Since I’ve been riding, I’ve been seeking the best ways to carry my bike to the places that I want to ride. Taking the family camping with bikes over a weekend, hauling a car full of friends and bikes to an organized charity ride or a mountain bike race, or just simply taking my road bike to work for a lunch ride with coworkers; hauling bikes can be a challenge. Stressing out while driving, worrying if that speedbump loosned the straps, or hoping the high winds don’t rip the bike off the rack… All unnecessary if you make the right choice for your needs. Taking the wheels off and stuffing the bike in the boot just isn’t an option, either. Here’s my process for helping people make their decisions:
CHOOSING THE RIGHT RACK FOR YOU
Step 1 – choose the method of carrying the bike(s) – there’s a lot to consider before you make this choice.
- Receiver hitch or towball (rear)
- Trunk or hatch
- Spare Tyre on rear of car
Step 2 – Choose what you want to carry and identify any challenging features of the bikes that might guide your choices:
- Bicycles, how many?
- Do you have different bikes that you need to carry? Kids bike, road bike, mountain bike, cuiser, tandem, fatbike, etc.
- Do you have any bikes with features that might be challenging for a rack to hold? Step-thru/women’s bikes, super thin carbon frames, different wheel sizes, fat tyres, fenders, super-small frames…
- Will you ever want to use a car-top box for extra carrying capacity?
- Do you do another sports or activities that you might want to adapt the rack for? surfboards, kayak, stepladders, lumber, skis, etc?
- Do you haul a trailer often? If so, will you need another solution for those times in order to carry bikes?
Step 3 – Figure out if the bike or equipment you have is easily adaptable to the rack system you prefer. An experienced retailer can help you identify the system that works best for you.
Note: this requires experience and expertise with a wide array of racks. Things such as wheel size, frame design, frame material, bike size or other factors might dictate the systems that work best for your needs.
Step 4 – Work with a retailer that can both source the equipment you need, but might also offer advice on challenges you might face or even alternatives in brands or styles that might suit you.
We are a premium Thule dealer and have access to many other brands and models to suit your needs. Give us a call to get started. – 03 9557 6461
These systems are typically modular and are very adaptable to carrying other things like boats, cartop boxes, or even trade supplies, but they require the purchase of additional hardware for each use. Once the feet and crossbars are purchased (approx $200-400AUS for most cars), you then purchase a bike tray for each bike that you will carry ($249AUS or more, each). See what systems are available for your car: Thule’s Car Fit Guide
Questions that you may need to consider for rooftop racks: What roof type does your car have? (factory rails, factory mounting points, gutters, smooth top, two door or four? etc) How tall is the vehicle? From where you commonly park, is it practical to be lifting your bike(s) on & off? How heavy is your bike? Are you strong enough to lift it and work the clamping hardware at the same time? Do you have help to get the bikes up, do you typically do it yourself? Do you have or do you frequent a parking garage? What level of security do you require? How many bikes and what style frames/wheel size do they have?
There’s a lot to consider and we’re here to help you prioritise all the different things that you will encounter, it helps to have someone with experience to guide you through this process.
Hitch and towball considerations:
These systems depend on whether you have a tongue/towball setup, or have a receiver hitch – which comes in 2 sizes (Inch & a quarter, or two inch). It’s common for SUV’s and utes to come with a receiver hitch, but one might have to be installed. Few cars have towballs or hitches, but they can be installed. Most installers consider the towing capacity of the car, but bike racks put their weight directly on the hitch, so it’s tongue weight (bikes+racks) that you need to consider. If your car has a flat bar with a towball only, then you are limited to racks that mount directly to the ball or in place of the ball. I have found the 2″ receiver has the most flexibility (up to four bikes) and have had one installed on my last three cars. The rack model availability for the smaller hitch size (inch & a quarter) tops out at two bikes, but that’s fine for a lot of people. There are many made for the bigger-size two inch receivers and the capacity is up to four bikes. Many dealers will recommend against smaller cars and SUV’s getting the two inch, so in my case I found a custom installer who would do it.
*Australian law, and individual state laws have different requirements for plate visibility and lighting and whether you may have a rack mounted to the car with no bikes on it, so one should consider these things when choosing an appropriate rack.
Rear Mount Racks:
Whether you have a small sedan, hatchback, or SUV, one of the least expensive options for holding bikes is a clip-on rear rack. Most of these fold flat and take up little room in the car or garage when not in use, so they are convenient and lightweight. These are most common for people who may only use them a few times per year, so we would recommend a better solution for people who travel often with their bike(s). Installing them properly can be a challenge, as the straps need to be tight on top, bottom and the sides, but may loosen when hitting a bump in the car with the rack fully loaded. Some proper instructions from your retail rack expert can help avoid the pitfalls and help you get the most from a trunk rack.
Spare Tyre Racks:
If you have a spare tyre on the rear of your car, there are several companies that make a rack that will hang on the tyre itself – given your spare tyre mountain hardware can hold the additional weight. If your tyre is mounted to one side, most racks allow you to reposition the arms so that they are centered on the car – so the bikes don’t hang out to one side of the vehicle. Some of these racks mount to the bolt hardware in the centre of the wheel, some hang on the wheel and are relatively easy to install or remove when not in use. These are convenient systems; they fold flat, mount fairly easily, and maximum capacity is usually two bikes for one of these systems.
Fork Mounts – Simple but effective
These handy little accessories sometimes can be the simplest solution, almost always the most cost effective. You can mount these to a piece of wood, to a crossbar of a utility rack, or even directly to a surface of your vehicle like a bed cover or bed liner. If you have a thru-axle mountain bike there are additional axle holders & adapters to purchase. Security depends on the one you buy, some lock and some don’t.