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Car Racks - How to Transport Your Bicycle

Transporting your bike seems easy enough. Just shoot down to your local retailer and purchase a rack, mount it to your car, load up your bike, and off you go.

Not so fast.

When choosing a bike rack, you will have to consider your vehicle type, your space requirements, the type of bike(s) you ride, the number of bikes you want to transport at a time, your price range, and how frequently you plan to use your bike rack. Take into consideration which characteristics are right for your needs.

First, you'll want to check the availability of racks that are compatible with your particular vehicle make and model. Most popular vehicles will accommodate either roof or rear mount racks, but this is not always the case. Do your homework, as some manufacturers do not offer all rack styles for all makes and models of vehicles.

Bike transport racks fall into two general categories: roof-mounted and rear-mounted.

Roof Mount Racks

Bicycle Roof Rack

Roof mounted racks position your bikes up and out of the way of your vehicle's perimeter. This helps with maneuvering into tight parking spots and provides an unobstructed view of your surroundings. Roof racks do not block the trunk or doors and provide easy-access to your vehicle for additional passengers and equipment.

Roof-mounted bikes add height to your vehicle and this can be an issue with low underpasses such as garages, drive-thru’s, and hotel lobby entrances.

Bike mounting can vary between roof rack models. Fork mounted racks require removing the front wheel and clamping the fork to a mount, as well as strapping the rear wheel into a tray. Frame-mounted roof racks have an arm that clamps to your bike frame and keeps your front wheel on your bike. Roof racks can be more limited in selection if your vehicle has a unique roof line.

Find a Roof Mount Rack

Rear Mount Racks

Rear mounted racks have many appealing qualities: easy bike mounting, lower wind resistance (think gas mileage), easy installation and removal. There are 4 basic types of rear mount racks:

Bicycle Hitch Rack Hitch racks mount to a receiver on a vehicle and are very secure and stable. They have the ability to transfer quickly to other vehicles with a minimum of adjustment, and make loading and unloading bikes easy due to their lower overall height. Another attractive feature of hitch racks is they do not contact your vehicle's finish. Some hitch mounted racks swing or fold to allow easy access to the vehicle for equipment or passengers. Most cars, trucks, and SUV's will accept some type of trailer/receiver hitch, allowing an endless selection of receiver or ball mount racks due to their universal mounting interface.

» Read our Hitch Racks Basic Guide to find out which type of hitch rack is right for your vehicle.

Bicycle Trunk Rack Trunk racks strap to the trunk lid or hatch of a vehicle and are usually the most affordable type of rear mounted rack. They are a great choice for vehicles that do not have a roof or hitch rack option. Although they sometimes require removal to access the trunk area of a vehicle, installation and removal is very easy and can be done in minutes. Capacity is typically limited to two or three bikes.

Bicycle Truck Rack Truck bed racks are designed to increase stability of your bike(s) in a pick-up truck bed. Truck bed racks are very affordable and are easily installed and removed to regain access to your truck bed when needed.

Spare tire-mounted racks are designed for vehicles with an externally mounted spare tire. They incorporate the same mounting brackets as the spare itself. This type of rack is a viable option when an external spare tire interferes with the mounting of a hitch or trunk rack.

Tips for Driving with your Bike

Bike racks come in a broad range of syles to fit virtually every type of automobile. When selecting a system, consider these factors:
  1. Any unprotected bike-to-bike or bike-to-vehicle contact can result in damage. Pad and secure anything your rack cannot keep separated.
  2. Lock your bikes to the carrier, and the carrier to the vehicle. The piece of mind is worth the added expense. When carrying a bike inside your vehicle, cover it. Thieves they are less likely to covet what they cannot see.
  3. Strip the bike of any accessories before loading it onto the car. Seatpacks, cycle computers, water bottles and pumps should be safely and securely stowed inside your car.
  4. Many racks allow the front wheel to swing. To avoid damage to other bikes and the car secure their wheel with a strap or bungee.

Some General Tips for Using a Car Rack:

Never spin the folding quick-release lever to tighten your wheel. Hold the lever fully open and use the threaded nut on the opposite side of the lever to tighten. For proper tension, tighten the nut to the point where you begin to feel good tension when the lever is closed half-way. It should take a good amount of effort to close the lever completely. If in doubt, contact an experienced cyclist or your local bike shop for assistance.

Adding a bike rack to your vehicle is a great way to expand your cycling experience. There are many options available for choosing a car rack and the options can be very overwhelming. Selecting a rack is straightforward once you know the basics. For additional assistance, seek advice from our product support center (800-553-8325), a local bike shop or experienced cyclists in your area.

Rack up your bike and explore some new cycling opportunities!