How do you get your mountain bike to your favorite trailhead? Roof rack? Trunk rack? Maybe you load it into your truck bed and hope it doesn’t go flying around during your drive.
Truck tailgate pads are probably the most affordable, easiest to use, and most widespread accessories a mountain bike owner can own, you will agree that they make the perfect alternative to racks.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the reviews!
Best Overall: Race Face T2 Tailgate Pad
Whether you prefer the pattern on the “Patina” or the “In-ferno,” either of these tailgate pads will do the job. Sold in both Large and XLarge sizes, this pad’s textile will take a beating since the material is PVC tarpaulin, and these bags feature a micro-brushed inner lining to safeguard truck interiors and bikes.
Weighing in at 9 pounds and measuring 62(L)- x 6(D)- x 14(H)-inches, this pad is designed to safeguard up to 6 bikes at a time and it is made to fit most full-size trucks. Fitted with raised bike spacers and padding, six hook-and-frame adjustment straps along the top edge help contour this pad to your tailgate’s shape.
This Race Face pad hasn’t met an incompatible truck tailgate, and the pad offers the driver a clear rear view since it features an adjustable, patent-pending rear camera panel.
Raised bumpers and down tube straps contribute to ride security, and Race Face marketers add that those raised bumpers keep frame tubes from coming into contact with each other.
As a result, you, the truck, and the bikes arrive at their destination in exactly the same shape they were in before you left home. Stock on both styles tends to deplete fast, so if the size and pattern you like are available, grab it before it disappears.
Related: Best Cheap Mountain Bikes
Best for compact pickups: Thule GateMate PRO Tailgate Pad
Another brisk seller, the comparably priced Thule GateMate PRO Tailgate pad gets high marks from mountain bikers who worry about the conditions of their rides all the way to the next trailhead.
Measuring 52(L)- x 15.5(H)- x 2.75(D)-inches (this is the smaller version; a larger size is available), this is the ideal solution for compact pickups. Offering padded protection crafted of ultra-durable, heavy-duty vinyl filled with foam padding ready to keep your bikes and gear from shifting and your truck interior from getting scratched.
Bikes protected by this pad are constrained from moving around by integrated Thule “Knock-Blocks” that keep both the truck and the cargo from sustaining damage.
Integrated strap anchor points and a handle hood give bikers convenient access to the tailgate’s handle, so no need to remove the pad to gain access. This GateMate is also made to provide drivers backup camera visibility. Inside mesh pockets will restrain all kinds of gear from getting lose, no matter how fast you drive to your destination.
Best Budget Pick: Demon Tailgate Pad for Mountain Bikes w/ Tool Pocket
Do you own the mother of all pickup trucks? Got a budget that begs for mercy? Don’t let the brand name fool you: This Demon Tailgate Pad is impressively-sized (62-inches wide), and it costs about half the amount of money you would fork over if you chose another product on our list.
Value? You bet. This pad even features a tool pocket to stow mechanical aids, secure bike frame straps, and if the size of your truck has made you the go-to dude charged with the responsibility of bringing the entire team’s bikes to a competition, this pad safeguards up to 7 of them.
The heavy-duty vinyl exterior plus ultra-soft underside fabric protect vehicle exteriors, and the ¾-inch foam fill cushions bikes and constrains them so the bikes won’t move around when you can least afford to have them do so.
There’s a handle access flap to help you access the load even if the pad remains in place, and the Velcro-trimmed web cinch straps hold everything securely. Don’t fear the night! This pad’s logo-embellished reflective panel signals your presence even on the darkest road.
Fox Racing Protective Tailgate Cover
Make a statement when you decide between the camouflage outer design and the brand’s Fox logo that splashes across a black background about your intention to tear up some ground once you arrive at the trailhead you’ve chosen for your next adventure.
This well-reviewed and affordable tailgate cover measures 34(L)- x 19(H)- x 62(W)-inches and weighs nearly 12 pounds, so it’s heftier than pricier tailgate covers in this review. That means you get an impressive amount of padded protection for bikes while keeping your truck ding-free.
Use the flap to gain access to the tailgate handle without having to remove the cover and secure your bikes in place using six long webbing straps that hold as tenaciously as a mother mountain lion protecting a cub.
Bring between 5 and 6 bikes along for your adventure and no worries if you’ve had issues getting pads on and off in the past. You just toss this one on, stow the bikes, secure the straps, and get moving.
Swagman TAILWHIP Tailgate Pad
This versatile Swagman Tailwhip Tailgate Pad is one of the most popular sellers on our list, which is why it can be hard to find online.
Mountain bikers are clearing shelves of this accessory point to convenience because they prefer this brand and design. The Tailwhip Pad is manufactured with large built-in flaps for fast tailgate handle access so you don’t have to remove it to get to items stowed inside. A soft chamois-type material covers the interior, so bikes won’t get scratched.
Installation takes minutes and to make sure you get it right, assembly instructions are included. Install the pad, load the bikes, strap them down, grab your mates, and off you go to your favorite trailhead.
No matter how long the drive, the five bikes (max) you’re carrying will arrive in pristine condition thanks to a pairing of high-density foam fill and tenacious Velcro straps. This pad is compatible with many truck sizes, so if you win a mountain bike competition and use the prize money to trade your pickup in for a new one, your pad will fit your new ride, too.
evoc Tailgate PAD
Whether you need an M/L tailgate pad or your pickup truck requires an XL one, this evoc Tailgate pad, made to exacting specifications in Germany, will do a great job of keeping your bicycles constrained on your way to your favorite mountain trail.
Unlike products that are competitively priced, this product is made entirely of silk tarpaulin that is cut- and water-resistant and UV-stable. Six thick Velcro straps hold tight, and the quick-access tailgate release is a favorite feature of cyclists who are always in a hurry to get where they’re going.
Hold up to 6 bikes when you set off for a long or short excursion, and don’t worry about inconvenience along the way or at your final destination. This evoc pad not only makes it easy to reach and access the loading flap lever that gets you into the truck, but there’s a fold-away flap located at the site of the rear view camera you use to help navigate your vehicle safely.
Color choices include black and olive, the pad measures 30(L)- x 20(H) x 5(W)- inches, and thanks to the silk material, it weighs only 4.55 pounds.
Yakima GateKeeper Tailgate Pad
Ever wonder why a company that makes bike products would choose Yakima as its name? Because mountain biking is the ultimate getaway and the word Yakima refers to an old native American Tribal legend that ascribes the name to “runaway.”
These days, you can’t runaway property without a tailgate pad to protect your precious cargo, and that’s the objective of this product, crafted with a durable nylon exterior with a soft felt backing that keeps bikes cushioned while being transported.
Proprietary, integrated SitTight bike cradles add stability and protection, the HindSight tuck-away cover opens to reveal your backup camera and the hook-and-loop cradle closure system is especially kind to carbon bike frames.
Choose the large size if your normal bike load is six or opt for the medium size, designed to secure five bikes. Both sizes offer the same benefits: rugged outer material chosen because it resists abrasion and weather damage.
An integrated strap management system secures everything on your way up the mountain and remembers that size matters when you choose a mountain bike tailgate pad. The large one measures 62(W)- x 20(L)- x 7(D)- inches while the medium size measures 53(W)- x 17(L)- x 5(D)-inches.
Dakine Pickup Pad DLX
This large, black DLX Pickup Pad from Dakine offers you a simple, easy way to get your mountain bikes from your house to the trailhead without having to stop along the way to make sure the sounds you hear aren’t those of bikes moving around before you get to your destination.
Individual bike anchors secure up to 7 bikes if you choose this Dakine product, so no matter how rugged the terrain happens to be on your way to Nirvana, your cargo won’t budge. All it takes to get your hands on the tailgate handle is to reach through the large-access flap, and you’re in.
This large Dakine pad made of 1000D recycled polyester with UV weather coating is 60-inches wide, and the pad is engineered to give truck drivers a clear view of everything reflected in the vehicle’s rear-view camera.
A fleece lining backs up the polyester textile to protect the vehicle from getting scratched or marred. Four web cinch straps keep this pickup pad securely in place. Dakine recommends selecting this product for trucks with “new tailgate designs,” so think about that before buying.
What should you look for when selecting a tailgate pad?
Best materials for tailgate pads
When Outdoor Gear Lab testers sampled a variety of materials used by manufacturers to make these products, they were most enthused about soft lining materials used to cover undersides of pads that best ensured avoidance of coming into contact with tailgate paint.
Exterior material recommendations emphasize durability, strength, tenacity, and the ability to survive rough treatment plus the assaults of weather. What should you look for? Any of the rubberized coatings on the market – especially polyurethane and vinyl. Our jury is still out on the evoc Tailgate pad’s resilience made of some type of silk hybrid.
The importance of durability
Having already eluded to durability in the previous section about materials, we turned to another resource for added data. Folks evaluating products on this website say,
“The best [pads] are made out of high-quality vinyl, which is both durable and heavy-duty.” Not only do they protect bikes and truck interiors, but vinyl stands the test of time.
Just about everyone agrees that foam padding has no equal, and if the pad you pick features a handle, durability is enhanced because that means the pad isn’t exposed to the wear-and-tear that comes when a pad is repeatedly put on and taken off.
Read more: Best Mountain Bikes for Beginners
Ease of installation
Unless you like the idea of spending more time installing your mountain bike tailgate pad than it takes to get to your ride sites, you’ll pick a product that is easy to install and just as easy to remove.
Where to find this valuable information? Don’t count on the manufacturer. Count on people who bought the product and are not shy about writing reviews to discuss their satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
For cyclists who have already been down the bumpy road of lousy tailgate pad ownership, it’s especially important to read reviews so you don’t repeat your mistake.
Yes, size matters
Editors at Gear Hungry compare buying the wrong size bike tailgate pad with buying a shirt size that is so small, you can hardly function. Their take on the topic?
Size really does matter. Experts at Truck Tent Center agree and say that shape is equally important when making a buying decision adding that it is also important to factor in shape. A pad that neither conforms nor contours to fit your vehicle may not be able to protect your truck or your bikes.
Do your homework. Find out which size and shape are ideal for your truck by searching manufacturing brand recommendations and then double down on your own measurements just to verify that size recommendation.
The right straps for the right job
Outdoor Gear Lab offers an excellent take on strap choices. These essentials keep bikes from moving around and inflicting damage on both the cycles and the truck interior, especially when you travel over dicey roads that make you glad your seat belt straps are in place.
Look for straps that are “fixed to the pad or secured to the webbing on the pad with an additional Velcro tab.” When straps are fastened to the pad itself, you can’t lose them, even when they’re not doing their jobs.
What is a bike tailgate pad?
These thick, rectangular, foam-filled pads fold over and attach to pickup truck tailgates so mountain bikes can be secured to the vehicle. The front wheel and fork are positioned outside the tailgate.
Most come with straps to keep the bike from roaming; some feature bumpers to keep multiple bikes onboard from touching each other during the ride.
Read more: Best Affordable Mountain Bikes
Tailgate pads save truck exteriors from paint scratches and other damage and they are quickly replacing racks that may not work with new bikes made with bigger wheels and tires, longer frames, and suspension modifications.
Tailgate pads featured in our review will set you back anywhere from $100 to $200. They’re cheaper than racks, kinder to your vehicle and your wallet, too.
How to install a bike tailgate pad
These general directions may not be exactly what it takes to install the pad you bought since manufacturers put proprietary twists on their designs. That said, your first move is to close the tailgate, lay the pad over the top, and feed the straps through the space between the tailgate and the tray.
Continue to thread the straps and tighten them. Experts at Ridert.com agree that the biggest mistakes mountain bike owners make if they want to ensure the longevity of their pad are
1) Not rotating the pad often enough so it doesn’t wear evenly, and
2) Not properly repositioning straps when adjustments are made. Do the job carelessly and you risk losing a strap to the wind during the drive.
That stated you did read our recommendation about choosing a tailgate pad that features attached straps, right?