Many cyclists need to transport their bikes by car from time to time, and unless they have a spacious van or truck, it can be a difficult task — leaving chain grease on the backseats and a frustrated driver at the wheel. But with the help of a bike rack, transporting your bikes is a breeze. We’ve broken down the options to help you decide which rack is best for your car.
Basically, there are 3 different types of bike racks: the trunk rack, the roof rack, and the hitch rack. Some types don’t work on certain vehicles, so make sure to verify your car’s size and compatibility specs before making a purchase.
Trunk racks typically hold between 2 and 4 bicycles and are attached to the vehicle through a series of adjustable straps and hooks. The bikes hang from horizontal arms that reach out from an A-type frame.
- Pros: Trunk racks are simple, versatile, lightweight, and easy to install and remove. They also fold down for easy storage and can fit on both sedans and hatchbacks.
- Cons: Would-be thieves can quickly cut the straps and remove the rack from your vehicle, making away with it and your bike. The rack may also damage your vehicle’s finish after sustained use.
- Ease of installation: So easy a child can do it. If you don’t have your own children, you can hire someone else’s. Or just do it yourself.
There are 2 types of roof racks — one mounts onto a generic roof, and the other onto factory-installed rooftop rails. Be sure to check your vehicle’s roof to determine which of these options would be best for you. Most roof racks hold 2 bicycles, but 3- and 4-bike versions are also available.
Once installed, simply lift your bicycle onto the rack and attach it. Typically, this entails resting the wheels in metal channels and raising a stabilizing bar to hook to the bike’s downtube. Some racks, however, require that you remove the bike’s front wheel and then secure its fork to a mounting point on the rack.
- Pros: Roof racks are the least susceptible to theft, and have the most streamlined look when not carrying bikes. Many roof racks are not bike-specific and therefore, can accommodate other attachments.
- Cons: They tend to be awkward for shorter people and for people without a lot of upper-body strength. They also increase your car’s height when in use, and can be problematic at drive-thrus, garages, and other low overhangs.
- Ease of installation: Medium difficulty. While handy people can generally install either type of roof rack on their own, it’s best to ask your local dealership to help you out.
If your car or truck has a hitch receiver, you may want to consider a hitch rack. The most important thing to note before purchasing a hitch rack is the size of your receiver. Hitch receivers typically come in one of 2 sizes (1¼” and 2″), and your rack will (obviously) need to be the corresponding size.
This type of rack typically accommodates 2-4 bikes and is secured to the hitch receiver with a simple cotter pin. And though it’s much heavier than a trunk rack, it can be installed and removed very easily.
- Pros: Because of its increased rack weight, it’s much less susceptible to theft.
- Cons: On the flip side, its increased weight makes it cumbersome to install and remove, and it can only be used on vehicles with trailer hitches.
- Ease of installation: They’re heavy, but simple to install and remove.
Once installed, remember to lock your bikes to the rack. Many racks include a hinged closure for each bike that accommodates a padlock. If yours doesn’t, use a chain or cable lock to loop around the bikes and rack to secure them to each other.
Always choose a lock that releases with a key instead of a combination, and make sure that chains or cables are thick enough to withstand cable cutters and have coverings to protect the finishes of your bike, rack, and car. And with any rack on which the bikes hang (such as the trunk or vertical hitch rack), secure the steering columns of the bikes so they don’t spin around and knock into each other or the car while you’re in motion.
Wherever you go, drive carefully and ride with a smile!