On a roof rack, trunk rack, or hitch rack: Which one is the best means of hauling your bicycle around?
Carrying your bicycle in or on your car is an excellent way to expand your cycling experience and makes it much easier to find quiet country roads or some sweet single track away from the urban jam.
While on most vehicles you can carry your bicycle in the trunk or back seat, this will require removing wheels. Even if you have a spacious SUV, some disassembly will be required and there’s always a possibility of chain lube staining the interior. With your bikes on the outside of your vehicle, there more room for friends and riding gear. If you carry your bike around on your car, you will appreciate how recent innovations in bicycle racks have made it much easier to transport your bike to the next ride.
Let’s look at basic differences between the most popular types of bike racks.
The roof rack
This is one of the most popular ways of bike transportation and lets the world know that you are an outdoorsy person. There is a choice of roof racks to carry your bike (a) without removing the front wheel or (b) with the front wheel removed. With the front wheel removed, there are racks that come with an optional fork grabber that can be locked to avoid possible theft.
- The interior of your car remains available for passengers and gear
- It is the most stable and secure way to carry bikes
- Access to the trunk and interior is unimpeded
- Getting the bikes onto the rack requires some stretching and reaching
- The car will no longer fit into low overhead areas such as your garage
- The wind resistance caused by the bike will lower the car’s gas mileage
The trunk rack
This is a good option for the occasional ride when you don’t need a permanent rack to carry your bike. A trunk rack can also be swapped between each of your cars. Bikes, as well as the rack, are more susceptible to theft and damage.
- These racks are less expensive than other options
- These racks can be used by multiple vehicles
- Bikes are easy to load on a trunk rack and you can keep an eye on their security while driving
- The possibility of bike damage if the bikes are not well secured to the rack
- A rear end accident will surely damage the bikes
- A trunk rack also limits access to the trunk or hatch of the car
- If not properly installed, a truck rack can also scuff the paint of your car
The hitch rack
This rack is easily installed into the tow hitch receiver at the rear of the vehicle and some can be adapted to carry multiple bikes.
Various models allow for the bike to either hang on the rack in rubber/plastic cradles or the bike can be loaded onto a wheel tray and locked in place. All models allow the bike to be carried without removing wheels.
- Simple installation and can be shared with multiple vehicles
- Easy loading, some models even have hinges that allow access to the vehicle trunk or hatch without removing bikes
- The platform model secures the bikes, resisting swaying and minimizing contact between bikes
- These racks are suitable for frequent use
- Full featured models can be expensive
- Base models can interfere with access to the trunk or hatch
- Unless well secured, bikes and the rack are subject to theft
- A rear end accident will damage the bikes
- Racks designed to carry multiple bike models can be heavy, some over 60 pounds
Trucks are designed to carry things so naturally they make great bike haulers. While you could simply toss your bike in the bed of your truck, it’s not the best way to go since the bike would likely shift around and get could get damaged, or at least scratched, during transport. Luckily, there is a number of solutions for carrying your bike in a truck unscuffed.
Bungee cords or soft straps
The cheapest and a surprisingly reliable way to secure a bike in the bed of a truck is with bungee cords or soft straps. It’s highly recommended to avoid ratchet type straps as they make it tricky to find the optimal tension to hold the bike down.
When using straps, beware that securing only the front of the bike might not be sufficient as the rear can get bouncy. It’s recommended that you an extra long strap to secure the rear of the bike by the saddle.
DIY bike rack
There’s also a DIY method that allows you to make a truck bed bike rack out of PVC pipes. While it might not look well-integrated, there are reports of these racks lasting for years.
Commercial Truck Bed Solutions
Thule Bed Rider requires removal of the front wheel and secures the bike by the front fork.
Innoracks Velo Gripper can secure the bike to the side of the bed with ratchet and elastic straps respectfully.
Yakima Bedrock Tower secures into the truck bed side rails and allows usage of practically any bike rack while leaving the bed available for cargo.
Yakima, Thule and Dakine make truck tailgate blankets that are quite popular with mountain bikers but can be used to carry other bikes. While one might be inclined to use a mover’s blanket instead, overall feedback is that the cushion of properly designed tailgate blankets is what keeps the bikes secure.
SeaSucker is the de-facto standard for bike carriers that can be attached to any glass or smooth painted surface, which makes them almost universal. While large suction cups do not inspire confidence, they are actually quite reliable when maintained clean and used properly. SeaSucker went as far as testing the rack on a Nascar track.
Insurance and theft protection
When transporting your bike on a car remember that bikes get stolen from cars quite often. It takes seconds to remove a bike from a rack and in a busy parking lot nobody would question whether an owner or a thief is removing the bike. If your rack comes with a lock, use it. If it doesn’t, get at a cable lock and use it when leaving your bike unattended. “Locking a bike on a rack is a deterrent that adds more time and effort to a possible theft,” says Chris Ritchie from Thule.
When carrying a bike on a trailer hitch-mounted rack, beware that some auto insurance companies might consider those bikes to be “outside of a vehicle” and thus not covered in case you get rear ended. Make sure to clarify this with your auto insurance policy and preferably receive their statement in writing.
Velosurance offers a stand-alone bicycle insurance policy. Claims placed against a bicycle insurance policy do not affect your auto, homeowner or renters policy premiums. The policy covers damage and theft while in transit, as well as crash damage to the bike and riding kit, and cycling liability protection.
To get an e-bike insurance quote, please visit this page. You can also call us during business hours at 888-663-9948 to speak to an agent.