Are you considering taking your bicycle with you on a trip? Whether that trip is to the next town over to check out some greenway trails or hundreds of miles away, there are multiple ways to bring your bike along with you. Let’s explore carrying it with a trunk rack.
3. Trunk rack
Pros: inexpensive; can be used with multiple vehicles if accessory is compatible
Cons: Can damage bumper if not installed correctly; straps can be a nuisance to remove and re-install; can’t (safely) open trunk; not great on certain types of vehicles; exposure to weather can degrade straps; may need adapter to carry step-through or smaller triangle frame bikes
Trunk racks are a great go-to for the budget minded bike rider, as long as it will fit on your vehicle.
Straps and setup can be confusing at first, but the more you use the rack, the more comfortable you’ll be with the setup. Exposure to weather can deteriorate both fabric and rubber straps, so check them often for signs of wear.
A good installation strategy is
- secure and tighten the straps down
- load the bike(s)
- tighten the straps again.
Keep the straps up off the ground.
Trunk rack carriers come in 1, 2, or 3 bike versions. You must be certain the trunk rack will work correctly with your vehicle – and, if you change vehicle body styles, double check to make sure it works with the different style.
The most commonly seen trunk rack is the hanging arm style, where the top tube of the bicycle rests on two arms and is then strapped down. Some trunk racks will have a strap for the seat post, which will help to mitigate sway between bicycles. There are also platform-style trunk racks, which will require lifting the bicycles about halfway up between the ground and the roof of the vehicle. (Editorial comment here: why not just get a roof rack instead?)
Some trunk rack arms will fold down for storage when not in use.
Some trunk racks will come with an integrated security cable to lock the bikes to the rack, or to lock the rack to the vehicle. If the trunk rack you’re looking at doesn’t have this feature, consider using a U-lock or thick cable lock to lock your bicycles to the rack or to each other.
When securing a bicycle that has cables running along the top of the top tube, consider using a rubber shim between the cable(s) and the top tube (old tubes work great for this) so that the cable doesn’t rub the paint off of the frame.
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