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How to Lock Bikes to Hitch Rack Using Platform & Hanging Rack

Fact checked by Teddy B.Miller

how to lock bikes to hitch rack

When you want to further your biking journey by exploring areas beyond your comfort zone, say the backcountry trails, you will need a hitch rack to bring your bike there. You do not want to cycle all the way there, right?

A hitch rack is straightforward equipment even beginning bikers can easily install onto their vehicles. Since it’s a security measure, it naturally comes with a lock.

However, if you want peace of mind that your bicycle will remain intact during travel, you should know how to lock bikes to hitch rack beyond the standard.

What is a Bike Hitch Rack?

As the name suggests, a hitch rack is a frame attached to a vehicle where the bicycle can be placed during a long journey. Locking bikes to hitch rack are common among professional cyclists and expert bikers.

There are two types of hitch racks: hanging and platform.

  • Hanging rack holds the bike onto the rack, with the top tube placed on the platform’s arms. This, in turn, will be locked by a standard strap. Alta racks are famous for this type of frame.
  • The platform rack, also known as a tray rack, meanwhile, has a base where the bike can be placed in a standing position. Aside from the strap, an arm will also secure its wheels.

Both racks can be put into the back of a vehicle without obstructing the door or tailgate. They are popular options, but the platform rock is commonly recommended because of its effective use of a base so a bike can have a fixed position.

Whether you use any of the two, you can improve the rack’s security by using added fixtures like a bike carrier lock. Double the security means worry-free travel.

What to Prepare


Not many tools are needed, but here are items you need when you want to secure a bike to a bike rack beyond its standard straps and locks.

Ways to Lock Bikes to Hitch Rack


When you ask, “how do I lock my bike to my car?”, the only answer you need is to have the frame ready. Everything follows smoothly, especially since hitch racks are user-friendly. Much so that you might ignore the manual when installing it.

First things first: make sure that the rack is secured into the vehicle. Older hitch racks can easily be removed from the car, and since you do not want that to happen, be it by accident or theft, make sure to have an extra layer of security.

Aside from the standard safety features, you can add another lock for your rack that will secure the frame to the car’s trunk using a wire or a strap, like the one used in a Thule rack.

Depending on the frame, the best way to secure your tray is by using a hitch lock for bike rack. Since this type of lock is keyed, you’ll know you are in safe hands.

Assuming your hitch rack is just waiting for your bike, here are key steps to remember when securing bike to car bike rack, be it a platform or a hanging type.

1. Locking a bike on a platform rack


Step 1: Remove accessories

You do not want your bike accessories to be rattled when on the road so remove any items, like a bag, extra lights, or a bell, which you think might fall during travel.

Step 2: Place the arm

A platform rack has an arm on its base that goes on top of the wheel, securing it in a fixed position. It acts as the main lock system so before buying a frame, make sure that your wheels have the right size for it or vice versa.

Step 3: Use the straps

Once the arm is in place and the bike stable, use the straps that are commonly located near the wheels, arms, and frames. If you have extra straps, you can add more.

Step 4: Use bike rack locks

Obviously, straps are not enough to secure your bike, especially when you need to park the vehicle or leave it for a while or overnight when you need to hit the bed in a lodge.

As such, you should use a bike lock for hitch rack. There are many types of secondary safety measures you can use, like the favorite cable lock, U locks, or common key locks.

It’s best to use a lock in the tire for added stability. If you want, you can even combine two locks (or more).

2. Locking a bike on a hanging rack


Step 1: Remove accessories

As previously stated, remove your bike’s accessories first because you don’t want separate locks for them just so they stay.

Step 2: Mount the bike

Place your bike on the hanging rack, with the top tube mounted on the arms. Do note, however, that if your bicycle has a wire on the tube, or if you don’t want it to suffer from scratches or ruin the paint, have an adapter ready.

When you lock bikes to Thule bike rack, for instance, there’s an extra fixture called an adapter, which you can place on the rack’s arms. It will serve as the mounting base of your top tube.

That way, the tube and its paint will be safe from scratches even if the car travels on a bumpy road.

Step 3: Use the straps

Just like with a platform rack, a hanging type also has straps for the bike’s wheels and tube.

Step 4: Use a bike lock for car rack

As stated before, straps are not enough, so it’s best to have another lock for your bike, and use as much as you want.

Tips for Locking Your Bikes


There are other fixtures and security measures you can use to lock bike to bike rack. You can use a hitch tightener to prevent your rack from wobbling. That way, your bike is also safe from being rattled, especially if you’re using the hanging type.

As for other bike hitch rack security, you can also use smart locks or an alarm system, especially if you need to leave your vehicle for a long time. Peace of mind is assured with such measures.


Just like an anti theft bike rack used in sidewalks or establishments, there are three “S” to keep in mind when working with your hitch rack: security, safety, and sturdiness.

Security pertains to the frame’s lock system with the car, safety is about the bike’s positioning on the platform and proper locking, and lastly, sturdiness means the solid build of your bike and rack combined.

Knowing how to lock bikes to hitch rack is more than just the lock itself, but making sure it’s stable. Racks rock, indeed.

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