How to stop bike rack from swaying?

Published by Bike Scientist on

Want to stop bike rack from swaying? In my personal experience bike racks are fairly reliable and I say that after using the product quite a few times over the past years. But there have been times when I have not felt comfortable with my car mount for my bike and had to make quite a few stops on my journey just to ensure that the bike is secure or the rack is secure on the bike.

This is especially true for a bike rack swaying or wobbling on your vehicle, or the bike not secure on your rack, or even when you can view the wheel constantly turning due to crosswinds or the general motion of the car. Bike rack companies do recommend that on a long journey make stops over an hour or so to ensure that the racks are in place with straps still tight.

This is their way of saying that at the end of the day the responsibility of securing the bike, rack, or wheel falls on the customer. You might be shocked to know that hitch bike racks are supposed to be used with a ‘bike support strap’. This is a strap that does not come with the rack by default and you have to purchase it separately.

Is your bike rack swaying or wobbling on your vehicle? Or is your bike not stable on your rack? Do you have to manage multiple bikes on a bike rack or a single bike rack? We talk about options on how to stop the bike racks from swaying with hitch clamps, stabilizer straps, and hitch clamps. Let us start with figuring out the reason for your insecurity while traveling with a bike rack.

Why is your bike or your bike rack swaying?

It’s a terrible feeling of insecurity if you have recently bought a bike rack and there is some noise or movement which you hear or feel coming. This could be due to multiple reasons and we have listed a few

Bike rack wobbles in the hitch or on the trunk

  • Due to some reason, there is play in the hitch area. This could be because manufacturers want it easy for users to hitch the bike rack into the receiver. The little space helps easily hitch in the rack or take it out. But the empty space or room makes the rack not secure in its position. You can see the rack is not fully secure while moving
  • Wear and tear over time. Since there are two metals coming in contact. Over time the rubbing and friction can easily cause play in the hitch receiver.
  • Compatibility issues. While we think there is a very low possibility of that happening but it’s absolutely essential you ensure that your bike rack is completely compatible with the receiver. BikesRacks have a step-by-step guide to the process listed here.
  • Weather. I have personally experienced bike racks swaying and wobbling in strong cross winds. While no serious damage occurred but I did lose a bike light during the trip.
  • Terrain or general driving style. You can possibly not imagine driving rashly with a bike rack. Especially on an uneven bumpy road, you have to be particularly careful. The jerking can cause the bike rack to come loose causing wobbling or swaying

Bike rack failure video

Bike rack failure video

The bike wheel wobbles or sways or keeps turning

A very common occurrence. Almost always on a road trip, I have seen (the rear view) the wheels turning on the bike while using a trunk bike rack. Seems harmless but still, I would not want the wheels turning continuously over a 4-hour journey. It could be damaged just by a stray strap getting stuck or by any external tire.

Since no instructions are given on how to stop these wheels continuously, I have figured out a few ways to deal with them.

Bike wobbles or sways on the bike rack

This is again possible due to similar reasons as those for the bike rack swaying. Compatibly issues between the bike and rack. Some racks are not compatible with all types of bikes. It could be the wear and tear of the rack and its accessories over time or even strong crosswinds.

Options to stop bike rack from swaying

Now that we have considered the possible reasons for that noise coming from your vehicle while moving with a bike installed on a bike rack, let’s look at certain possibilities to resolving this with different products and techniques

Ensure you are following complete installation instructions

The first step should be that you ensure you are installing the bike rack properly. Each bike rack comes with specific instructions which need to be followed precisely, failure to do so can cause swaying and wobbling or even serious damage to your bike, rack, or even your vehicle. Also, it’s equally important to ensure you are putting the bike on the bike rack properly as per the provided instructions

Bike rack stabilizer strap

Bike rack stabilizer straps are straps with one end designed to hook onto the vehicle while the other is wrapped around the rack. Multiple uses for the strap. Firstly it fastens the rack to your vehicle and easily gets rid of the play due to which the rack wobbles or sways. Secondly, It stabilizes the rack and thirdly it’s a protection for your rack in case it gets free from the hitch.

CURT 18050 61-Inch Bike Rack Support Strap

 Bike Rack Support Strap
Bike Rack Support Strap

A perfect option to stop the bike rack from swaying. The stabilization straps are an excellent attachment for your hitch rack. The manufacturer recommends it, especially for their own brand of rack but this product should support almost all types of racks for additional support—especially a hitch bike rack for a 1 ¼ hitch receiver. The strap comes under 15 dollars and is 61 inches long which is more than sufficient for any rack and bike.

Pros 61 inches generous length, priced under 15$s
Cons Some quality issues reported
Rating 4.6 out of 5

Price Less than 15 $

PRO GRIP 05344 Heavy Duty Ratchet Tie Down Replacement Strap

Tie Down Replacement Strap
Tie Down the Replacement Strap

The ProGrip Heavy Duty Ratchet Replacement Strap with hook is a heavy-duty cargo tie-down strap designed to be a replacement strap. The strap should easily serve the same purpose as a stabilization strap for your bike rack. Comes in great quality and packs 3 instead of just one long length.

Pros Quality
Rating 4.6 out of 5

Bike rack wheel stabilizer strap

Your wheel’s consistent rotation can also be causing your bike rack to be swaying. The bike rack wheel stabilizer strap is another way to stop the bike from swaying. The way the work is simple, simply take the strap and make it go through the wheel and frame. The straps are fairly adjustable and ensure that the wheel does not spin while you are carrying it on your bike rack. Before purchasing you should make sure that the length is enough to go through your bike. Mountain bikes normally require longer-length straps due to the distance between the wheel and the frame. Normally comes in packs of two so you can use them on both the front and back wheels. Some options to get these stabilizers are

Hitch clamp

Hitch clamp is a specific product for hitch bike racks that help reduce the play in between the hitch receiver and the tow bar. Essentially help reduce the wobble at the junction of the bike rack and hitch receiver. These can be used for almost any type of hitch bike rack.  

Trimax THC200 Univeral Anti-Rattle Clamp Fits 2″ Hitch

Trimax THC200 Univeral Anti-Rattle Clamp Fits 2" Hitch
Trimax THC200 Univeral Anti-Rattle Clamp Fits 2″ Hitch

Very easy to install, the Trimax TH200 is a universal anti-rattle clamp that fits a 2-inch hitch. You can install this by using a simple wrench. Drop the U-bolt over the steerer and position the hitch-tightener plant onto the u-bolt. Initially, the hand tightens the locking washers. Lastly use the wrench to tighten it to the prescribed torque. The product can make big difference to the wobble and is highly recommended

Pros Heavy duty, comes with a lock
Cons Ubolt quality
Rating 4.7 out of 5

Bungee cord

Bungee cord has so many uses and the possibility of easily getting one is higher. Since we found many of the above-mentioned products currently not available or out of stock, we recommend using a bungee cord for securing your racks and bikes while traveling.

Thule 955 No Sway Cage Hitch

Most bikes loaded on hitch bike racks suffer swaying if the racks lack an anti-sway system. The No Sway Cage solves this problem and is available among Thule bike rack parts only at around $30. And this price includes two cages, which means that you can easily use them for two bikes on your hitch bike rack. This No Sway Cage is designed for older bike racks including Ridgeline, Spare Me XT and XTR, Revolve, Trailblazer, Expressway, and Speedway. On these racks, it would work perfectly but if you try using it for other racks, you will have to make changes and adjust accordingly. Ideally, it is made for 1” tubes and would scratch the paint on thicker tubes so to stay on the safe side we recommend you use some foam packing inside. The No-Sway cage from Thule rack bike parts is designed to be compatible with T3 cradles and both work in combination to keep the bikes firm in their place. You will also notice that it keeps the two bikes from colliding with each other. This would protect the frames of your valuable bikes.

  • Pros: Can be removed quickly for installation of bike
  • Cons: Might rub away the paint on the bike

FAQs on how to stop bike rack from swaying

Are bike racks supposed to wobble?

Seeing your bike move around in the rearview can definitely be disconcerting. I would never feel comfortable no matter what the manufacturer or reviews say. For the dollar amount, we are paying for these racks they should give the peace of mind. Despite that, I would recommend you investigate the true cause of wobbling. Is it the play in the hitch, wheel turning, installation issue, or general quality issues? Go ahead and use whatever extra strap you have on the rack which can be used to resolve it. If not go for the extra rope or bungee cord around. Finally, go for some of the above-mentioned products. Bring the wobbling

Is stabilizing strap required for a hitch-mounted rack?

A particular brand ‘Curt’ mentions it as a necessary requirement for a warranty to be applicable. The basic objective of the strap is that it distributes the weight on the vehicle, is backup in case the rack detaches accidentally, and helps avoid wobbling. Now since other rack manufacturers are not mentioning it, we would not classify it as a necessary product but rather ‘good to have. At the price it comes, we would recommend every rack owner keep an extra strap with them.

How do I keep my handlebars from moving on my bike rack?

I have always used the rubber strap on the unused cradle to secure one of the handlebars. That is only possible if you are not using all of them for securing bikes already. Otherwise, we recommend using the extra strap to secure the handlebars from moving on the bike rack.

Categories: Uncategorized

Bike Scientist

S Chaudhry is the founder and the first writer for BikesRacks. He covers almost all the bike reviews after doing a lot of secondary and primary (hands on) research on the products. Apart from that he is the author of a number of how to do articles as well on the website. He is an avid road bike cyclists who is dealing in a lot of areas related to biking. Currently he has gained experience fixing bikes to retailing accessories related to them as well. His eventual goal is to build an authority site on cycling and also become a profession bike fitter.


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