When it comes to transporting a bike on your vehicle, there are three distinctly different systems. The first is a roof rack, which is secured to the rails on the roof of car. The next is a trunk mounted system, that secures the bike rack to the trunk of the vehicle. And the last is a system that connects to a trailer hitch installed onto the chassis of the vehicle – a hitch mounted rack.
And it’s this last type that we are concerned with today. One of the most common queries people have before buying a hitch mounted rack, is how much wobble can be seen from a loose fitting mount. Regardless of what size hitch is being used, it’s not uncommon to see your bike wobbling on the rack while driving. Watching a bike you may have spent several thousand dollars on, dance in the rearview mirror, may be a little disconcerting.
Why do bicycle racks that are hitch mounted wobble?
Hitch mounted bike racks come in two sizes, either 1 1/4″ or a 2″. This measurement is the inside dimension of the sleeve on the hitch attached to the chassis of your vehicle. To make it easier to slide the stem of your bike rack into and out of the sleeve of your hitch, manufacturers make the stem slightly smaller than the sleeve.
Thus, a loose-fitting connection will generate wobble. To what degree your rack wobbles will be determined by the Through Bolt connecting the stem to the sleeve, holding your rack in place. Regardless of name brand, the through bolt of your rack will attach itself to the hitch with either a threaded or an unthreaded bolt.
If you’re using a threaded bolt and your rack still wobbles, check to see if there’s any room to tighten the bolt further. If the bolt is firmly tightened to your hitch and the rack still wobbles, reinforcement may be needed. The other type of connection uses an unthreaded bolt.
This type of connection is held in place with a cotter pin, leaving you no way to tighten the bolt connection more securely to your hitch.
Rather than firmly threading the bolt into the sleeve of your hitch, the cotter pin will slide into a small hole on the opposite end of the bolt, thereby securing it loosely to the hitch. If the stem of your rack is also loose in the sleeve, your rack may wobble excessively. Without threading on either the hitch or the bolt, there’s no way to secure the rack with any integrity.
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How can you solve this issue?
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution. For as little as $10 to $20, there’s a highly effective solution. A Hitch Tightener, or Hitch Stabilizer is available in a variety of sizes and styles. These devices consist of a sturdy U-Bolt that attaches around the top of the stem of your rack, a steel plate that sits below the stem, and two washers & nuts to secure the plate firmly to your hitch.
Since standard trailer hitches are made of heavy-duty steel, it’s important to make sure the hitch tightener you choose is made of similar strength. The fastest way to secure this device to your rack is with a socket wrench, just be certain the socket has sufficient depth to allow the ends of the U-Bolt to pass through while tightening.
Of course, you can also use an open-end wrench to fasten the device to your setup. With this simple solution, you control how much wobble you see in your rack’s connection.
Rather than search the web for a rack system that provides perfectly fitting, all-in-one connections, without additional parts required, use what you have already and supplement it as needed. Besides, there’s no such thing as a “perfect fit” with bike racks.
There will always be some degree of wobble. But the solution is easy and inexpensive.
There’s no reason to watch that expensive bike wobbling in your rearview mirror. Finding a perfect fit may not be within reach, but a perfect solution is. So, before you venture out to the trailhead, you may want to test and correct any excessive wobbling your rack may have.