Guest post by Harold Whitford, Bikeshaven.com
As fun as bringing a bike to your next outdoor excursion is, you can’t pack it in the trunk otherwise you’d have less or no space to carry the most essential items. You’ll need to use a bike rack instead, and the one you choose can be the difference between smooth transportation and a moving experience that leaves you overall disappointed with scratches and paint peels on your car.
How do you ensure the bike rack you are about to buy is the correct type or model? What factors should you consider before buying one? How exactly do you know if a bike rack will make the cut in the first place?
Here's everything you need to consider when buying a bike rack, so you can get your purchase correct the first time.
Bike Rack Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Carrier for Your Car
1. Type of Bike Rack
Choosing the right bike carrier starts with determining the type of rack to use. Apparently, there are many reviews and opinions on bike carriers for cars on the internet already. For example, you can check best bike rack reviews on BikesHaven, a cycling blog dedicated to cyclists who want to take their cycling to the next level.
In addition to that, we wanted to give you more details on each type of bike rack on the market to help you determine which model can be suitable for you.
Available in tray and mast style mounts, and built to attach to the tow hitch of a car, hitch carriers are ideal for bike owners who need a bike rack that’s quick and easy to load. With premium features like lightweight build, built-in locks, and repair stands, hitch carriers are undeniably the most versatile bike racks in the market right now.
You’ll love the secure attachment of these carriers. In other words, they feature a secure locking mechanism that attaches the rack to the vehicles and the bike to the rack, so either equipment is very hard to steal. Moreover, they have hinged load sections that allow you to access the trunk of a car without unloading the bike.
As reliable as hitch bike racks are, they tend to be the most expensive. For one, they’re more advanced in design than all other types. Second, they require that you have a hitch on your vehicle, which can add to the expense.
• They’re easy to install and allow easy load and access
• Hitch carriers are suitable for regular bike transportation
• They provide a decent level of security to your bike
• Fuel-friendly because they’re always behind a vehicle
• You’ll you need to a buy a towbar or hitch separately if your car doesn’t have one yet
• They’re generally expensive
• Reserve drive can be tricky and sometimes dangerous
• Basic models will hinder access to the trunk
As the name suggests, a roof mount rack, which can either be a fork or upright mount, attaches to the top of your car, allowing you maximum flexibility to load your bike leaving your trunk free for other significant items.
Some roof racks are designed to lock both wheels, while some require that you remove the front wheel before loading. Whichever model you choose, either will include locks that secure your bikes. Often, models that require you to remove the front wheel make bike loading easy, while those that let you keep both wheels require some hard work. They tend to be expensive and unfortunately less stable, but at least using them means you don’t have to remove and re-install wheels all the time.
Roof racks are great because they’re versatile. You can use them to bring more than just a bike on a road trip. And you don’t even have to remove them after use, unless it’s absolutely necessary that you do so.
• A secure, stable, and versatile bike rack that allows easy hauling
• Won’t hinder access to doors or trunk
• A very secure bike rack for your next road tour
• Wind adds aero drag, so you'll see a drop in your fuel efficiency
• Won’t fit in areas with low clearance
• Hard to reach to unload a bike
These bike racks are built to attach to the rear of a car using straps hooked to the lip of your car’s trunk. They’re the ideal option to consider if you’re on a budget since they are often the least expensive options.
Trunk bike racks aren’t the most secure, but they’re easy to adjust that they fit the rear of nearly any vehicle (check the manufacturers fit guide for more information). Trunk mounts can require a little bit of finesse to attach, so you may need the help of someone or spend some time putting the whole system in place correctly.
However, they can be ruthless on your car’s paint and may even leave scratches if you don’t pay close attention when mounting. Cleaning the areas from dirt/sand where the pads sit before attaching the rack can help alleviate scratches. Plus, most do not have a locking mechanism to secure your bike, so a thief can easily make away with your bicycle.
• Trunk mounts are inexpensive, so they’re also ideal for you if you’re on a budget
• They’re portable and convenient for occasional use
• Enable easy load and easy access to bikes
• Because they’re small, trunk mounts are easy to fold down for storage
• Not secure, so your bike is easy to steal
• Not the best for hauling a bike on a long distant drive
• Can damage your car’s paintwork as the bike tends to sway
This is the only good and reasonable option to consider if you’d like to mount your bike to a pickup. Not only is a truck mount pocket-friendly and lightweight, but it’s also easy to use straight out of the box.
They feature hooks and straps for fastening the rack to the hatches. In terms of carrying capacity, truck mounts can carry one, two, or three bikes depending on the build. However, they don’t offer the kind of stability suitable for all-terrain. As such, bikes are highly likely to sway as you drive.
• They’re inexpensive, suitable for drivers and cyclists on a budget
• You can use a model on multiple vehicles
• Good to consider if you need a bike rack for occasional use
• It’s easy to load and access a bike
• Depending on the model, trunk mounts can carry up to three bikes
• Not ideal for regular use
• Rack interferes with access to car’s trunk
• Bikes tend to sway on bumpy terrains
Other Factors to Consider Before Buying a Bike Rack for Your Car
Now that you know the different types of bike racks currently in the market, and their pros and cons, it’s time to look at other factors to consider when looking for a rack to transport your bike to your destination of outdoor adventure.
1. The Number of Bikes You Want to Transport
This is very important because you don’t want to stack up a bike on a rack that won’t handle the "pressure". Here's where you ask yourself, how many bikes do I need to carry? 1? 2? 3? Maybe even more?
Each bike rack, regardless of the model, has a varying number of cradles, with each built to carry only one bike at a time. So once you know how many bikes you'd like to carry, consider a rack that can match up to the job.
The maximum weight of the rack is also as important as the number of bikes it can carry. So you don’t want to leave out this factor when determining the number of bikes you want to carry.
Knowing how many pounds a rack can handle is actually a no brainer. If the rack carries one bike, keep an eye on the recommended weight from the manufacturer. If it carries more than one bike, manufacturers will often indicate weight per bike.
2. The Type of Car You Drive
Many car owners still struggle to figure out which rack is best for their car and end up with the wrong bike rack that won’t pack the punch. Understand that your car's model will greatly affect your option, so it's a determining factor that goes a long way to choose a model that suits your vehicle.
Manufacturers provide vehicle fit guides, which you can use to identify a rack that suits your car model.
You also need to check the outfitting of your car. If it has a receiver trailer hitch or crossbar, then what’s the size? These commonly come in 1.25" or 2" sizes.
3. Your Budget
Cost matters. All other factors considered, make sure you know how much you’re willing and able to afford, because it determines the type of bike rack that you can buy for your car.
If you’re one that values security as much as they appreciate cycling, you may wonder if bike racks have some anti-theft features. Well, some do, some don’t. Those that have feature locking systems that hinder thieves from stealing, so you have the confidence that your item is always going to be safe.
How effective a security feature is depends on how you install the rack in the first place. So don’t take chances. If you have to go through the entire manual to get the installation right, do it. If you’re limited on time, ask.
Unfortunately, trunk racks don’t have locking mechanisms built into them.
5. Fuel Economy
If you’re someone who’s cautious about how much you spend on fuel, you should think and rethink your bike rack option. Generally, roof racks can increase your cost of fuel by up to 30%, particularly because they distress the aerodynamics of a vehicle. Rear racks, on the other hand, don’t consume a lot of fuel because they’re out of the way of air.