This is the step by step build post of my second receiver hitch bike rack. Have to build a second one because I sold my first one, but still need a way to get my bike to the shop/rides! I also had a couple of things that I wanted to upgrade/change for version 2.
Start with a small chunk of 2″ square tubing that fits inside your receiver hitch
Mark and drill the hole for the receiver hitch pin. I cheated by sticking the tube in the receiver hitch then taking the proper drill bit size in the drill and making a center hole on each side. I then removed the tube from the receiver and drilled it stepping up in sizes from small to the size I needed.
Then I got out a bunch of scrap/pre-bent tubes from other projects that I already had and try to pick pieces that I could reuse. This tubing is 1 3/4″ .120 wall HREW that I usually use for roll cages. It is versatile enough material to use for many things though maybe a little overkill for this project. Also, at this time I only have one die for my tubing bender that fits 1 3/4″ tube.
I cut off one of the tubes and tacked it onto the small chunk of 2×2″ square that I have already drilled and pinned into the receiver hitch.
You can use a bubble level like I did in the picture above or a dial type angle finder. When you are checking to see if the bike rack is straight up and down, just make sure you account for any slope in your driveway or suspension height (for example the rear of your vehicle sits up higher than the front) or it will NOT be level once you move your car / attach it to another car!!
With the initial tube tacked on, I could start holding other pieces up to the car to determine bike height. I had a piece of tubing that almost worked, but it needed a little more bend.
The two tubes welded together. I would have tried to do it in one piece if I wasn’t trying to use pieces I already had. Metal isn’t cheap.
From the side view, you can see that I stopped just short of a 90* bend on the upper tube. My thought on this was that I wanted the rear-most bike a little bit higher so it wouldn’t drag on the ground if I were to get on uneven pavement.
I also finish welded the bottom tube into our square receiver tube.
Next I found a spare piece of tubing that was the size I needed. In this case it was ~3″ thin wall drain tubing.
The tubing will eventually hold this piece of foam that the bikes will sit in.
So I cut an ~10″ long piece of tubing then cut it in half. I used the plasma cutter to cut it in half, but it could be done just as easily with a grinder.
Tubing was kinda rusty, so after I cut it in half I cleaned it up some with a sanding wheel on an air drill.
Before/after. Doesn’t have to be perfect because the inside will be covered with foam.
Next I took the bike rack and chucked it up in the vice. This was so I could make two half-dollar sized relief cuts for the bike holding tubes to fit down in.
Next I welded the bike holding tubes onto the main post.
Here is a secret for making caps for the ends of tubing. Take a hole saw that is the same diameter of your tubing and cut a circle out of a piece of sheet steel.
Next, tack the newly made cap onto the tubing.
Then fill it in with weld.
Finally, smooth it down with the grinder and/or flap wheel.
I also bent and welded on a handle that also acts as a loop to hold the bike pedal from hitting the rear bumper of my car. A bonus of this loop is being able to use a bike lock to secure the bikes to the rack.
After final welding the pieces of the rack together, I gorilla glued foam to the bike holding tubes. The pipes and clamps were to hold until the glue dried.
Decided to make my own hitch pin lock while the paint was drying on the bike rack. So I took one of my spare pins and chucked it up in the vice.
Find a drill bit slightly larger than the padlock shank (no need to be scientific about it, just don’t make it unnecessarily large)
Then drill a hole through the hitch pin. Use lots of cutting oil because these pins are made of some pretty tough steel.
Sweet. Locking hitch pin built from stuff I already had.
Here is an image gallery of the final product. This is the second bike rack I have built, and I definitely learned a lot from the first one. My first one was too heavy, too close to the bumper of the vehicle, and too close to the ground to be mounted on my car because the front wheel of my bike hangs pretty low. So this one is lighter, simpler, stronger, and it still fits in the trunk of my car when I’m not using it.
I obviously used quite a few tools to build this bike rack. But with some ingenuity, you could do the same. I have several other articles you can read that explain how to get started: Get started welding for under $250 guide and My 10 Favorite Home Fabrication Tools. There are an unlimited number of options, even finding off the shelf racks then customizing them to your needs.
The bike rack in my example could be simplified quite a bit. If you don’t have a tubing bender, then you can skip the bends and just do 90* joints in your tubing. The sky is the limit, and you really could build something like this with just a grinder and a welder (though it will probably take a bit longer).
UPDATE: In hindsight, there is one thing I would change on this version of bike rack. If you look closely, you notice I was using bungee cords to attach the bike to the rack. I would change this so that it used some kind of rubber grip. On my last version I used what are called “Quick Fist” which are cheap and available on Amazon here: Original Quick Fist® Clamp for mounting tools & equipment 1″ – 2-1/4″ diameter (Pack of 2)
UPDATE 2: After Frank’s comment below, I thought it might be good to post some pictures with a measuring tape so you can tell about how big the bike rack is. Sorry the pics aren’t real clear, the black marks on the tape measure indicate each foot so you should still be able to see about how big it is.