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Bike rack options for short bed trucks

Bike Rack: Mountain Bike Rack Options For Short Bed Trucks

You have yourself a mountain bike, a water bottle full of magic drink and a short bed truck. So how do you get to the trail? That’s what we are going to cover today. If you’d rather watch a video about this, check out our YouTube video review on this same topic

First, a quick overview of the situation. A short truck bed commonly found today measures between 60” and 68” and the average mountain bike wheelbase is 72” or more. Unless you’re ok with throwing your bike into a pile in your truck bed and hoping for the best you will have to find something to securely transport your baby to your destination.

Don't throw your bike into your truck bed.  

Let’s take a look at a few options.

Thru-Axle Mount

The first is a thru-axle mount that you can bolt to almost any surface like the one Küat makes called the Dirtbag. The pros for this type is that it’s an economical choice that gives a fair amount of mounting flexibility. The cons are you have to take the front tire off each time which in my opinion, is not a super appealing option.

Kuat DirtBag bike mount in a truck bed

Tailgate Pad

The next option is the tailgate pad and several companies make a version of this. The one I have experience with is the Yakima GateKeeper. It comes in two sizes to accommodate different tailgate sizes and also comes in a couple color choices. The version I have has velcro lined straps to secure the bike, but it looks like the most current version has a cinch-style buckle. 

The pros of this type of bike mount are the price, around $200 USD and can hold up to five bikes. The tailgate pad also doesn’t interfere with the reverse parking sensors and has a flap allowing you to still use the back-up camera. Another pro for the tailgate pad is that it doesn’t add bulk to the back of your truck. And if you’re like me, my garage isn’t the biggest, and a big bike rack hanging off the end of the truck really gets in the way when the garage door is shut. 

Now for the cons of the tailgate pad. For me, the biggest con was the damage to the paint on my tailgate.

Paint damage from tailgate bike pad

I've been using the pad for almost a year without an issue, but after an off road adventure with the truck left it in serious need of a wash, I took off the pad and noticed several places where the paint had rubbed off under the tailgate pad. Not sure exactly what brought this on, but I wasn’t very pleased. The other con I experienced is with the velcro based attachment straps. The velcro quit working when it got dirty or worn. I read somewhere you could refresh the velcro by cleaning it with a brush, but I had no luck with that. I could never get the velcro to work again.

On-Bed Rail Options

The next option is the “in-bed” rail based options. Yakima makes bars that mount across your bed and the rack attaches to the bars. Yakima has different height mounts like these lower profile ones that sell for about $600, you then add a bike rack like this one from Yakima for an additional $270-ish. I have no experience using this option as the price was too steep for me and I felt it put the bike too high for easy loading/unloading. 

truck in bed bike rack option

Hitch Mounted Tray

Next option is the hitch mounted tray type of rack. There are a bunch of options on the market - Thule, Yakima, Küat, 1UP, and others. I have personally used a Küat NV for the last 9 years or so. This rack has been great. It’s super high quality and the customer service folks when you call them are very friendly and helpful. Besides cleaning and replacing the ratchet arms, which were under warranty, I haven’t had any problems with it. I currently have the 1.25” version for a car I used to have and to make it work with the truck I now drive, I had to use an adapter which makes the rack stick out way far from the rear bumper. The truck barely fits in the garage, it's almost impossible to walk around it with the door closed. I also backed into a small mountain a year ago and bent the rack. So with those few things, it made sense to replace the rack with one that fit better. 

kuat NV on toyota tacoma

I looked to replace it with another Küat, but the prices were very high, ranging from $749 to $1389 for the fancy new version. Just too much for me. And to be honest I skipped the options from Thule, Yakima and others because they don’t seem to age very well. I live in Utah and almost everyone has a bike rack on their car and the ones that age best seem to be the Küat and the 1UP. 

I ended up choosing the 1UP Super Duty Single tray model. 1UP has a few options so I watched some videos on them but then ended up calling them for help to pick the best model for me. I off-road on occasion, so I chose the Super Duty. As of this writing, I’ve only had one ride with it on the truck so it’s too soon to give any real input on the rack. But I can say it takes up way less room on the back of the truck. 

1up bike rack on toyota tacoma

The last option for the hitch mounted type is the hanging rack. It looks like most of the big brands offer some flavor of the rack. I have no experience with this type of rack myself and I skipped looking into it as an option for me because I really didn’t like how big it looked. That’s all. 

truck hanging bike rack

In summary, if you have a short truck bed under 72” and are looking to safely and securely transport at least one bike you have a few options.

The bed mounted rail-based versions, the hitch mounted tray or hanging types, the tailgate pad, and the fork mounted bed types. Of these, I chose the hitch mounted tray kind. I love the Küat - it’s super high quality and lasts forever based on previous experience. And then I just installed the 1UP Super Duty Single just a few days ago. I’m excited to see how well the new rack works. Stay tuned for updates. 

What’s your thoughts on the best way to carry your bike on your truck? Did I miss some options? Leave me a comment below.

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El Roo Bike

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