Best compact SUV to carry 2 ebikes on a trailer hitch rack

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Best compact SUV to carry 2 ebikes on a trailer hitch rack

Postby Jerome Daoust » Wed Nov 04, 2009 3:03 am

I have a 2008 Suzuki SX4 Crossover, and I can only fit a class 1 trailer hitch with 1-1/4” receiver. Having a small 1-1/4" hitch receiver limits the bike racks available that can support two 70 lb ebikes. I know there are 1-1/4 to 2" adapters, but the class 1 trailer hitch itself has a lot of flex that makes the bikes bounce in a scary way. I’m thinking that I need to change the car for one that can have a class 3 trailer hitch with 2" receiver.

I'm considering these popular compact SUVs: Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4. All of them have a class 3 trailer hitch with 2” receiver available: eTrailer.com fit guide. And Edmunds has a nice comparator for those models.

My goal is to feel safe to carry 150 lb of ebikes on hitch-mounted bike rack. What I'd like to know from you guys is some success stories...
1) Do you have one of the above SUVs (or another one) with a class 3 trailer hitch (and 2" receiver) and a hitch-mounted bike rack?
2) How much weight do you feel is OK to carry on your hitch-mounted bike rack without seeing them bounce or sway too much, and what model of rack is it?

I find it somewhat odd to choose a car for my ebike hobby, but I would feel even worse to see my ebikes tumble in the rear-view mirror.

Work in progress: Car Suitability Table (Excel spreadsheet).

Related topics:
Hitch-mounted bike carrier for 150 lb of ebikes
Similar discussion to this one on Tidal Force forum
Most economical vehicle easily fitting 2 full bikes inside

Thanks for sharing,
-- Jerome
Last edited by Jerome Daoust on Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:59 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Best compact SUV to carry 2 ebikes on a trailer hitch rack

Postby dogman dan » Wed Nov 04, 2009 5:55 am

If you like your current car, weld some braces on the hitch to stiffen it up. 4 bikes should easily be within the capacity of the smaller hitch.

Even a beefy hitch is still going to have the play in it allowing the 2" bike rack to waggle. So your new car and new rack will still have the same problem.
Mabye you can solve the problem without having to use 2" hitch, and expand your choices in an suv.

Personally, I really like subarus since they are actually designed to be worked on by a mechanic. Unbeliveable how stuff that is known to need replacement is inaccessible on many other cars. Hondas really suck for that. My wifes ford focus is a nightmare to change a radiator hose on.

The rack on my subaru is the small one, and it waggles. But it doesn't worry me since it is the kind that holds the bike by the wheels, with a clamp that holds the bike down. For long rides, some extra bungees can give peace of mind. The whole thing moves, but the bikes are solid, and won't come off the rack easily. If I wanted to stop the waggle, welding the rack into the reciever would do the trick. Mabye it could be shimmed to lessen the waggle and make it still removable. With this rack, I haven't seen the waggle as being much of a problem.
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Re: Best compact SUV to carry 2 ebikes on a trailer hitch rack

Postby Jerome Daoust » Wed Nov 04, 2009 1:55 pm

dogman wrote:If you like your current car, weld some braces on the hitch to stiffen it up.
Even a beefy hitch is still going to have the play in it allowing the 2" bike rack to waggle. So your new car and new rack will still have the same problem.
Thanks, that is good advice.
I already had a welder stiffen up my trailer hitch by adding a welded tab near the receiver end to the bumber. It made a huge difference in the receiver's up/down stiffness. Almost no more bouncing of the bikes up/down. The play in the receiver is not a problem for me, already added a shim where the bike rack inserts.

The problem I currently have is my modified Thule 990 (shortened to reduce bike weight leverage) is the most flexible component. With only 106 lb of ebikes on it, I can see it twist considerably when I hit a bump on one side of the car that torques the bike rack. The rack must have already been pushed past its limit because it is no longer level. I should consider this as fair warning. I could somehow either...
a) Find a stronger one that fits the 1-1/4" receiver.
b) Beef up the rack itself (not sure how)
c) Add extra straps between the bikes and the car to prevent the bike from applying torque on the rack.
But this would only solve the problem for my current load of 106 lb.

To be able to select from a selection of stronger bike racks that fit a 2" receiver, I also thought of modifying my 1-1/4" receiver to become a 2" by having a welder do a custom job, which would probably cost an extra 500$. But there are other things I don't like about my vehicle: Hitch receiver is low (I would need to extend it with a riser adapter adding more length and leverage for the bikes to flex it) and I have no idea how much ebike weight I can keep adding until this custom trailer hitch just catastrophically fails.

I want to replace my ebikes soon and to avoid limiting my ebike selection based on weight, the rear rack should comfortably support two 75 lb ebikes, for a total of 150 lb. It would be a shame that I avoid what would be an ideal pair of ebikes because they are each 10-20 lb too heavy. I'm expecting to spend between $6,000 and $12,000 on a pair of ebikes, so forcing myself to keep a $20,000 car is starting to sound like a risk not worth it. This is why I am considering replacing the car to open my options for a sturdy ebike carrier. There is also some satisfaction in getting appropriate gear for a task.

-- Jerome
Last edited by Jerome Daoust on Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Best compact SUV to carry 2 ebikes on a trailer hitch rack

Postby will_newton » Wed Nov 04, 2009 2:15 pm

your bike rack sucks and so you'll have to buy a new car?

That is so wonderfully American, I love it. :lol:
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Re: Best compact SUV to carry 2 ebikes on a trailer hitch rack

Postby Jerome Daoust » Wed Nov 04, 2009 2:23 pm

will_newton wrote:your bike rack sucks and so you'll have to buy a new car?
That is so wonderfully American, I love it. :lol:
In a nutshell, that 's about it. Upside/down thinking I know.
Only been an American for 6% of my life, but already the symptoms are showing.
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Re: Best compact SUV to carry 2 ebikes on a trailer hitch rack

Postby dogman dan » Wed Nov 04, 2009 3:11 pm

Well whatever you decide, a different rack is on the list. The one I have goes by the name swagman, but other brands look identical. Instead of hanging the bike from it, there is a bar near the wheels, and metal loops that the tires sit into. It's very similar to how bike racks on city buses work. I found mine pretty bombproof. I have done quite a bit of driving on bad dirt roads with mine.
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Re: Best compact SUV to carry 2 ebikes on a trailer hitch rack

Postby liveforphysics » Wed Nov 04, 2009 3:38 pm

I welded on a hitch to my 1992 Honda Civic hatch. I tow a trailer with 3 dirtbikes, or 3 streetbikes. I love to race other cars while pulling the trailer, and easily smoke everything still. :)
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Re: Best compact SUV to carry 2 ebikes on a trailer hitch rack

Postby Jerome Daoust » Wed Nov 04, 2009 4:10 pm

liveforphysics wrote:I welded on a hitch to my 1992 Honda Civic hatch. I tow a trailer with 3 dirtbikes, or 3 streetbikes.
Thanks.
But towing a trailer applies very different loads to the hitch receiver. When towing a trailer, there is no torque transmitted from the trailer to the receiver due to the ball connection, only direct forces.
In my case it is the torque (about the receiver's axis) from the bikes when I hit a bump on one side, that is the concern, not variation in vertical (tongue) load.
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Trailer hitch classes on some car/SUV's

Postby Jerome Daoust » Sun Nov 08, 2009 4:31 pm

Started collecting what is the strongest trailer hitch for some cars and SUV's (see attached image). No need to look at pickup's since one can just load the bikes into the bed.

My question to North American guys... Would a class 3 hitch receiver with 350 lb tongue weight be enough to carry 150 lb of ebikes on a hitch mounted rack?
Please share your story:
  1. What is your vehicle (car or SUV, but no pickup)?
  2. What is your tow hitch's max tongue weight (just use attached table if your vehicle is there)?
  3. How much weight are you carrying on your bike rack, and do the bikes bounce up/down much when you hit a bump?
The reason why I wonder if a 350 lb tongue weight is sufficient is that when I had my unmodified class 1 receiver with max 200 lb tongue weight, the bikes were bouncing up/down in a scary way. Then I found a welder who added an extra metal tab (red vertical line in picture) from the car's frame to close to the receiver's opening and the flexibility was virtually eliminated. So I'm thinking that if the up/down stiffness of the receiver only goes up in the ratio of max tongue weight (from 200 to 350) getting a new car with a 350 max tongue weight may not be sufficient in itself, and that tow hitch receiver may also need a custom reinforcement. Or maybe the original class 1 receiver I have with 200 lb max tongue weight is just a poor design and should not be used to extrapolate to the behavior of the hitch receiver on another vehicle.

2009/11/9 Update: Got a rule-of-thumb from Mike at HitchCrafters a local company specialized in making custom hitches: For a bike rack with 2 bikes, you can typically carry up to half the TW (Tongue Weight) capacity of your hitch. This is no longer true if you carry more than 2 bikes (like adding a 4-bike extender to a Thule 916 T2) or somehow the weight is further away from the receiver, increasing its leverage on your receiver.
So for the goal of carrying a pair of bikes (as close as possible to the receiver) limited to a total of 150 lb, a typical class 3 hitch receiver with 350 lb TW should be adequate.
Last edited by Jerome Daoust on Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:12 pm, edited 11 times in total.
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Re: Best compact SUV to carry 2 ebikes on a trailer hitch rack

Postby deardancer3 » Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:52 pm

Would you be able to make the batteries on your ebikes quick release so they go inside the vehicle, not on the rack?
Would this be better payback than trading vehicles?

I have a minivan with the small hitch, and have similar problems hauling "stuff' on my rack and the flat cargo carrier. waggle, etc.

I have shimmed the hitch to make everything sit more level. Aslo shimmed the inside of the box receiver.

Sometimes if you tell the guys at UHaul they will know of a class 3 hitch that will fit on a little vehicle, if you let them know you just want to haul bicycles, not tow horse trailers.

If I had to do it all over again, I would get the class three hitch. Would never tow much, not with the chrysler tranny.
Just carry ebikes and stuff.

I also have a little 4x4 collapsable baby trailer to haul stuff. You are right to try to go without pulling a trailer.

I would check with the local hitch guys and see if they have a big hitch that will fit. and lighten the load.

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Minivans and cars holding 2 bikes inside

Postby Jerome Daoust » Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:49 pm

deardancer3 wrote:Would you be able to make the batteries on your ebikes quick release so they go inside the vehicle, not on the rack? Would this be better payback than trading vehicles?
I typically remove the batteries on my current ebikes because they are easy to remove and shaves 12 lb on each, definitely looking for this capability again in my next pair of ebikes.

A different approach: Most economical vehicle easily fitting 2 full bikes inside
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Equinox

Postby Jerome Daoust » Wed Nov 11, 2009 8:52 pm

From this ad it looks like the Equinox offers good hitch load capabilities.

But one mountain bike inside is a difficult fit...
Source wrote:I should remind those who plan to transport bicycles in the cargo area that this is a small crossover and cargo space is limited. I could BARELY fit my medium sized mountain bike into the hatch with the rear seats folded down . It was a 10 minute exercise in geometry to get it in there - even with the bike seat lowered and the font fork in short travel. And it was a 20 minute exercise getting it back out! My mountain bike has a beefy fork with no quick release. With wheels removed it would have been easier. My 52cm road bike was no problem with wheels in-tact. I would say that mountain bikers should try before they buy.
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