Opinions on methods to carry 4 bikes on a 4Runner?

Ryanmb21

Expedition Leader
Hello,

My family of four is headed to Utah for a couple weeks in May. We would like to bring four bikes, 2 adult bikes (29ers), 2 kids bikes (16” and 14”). The interior storage will be full, so I’m looking at putting all four on a hitch rack, or doing two on the hitch rack and two on the roof.

My 4Runner has a roof rhino rack cross bar setup and rts track, which is a super stout and versatile crossbar setup, I also have the Thule T2 classic hitch rack. The Thule T2 is pretty nice with two bikes because I can tilt it down with the bikes attached at get to the gear in the back of the 4Runner.

So, to carry four bikes it seems my options are:

(1) add the +2 adapter for the Thule. Does it suck to have four bikes hanging off the back? Can I still tilt it down and get to the gear in my Toyota?

(2) use fork mounts on the roof. (I will also have a Yakima skybox up there, but there is room). Does the process of using roof mounts suck less than the hitch rack?

(3) use a tray like this one (http://www.rhinorack.com/en-us/products/roof/roof-trays/xtrays/xtray-pro-_rmcb03), and forgo the skybox.

What would you do? Experiences are much appreciated. Thanks!
 

Chris Boyd

Explorer
It doesn’t suck to have 4 on the hitch with the Thule, but I’m not sure tilting it down is that easy with the weight of the bikes. I slide my first tray out a bit so I could still open the hatch on my land cruiser, but I don’t think a 4Runner opens the same. The bikes end up a little closely packed but I’d rather be able to get into the rear.

Depending on how far you’re driving I wouldn’t do the roof mounts. Kills the MPGs big time!

Rocky mount recently released a swing arm that looks attractive but I’ve not seen the price. That would allow the bikes to swing free of the door opening area.

On my Offroad truck I pull an adventure trailer with tha bikes in roof trays. I use the rockyMounts tomahawk tray there. The vehicle shields the trailer so we don’t take as much MPG hit with the bikes on the roof of the trailer.


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VanIsle_Greg

I can change my custom title now!!
There are a few really very good 4 bike rack systems that leverage a hitch mount. First (and one of the best) is North Shore racks. I like the fact that the bikes are mounted vertically and not in a row out behind the vehicle. These racks are proven and can take a pounding...but they are $$.

http://www.northshoreracks.com/

Second rack I would recommend, Swagman Jackknife... but it would appear that they no longer sell that unit? Odd...it was a killer mounting system for your bikes (designed and patented by a friend actually). You might be able to find one used online?

https://bikegarage.com/product/swagman-jackknife-4-bike-vertical-hitch-mount-rack-187664-1.htm

Lastly (and for no particular reason) is the newer Recon Racks. They are similar to the North Shore and Swagman, but are a new company with a good rep.

http://recon-racks.com/

I am a big fan of these vertical mount racks. The 4 bike hitch mount units that are tray-style are almost always too close to the ground when going up any sort of a driveway or small hill...and I have seen them drag and break or be damaged. Plus with the rear hitch style, it gets the bikes out of the slipstream and can help with MPG over roof mounted racks.
 

jchasse

New member
We've got 2 4Runners. Both have some sort of bike roof mounted bike carriers and we've also got hitch racks for each one. I'd go with the 4-bike hitch rack. Getting bikes up on the roof can be a pain. We've used 4-bike Kuat and One-Up racks and never had a problem. The only reason we still have roof racks is because we typically bring bikes when we tow our camper, so the hitch rack isn't an option.

The One-Up is cool, because the second bike tray sits higher than the first, the 3rd is higher then the second etc. It's good for a little extra clearance and can help with interference between seats and handlebars etc.

If you decide to put them on the roof, maybe you can do what I did on one of our 4Runners...to save money and keep things simple, I just got 2 Kuat Dirtbag fork mounts and mounted them to the roof rack. For the first one (on the back end / driver side) I sandwiched 2 pieces of aluminum plate above and below the rack bed and bolted through them. Then i realized for the 2nd one that I could safely just drill holes in the flat part of the front crossbar and bolt the Dirtbag to that.

I can send close up pics if there's any interest.
 

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Chris Boyd

Explorer
Of course if you mount the kids like that, you could transverse mount the bikes in the back seat. Very handy! And saves all kinds of other travel problems!
 

ultraclyde

Observer
I'd split it up and put 2 bikes on the roof and 2 on the hitch. If you aren't lifted too much the roof is easy to deal with. I've got Yakima fork-trap trays on my Jeep and use them multiple times a week, even with heavier dual-sus trail bikes. The only downside is storing the loose front wheels.
If you're going to need access to the back regularly, I'd consider putting the adult bikes up top and the kids bikes on the rear rack since they're lighter. Alternately, if tilting the adult bikes on the rear rack is easy for you, you could put the kids bikes up top and perhaps get away with a lower-echelon roof mount since they're smaller/lighter.

I've never run a 4 bike rear rack, but everyone I've talked to using them found it to be a PITA.
 

Ryanmb21

Expedition Leader
Great input, thanks for the thoughts fellas. It seems most prefer to carry four bikes via hitch than the roof. Those North Shore racks look innovative, I've never seen them around. The kuat nv 4 bike + pivot, looks like the most elegant, albeit $$$$.

I wonder how that pivot would hold up to washboard?

Hmm, this is a tough decision!
 

Chris Boyd

Explorer
Great input, thanks for the thoughts fellas. It seems most prefer to carry four bikes via hitch than the roof. Those North Shore racks look innovative, I've never seen them around. The kuat nv 4 bike + pivot, looks like the most elegant, albeit $$$$.

I wonder how that pivot would hold up to washboard?

Hmm, this is a tough decision!
I’m not seeing anything that say you have to use the NV. You can use your Thule. Apparently Kubat bought that design from another company and it used to hold multiple brands.
 

Detslider

Adventurer
I have a couple Yakima FrontLoader racks on the top of my Subaru Outback and I really regret going with a roof mount setup. There is nothing easy about trying to balance a 30lb bike upright by one hand held on to the bottom bracket while attempting to manipulate straps and lock bars with the other hand. The Outback is low enough that I could do it with my feet on the ground but I usually end up needing to stand on a tire or door sill to get a high enough grip on the bike to keep it upright. I more often find myself packing a small two step ladder. Don't believe me? Grab a bike and try standing it up on the roof of your 4Runner. Bonus points if you try it after a long ride when your bike is muddy and slippery and you're fatigued.
Stick with a hitch rack. :)

If you are happy with the Thule T2 just get the add-on and call it a day. If being able to have access to the rear cargo are while the bikes are loaded is really important (and the tilting feature of the T2 is not effective) you can easily add a swing out later using the Wilco Offroad Hitchswing ($415).
 

Detslider

Adventurer
One more thought, the price of racks can easily exceed the cost of some the bikes they are meant to transport. If you are going somewhere developed it might be more fiscally responsible to try and rent bikes for a few days at your destination.
 

GHI

Adventurer
I have a North Shore. I can load or unload 4 bikes in about 60 seconds. I'm able to tilt mine down and open the cargo doors of my van. I've had all sorts of configurations on it to include 2 adult bikes (1 a fat tire), kid tricycle and bike trailer for the kids. My only complaint is that I didn't buy it sooner.
 

FinsUp

Adventurer
I have used a KUAT NV for the last two years. Good rack but unless you do continuous maintenance they get to be a bit difficult to operate. We have them at work and keep them mounted year round. The release mechanisms for the pivot as well as the part that goes on the tire get hard to use unless kept clean. The metal parts get corroded easily as well.
I just ordered the Recon Rack 4 bike model after hearing and reading good reveiws, http://recon-racks.com/new-products/r4-4bike-rack
 

ericvs

Adventurer
My vote is for the Recon. Allows you to carry 4 bikes (or more) without having the bikes really far away from the back of your vehicle. I owned a 4 bike and a 6 bike NorthShore rack. While they were great, they were limited on the types of bikes you can carry. Bikes without front shocks cannot be carried on the northshore and some of the newer style bikes with tapered head tubes are a really tight to fit.

I now own a 6 bike Recon and it is great and it can carry any type of bike regardless of fork or tire size etc.

The Recon has a super slick tip down feature that will allow you to access the back of your truck even when it is fully loaded up with bikes. It has a spring loaded pin that you pull to tip the rack down and then all you have to do it push it up and it will auto engage in the vertical position. Very quick, very slick. Plus the way he designed it, it will stay tight for the life of the rack since.

You can actually see more photos on his instagram page. Very well thought out rack.
https://www.instagram.com/recon_racks/?hl=en
 

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DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
I have a 1Up, actually two, one on each vehicle. I really love these racks and on my pickup it's satisfied everything I've asked of it. Very rugged, solid off road. no swaying, super solid hold on the bikes but easy to get them in and out.

I've been less happy with it on her Forester and my suspicion is on your 4Runner you'd probably not like it either.

The way it tilts is not as convenient as other designs. Don't get me wrong, there are work around and ways to make it easier but it's still kind of a pain. The tilt, specifically getting at and operating the tilt, is the weakness in them. With one or two bikes it's manageable but with a 4-bike configuration I think a 1Up would be pretty miserable to tilt. The flip side is the way the tilt works lends itself to being reliable. It's not going to tilt inadvertently and is pretty simple so unlikely to foul due to mud.

Otherwise, agree with everything mentioned so far. I prefer rear racks now for everyday use. I still like roof racks for long distance hauling, though.
 
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