When it comes to transporting your bike gear, you’ll certainly want to avoid trying to fit that mess of tires, handlebars, cables, and gears into the trunk of the car. This is especially true when you consider the alternatives, which are designed for secure, easy transport of your bike, whether you’re on a dusty road to a trail in the woods or a busy highway.
Choosing a bike rack may seem like a complicated task, given the many options available to you. To find the right one, keep a few factors in mind, such as how often you ride, the number of bikes you’ll be carrying, and overall convenience.
Rear vs. Roof Racks
By far, the most popular bike-carrying system is a rear-mounted bike rack. Many cyclists prefer rear-mounted racks to roof-mounted racks because they’re much easier to install and remove, requiring less time and hassle.
Roof racks are exactly as they sound—fixed to the roof. This means that it’ll take more effort to secure the bikes to the rack and require you to lift the bikes above your head. With rear-mounted racks, however, you need to lift the bikes only to your waist. For this reason, people who own mountain bikes, which are typically much heavier than road bikes, often choose a rear-mounted rack. Also, unlike with some roof racks, you never have to remove a bike tire in order to mount the bike on the rack.
Rear-mounting options include different ways to attach your bikes to your car, so be sure to choose the mounting preference that’s right for you.
A hitch-mounted bike rack attaches directly to your vehicle’s trailer hitch. If the vehicle does not have a trailer hitch, you will have to have one installed before you can use this kind of bike rack.
The first thing to consider when choosing a hitch rack, of course, is the class of hitch on your vehicle. Smaller cars or crossovers typically have a Class I hitch, which has 1.25-inch openings, while large trucks and SUVs have a Class III hitch with 2-inch openings. Some racks are able to fit both classes, but it’s important to know which size hitch you have to ensure compatibility.
Depending on the model, hitch racks can carry up to five bikes. These racks are easy to install to the vehicle. Securing bikes to a hitch rack is also a breeze.
Another popular rear-mounted bike rack is the trunk-mounted carrier. While these are undoubtedly the least expensive way to mount your bike, they also typically require more work to get them onto your car. These racks are attached to your car’s trunk or hatch through a series of straps. These racks also carry fewer bikes than hitch-mounted racks, typically maxing out at three.
It’s important to note that with trunk racks, there’s a slightly higher chance that the bikes could sway, potentially scratching your car. However, there are still plenty of benefits that come with using these racks. In addition to being cheaper than hitch mounts, it’s much easier to fit one trunk rack on multiple vehicles. Storage of these racks is also simpler than with hitch carriers, which are comparatively bulky.
Bottom line, rear-mounted bike racks are typically the best choice for a cycling weekend warrior who may need to transport bike equipment across distances only a handful of times a year. Once you decide to use a rear mount, take into consideration ease of use and stability, and weigh this with how much you’d like to spend to find the ideal rack for you.
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