contact or place pressure on the bike frame. Arm support hitch mounts, on the other hand, attach directly to the bike frame by serving as an arm for the top tube to lay across. An advantage of arm support mounts is that some can be rotated so that they allow the trunk to open without removing the bikes.
The final type of bike rack is the trunk mount, which affixes directly to the trunk rather than to the rear hitch.
Trunk mounts can be useful for freeing up the rear hitch for towing, and on the Jeep Wrangler can be a great choice for allowing access to the trunk. Many trunk mounts for the Wrangler specifically attach to the spare wheel rather than to the trunk itself, which means that the bikes will swing out when the trunk is opened.
The downside to trunk mounts is that they are limited by the support arms in the amount of weight they can carry and that the support arms attach directly to the bike’s frame similarly to arm support hitch mounts, which can be damaging to expensive carbon bike frames.
Another important consideration when choosing the bike rack for your Jeep Wrangler is whether or not the rack offers security for your bike against theft.
If you plan to always be with your car whenever a bike is attached, this may seem unnecessary, but it only takes a quick food break with an unsecured bike to come back to find that your bike has been stolen off of your car.
Ideally, the rack itself can be locked to the car and the bike to the rack for the fullest security.
Hitch mounts can often be locked to the rear hitch, and many models offer locking front arms, lock-in axles for the front fork, or attachment points for a cable and U-lock.
Many roof racks use a lock-in axle for the front fork, and it is also possible to attach the rack and bike to the car via a cable pulled around the crossbars on the roof.
Trunk mounts, specifically those for the Jeep Wrangler, may have locking knobs at the point where they attach to the spare tire and some include cables to U-lock the bike frame to the rack or spare tire.
Even when narrowing down your bike rack choices to the Jeep Wrangler, it is extremely important to check that the racks you are deciding between will fit your specific Wrangler model.
Roof crossbar designs change from year to year and between different versions of the Wrangler, as does the design of the trunk.
Although hitch mounts are fairly consistent, they also come in several sizes, so it is important to ensure that the rack you choose will be compatible with your car.
Considering the maximum number of bikes that you plan to carry on your Wrangler can also play an important role in your decision.
Roof racks are often adaptable so that you can add more mount points as long as you have space remaining on your crossbars, so this system is adaptable over time if you add additional bikes.
Hitch and trunk carriers, on the other hand, are fixed in the number of bikes they can carry.
Having a rack that is too large can be more expensive initially for features you do not need and are more cumbersome to work with, but at the same time, it is better to err on the side of an extra bike space since you cannot expand the rack later without buying an entirely new carrier.
This is one of the most inexpensive solutions you will find for carrying two bikes on your Jeep Wrangler, and it works extremely well whether you are carrying bikes around town or heading out on the highway at high speeds.
The rack is fast to install since it uses a patented design to attach to the inside top of the spare tire on the rear of the car. The only other attachment point that needs work is to run the nylon webbing from the bottom of the rack underneath the trunk – unfortunately, these straps mean that you won’t be able to access the trunk without removing them.
The wide arms on the rack work with any spare tire and won’t scratch up your rim. The arms themselves are designed to hold two bikes in two individual mounting spots by cradling the top tube and securing it down with wide rubber straps.
Although the cradle is gentle on your top tube, it can pose a threat to carbon frames if you are riding on bumpy roads.
Unfortunately, there is no built-in security mechanism on this rack for keeping your bikes safe from thieves, although it is possible to run a cable through your bike frame and the spare tire.
Yakima is a well-known name in a car carrying accessories, and their SpareRide rack doesn’t disappoint as a carrying option for a Jeep Wrangler.
One of the best things about this rack is that it attaches directly to the spare tire and doesn’t touch the car itself, and as a result, it is possible to install it once and never take it off since it won’t get in your way.
Plus, you can fold the support arms down to reduce the overall length of your car when the rack isn’t in use.
The large knob is easy to tighten from time to time to keep the rack secure, while the tread pads that face against the spare tire also help to reduce the amount of vibration that reaches your bikes when you are driving.
The cradle arms are secure and easy to mount one or two bikes onto via the top tube, and the zipper-style security attachments can be quickly tightened or removed for easy on and off.
The main downside to this rack is that it holds the bikes by the top tube so that it is not a great option for expensive carbon frames.
Also, the rack does not have built-in security features to prevent theft, and you’ll need to run a cable and U-lock through your bike frames and the spare tire for security.
This mount from Hollywood is less expensive than the similar rack from Yakima but offers much of the same functionality.
The rack attaches directly to the spare tire and does not come into contact with the trunk of your Wrangler, which means that you have the freedom to open and close the trunk without ever taking the rack or your bikes off of the car.
This also means that although you need some tools to get the rack on and off, in most cases, you’ll never need to take it off the car unless you need to access the spare tire.
The cradle arms can hold two bikes by supporting the top tubes and fold down when not in use to save space.
The cradle itself is very stable thanks to the wide rubber straps designed to go over the top tubes, although you may want an additional strap to keep the bike wheels from moving.
Like other racks of this style, it is less than ideal for fragile carbon frame bikes, especially since there is no mechanism for vibration dampening.
Also, this rack comes with a lock to secure it to your Wrangler, which in turn means you can easily lock your bikes to the rack rather than to the spare wheel.
This two-bike spare wheel attachment bike carrier from Thule is expensive but goes a bit further in design than the comparable models from Yakima and Hollywood.
The biggest difference is that Thule designed their attachment to the spare wheel to be securable – it comes with a key so that no potential thieves can lift the rack and bikes off of the car, even with a set of wrenches.
This is a major security upgrade since it means that you can lock your bikes directly to the rack with a strong cable lock and have peace of mind when you step away from the car and bikes.
The cradle attachments on the rack arms are also upgraded to prevent your bikes from swaying into each other or into the trunk of the car.
In addition to two wide rubber straps to secure the top tube, the cradle includes a third rubber strap position and plastic stabilizing guide intended to fit over the stem and front fork.
This not only helps to keep the bike from swinging but also goes a long way towards preventing the front wheel from turning while you drive.
Like the competitor racks, this rack has collapsible cradle arms and attaches only to the spare wheel, so it is easy to leave it on at all times and not have it get in the way of opening and closing the trunk.
If you need to carry three bikes, yet still want to stick to a mount that attaches to the spare wheel rather than move to a hitch mount, this option from Surco is an excellent choice.
The mount attaches directly to the spare wheel on a Jeep Wrangler to allow you to operate the trunk easily.
However, unlike other options, the cradle arm does not collapse when not in use – you’ll need to unscrew it to remove it, which takes a few minutes and a wrench.
The cradle arm itself does not use wide rubber straps like on other bike racks, but rather a padded metal channel into which you can slide up to three bikes.
The channel than clamps down using a knob that is easy to turn and tighten by hand.
However, note that while this rack is rated for three bikes, it does not leave enough space for three mountain bikes – rather, there is enough space for three small road bikes or two larger bikes and a children’s bike.
The padded channel in which the bikes sit has a built-in lock for theft prevention, although Surco only provides one key – plan on having a spare copy made immediately on purchasing the rack, or else you may find yourself calling a locksmith later.
Despite this security, the rack itself does not lock to the car so a determined thief could easily steal the rack and whatever bikes it is holding.
For a Jeep Wrangler, the best style of rack is a trunk mount that attaches directly to the spare tire. This allows access to the trunk and doesn’t require lifting your bikes onto the roof.
In all likelihood, yes. Even stopping for food at a rest stop leaves enough time for thieves to steal your bikes off of your rack. If you get a rack without security features built in, invest in a good cable lock that can attach to your spare tire.
It is typically impossible with trunk to mount carriers to add extra bike carry spots later without buying an entirely new rack.
Therefore, consider the maximum number of bikes you are likely to want to carry and opt for a rack that can hold that number of bikes.
While any of the bike racks in this review would make an excellent choice, the overall best bike rack for the Jeep Wrangler is the Spare Me 963Pro Bike Carrier from Thule.
Although this rack is expensive up front, it will save you money on additional locks and cables – and replacing a stolen bike – down the line thanks to the integrated lock at the point where the rack attaches to the spare wheel.
Also, your bikes will ride more securely, and you won’t have to worry about them swinging into each other thanks to the third rubber strap point, and plastic guide included for each bike mount on the cradle arms.
The rack is easy to use when you need it, and the arms fold down and out of the way when you don’t so that in all likelihood you never need to uninstall it from the car when not in use.
These features provide ease of use and security for carrying up to two bikes on your Jeep Wrangler.
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