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How to Get the Right Bike Rack to Carry your Bicycle Easily and Safely

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

A bike rack is a necessity if you want to transport your bicycle safely. Consequently, by trying to transport your bicycle in the trunk, you can create serious damage to it. In light of that, here are a few tips and facts about choosing, buying and installing the right bike racks.

What Is Your Bike Rack Going to Haul

bike rack

The first choice in picking a rack is deciding what you will be transporting. Most trunk racks can only accommodate 3 bikes, so if you plan to carry more, that leaves you with roof or hitch racks. Furthermore, If you plan to carry kayaks or skis, that leaves a hitch rack as your only option. So before picking your rack, be sure you know what you are carrying.

Roof Bike Racks

Roof racks mount exactly as you would expect, on the roof of your car. Typically, they are made up of three parts; Load bars, feet, and bike tray. The load bars are sized to match the width of your car and span from one side of the vehicle to the other. The feet, hold the load bar and mount onto the vehicle. Feet are specific to your vehicle and can mount to the rain gutters, factory roof rack, or door wells. A bike tray mounts to the load bars and holds your bicycle. Different bike trays can hold your bike by its fork, downtube, or wheels. Considering roof racks are the most complicated type of rack, they are also the most expensive. However, once you have a rack system, the individual attachments for bikes, skis, kayaks or any other product are relatively inexpensive.

Hitch Bike Racks

bike rack

A hitch rack fits into a receiver installed on the back of your vehicle (see image below). The receiver doesn’t need to be rated to pull a trailer, just hold the bike rack. Hitch racks are made to carry up to 5 bikes, all on the back of the car. Some versions require you to remove the bikes to access your trunk while some others can swing away from your vehicle with all bikes installed. Additionally, hitch racks can be locked to the car and bikes can be locked to it. The great thing about hitch racks is the cost starts very low.

Trunk Bike Racks

bike rack

Trunk racks, also known as strap racks, mount to the back of a car, by way of fabric straps and rubber hooks. The hooks fit into the gap between your car and its trunk. The attached straps get tightened down to secure the rack into place. Trunk racks typically have a maximum of 3 bikes. Due to the fact that they use fabric straps, trunk racks are not a good resource to lock your bike. They are however very inexpensive and easy to store when not in use.

Bike Rack Installation

The tough part about bike racks, is that there are almost as many racks as there are cars and each car requires a different fit. Sadly, there is no one best way to install a rack. With that being said, rack manufacturers like Thule, Saris, and Yakima publish a fit guide to help out. Most of these brands are displayed at your local bike shop, so stop in and check them out. Remember, if you are going to install the rack yourself, follow the manufacturers guidelines for trouble use and to make sure your equipment is safe.