Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly bike rack or don’t have a car with a hitch, Allen Trunk Bike Racks are an easy and affordable way to haul bikes around town. Offering a great combination of car compatibility, bike compatibility, and affordability, there’s a strong reason these racks are Amazon best-sellers.
We tested and compared all three of the Allen Trunk Bike Racks – Allen Sports Premier, Deluxe, and Ultra-Compact – to see how they worked with bikes of all sizes and types.
From wheel size to bike weight, we found several differences between Allen’s racks that you should consider…in addition to the price. In this review, we’ll walk you through what makes Allen’s trunk racks unique from other brands as well as the differences and similarities between their three different models.
Allen Trunk Bike Racks Overview
- PREMIER TRUNK BIKE RACK
- MSRP: $119+
- CAPACITY: 2, 3, or 4
- BEST FOR: Larger, heavier bikes (does not fit 16″ bikes or smaller). Also suitable for those willing to pay more for ease-of-use upgrades.
- DELUXE TRUNK BIKE RACK
- MSRP: $59+
- CAPACITY: 2, 3 or 4
- BEST FOR: Smaller bikes (including 16″ bikes!) as well as bikes with odd frame designs
- ULTRA COMPACT TRUNK RACK
- MSRP: $69+
- CAPACITY: 1 or 2
- BEST FOR: Those with very little storage who need a quality, compact rack
Allen Sports Trunk Rack Video Review
Visual learner? Check out our video summary of Allen Trunk Racks. We’ll show you the differences between Allen’s three models and how those differences play out in real life.
Will an Allen Trunk Bike Rack Fit on my Car?
Trunk racks (from every brand!) are pretty particular when it comes to fit. One rack from a brand may fit your car while others of the same brand may not. For example, the Allen Deluxe and Ultra-Compact fit our 2004 BMX 3-series, while the Premier did not.
As a result, be sure to check Allen Sports’ Rack Finder to see which of their racks will fit on your car. Of the three Allen racks, we found the Deluxe to be compatible with the most cars.
It is also important to point out that all three racks have a different frame design. They are NOT the same rack with additional upgrades added to the more expensive models. This is why some models will fit cars that others will not.
Allen Sports Ultra-Compact, Deluxe, and Premier (Folded)
How Does a Trunk Mounted Bike Rack Work?
All trunk bike racks essentially work the same way. A padded base rests on the top of the trunk while the second base rests either on top of the rear bumper or on the edge of the trunk near the license plate.
Racks are then secured on the car by six nylon straps – two on top of the trunk, two on the sides, and two (or sometimes one) along the bottom edge of the trunk or the bottom of the car.
Due to the placement of the upper straps and/or the top padded base, trunk racks typically are not compatible with cars with fenders.
On hatchbacks, the upper arms rest on the back window, while the lower arms are positioned near the license plate.
Unlike platform racks, trunk racks do not make contact with the wheels of the bikes, but rather “hang” the bikes by their frame from the rack’s arms. The rubber cradles on the arms are where the bike frame rests, with straps that secure over the frame to keep that bike from sliding around.
Why Allen Sports trunk mounted bike racks?
There are lots of options for trunk racks on the market. While Allen Sports racks aren’t as high-end as racks like the Saris Bones, Yakima HalfBack, or Thule Passage, Allen’s racks offer stand-out performance for a very affordable price point. After testing several different brands, we discovered there are a few unique benefits of choosing an Allen trunk rack, even over a more high-end rack.
(1) Independently Swiveling Cradles: Allen racks are the only trunk racks (that we know of), that allow the individual cradles to swivel. The cradles are the rubber pieces on the rack arms that the bike’s frame rests on.
The ability to rotate each cradle allows you much more flexibility when mounting your bike. Most hanging racks support the bike with the arms of the rack under the bike’s top tube. They sit on stationary cradles that are parallel to the ground.
Swiveling cradles allow you to position the rack’s contact points so that you can mount the bike via the top tube, bottom tube, or even the vertical seat tube of the bike! This flexibility not only makes it faster and easier to load bikes of all shapes and sizes, in some cases it can prevent the need for annoying and costly adapter bars.
(2) Adaptor Bars and Vertical Clearance: Adapter bars are often needed on hanging racks in order to carry bikes without a long, straight top tube (such as bikes with “step-though” frames or small kids bikes). The flexibility provided by Allen’s swivel cradles greatly reduces, or even prevents, the need for costly and finicky adaptor bars.
Another major issue with adapter bars is that they lower the bike’s proximity to the ground by about 4″ or more! With your bike significantly lower to the ground, it is at a much higher risk of getting damaged when going over a speed bump or driving up a steep incline. We learned in real life that 4″ can make a BIG difference when doing something as simple as pulling out of a driveway!
We found adapter bars to especially be problematic with larger bikes with 27.5″ or 29″ wheels when loaded on lower-to-the-ground vehicles such as sedans and small hatchbacks. With a much less likely chance of needing an adapter bar on an Allen rack, the odds of having issues with vertical clearance with larger bikes is greatly reduced.
(3) 4-Bike Capacity: The Allen Deluxe and Premier are the only 4-capacity trunk racks on the market. According to Allen, designing a trunk rack that is able to properly support 4 bikes that are essentially cantilevered over a trunk is quite the engineering feat. Having spent years working on a solution, Allen is confident in their design.
(4) Great Value: While more expensive racks have some better features, such as rubber cradle straps, support arms that fold-down, or more thickly padded cradles, they don’t offer much more functionality. All trunk racks work essentially the same way and Allen Sports racks perform the same task at a lower price than many other brands.
(5) Narrow Support Bars: The Allen Deluxe and Ultra-Compact models have narrow-set support bars that allow smaller bikes, and some bikes with odd-shaped frames to fit without adapter bars. These two racks were the only racks able to hold 16″ bikes with or without an adapter bar. On the flip side, however, wider bars (found on the Allen Premier as well as other brands) are better at distributing the weight of larger and heavier bikes.
Which Allen Trunk Bike Rack is best for you?
Although Allen’s three models share many features, which one is best for you (assuming they all fit your car) really depends on four things:
1. How many bikes do you want to carry? – The Ultra-Compact maxes out at 2-capacity. If you need to carry 3 or 4 bikes, you will need to get the Deluxe or the Premier.
2. Do you have limited space to store the rack when not in use? If you do, then go for the Ultra-Compact as it can fold down small to fit in a backpack.
3. Do you plan on carrying kids’ bikes with 20″ or 16″ wheels OR do you have a bike with an odd frame design (aka not the standard triangle tubing)? If so, the Deluxe is your best bet. In some cases, the Ultra-Compact may work as well, but there is no way to know for sure without testing your bike on a specific rack.
If you plan on carrying smaller bikes, also remember that you cannot open the trunk of a car while the trunk rack is mounted. So even if your child’s 16″ or 20″ fits in the trunk of the car, you will need to remove the rack in order to get the bike out once you reach your destination. The rack will then need to be reinstalled upon heading back home.
4. Do you plan on carrying larger framed and/or heavier bikes? If so, the wider, stable base of the Premier is your best bet. If you need to carry smaller kids bikes as well as larger adult bikes, you will need to stick to the Deluxe.
Allen Sports Trunk Rack Comparison
In addition to the ability to carry different styles of bikes in different capacities, there are several other notable differences between Allen’s racks. Besides capacity and folding size, the Ultra-Compact and the Deluxe are pretty similar. The Premier has several upgrades that the other models do not.
|MSRP (2 capacity)||$69+||$59+||$119+|
|Capacity||1, 2||2, 3, 4||2, 3, 4|
|Support Bar Width||13.25″||11″||14.5″|
|Fits 16″ Bikes||X||X|
|Rubber Cradle Straps||X|
|Wide, Stable Base||X|
|Durable, rubber feet||X|
Detailed explanations of these differences, as well as our general experience with each model, are found below.
Allen Sports Premier Trunk Mounted Bike Rack
As Allen’s most expensive trunk rack model, the Premier is not only the largest and widest, it also features several useability upgrades. After using all three Allen trunk racks back-to-back, as long as we weren’t loading 16″ kids bikes (which don’t fit on the Premier), we found the Premier to be the easiest to use.
Based on our results, if you are loading larger, heavier bikes (anything close to the 35 lb. bike max weight), the Premier is absolutely worth the upgrade, especially if you are driving longer distances. If you are hauling standard-size bikes, it all depends on your budget. If you have some extra wiggle room in your budget, we certainly appreciated the upgrades of the Premier, but they aren’t necessary.
Upgrades on the Premier
Wider, More Stable Base
With wider set supporting bars (14.5″ as compared to the Deluxe’s 11″), the Premier is better able to distribute the weight of larger, heavier bikes. In addition to being better for your car (more weight over a wider footprint is less likely to dent or put a crease in the car’s body), the Premier’s wider bars offer more support for larger framed bikes.
The wider bars also provide a wider base for larger bikes to rest on. So in addition to the total weight of the rack being better distributed on the car, the total weight of the individual bikes is also more evenly distributed on the rack.
Rubber Cradle Straps
The Premier is the only Allen trunk rack to feature rubber cradle straps as compared to nylon straps. The rubber straps are not only quick and easy to use, their tacky texture also helps to minimize movement of the bike while loaded on the rack.
Like all Allen cradles, the Premier’s cradles rotate to help fit a variety of bike frames without the need for an adapter bar.
Quick Snap Set-up
All three Allen Racks fold to allow for easy storage but need to be unfolded before you can mount them to your car. Unfolding the racks involves locking the support arms into place, which varies in difficulty with each rack.
The Ultra-Compact requires various turning and pushing of spring clips, while the Deluxe has cross supports that take some muscle to snap into the correct position. The Premier makes it easy by allowing you to simply squeeze the red locking tabs, move the cross support into position, and then release.
Thick Rubber Vehicle Pads
The Premier features thick rubber vehicle pads to help prevent the trunk and or/bumper of the car from scratches or damage. The feet easily rotate to accommodate the angle of your car.
As a comparison, the Deluxe has foam protectors that are less likely to withstand the elements with time. The Ultra-Compact also has rubber feet on the top, but they are narrower and not adjustable.
Allen Sports Deluxe Trunk Bike Rack
If you are on a tighter budget or you need the ability to carry a 16″ bike, the Deluxe is your best bet.
Offering a great mix of affordability and features, the Deluxe is also offered in 2, 3, and 4 capacities, but with fewer “upgrades” than the Premier. It is available at close to half the price as the Premier.
Features of the Deluxe
Narrower Support Bars
With support bars that are 11″ apart, the Deluxe is the narrowest of Allen’s three racks. The narrow bars allowed us to easily fit smaller 16″ kids’ bikes on the rack (without an adapter bar!), which did not fit on the others.
On the flip side, the narrower bars weren’t as ideal for taller or larger bikes. With a narrower profile (the entire rack is the same width as the support bars), the Deluxe can’t distribute the weight of the bike as well as the Premier which is 3.5″ wider than the Deluxe.
Rotating Cradles with Nylon Straps
The cradle straps on the Deluxe aren’t as quick and easy to use as compared to the rubber straps on the Premier, but they certainly aren’t hard to use. The nylon straps require you to thread the webbing through the clip and then pull tight, which does take more time than simply pulling and latching the rubber straps.
With time, the vibrations and bumps along the road can cause the nylon straps to slightly loosen, so be sure to check and recheck the straps along the way if you’re driving a long distance.
Locking Cross Supports
In order to fold or unfold the Deluxe, you must manually insert or remove the rack’s cross supports into place. While not challenging or time-consuming, it does take some muscle and if not careful, you could accidentally pinch a finger while doing so.
This process is much easier on the Premier which requires minimal effort with its upgraded Quick Snap Set-up. If “muscling” things is not your forte, the Premier might be worth the upgrade.
Play Between Cradles
One aspect of the Deluxe to be mindful of is that there is a lot of play between the cradles – forward and back. As you load bikes onto the Deluxe, the weight of the bikes puts pressure on the cradles and minimizes the play.
As a result, we found the Deluxe experienced much less movement between the bikes (forward and back while on the rack), when the bike was loaded to its maximum capacity. So if you plan on purchasing a 4-capacity rack “just in case”, but really only plan on carrying 2 bikes most of the time, the Premier (which does not have any play between the cradles), would be a better choice.
Allen Sports Ultra Compact Trunk Mounted Bike Rack
If thinking about where to store the rack while not in use is already giving you a headache, the Ulta-Compact is the best rack for you.
The small and mighty Ultra-Compact is also the only rack available in a 1 bike capacity but it does max out at a 2-bike capacity.
Features of the Ultra-Compact
Easy to Store
The Ultra-Compact quickly and easily folds down. The support arms as well as the base of the rack hold their shape via spring clips. By pushing the spring clips and then rotating or sliding the arms of the rack, it folds down small enough to easily fit in any backpack.
Ultra-Compact Unfolded and Folded (Helmet for Size Reference)
As shown in the image at the beginning of this review, the Ultra-Compact folds down to about 1/4 the size of the Premier and about 1/3 of the size of the Deluxe.
Rotating Cradles with Nylon Straps
The cradles of the Ultra-Compact are essentially the same as the Deluxe with a nylon strap on a rotating cradle.
If you only need to haul 2-bikes, between the three Allen racks, the Ultra-Compact is a great choice for those who need to haul either large or smaller bikes. With a 13″ support bar spacing, the Ultra-Compact is wider than the 11″ Deluxe but narrower than the 14.5″ Premier.
Unlike the Premier, we were able to load some 16″ bikes on the Ultra-Compact but fewer than the Deluxe.
For larger bikes, the Ultra-Compact’s wider bars offered better support than the Deluxe, but not as good as the Premier.
How do I know if my bike will fit on a trunk rack?
There is no fool-proof way to know whether your bike will fit on a specific trunk rack or not. In general, any bike that has a large traditional triangle frame will fit. The smaller the triangle, or triangles on some bikes, the less likely the bike will fit.
If you happen to know the distances between the rack mounting bars (luckily we have measured them for you!), these three easy steps can help you get a much better feel for whether your bike will fit a specific rack or not.
(1) Get a Measuring Device: You will need a ruler or tape measure that is at least an inch longer than the width of the supporting bars on the rack you are looking to purchase. For example, if the support bars are 14.5″ wide, a standard 12″ ruler won’t be long enough, so you’ll need a tape measure or a yardstick.
(2) Measure Your Bike: Starting at the upper corner of your bike’s triangle, measure the distance of your bike’s top tube. If it is less than your rack supporting bar width + 1″ (to factor in the diameter of the bars), then your bike may not fit. For example, if I was measuring the following bike to see if it would fit on the Allen Premier with 14.5″ wide support bars, then I would need to measure to see if it had at least 15.5″ on the top tube.
This bike would likely barely fit on a rack with 14.5″ wide support bars, but would easily fit on any rack with narrower bars.
(3) Get Creative: If you don’t have room, move one end of the ruler down below the bottom tube. If there is enough space between the upper corner and the bottom tube, then it will likely fit.
For example, this 16″ kids bike has limited space, but we were easily able to find 12 inches of space on the bike for the supporting bars to travel through the bike. As a result, this bike fits on the Deluxe with 11″ wide support bars using the top tube and bottom tube, but was NOT able to fit on the Premier with 14.5″ bars.
If your bike doesn’t have a traditional triangle, try any combination of the top tube, bottom tube, or seat tube. If you can find the space, it will likely fit! Although this bike has an odd-shaped frame, it easily fit on all three Allen racks without the need for an adaptor bar.
REMEMBER: This trick only works with Allen racks with swiveling cradles, as other brands only allow the cradles to mount to the top tube and not the bottom tube or even the seat tube.
Tips for Using Bike Trunk Racks
During our testing process, we learned several tips and tricks to help safely and securely use trunk-mounted bike racks. Our tips on everything from mounting to loading can be found on our Best Trunk Bike Racks article.
As a sneak peek, tips include purchasing and using Velcro straps as car protectors, removing saddles to ease in loading, and when and how to use adapter bars.
Allen Sports Trunk Bike Rack Bottom Line
Easy to use, easy to store, and with a very affordable price point, Allen Sports’ trunk racks are a great way to transport your bike without breaking the bank. With their unique swiveling cradles as well as models with various support bar widths, an Allen trunk rack is sure to fit your bike and your budget.
If you’re interested in checking out Allen’s hitch mounted bike racks, we have a review for that too!