🥇Top 5 Best Bike Racks for Carbon Frames

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Carbon fiber has revolutionized bike frame designs by enabling engineers to build bicycle frames that are 3 times stronger and 4 times lighter than steel.

Carbon fiber also allows bikes to be designed in complex shapes that weren’t as easy when fabricated with materials like aluminum and steel.

That said, the cost to manufacture the lightest and sturdiest bikes on the market has resulted in consumers spending hard-earned money to purchase their carbon frame bikes that, in turn, motivates them to find the best bike rack to transport their investment.

Top 3 Choice

Swagman Semi 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack
Swagman Semi 2.0 2-Bike Rack
9.5/10
  • Application: fits 1-1/4-inch x 1-1/4 inch (Class I and II) and 2 x 2 inches trailer hitch receivers
  • Carrying capacity: Can hold up to 2 bikes
  • Weight capacity: 45 pounds per bike
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty
Saris SuperClamp EX 2 Bike Platform Rack
Saris SuperClamp EX 2 Bike Rack
8.9/10
  • Application: Fits 1-1/4-inch x 1-1/4 inch (Class II) and 2 x 2 inches trailer hitch receivers
  • Carrying capacity: Up to 2 bicycles
  • Weight capacity: 60 pounds per bike
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty
Kuat Sherpa 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack
Kuat Sherpa 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack
8.3/10
  • Application: Fits to 2″ x 2″ trailer hitch receivers.Holds wheelbases up to 47″
  • Carrying capacity: Up to 2 bicycles
  • Weight capacity: 40 pounds per bike
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty

What are Carbon Frames?

Traditionally, steel was once the most common material used for the tubes of a bike frame.

Over time, engineers have aimed to design a bike that is light as a feather so as to stride well with the wind, but strong enough to withstand the damages caused by the crashes, tosses, and turns.

Despite the frame being light enough that you can lift the entire frame with just a couple of fingers, carbon frames are quite tough.

The strength of this lightweight material is unbelievably durable; in fact, it can withstand a greater amount of force more than steel.

The cost of buying a carbon framed bike can be pricey due to the engineering science. The materials are manufactured according to how much tension they can resist without breaking (aka by their tensile strength).

In short: the stronger and lighter a carbon frame bike is, the more expensive it can be.

Considering this, most consumers want to protect their purchase by investing in a reliable bike rack.

Bike Racks for Carbon Frames

Any bike owner knows that bike racks are essential–whether it is for a normal bike or a carbon frame, they are necessary to save space when traveling with your bike. They free up space in your vehicle for carrying large loads as well as saving space so that all seats can be used for passengers. Due to the huge popularity of carbon bikes, there is a wide array of bike racks for them, and the ones reviewed here are, in our opinion, the best out there:


1. Swagman Semi 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack

No. 1
1. Swagman Semi 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack
9.4/10 Our Score

Features:

  • Absolutely no frame contact
  • Fits 20” to 29” wheels
  • Built-in locking cable included
  • Lever at the base lets you tilt the rack down or fold it up

Specifications:

  • Application: fits 1-1/4-inch x 1-1/4 inch (Class I and II) and 2 x 2 inches trailer hitch receivers
  • Carrying capacity: Can hold up to 2 bikes
  • Weight capacity: 45 pounds per bike
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty

Swagman was one of the first global companies that designed and marketed a hitch style bike rack. They started as a small bike rack company from the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. Over time, they grew to include other radical designs that outfit not just bikes but RVs and other vehicles too.

Design, Fabrication, and Materials

Swagman Semi 2.0 uses your hitch to carry up to two bikes. It is designed with ratcheting hooks and large wheel cradles that support your carbon frames with zero frame contact. The padded cradles for the wheels of the bike ensure a snug fit, making it very safe and secure.

In order to avoid the rack touching the bike, it has pivoting upright arms with ratcheting hooks, which grip 2-wheelers securely by the front wheels without a single scratch or scuff to the frame.

Concerned about leaving your bike unattended while they’re loaded on the rack? Don’t be: Each of the pivoting upright arms has a built-in cable lock that secures them to the rack, warding off thiefs.

Swagman Semi 2.0 is made to last a long time. It is manufactured with solid steel construction and finished with silver powder coating, making it durable and rust-resistant.

Pros
  • Intended to fit most bike frames, shapes, and styles
  • Keeps bikes free from scratch and scuff
Cons
  • Cables that secure bicycles reportedly not sturdy
  • Bike locks may be prone to rusting

2. Saris SuperClamp EX 2 Bike Platform Rack

No. 2
2. Saris SuperClamp EX 2 Bike Platform Rack
8.9/10 Our Score

Features

  • Sliding wheel trays along with ratcheting straps lock your bike’s rear-wheel to rack
  • Upright poles fold down to easily access your vehicle’s rear cargo area
  • Built-in 10-mm stainless steel cable locks safeguard your bikes to the rack   

Specifications

  • Application: Fits 1-1/4-inch x 1-1/4 inch (Class II) and 2 x 2 inches trailer hitch receivers
  • Carrying capacity: Up to 2 bicycles
  • Weight capacity: 60 pounds per bike
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty

Established in 1989, Saris started the company with the advocacy to use local resources to enhance cycling on all levels. Since then, they built and maintained their reputation with their passion for cycling. They have been in the market for quite some time and produced racks that withstand the test of time.

Design, Fabrication, and Materials

Saris SuperClamp EX allows you with effortless loading and safe transport of up to two bikes on your vehicle’s hitch. Designed to not touch the bike frames at all, they use the front and rear wheel hooks to carefully haul your two-wheelers.

It has a lightweight, compact style with a platform-based setup that lets you load and unload bikes easily. Simply set your 2-wheelers in the wheel trays, tighten the ratchet down the wheel hooks, and there goes your secured bike rack. The integrated cable lock also keeps your bikes safe from thieves.

SuperClamp EX is your ideal bike rack for your carbon frame. It doesn’t rattle, and it keeps scruffs and scratches off your bike with its padded hooks. Not only can it transport your carbon fiber frame, but it can also haul any bikes you have. With its injection-molded plastic wheel trays, it can accommodate any bikes with various wheelbases. Need to bring a kiddie bike along? In a simple press of a button, the hooks slide up and down to adjust according to the bike size.

Overall, the perks of the Saris SuperClamp bike rack are substantial: It is made in the USA, it is a sturdy, lightweight rack with a rust-resistant steel base, its arms are coated with a black powder finish, and the wheel trays are made of injection-molded plastics that keep bikes secure while in transit.

Pros
  • Rack swings out and tilts for entrance to the SUV storage
  • Double clamps hold bikes tight
  • Easy to install and easy to put the bike on
Cons
  • Locking cables are short so it might not fit some bikes
  • Wheel trays get brittle and break over time
  • Doesn’t fit well with 48″ wheelbase

3. Kuat Sherpa 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack

No. 3
3. Kuat Sherpa 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack
8.3/10 Our Score

Features

  • Ratcheting hooks and pivoting cradles – no frame contact.
  • Large front-wheel cradles make it easy to load your bikes, while rear-wheel cradles with ratcheting straps pivot to accommodate bikes of different lengths
  • Easy and tool-free installation with a hand-tightening cam system

Specifications

  • Application: Fits to 2″ x 2″ trailer hitch receivers
  • Carrying capacity: Up to 2 bicycles
  • Weight capacity: 40 pounds per bike
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty

Küat Racks is a company that is comprised of adventurers. They bike, hike, explore, and do anything related to the great outdoors. It is from their outdoor adventures that such designs come from. Their outdoor adventures are the inspiration for their product designs. Active engagement with the products they produce allows them to improve and redesign every feature. This makes their brand the name many outdoor enthusiasts trust.

Design, Fabrication, and Materials

Carry 2 bikes of any size, shape, or frame style at the back of your car with Kuat Sherpa 2.0 platform-style rack. This gear has ratcheting hooks that clutch your 2-wheelers tightly by the front wheels. It has absolutely zero contact with the frame.

The hooks don’t just keep your bikes in place. They also let you rapidly load and unload your bike. They are mounted on arms that pivot nearly 180 degrees from left to right. To use, simply set your bicycle on the wheel trays, turn the arms up over the wheels, and simply press the hooks down over the wheels until they are snug tight.

Worried about the rack getting in the way to your car’s rear access door? That shouldn’t be. With its front-mounted foot lever in the base of the rack, it lets you tilt (or fold) the rack so you can access your vehicle’s rear cargo area without any fuss.

This glossy rack is designed to withstand rust and corrosion with its aluminum construction. It is lightweight, and the metallic grey and orange anodize finish looks perfect for your car and your bike. Not only that, it secures your bikes to the rack and the rack to your vehicle. Just allow the ¼ inch thick cable to thread around the bike frame, pass through the cable’s looped latch and insert into the lock outside the bike tray.

Pros
  • Rack folds down to let you open the rear hatch of the vehicle without unloading bikes
  • Easy to assemble, very stable, and easy to load bikes onto
  • Lightweight and very manageable
Cons
  • Holes weren’t lined up and parts didn’t want to intersect together during installation
  • Arrives damaged or with missing parts
  • Lock separates from the security cable
     

4. Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack

No. 4
4. Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack
7.9/10 Our Score

Features

  • Wheel-mount carrier allows you to carry 1 bike on your roof rack crossbars
  • Sliding cradle with quick-release ratchet strap puts safety to rear wheel to tray
  • Simple and easy installation on almost any crossbars – no tools required

Specifications

  • Application: round, square, aero, elliptical, and most factory crossbars
  • Crossbar spread: 24 – 43 inches
  • Maximum top channel dimensions: 0.78 x 0.78 inches
  • Carrying capacity: 1 bicycle
  • Weight capacity: 44 pounds
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty

Thule Group has time and time again improved the gears they produce. They base the improvements they need to make according to what they believe their consumers need. Just like Thule UpRide. This bike rack is the one they designed for bikers and cyclists who needs their racks not to touch any part of their bike frames.

Design, Fabrication, and Materials

Thule UpRide is made to have the extreme frame protection and universal fit. It is a universal upright bike rack for fast and secure mounting while keeping maximum frame protection. Thule UpRide securely grips your 2-wheeler by clutching only the front wheel. During which, a ratcheting wheel strap safeguards the back wheel to the tray.

The adjustable hook and cage design allow you to easily load your bike without removing the front wheel. It has no contact with your frame so it’s the perfect rack for your carbon frame bikes.

Need to secure your bike? Simply enhance your gear with One-Key System locks. One-K System locks attach to the integrated cable and front mounting lever to lock your bike to the rack and the rack to your vehicle, preventing theft.

Another way Thule UpRide has accounted for a product that will stand the test of time is by manufacturing its black and silver models with anodized aluminum, allowing cyclists to leave the rack on top of their vehicles without worrying about corrosion and rust.

Overall, choosing this product means choosing a bike rack that is lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and secured for the road.

Pros
  • Holds your bike by the front wheel so it doesn’t touch your carbon frame
  • Once the wheel size is set, loading the bike is effortless
  • Cheaper than most zero-contact racks

Cons
  • Bracket that grabs onto your tire works well for larger tires and not for thinner ones
  • Some reported to have the front wheel arm that won’t lock into place
  • Ratchet mechanism randomly fails/breaks

5. Inno Tire Hold II Roof Bike Rack

No. 5
5. Inno Tire Hold II Roof Bike Rack
7.5/10 Our Score

Features

  • Pivoting upright arms hold your bike firmly by the wheels – no frame contact
  • Faster and easier tire size adjuster
  • Sliding, locking lever in wheel tray secures upright arms over your bike wheels

Specifications

  • Application: fits to round, square, aero, elliptical, and most factory crossbars
  • Maximum crossbar dims: 3-1/2 wide x 2 inches tall
  • Crossbar spread: 20 – 34 inches
  • Carrying capacity: 1 bicycle
  • Weight capacity: 50 pounds
  • Comes with limited lifetime warranty

Since 1966, Inno has been one of the largest names in the automotive accessory and rack business. Right now, they have almost 60% share of Japan’s car rack market with manufacturing facilities worldwide to cater to their growing number of consumers globally.

Design, Fabrication, and Materials

Inno Tire Hold II allows you to transport your bike on top of your car via your roof rack crossbars. Its upright arms that have adjusters allow you to customize its fit to different wheel sizes. This also lets you quickly and easily load your bike anytime you need to.

One consideration they had in manufacturing this rack is the popularity of carbon fibers. Rest assured, this rack doesn’t touch any part of your bike frame. With its pivoting arms, all there is to do is to open the retractable arms, drop the bike in the bike tray (or what they refer to as Inno’s Self-Standing AutoSystem), and then use the lever to position the arm over your rear wheel. After this, you can simply lock the lever to secure both arms over your wheels.

This easy to install bike rack is constructed to be strong, durable, and rust-resistant. It also adds to the aesthetics of your car as it’s aluminum and steel body parts are powder coated.

Pros
  • Comes with built-in locks that secure your bike to the rack
  • Arms fold down when not in use
Cons
  • Bolts are a bit shor

Buyer’s Guide to Bike Racks for Carbon Frames

Some days ago, I chanced upon a crowdsourcing post on a social media platform I was signed up for. The question was:

“Hey Folks, I have a Trek Madone 5.2 bike that I absolutely love. It is carbon fiber and I am looking for a way to transport it. So far, I have been taking off the front wheel and putting it the back of my 4runner. This is tedious, annoying, and I am now at the point where I want a bike rack. What kind of racks (make and model number) do you guys use for your carbon fiber bikes? I am looking to get some ideas before I go out and purchase something and realize it’s a piece of crap.”

I can only imagine how long it takes him to take the wheels on and off the bike. He sounded like he grew tired of doing it every single time. I think I would be too.

But, what do you really need to transport carbon fiber bikes?

This guy’s original philosophy was probably that stowing his bike inside the car is better than any rack. However, it can be tiring as his experience states.

Also, what if you need a room for extra passengers or belongings?

Just like when getting bike racks for normal bikes, the things to consider are:

  • Rack Types:
    • Roof
    • Hitch
    • Trunk
  • Security
  • Bike frame compatibility
  • Number of bikes to transport
  • Ease of use

Amongst these factors, the one that you should focus on most is the bike frame compatibility. After all, if you have a carbon fiber frame, you need to protect your investment while transporting it.

Thus, the biggest question is: should the bike rack touch the frame?

The answer is no–the best bike rack for a carbon fiber frame will be designed to avoid applying pressure to the frame.

Racks that brace the frame tubes should not be used since they concentrate enormous force in a small area. Similarly, cyclists that use racks that clamp the fork should never pull sideways as they remove the bike because it can break the dropouts.


Our Top Pick

There are a lot of bike racks in the market but not all of them can serve the sensitive nature of carbon frames. When getting a bike rack, you must remember that it should never be in contact with the frame. Otherwise, it is either useless, or it will render your bike useless.

Considering all the factors we need to think of when purchasing a rack for carbon fiber frames, most of the products we reviewed pass our standards. But, the one that outshone all the others is the Saris SuperClamp Ex.

The careful construction has made it sturdy but light. It is only about 35 pounds, but it can carry up to 120.

The lightweight design allows for easy set-up as well as clean-up.

Additionally, it was designed with versatility in mind, so it accommodates different tire sizes, clamping various bike designs and sizes as well.

Another perk of this product is its built in locking system, so you can lock your bike anytime and anywhere.

It’s no wonder that this rack has been recommended by triathlon athletes.

Conclusion

Carbon frames are the sturdiest and strongest materials that most bike manufacturers use. Their strength is equally heightened by the fact that they are not heavy. They are safe against UV-rays, and they don’t corrode or rust.

So, if they are sturdy, why would they need a special set of racks?

Carbon frames are made of the strongest carbon fibers, and they are tweaked multiple times before becoming a bike frame. They are strong and sturdy, no doubt about that. But, with a significant amount of force, like the pressure a bike rack exerts when it meets the frame, a rupture may happen.

Sure, it can be repaired but, in order to fix a ruptured carbon frame, manufacturers grind away the damage, layer sheets of carbon over the damage, and repaint the whole thing. It is a long process, and thus, it is an expensive process..

For a long time, people believed that the best way to transport your carbon frames was to remove the wheels and put it inside your car. But, that means you must give up space.

The solution to protecting your carbon frame bike in transit and saving space?

Choose a bike rack for our list of the the top 5 racks for your carbon frame bike, and we’re sure your bike will last a long time.


FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Can a carbon frame last as long as metal or steel?

Just as long as you won’t smash hard, the carbon frame can last a lifetime. Metal and steel on the other hand, only last until their components fatigues and can no longer be used for safety.

If my carbon frame cracks, can it be repaired?

Yes. It is a lot more times more repairable than aluminum. All there is to do is some tweaking of carbon fiber threads to cover the void and some painting.   

Check out our other articles on Thule vs Yakima Bike Racks and Hitch Cargo Boxes!

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