How to carry bikes on your car

By Samantha Stevens, 11 Aug 2016 Car Advice

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Bikes on car roof racks

There are different ways to carry bikes on cars, each with their own pros and cons.

You may not be joining the hardcore Lycra brigade just yet. However, if the family’s biking habit is getting serious enough, a bike carrier may be next on the shopping list.

But don’t rush out to buy a tow bar or roof racks just yet – explore all the options available to find the product that best suits both sets of wheels

TOWBAR-MOUNTED CARRIER

A popular way to carry bikes is on the car’s towbar. Fitting up to four bikes at a time, the ability to mount them on the car without too much lifting is a definite advantage.

Gone are the days of the fixed coathanger bike rack, though the current crop of foldable and lockable versions of this basic carrier are still the cheapest and lightest option. The downside is boot access, which can be a little awkward once all the bikes are in place.

You can buy tiltable or even swing-away racks that allow easy access to the boot for a little more money. These are typically platform-style racks, which not only allow for better boot access but are easier to load and unload.

Up to four bikes can be placed onto a platform extending out from the towball and locking in by their wheels and frame.

Some have light connectors for brake and turn signals which are similar to a trailer, and requiring a trailer plug to operate them. These types of bike carriers extend the car’s length significantly and are bulkier and heavier, though will still fold for storage. They also cost more than the simple racks, some significantly so. 

BOOT-MOUNTED CARRIER

No towball? No problem. Another option, particularly for the occasional bike transporter, is a rear or boot-mounted carrier. Fixed to the boot face, up to four bikes can be carried on its racks.  

Again, it can be locked to the car, doesn’t require the bikes to be lifted too high and is easily folded and stored.

There are some notable downsides: Access to the boot from the outside is not possible with the bikes mounted, and the rack must fit around the car’s body style as components such as rear spoilers and wipers can impede their use.

The same goes for the contact points of the car. The rack needs to be secured to the boot lid frame, not just the sheet metal, in order to hold the weight of the bikes. Matching up the right carrier to your car, or a professional fitting, is a must. 

ROOF CARRIERS

If access to the back is a must, carrying bikes on roof racks may be the best alternative.  If you already have roof racks, either built in or fitted, it can also be a good option financially.

You must check out all the alternatives for mounting the bike by the frame, fork or wheel, and what is easiest and best for both the car and the type of bike.

There are systems that enable bikes to be mounted entirely by one person. Others don’t require you to take off the wheels each time, though this depends on your bike type.

Roof racks are only good for one or two bikes so they’re not usually an option for families that drive and ride together.

You also have to think like a truck driver and remember the height of your vehicle has increased significantly. One can’t simply pull into the covered garage with bikes still on top. The same goes for the drive-through Maccas run after all that exercise – though that may not necessarily be a bad thing.