I once bought a bike carrier that was on offer in the supermarket and it cost next to nothing. It took me about two hours to put together and required me to use a large torque wrench to tighten it on the tow bar. Then it needed a strap to hook onto the tail gate of the car. It damaged the tail gate, and the wrench business was a pain. I used it twice and threw the contraption away.
What I have learnt is that convenience is worth its weight in gold. This means the bike carrier must be extremely easy and above all – fast- to mount on the tow bar. It must also easily allow the tail gate to open with the bikes installed. It must have super flexible arms to lock in place bikes of any type and they must also have locks so they don’t get stolen at the next service station.
The whole thing should be removable in one minute and be folded into a small enough package so that it can be unobtrusively stored away (including by the way in the car itself ).
Introducing the Thule Easy Fold XT (Amazon UK) or Thule Easy Fold XT (Amazon DE) suitable for 3 bicycles. I have used this to carry an e-bike (22kg) along with 2 other gravel bikes and many combinations of others bikes. The bikes have enough width that they rarely pose a problem next to each other. An optional extra is a ramp (Amazon UK) or here at (Amazon DE) that you can use to walk up or down a heavy e-bike onto the rack. This ramp stores away in the unit.
I can mount and dismount the carrier in about two minutes including the bicycles. Sometimes even faster.
Experience whilst driving: I had some reservations about a carrier that is mounted on a tow bar without any other straps or things to hold it in place. Would it stay there whilst cornering? Would it fall off on motorways? My experience from travelling with it over 4000km has been: it does not move at all.
Firstly, with the help of a dial you can set the torque of the mounting handle. Basically you lift the carrier onto the tow bar and then pull down the lever to the horizontal position. If you tighten the dial it will make pulling down the lever harder and harder (meaning it is torqueing it). You don’t need brute strength, just a firm connection is sufficient. Something like the strength you need to pull out a stiff wine cork. Once that dial is set, you never need to touch it again.
Secondly, the bikes should be held in place using the arms and the ratchet straps. The ratchet straps affix the wheels in place and are super easy – you ratchet them until the wheels are firmly in place. Now, when I’m driving at motorway speeds the bikes do not move a cm.
Convenient? Heck yes. Cheap? No. But very high quality. I cannot yet fault it. It has allowed me to extend the range of my biking to many miles around my home. I cannot recommend it enough.