Selecting a Bike Rack for your Vehicle

Bike racks come in about as many options as there are vehicles to put them on. Roof, trunk, or trailer hitch mounted, with or without front wheel removed, holding 1–4 bikes (or more if you see those ProTour team cars). The list goes on and on and every manufacturer has what seem like infinite options.

To help you get started, the following list provides some considerations to make that will help you focus on the style of rack that will best fit your needs. Picking the manufacturer and features is up to you.
  • Ease of use: how difficult is it to put bikes on the mounts or simply reach the rack (e.g. roof racks on full-sized vans require a ladder)
  • Rack’s impact on use of car: does the rack block or alter your access to different parts of the car (e.g. impair or prevent access to doors, truck, tailgate, etc.)
  • Quality of attachment: what’s the risk of the bikes coming off the rack; what’s the risk of the bikes being damaged (i.e. things rubbing together)
  • Security of the bikes (theft prevention): how/if the rack can be locked to the car and the bikes locked to the rack
  • Dirt and bugs: amount of junk that will get on your bikes while traveling
  • Carrying capacity: how many bikes, wheels, and other gear can be carried
  • Cost: what are you willing to spend for the rack and its affect on fuel efficiency
Make sure to consider your type of vehicle (van, SUV, sedan), amount of gear, amount of travel, your budget, and other individual factors as you consider the list above. What’s good for one person won’t work for another so don’t just get the same thing your teammate got unless your situations are pretty similar.

I rarely carry more than one bike and have found that the best balance of all these factors means putting my bike in the trunk. It’s easy, secure, keeps the bike clean, and it’s free, but it doesn’t work well when I need to carry 2 bikes. I’ve used trunk and hitch racks and been moderately happy with them (work fine but limit/prevent trunk/tailgate access). My family even used to have a custom made trailer that could haul four bikes, a gross of wheels, tools, and leave enough room for a cooler, too. Next I’ll get a roof rack when I need to start carrying more bikes because it’ll allow me to get a box for carrying skis in the winter.

So figure out what works for you and then get shopping. Thule, Yakima, Saris, and Rocky Mounts are just a few names out there.

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