If you own a Subaru Outback, you know that it’s the perfect car for adventuring. Whether you’re headed to the mountains for a hike or hitting the beach for a surf session, your Subaru Outback can get you there with its symmetrical all-wheel drive. But what about bringing your bikes along for the ride?
While Subaru does offer factory-installed Thule bike rack options, it’s not always the best choice for everyone, especially the price. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best bike racks for Subaru Outback, so you can find the perfect one for your needs without breaking the bank.
If you are in the market for a hitch mounted bike rack, you will probably wonder what the best bike rack for the Subaru Outback is.
The bike racks that I recommend for the Subaru Outback owners are either the Swagman XTC2/XTC4, the Yakima HoldUp, or the Hollywood Racks Sports Rider. These three models are hitch mounted platform bike racks suitable for standard to high load capacity and are priced reasonably.
These are fantastic choices for most Subaru Outback drivers to transport their bicycles from one place to another without risk of damage. As you look at all the available bike carriers in the market, try to find something that is simple to operate, suitable for your bike type and the number of bikes you intend to transport.
In the rest of this article, I’ll give more information on the three models I recommended above. No matter what kind of biking adventure you have in mind, one of these bike racks for Subaru Outback will help you get there with ease. So, let’s get started!
The Swagman XTC2 / XTC4 Platform Hitch Mount Bike Rack
The Swagman XTC2 is a pretty straightforward, beginner friendly bike rack that looks good yet does not really stand out too much. One of my favorite thing about this setup is the simplicity and how easy it is to use.
The Swagman XTC2 weighs just 29.7 pounds and can safely carry two 35 pound bikes. You can opt for the Swagman XTC4, which weighs 59 pounds and allows you to carry up to four 35 pound bikes.
The bikes are secured onto place at three contact points: the rubber wheel straps at each tire and a padded frame hook. Since this rack secures the bike by the top tube, it is not recommended to use on bikes with carbon frames. If you happen to have a bike with carbon frame, you’d want a wheel mount rack like the Yakima HoldUp.
The two padded frame hooks slides up and down the center mast independently allowing you to accommodate different bike shapes and sizes.
The rack has wheel hoops to provide a stable base for the bike wheels. Each hoop has a hand knob allowing you to easily slide the hoop along the wheel tray arms to accommodate your bike’s wheelbase. Each hoop comes with a rubber strap that secures your bike’s wheels to the rack.
One downside of the Swagman XTC2 is the lack of access to the rear cargo area when you have your bikes loaded on the rack. However, Swagman came out with an upgraded XTC2 version called XTC2 Tilt-Away that allows you to tilt the rack while your bikes are loaded for easy rear cargo area access.
Both the center mast and the wheel trays are secured by removable pins that allows you to fold up or down for storage. There are two ways to store this rack when not in use:
- The first way is to fold the center mast down, so that you can access your trunk while the rack is still on the vehicle. Simply pull the pin at the base of the mast and fold it down in either direction.
- The second way is what I call the luggage way, where you fold the trays up against the center mast for storage. Simply pull the pins at the junction where the trays meet the rack, fold the trays up towards the center mast, and reinsert the pins.
The Swagman XTC2 provides versatility allowing you to fit both 1-1/4″ and 2″ hitches. This rack definitely provides versatility if you happen to have multiple vehicles with different hitch size.
It comes with a threaded hitch pin and a clip that works with a built-in anti-rattle device in the shank that helps reduce rack movement and play during transport. You can also replace the pin and clip with an anti-rattle lock (sold separately) to secure the bike rack to your vehicle.
Next, let’s take a look at the dimensions, so it gives you some idea of how much longer it’s going to add to your Subaru Outback.
Measuring from the edge of the rear bumper to the outer most point of the rack is about 22 inches. The 2022 Subaru Outback has a length of 191.3 inches, so the overall length of your Subaru will be 213.3 inches long when the rack is in use.
One particular thing I like about the Swagman XTC2 is that it has a raised shank that gives you about 3 more inches of ground clearance, which definitely does not hurt.
Overall, the Swagman XTC2 is a basic bike rack that gets your bike from point A to point B without all the bells and whistles.
The Yakima HoldUp Platform Hitch Mount Bike Rack
The Yakima HoldUp is an outstanding wheel mount platform style bike rack if you’re looking for a rack with a lot of weight capacity, a design that is not too obvious, but still looks nice, minimalistic and simple to use.
The HoldUp weighs 49 pounds and can carry two 60 pound bikes, which makes it an ideal carrier for those with heavy bikes such as electric bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes or anything in between.
There is also a 2-bike add-on that allows you to convert from 2-bike carrier to a 4-bike carrier. This extension adds about 35 pounds to the base rack, which comes to a total of about 84 pounds.
One particular distinction about the HoldUp is its ability to carry just about any bikes, including those with wheels from 20 inch to 29 inch, carbon frames, disc brakes, thru axles, or full suspensions. The fully adjustable wheel trays makes this possible so you can ensure that you have all the space you need with no fear of bike-to-bike contact during transport.
The wheel-mount design makes it easy to load your bikes, even if you have monster wheels. It has deep, contoured front wheel cradles to accommodate just about any wheel size, and the pivoting arms ensures your bikes are secured firmly in place.
The large rear wheel holders allow the HoldUp to accommodate a wide variety of bike wheelbases. These wheel holders pivot front to back that adjusts automatically to your wheel size with no sliding or tightening. The wheels are secured in place with built-in ratcheting straps.
Since it secures the bike by the front wheel using ratcheting hooks, you do not have to worry about warping the top tube making it safe to carry bikes with carbon frames.
The HoldUp also comes with a built-in cable lock at the end of each pivoting arms to loop through your bike frames, securing your bikes in place.
Since the HoldUp is a premium rack as the price suggests, it is designed to tilt up for compact storage and down, while fully loaded, so you can gain access to your Outback’s rear cargo area without unloading the bikes.
The rack comes with a hitch-lock hitch pin that allows you to lock the rack to your vehicle. The threaded pin also acts as an anti-rattle device to reduce rattle noise and rack movements during transport.
Measuring from the edge of the rear bumper to the outer most point of the HoldUp is 31 inches. Using our 2022 Subaru Outback as the basis for our measurement, the overall length of vehicle will be 222.3 inches long when the rack is attached to the vehicle. If you add the 2-bike extension, which adds 24 inches, the total length of the vehicle would be 246.3 inches long.
When the rack is not in use and folded up, the distance from the edge of the rear bumper to the closest part of the rack is about 7 inches and to the farthest part of the rack is about 15 inches.
Now let’s take a look at ground clearance. Measuring from under the base of the rack to the ground, we have 18 inches. And measuring from the lowest point of the shank to the ground, we have 13 inches.
Now ground clearance is something you think about when you are going up a very steep incline, the HoldUp has just a slight shank rise but just not as much as other bike racks. So if you are worried about ground clearance, the HoldUp is on the shorter side but still decent to handle most of the inclines.
The Hollywood Racks Sport Rider
The Hollywood Racks Sport Rider is an excellent bike rack for those with fat tire bikes, electric bikes, or heavy bikes and has plenty of features without a hefty price tag.
The Sport Rider weighs 54 pounds and can carry up to two 80 pound bikes, which makes it a no-brainer that this rack makes it easy to take 2 standard or fat e-bikes to the trail.
You may be concern that since this rack has a huge weight capacity, it does not have all the other nice little features like the two carriers above. Well, let me assure you that it does.
The wheel hoops accommodate bikes with wheelbases up to 60 inches by sliding along the horizontal wheel tray arms. The universal wheel hoops will fit standard and fat tires up to 5 inches wide. Each wheel hoop comes with ratcheting straps to secure the wheels in place.
The Sport Rider uses padded locking frame hooks to secure the bikes in place. The ratcheting, cushioned hooks slides up and down the center mast independently allowing you to accommodate different bike shapes and sizes.
Again, since this rack uses a top tube frame hook system, it is not recommended to use on bikes with carbon frames. The frame contact will end up damaging the bike, so this rack is not the best option if you have carbon frames.
The Sport Rider is tilt-able, with or without bikes loaded, for easy access to your Outback’s rear cargo area. It can also fold up against the back of your Outback when the rack is not in use.
The Sport Rider installs into your hitch without the need of tools. Simply slide the shank into your hitch receiver until the welded stop plate contacts the hitch, which automatically aligns the shank and the hitch pin hole. Thus, saving you from getting on your hands and knees to align the pin hole.
The lock core in the frame hooks secure the bike down and prevent movement during transport. And a lock pod attaches to the hitch pin to secure the rack to your Subaru Outback. Both locks are conveniently keyed-alike, so you do not need to carry two keys.
Measuring from the edge of the vehicle bumper to the outer most point of the Sport Rider is 30-1/4 inches. And using our 2022 Subaru Outback as the basis for our measurement, the overall length of vehicle will be 221.5 inches long when the rack is attached to the vehicle.
When the rack is not in use and folded up, the distance from the edge of the rear bumper to the closest part of the rack is about 6-1/2 inches and to the farthest part of the rack is about 15-1/2 inches.
Now as for ground clearance. Measuring from under the main frame of the rack to the ground, we have 21-1/4 inches. And measuring from the lowest point of the shank to the ground, we have 14 inches.
Choosing Between These Three Models
All three bike racks are from very reputable manufacturers and have excellent durability ratings that you can’t go wrong. For me, I would less likely to choose the Swagman XTC2, because I have fat tire bikes so it just makes more sense for me to get either the Yakima HoldUp or the Hollywood Racks Sport Rider for the higher weight capacity.
So if I were forced to choose between the Yakima HoldUp or the Hollywood Racks Sport Rider, I’d probably pick the Hollywood Racks Sports Rider hitch mount bike rack. Yes, it’s $125 more than the Yakima HoldUp, but it does give you an additional 20 pounds per bike weight capacity in case you decide to carry two fat tire e-bikes.
Those factors would probably make me pick the Hollywood Racks Sports Rider as my top choice.
There Are Other Great Options Available
Obviously, there are many more bike racks that you should consider for your Subaru Outback. Take for example, the Hollywood Racks Destination, a super-compact and lightweight platform hitch mount bike rack that weighs only 42 pounds and can carry four 35 pound bikes for under $400.
If you are looking for a bike rack that is not heavy duty but does everything just as well, if not better, then the Hollywood Racks Destination will not disappoint.
Kuat makes some especially impressive, sleek-looking bike racks with all the bells and whistles. The problem with the Kuat bike racks is that they are simply way overpriced compared to the competition.
For example, the Kuat Transfer v2 3-bikes version starts at $549, and the Kuat NV 2.0 2-bikes starts at $849! That’s $150 to $450 more than the Hollywood Racks Destination that can carry up to 4 bikes. Believe me, the Kuats are really nice bike racks, but there is no way for me to justify paying $600+ for a bike rack.
Roof mounted bike racks are also popular amongst Subaru Outback owners. The problems with the roof racks are that you are limited to carrying two to three bikes and will require you to lift the bikes overhead to load and unload.
How to securely lock a bike to your new Subaru Outback bike rack?
When on the road, it’s best to keep your bikes in sight at all times, even while it’s on the bike rack. Theft is always a possibility while you are traveling.
And depending on your bike rack, it may or may not come with an integrated cable lock to lock the bikes to the rack. If it’s not included, be sure to buy a lock since the bikes are only strapped to the bike rack, it makes your bike extremely vulnerable to grab and dash theft.
Similar to locking your bikes at public places, make sure to lock the bikes to the most immovable object available on the bike rack that cannot be lifted over. And remember, the rule of thumb is you always want to lock your bikes in order of value, generally your frame first, then back wheel, and finally the front wheel.
A popular method is to use a U-lock to capture the immovable object on the bike rack. The U-lock shackle also acts as an anchor for the double looped cable that captures the frame, rear, and front wheel.
Another way is to use a cable lock to lock the wheels and the frame to the bike rack.
Here are 5 tips on how to prevent your bikes from thieves when traveling:
Tip #1: For Subaru Outback owners with a hitch mount bike carrier, always back up your vehicle against a wall, fence, or hedge at the pitstop. This will act as a deterrent and make it harder for thieves to steal.
Tip #2: While you sit and dine, always park where you can see your car and your bikes. Fast food restaurants tend to be easier than sit-down restaurants since the parking lot will be right outside.
Tip #3: If you are traveling with someone else, take turn using the restroom while the other person stays behind to watch over the bikes.
Tip #4: At night, take the bikes inside the hotel or lock the bikes to the bike rack or an immovable object. Trust me, you don’t want to find your bikes missing when you wake up in the morning. For added protection against weather and deterrence against theft, you can cover up the bikes with a waterproof bike cover, thus adding an extra step for the thieves.
Tip #5: Make sure your hitch mounted bike carrier is securely locked to the vehicle. Do yourself a favor and get a trailer hitch receiver pin lock.
Let’s be honest, sometimes you just have bicycles that will not fit in your Subaru Outback, no matter how you adjust the seats or remove the bike wheels. Or maybe your bike can fit into the Outback just fine, but you don’t want to tear up the inside with a rugged, muddy bike.
Either way, don’t worry. The best way to safely haul your bikes with your Subaru Outback is to invest in a hitch mounted bike carrier for a few hundred bucks, which might seem like a lot, but it’s a smart investment. The three bike carriers I recommended should be able to do the job without breaking the bank.
Of the 3 recommended bike racks, I highly recommend the Swagman XTC2 if you have standard bikes. This easy-to-use platform hitch mounted rack is the ideal solution for hauling your bikes to the trails on the weekends with your Subaru Outback.
And if you have fat tires or heavy bikes, I highly recommend the Hollywood Racks Sport Rider as it has a high weight capacity of 80 pounds per bike! However, the downside of the Sport Rider is it can only carry two bikes with no add-on ability.
I hope that this article has helped you find the perfect bike rack for your Subaru Outback that fits your needs.