Vertical hitch bike racks like the Yakima HangTight are taking the bike world by storm. Available in both 4 and 6-bike capacity, the HangTight is a game changer for families and biking crews who need to haul a large fleet of bikes!
But how is the Yakima HangTight different from Yakima’s other hitch racks? And how does the HangTight compare to other vertical hitch bike racks out there?
In this review, we’ll cover all the pros and cons of hanging bikes by their handlebars, as well as discuss whether the HangTight will be compatible with your car and with your bikes.
Yakima HangTight Overview
MSRP:$849 (4 capacity), $1,049 (6 capacity)
BEST FOR: Fleets of mountain bikes or road bikes; sprinter vans that need a Yakima BackSwing (4-capacity only); group carpooled rides that need to unload a bike out of the middle of the rack
FITS WHEEL SIZES: 20″ to 29″, and some 16″ and smaller bikes
CAPACITY: 4 or 6
RACK STYLE: Vertical, hangs by handlebars
HITCH SIZE: 2″ only
- Wide spacing between bikes makes loading bikes without pedal contact very easy
- Wide spacing also makes it possible to unload a bike from the middle
- Can use with 20″ kids bikes, and even some 16″ and smaller
- Fits fat tires up to 5″ with no adapter needed
- Rear tire cradle rotates to better match the angle of the tire (based on wheelbase)
- Telescoping rear mast can be shortened for more compact storage on or off the vehicle
- Yakima HangTight 4 can be used with Yakima BackSwing
- Cannot tilt down for rear hatch access while bikes are loaded on rack
- Tall rack may require use of step stool for loading and unloading on taller cars
- Tall rack too tall to park in most home garages
- Lower per bike weight capacity (37.5 lbs) not suitable for most ebikes and some downhill or fat bikes
Yakima HangTight Vertical Bike Rack – Results of our Tests
We put the Yakima HangTight 6 capacity to the test with a 2017 Honda Pilot and a 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Using our large fleet of mountain bikes, kids bikes, casual bikes, and road bikes, we tested as many bike combinations as possible to help you determine if the HangTight will be a good fit for your own fleet.
While the HangTight is available in 4 or 6 bike capacity, we only tested the 6 bike option. The racks are essentially identical, except for their bike capacity. Additionally, only the HangTight 4 can be used with the Yakima BackSwing (rack swing-away adapter) and StraightShot (hitch extender).
What makes the HangTight stand out?
If you’re familiar with Yakima racks, you may have realized that the new Yakima HangTight looks almost identical to the older Yakima HangOver. While the Yakima HangOver was one of the first vertical bike racks on the market, it has one key limitation that newer racks like Alta, Velocirax, and Lolo don’t. The HangOver hangs bikes by the fork crown, so it can only be used if your bike has a front suspension fork.
That’s where the Yakima HangTight comes in. With this new Yakima vertical bike rack, the bikes are hung by their handlebars. This greatly expands the type of bikes that can fit to include road bikes, gravel bikes, rigid kids bikes (at least 20″), and casual bikes. Both the HangOver and HangTight are current Yakima rack models.
Yakima Vertical Rack or Yakima Platform Rack?
If you need to carry 5 or 6 bikes, there isn’t a traditional platform rack on the market that can help you. If that’s the case, getting a vertical rack is a no-brainer!
But if you only need to carry up to 4 bikes, there are a ton of platform racks to choose from, including several from Yakima, like the HoldUp EVO which we’ve also reviewed. So what are the benefits of a vertical rack over a platform rack?
When unloaded, a vertical rack like the HangTight has a very small profile, providing nearly perfect visibility out the rear window, while a platform rack like the HoldUp EVO covers most of the rear window.
Yakima HangTight vs HoldUp
Even loaded, a vertical hanging rack allows you to see through the spaces between the bikes, while the bikes on a platform rack can block almost your entire rear view. On the Yakima HangTight 4, the spacing between bikes will be even wider, for even more increased visibility.
That said, the Yakima HoldUp EVO actually sits lower than some other platform racks, so visibility while loaded is pretty high. In the image below, both cars are Honda Pilots.
Yakima HangTight vs HoldUp
Visible Taillights and Turn Signals
Loaded or unloaded, using a traditional platform rack usually blocks your taillights, turning signals, and your license plate. This can be dangerous, and in some states, it’s not permitted.
Vertical hanging racks have enough spacing between the bikes that your rear lights aren’t 100% visible, but visible enough to be helpful.
Less issues with spacing on HangTight
We’ve used and tested many different platform and vertical hanging racks. We’ve found that while all racks require careful loading to prevent a bike’s pedals and brake levers from scratching the frame or handlebars of the bike next to it, vertical bike racks generally provide better spacing between bikes, and less potential for unwanted bike contact.
With the HangTight, its wide spacing between bikes makes it possible to remove a bike out of the center of a fully loaded rack. This can come in super handy for shuttled rides or carpooling drop-off. This is very rare for a bike rack.
Weight Capacity May Be a Problem with the HangTight
While the HoldUp EVO platform rack has a maximum weight capacity of 50 pounds per bike (but 160 pounds total), the HangTight vertical rack can only carry bikes up to 37.5 pounds. This means that most adult ebikes will be too heavy for the HangTight. There will also be some fat bikes and full suspension mountain bikes that could be too heavy.
How does the Yakima HangTight work?
The Yakima HangTight vertical rack can only be used on cars with a Class III 2″ hitch. This is standard for vertical racks, regardless of bike capacity.
While there are many vertical bike racks on the market, they generally fall into one of three categories based on how they hang the bikes -(1) by the handlebars, (2) by the front wheel, or (3) by the front fork.
The HangTight falls into that first category – it hangs bikes vertically, resting the bike’s handlebars in a rubber-lined dual cradle. The handlebars are secured in place by two ratcheting straps. Bikes should be loaded left to right, and it’s generally easiest to load your bikes largest to smallest.
The lower wheel of the bike is also strapped tightly in place. A rotating wheel plate is set and tightened at an angle so that the plate sits flush with the bike’s tire. It is then secured to the bike’s wheel with a ratcheting strap.
Loading and Unloading – Hanging by Handlebars (vs. Wheel Baskets)
If you’re looking for a high capacity vertical bike rack that can carry a wide variety of bike styles, you can choose between a rack that hangs bikes by the handlebars or the front wheel. We’ve also extensively tested the Alta and Velocirax, which both hang bikes by the front wheel.
Through our testing, we found that hanging the bikes by the front wheel was an easier method for loading and unloading than the handlebar system of the HangTight. The HangTight’s system certainly works well enough, but unless you are extremely tall (6’2 or over), it is more difficult. Unique handlebar or stem designs can also make things tricky.
High Position of Cradles and Lifting Bikes
The handlebar cradles are positioned much higher than the wheel baskets on the Velocirax or Alta. As a result, you have to lift the bike higher to place the handlebars in the cradles.
Rack Height Yakima vs Alta Racks
Alta and Velocirax both have a mast tilt down feature to lower the baskets for easier loading and unloading. The HangTight’s mast cannot be lowered to bring the handlebar cradles lower for loading. (It can be lowered when empty for access to the rear hatch.)
Velocirax and Alta Rack Tilt Down for Easier Loading
Additionally, the process of hanging a bike by its handlebars is a bit less intuitive than simply rolling it forward and into a wheel basket. To place the handlebars in the cradle, you’ll need to lift the bike over your head and turn the bike backwards. It’s a little awkward at first, but you do get used to it. (But baskets are just easier.)
That said, if you have limited upper body strength and a heavy bike, you could run into issues. I’m not a wimp, but certainly not as strong as your typical male. While I could load my 31 pound pound Santa Cruz TallBoy (L) without issue, it took a bit of grunting to load my kids’ 36 pound Specialized StumpJumper (M) onto our Jeep.
Additionally, while our 14 and 11-year-old boys can load our family’s fleet of bikes on the Alta Rack by themselves, they cannot load the Yakima HangTight. If you’re looking to have your kids help with loading and unloading of bikes, you may need to wait until they are significantly taller and stronger.
Securing the Handlebar Straps
There are two ratcheting straps that are tightened over the handlebars once they are settled in the cradle. One strap goes on the inside of the cradle, next to the bike’s stem. The other is secured on the outside of the cradle. This system can be problematic with certain types of handlebars and stems, which we’ll explain in the Bike Compatibility section later.
The straps aren’t too difficult to use, but depending on how tall you are and how tall your car is, you may need a step stool to access them. On our taller Jeep Grand Cherokee, I found it annoying to reach high over my head to secure the straps, all the while not really being able to see what I was doing very well. I’m 5’10.
On our lower-to-the-ground Honda Pilot (seen here), the process was significantly easier for me, but between loading by the handlebars and loading into tire baskets, the baskets are still easier. (Like on the Alta or Velocirax.)
Additionally, while it was quite easy to pull and tighten the straps, loosening the straps was a little difficult. Because the straps are so high, you can’t pull them up from the top. You have to push the end of the strap up from below, and the notches in the ratcheting strap don’t allow for a smooth exit. It requires some finagling and can actually hurt your fingers.
(We will cover the difference between high and low hitch vehicles below.)
Bottom Straps and Cradles
One feature of the Yakima HangTight that excels over other vertical racks is the rear wheel strap system. On both the Velocirax and Alta, the rear wheel rests against a flat bar. For shorter wheelbase bikes, this can make strapping the rear wheel a little awkward because the bar can’t sit flush against the tire, and the strap can’t sit flat against the wheel’s rim.
The rear wheel cradle of the HangTight can be rotated and then tightened so that it sits flush against the rear tire. Then when pulling the strap over the rim, it sits nice and flush, no matter how long or short that wheelbase is. In our experience, this has the greatest benefit for 20″ or 24″ kids bikes.
We found the spacing between bikes on the Yakima HangTight 6 to be perfectly sufficient to make loading and unloading easy and prevent any frame or pedal contact between bikes. With horizontal bars that are wider than Alta and Velocirax, the HangTight actually has more spacing between bikes that these other racks. This does make loading bikes without pedals hitting each other significantly easier.
Additionally, this wider spacing makes it possible to remove a bike from the middle of the pack, which could be a game changer for group rides and carpooling.
Compatibility with Your Car – Rack Height and Ground Clearance
How tall is your car’s hitch? If you don’t know, go measure it right now! Through testing several vertical bike racks, we’ve discovered that the height of your car’s hitch has a huge effect on how easy it is to use the rack.
Our Honda Pilot is considered a low hitch vehicle, with a hitch height of 15.25″. Our Jeep Grand Cherokee’s hitch is high, with a height of 21.5″. However, there are some vehicles with hitches even higher than the example we will show you – a Toyota Landcruiser’s hitch height is 25″!
High Hitch vs Low Hitch Vehicles – Rack Height
The height of the rack mast and top crossbar of the Yakima HangTight remain stationary, and also don’t tilt forward to make loading bikes any easier. As a result, loading and unloading bikes on a high-hitch vehicle will be more difficult and may require a step stool. At 5’10, loading and unloading bikes on the lower Honda Pilot was significantly easier for me.
If you have a high-hitch vehicle, we highly recommend researching the Alta vertical rack, which has a unique design that makes use with high or low hitches particularly ideal. You can read our review of the Alta Rack here, and see it below.
The overall height of the loaded bikes on the Yakima Rack is actually slightly shorter than the loaded Alta Rack. However, unloaded, the Yakima HangTight is significantly taller than the Alta Rack. From the ground, the highest point of the Yakima handlebar cradle is 82.5″, while the top of the wheel basket on the Alta Rack is 9″ shorter at 73.5″.
Yakima HangTight Taller Than Alta Racks
If you park your car in your home garage, the rack height is something you’ll need to consider. Unloaded, the HangTight is too tall on both the Jeep and the Honda to park in the garage. On our Honda, seen below, the highest point of the handlebar cradle (not the flexible straps) is 79″ tall. By comparison, we can park with the shorter Alta Rack in our garage with either vehicle. On our Honda, the tallest point of the Alta is almost a foot shorter at 67.5″.
The HangTight does have a work around for this issue though. The telescoping mast can be lowered so that the rack becomes shorter than your car. This is easy, but does require tools. If your ride infrequently, this won’t be a big inconvenience. But if you ride often, this could quickly become annoying to adjust before and after every ride. (Your rear window is also blocked in this lowered position.)
NOTE: Don’t try to park in your garage with any loaded vertical rack – you can ruin your rack or your bikes if they don’t clear the garage opening – which you most likely won’t.
High Hitch vs Low Hitch Vehicles – Ground Clearance
There are two types of ground clearance you need to worry about with a vertical rack – the longest bike’s rear tire, and the hinge point of the rack.
With our high-hitch Grand Cherokee, we had plenty of ground clearance for both the hinge point and the rear tire of our XL Santa Cruz Hightower.
On our low-hitch Honda Pilot, we also had sufficient clearance in our very average driveway. However, in a neighbor’s steep driveway, I only had about 2″ clearance with an empty rack and car. With a car full of people and a full rack, I most likely would have bottomed out.
If you have a low-hitch car and a steep driveway, most vertical racks will be an issue for you. However, the Alta Rack’s uniquely angled hitch arm has never bottomed out on us, and is ideal for low-hitch vehicles.
Yakima HangTight Compatibility with your Bikes
Will your fleet of bikes work with the Yakima HangTight? Read on to find out!
Capacity – How many bikes do you need to carry?
The Yakima HangTight comes in two different models – 4 bike or 6 bike. While this will serve the vast majority of bike enthusiasts, if you prefer more flexibility in your capacity options, other vertical racks on the market have more options. Alta Racks have racks for 3, 4, 5, or 6 bikes, while Velocirax has racks from 3 to 7 capacity.
You could technically remove a handlebar cradle to change the overall bike capacity of the rack, but the HangTight’s spacing will only be even with 4 or 6 cradles.
Wheel Size and Tire Width
Because the HangTight hangs the bikes by the handlebars, you are much less constrained with wheel and tire size that you are with a typical platform rack, or a vertical rack that hangs bikes by a tire basket.
Without the need for any adapter, the HangTight can accommodate wheel sizes 20″ to 29″, and tires up to 5″ wide. With vertical hanging racks that have tire baskets (like Alta Racks and Velocirax), you need separate baskets for fat bikes. Additionally, Velocirax cannot carry 20″ kids bikes, while Alta Racks can with the use of a special basket.
Here you can see 20″, 26″, 27.5″, and 29″ bikes hanging from the HangTight.
Handlebar Style, Width, and Spacer Height
While you may not need to worry about wheel size or tire width as much, you do need to pay careful attention to the style and dimensions of your handlebars and headset. Yakima’s official guidance is that your stem should be longer than 40 mm, and that you may need to add a 5 mm spacer under the stem. You’ll need a set up like that so that the stem can clear the handlebar cradle.
If you have a bike with a slammed down stem, you may run into an issue. But for our fleet of mountain bikes, we had no problems.
With handlebar cradles that are about 5″ apart, you may need to move or remove hardware mounted on your handlebars – like a phone mount or reflector.
You also need to consider the width of your handlebars. Narrow handlebars that place brake or gearing cables closer to the headset may not have enough clear space to ratchet down the handlebar straps.
And what about carbon handlebars? While Yakima states that the HangTight is safe to use with carbon bars, it’s ultimately your bike and your decision.
What does all of this mean for you though? It really depends on the type of bikes you’ll be carrying.
Compatibility with Mountain Bikes
The HangTight’s handlebar cradles are designed to be an exceptional fit for most modern mountain bikes with wide, flat handlebars, stems longer than 40mm, and plenty of spacers between the stem and the head. We could easily hang every bike in our mountain bike fleet. (Santa Cruz, Diamondback, Specialized).
If you happen to have a bike with minimal spacing between your stem and your head tube, your bike may not be able to hang properly in the cradle. Yakima actually recommends adding a spacer if you can.
Compatibility with Dropper Bars
If you’ve got a road bike or gravel bike with dropper bars, the HangTight should work! However it can only carry a maximum of four bikes with dropper bars. To make the four bikes fit on the HangTight 6, you’ll have to remove two of the handlebar cradles entirely, and then rearrange the middle two cradles so that the cradles are all evenly spaced on the bar. There are additional holes on the top horizontal bar specifically for this.
What if you have the HangTight 6 and you only want to carry one or two road or gravel bikes? You don’t have to re-arrange all four of the middle cradles, but the close spacing of six cradles can be problematic.
With both of our road bikes, the protruding brake lever ends up sitting in the cradle next to it. If the spacing is right, you could just leave it that way, but it’s possible may need to remove the cradle.
Compatibility with 20″ and 24″ Kids Bikes
While most 20″ and 24″ kids bikes should fit with the Yakima HangTight, we had an issue with two of the 20″ bikes we tried. The woom 4 has a very unique stem design that did not fit well in the handlebar cradles.
The Prevelo Alpha Three’s trigger shifter wire rubbed up against the ratcheting strap. While technically it fit, we would be worried that the pressure point there could have a negative effect on the shifting system. This is a result of the narrow handlebars of a 20″ bike setting the wiring closer to the handlebar cradle than on a larger bike with wider handlebars.
If your 20″ bike has a non-traditional handlebar or stem, or has gears, there is the potential for it not to fit on the HangTight.
For cruiser and casual kids bikes with U-shaped handlebars, it really depends on how deep the “U” is. We were successfully able to hang this 20″ Raleigh Jazzi without issue.
Compatibility with 16″ and Smaller Kids Bikes
While Yakima’s official spec states 20″ to 29″ bikes, we were successfully able to finagle some 16″ bikes, and even 12″ balance bikes onto the HangTight! While we cannot guarantee that all bikes this size will fit, without gears and the associated wiring, we found that it was often easier to fit these bikes with the handlebar cradles and straps.
We found that small bikes are most likely to fit if they have flat or low-rise handlebars. 16″ bikes and smaller that have higher rise handlebars (with or without a horizontal bar between them) probably won’t fit.
Many 16″ bikes we tried were long enough to reach the rear tire cradle, which was a huge and unexpected bonus! However, the shorter stems of these 16″ bikes weren’t entirely compatible with the HangTight’s handlebar cradles. While they could be safely secured, the bikes hang at an angle because the stem doesn’t clear the cradle and the head tube rests against the cradle, preventing the bike’s frame from freely rotating.
While hanging at an angle didn’t actually cause any interference with the bike next to it, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to carry your bikes that way.
If you’re looking to hang a 14″ bike or a balance bike, that may be possible. While the wheelbase isn’t long enough for the rear tire to reach the cradle, you could easily use a bungee cord to secure the rear wheel to the rack’s lower bar.
Also remember that if the spacing between the head tube and the stem isn’t long enough, the bike will hang at an angle. Because there is so much spacing between bikes, this probably won’t be an issue.
Weight Capacity – Lower than Other Vertical Racks
Compared to other vertical bike racks on the market, the Yakima HangTight has a lower per bike weight capacity of 37.5 pounds. As a comparison, Alta Racks have a 50 pound per bike capacity, while Velocirax has 55 pounds per bike.
For many, many families, this will not be an issue. But if you need to carry e-bikes, the HangTight is most likely not for you. Additionally, if you have an XL downhill bike or a fat bike, the HangTight’s lower per-bike weight capacity could also be an issue. Even our Medium entry-level Specialized StumpJumper weighs 36 pounds.
As mentioned previously, this 37.5-pound weight limit is lower than the weight limits of Yakima’s popular platform racks, like the HoldUp EVO at 50 pounds per bike. If you are only hauling 4 or fewer heavier bikes and want to stick with Yakima, be sure to read our review of the HoldUp EVO platform rack. If you have e-bikes, the Yakima OnRamp would be an even better option with a 66 per bike weight capacity!
Other Features to Consider on the HangTight
While the following features should have less weight in your purchase decision than those discussed above, they are still important and may just be a deciding factor for you between the Yakima HangTight and another bike rack.
Compact Storage On and Off the Car
Our favorite feature of the HangTight may just be its telescoping rear mast. While it does require tools to lower, once lowered, the mast makes the rack super low profile for storage on or off the car.
Our other vertical and platform bike racks are pretty huge and cumbersome, whether we’re storing them on our cars or in the garage. But look how small the Yakima HangTight 6 is once that mast is lowered!
That said, depending on your vehicle, if you intend to store your rack on your car, lowering the mast can actually decrease driver visibility out the rear window. When raised and unloaded, the center mast is the only thing I can see out the rear window of my Honda Pilot. When lowered, the upper bar and cradles obstruct my view.
No Rear Hatch Access While Bikes are Loaded
When the Yakima HangTight is loaded with bikes, it cannot be lowered for access to the car’s rear hatch. This is a feature that we found pretty frustrating, given that mostly every other platform and every vertical rack that we have can be lowered while loaded with bikes.
If you have the Yakima HangTight 4 (not the 6!), you can purchase the Yakima BackSwing which allows the rack to swing away horizontally when the rack is loaded. However, this adds $400 to the cost of your rack!
The HangTight can be lowered for hatch access when it isn’t carrying any bikes by simply pushing down on the foot lever at the base of the rack.
If rear access is a must-have feature for you, be sure to check out the Alta Rack or Velocirax vertical bike racks.
The HangTight installs on your car just like any other hitch rack. The rack arm is inserted into the hitch receiver, and a hitch pin is inserted through a set of holes.
The hitch pin must be tightened with a wrench. The Yakima comes with a lock to secure the rack to the hitch and prevent theft of the rack.
Locking Bikes on on the HangTight
The Yakima HangTight does not come with a locking bike cable, but one can be purchased separately, and thread through the rack’s mast. While a locking cable would certainly deter a very casual thief, anyone really intent on stealing your bikes will have a tool that can easily cut through that cable.
We don’t recommend ever leaving your bikes on your car when they are out of your sight, no matter what bike rack you have.
Yakima does offer a limited lifetime warranty for the original purchaser, which you can read about here.
Yakima HangTight 6 Bottom Line
When it comes to vertical hitch bike racks, there are quite a few choices out there. The Yakima HangTight is a solid-quality option that is currently the only vertical rack that can be purchased from REI.
We love that it can easily carry 20″ kids bikes, and even some 16″, 14″, and balance bikes! Its other huge benefit is its ample spacing between bikes that makes bike or pedal contact very rare. And that spacing actually makes it possible to remove a bike from the middle of the rack if you need to drop one of your crew off first.
It’s important to keep in mind that the HangTight is rather tall and can be difficult to load on high-hitch vehicles. (You might need a step stool.) Additionally, you probably won’t be able to park in your garage without lowering the mast.
If you’re looking for a vertical hitch bike rack with rear hatch access while the bikes are loaded, you can purchase the Yakima BackSwing to use with the Yakima HangTight 4 (not the 6).