Best Bike Racks for Carbon Frames

Carbon fiber has revolutionized the bike frame designs by enabling engineers to build bicycle frames that are 3 times stronger and 4 times lighter than steel. They can also be designed in such complex shapes that weren’t as easy when done with materials like aluminum and steel. With that said, you must have spent your hard-earned money getting the lightest but sturdiest bike. Therefore, it is only righteous that you get yourself the best bike rack for carbon frames.

What are Carbon Frames?

The most common material that has been traditionally used for the tubes of a bike frame was steel. Over time, engineers aimed to design a bike that is light as a feather to stride well with the wind, but strong enough to withstand damages from the crash, toss, and turns.

Carbon frames are quite tough. They can withstand a momentous amount of force more than a steel can. The strength is unbelievable coming from a lightweight material. So light that you can lift a whole carbon frame with just a couple of fingers.

The cost of buying a carbon framed bike can be technical. The materials are manufactured by its tensile strength or tensile modulus. That’s rocket science, so we’re not going deep with that. The simplest way to explain it – the stronger and lighter they are, the more expensive they can be. And, you sure wouldn’t want to carry your expensive bike just like that, would you?

Bike Racks for Carbon Frames

Bike racks are just as essential for carbon frames as they are for normal bikes. They are your space-saving option. They free up your car for other things to carry or passengers to load. With the huge popularity of carbon bikes, there came a wide array of bike racks for them. The ones you are going to read are, in our opinion, the best out there.

  1. Swagman Semi 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack
  2. Saris SuperClamp EX 2 Bike Platform Rack
  3. Kuat Sherpa 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack
  4. Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack
  5. Inno Tire Hold II Roof Bike Rack

#1. Swagman Semi 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack – Best for carrying up to two bikes

Swagman Semi 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack

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 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. No contact with frame shouldn’t sound unsafe especially with its padded cradles that ensure a snug fit to the wheels.

Intended for bikers that don’t like the idea of the rack touching the bike, it has pivoting upright arms that have ratcheting hooks. These grab your 2-wheelers securely by the front wheels without a single scratch or scuff.

Worried when you need to leave them for a while without anyone keeping an eye on them? Don’t be. Each of the pivoting upright arms has a built-in cable lock that secures them to the rack while shooing off muggers.

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

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
ProsCons
Intended to fit most bike frames, shapes, and stylesCables that secure bicycles reportedly not sturdy
Keeps bikes free from scratch and scuff
Bike locks may be prone to rusting

#2. Saris SuperClamp EX 2 Bike Platform Rack – Highly recommended by triathlon athletes

Saris SuperClamp Ex 2 Bike Platform Rack

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. It takes your worries away from possible thieves, thanks to its integrated cable lock.

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.

Made in the USA, Saris SuperClamp is constructed lightweight and sturdy with rust-resistant steel base. Its arms are also coated with a black powder finish. Wheel trays where you stand the bike are made of injection-molded plastics.

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

#3. Kuat Sherpa 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack – Heavy-duty, without being too heavy

Kuat Sherpa 2.0 2-Bike Platform Rack

Küat Racks is a company that is comprised of adventurers. They bike, hike, explore, and do anything that appeals to them while they are outdoors. It is from their outdoor adventures that such designs come from. Their outdoor involvement with the products they produce allows them to improve and redesign every feature. So, you are sure you are getting what an outdoor enthusiast needs.

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 gray 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.

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

#4. Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack – Great paired with Thule Aeroblades

Thule UpRide Roof Bike Rack

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. These attach to the integrated cable and front mounting lever to lock your bike to the rack and the rack to your vehicle.

Confidently leave the rack on top of your vehicle and you won’t worry about corrosion and rust. That is because this rack that comes in black and silver versions is made of anodized aluminum. Therefore, it is lightweight and corrosion-resistant.

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
ProsCons
Holds your bike by the front wheel so it doesn’t touch your carbon frameBracket that grabs onto your tire works well for larger tires and not for thinner ones
Once the wheel size is set, loading the bike is effortless
Some reported to have the front wheel arm that won’t lock into place
Cheaper than most zero-contact racksRatchet mechanism randomly fails/breaks

#5. Inno Tire Hold II Roof Bike Rack – Sturdy, simple bike rack for the roof

Inno Tire Hold II Roof Bike Rack

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.

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 dimensions: 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
ProsCons
Comes with built-in locks that secure your bike to the rackBolts are a bit short
Arms fold down when not in use

Buyers’ 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. His 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?

Inside the car is better than any rack was probably the guy’s philosophy. However, it can be tiring as his experience states. Also, what if you need a room for extra passengers or belongings?

Just like in 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 would like to focus more on is the bike frame compatibility. After all, the part of the carbon bike that is made of carbon fiber is the frame.

The biggest question is, should the bike rack touch the frame? Racks that brace the frame tubes should not be used since it concentrates the enormous loads in a small area. Similarly, if you use racks that clamp the fork, never pull sideways as you remove the bike as it can break the dropouts.

Our Top Pick

There are a lot of bike racks in the market but not each one can serve the sensitive nature of carbon frames. In getting one, you must remember that it should never be in contact with the frame. Otherwise, it is either useless or it will just make your bike useless.

Considering all the factors we need to think of in getting a rack for our carbon 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. This allows easy put up and put away process. It was also designed with versatility thoroughly thought of. Accommodating different tire sizes and clamping various bike designs and sizes as well.

Another thing is not needing an additional accessory for safekeeping. It has its own locking system, so you can lock your bike anytime and anywhere.

No wonder, some triathlon athletes recommend this rack.

Conclusion

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

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

Carbon frames are made of carbon fibers. Fibers. The strongest ones. And, they are tweaked multiple times before becoming a frame. They are strong and sturdy, no doubt about that. But, with a significant amount of force, like the pressure a bike rack lets out when it meets the frame, a rupture may happen. Sure, it can be repaired but, imagine the amount of time and effort put on tweaking these threads. To fix a ruptured carbon frame, manufacturers grind away the damage, layers sheets of carbon over the damage and repaints the whole thing. Very long process.

The best way to transport your carbon frames is by removing the wheels and putting them inside your car. But, that means you must give up space. If you carefully review and research the product you are getting to aid you with taking care of your carbon frame, we’re sure your bike is going to last long.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

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

A: 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.

Q: If my carbon frame cracks, can it be repaired?

A: 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!

5.0
02

Leave a Comment