DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE CAR RACK

You’ve got your new bike and you’re excited to get out and ride it! So how are you going to get it to all of the amazing places there are to ride? Many people are so excited to be getting their bike they forgot about how they are going to transport it. Many think oh I’ll just carry it in the back of the car. With cars getting smaller the ability to just toss your bike in the back is getting harder.

Transporting your bike in the back of your car presents its own sets of challenges. For one if you have more than one person who you want to bring along to ride with it will be a challenge to get everything in your car. You can damage the interior of your vehicle, ripped fabric or grease on the seats are never fun to fix or clean. Damage can also occur to the bike, bending the rear derailleur or affecting the adjustments of the brakes.

The investment of a good rack will protect your bike, protect your car and make it easier for you to get out and enjoy all of the great places to ride. The price you pay for a quality bicycle rack is a small price when you consider the damage that a poor fitting or the wrong rack for your car could cause.

There are several types of racks that fit most vehicles; strap racks, receiver racks and roof racks. As with everything there are pros and cons.

STRAP RACKS

These racks are the least expensive and are designed to carry one to three bikes depending on your car.

I like racks that have six straps to secure them to the back of the car. Two straps go to the top, two to the bottom and one to each side of the vehicle to keep the rack from shifting when you go flying around an on or off ramp.

These racks mount to the back of the car on the trunk or hatch back and are an easy height to get the bikes on.

As the racks increase in price they generally come with more features to protect your bikes and to protect your car.

One of the most important things with strap racks is to check the manufactures recommended fits. Not all racks will fit all vehicles. Installing a rack on a car that it is not compatible is a big mistake. You risk damaging your car, your bike and maybe something even worse if the bike falls off while you are driving. As it is with every car rack it is important to follow the manufactures recommendations when installing your rack. Your local bicycle store will likely have trained staff that can help you install your rack on your car the first time.

Recommendations:

Old socks make great protectors for your bike. Just slide them over your pedals to prevent them from scratching your car or the other bikes on the rack.

Traveling a longer distance? Don’t forget to check the straps to make sure they are tight and then check the bikes to make sure they haven’t shifted.

Have a women’s frame? Be sure to purchase an “artificial top tube” such as a Saris Bike Beam it will make it so much easier to load your bike on the rack. These work for both strap racks and receiver racks.

When placing your bike on the rack make sure your wheels and tires aren’t near the exhaust. I learned the hard way after driving several hours on a holiday only to arrive and find my tires melted from the heat of the exhaust.

RECEIVER OR HITCH MOUNT RACKS

One of the things I love about receiver racks is that nothing physically is touching the car. Like a roof rack the car is completely protected from anything that may scratch it while driving. Their height makes it easy to load bikes on and off the rack.

There are two styles of these racks; the “original style” that the bike hangs from and a newer style where the wheels are supported by trays, much like a roof rack. I love the “new style” they are easy to get bikes on and off, and work great with women’s bikes. Many prefer this style to the hanging version. This style also keeps the bikes separated; the bikes don’t sway while they are on the rack. One down side is this style will stick out a little father then the hanging version.

These racks are designed to carry one to five bikes depending on the cars hitch and the model you purchase.

One of the challenges of these racks is that they can be a little heavy, making installation and removal a little cumbersome for some. The good news is that in the last few years lighter racks have come on the market drastically reducing the weight of the racks. When you are choosing your rack make sure that you can easily handle it. If you are only occasionally using the rack weight may not be a factor. As with most things the more you use it the easier it is to get the rack on and off the car. Your local shop will likely have some pointers for you to make it easier.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

I think an essential accessory for these racks is a lock that locks the rack to the car itself. It will give you piece of mind when you are away from your vehicle. Some racks will come with these locks they will be options on other racks.

Have a women’s frame? Be sure to purchase an “artificial top tube” such as a Saris Bike Beam it will make it so much easier to load your bike on the rack. These work for both strap racks and receiver racks.

ROOF RACKS

A roof rack is my personal favorite. These are the most versatile racks, not only will they carry your bike they will carry almost everything else you can imagine. Another great thing about roof racks is they allow you access to every door on your vehicle. It never fails that you’ll need something that is buried in the very back of the trunk.

I am a huge fan of the Thule roof racks as I find their systems to fit the best and they are the OEM manufacturer for most of the auto makers. The fact that 95% of their racks are Made in the USA is a nice benefit as well.

Recommendations:

If you use a roof rack and have a garage door opener; when you have your bikes on the roof place the garage door opener in the back of the car so you don’t drive into your garage with the bikes on the roof. I’ve seen this happen more than once with varying levels of damage to the bikes, the car and the house.

Vertically Challenged? (nice words for short): If you own a vehicle that is taller than you, consider carrying a step stool to make it easier to get your bicycle on and off your car.

About Ernest

Ernest is the owner of the Crofton Bike Doctor located in the Village of Waugh Chapel Shopping Center. Ernest has been in the industry since 1989 when he first started to work at the Bike Doctor of Arnold. During that time I developed a love for cycling and retail. I graduated from the University of Maryland and live and ride locally.

I enjoy riding off road and on the road as well as doing a little bike touring. As a teenager I did a trip in Maine and then over to Novia Scotia which helped cement my love for riding. Since then I have done tours in the Canyons of Utah as well as several trips along the C&O Canal. Today I have both mountain bikes and road bikes that I enjoy riding. One of the most exciting things now is my wife is beginning to develop a passion for riding and we have begun mountain bike together as well as some light road riding.

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