Are you considering taking your bicycle with you on a trip using your vehicle? 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.
This is the general overview article – we’ll break down the various methods of carrying a bicycle in subsequent posts.
Good Starting Points
Many of the major manufacturer’s websites will have guides that will tell you the compatibility of your vehicle with their products. Some of these manufacturers are listed below.
These are also good places to check out the user’s manual if you’re buying a used rack from a private party – Thule, for example, has PDFs of all of their rack and accessory products, which means you can double check to make sure that everything you’re buying is included in the sale. (And can also check to see if replacement parts are available.)
What Do You Already Have on Your Vehicle?
Do you have a hitch receiver? If so, what is the size? What about a factory roof rack? Do you have a spoiler, or a sunroof? How about a hatchback with glass at the top? Do you need to be able to access the trunk or the hatch when you’re carrying your bike? These are common features that will determine what type of bicycle carrying accessory you can use.
Please be aware that if you use a bike carrier not in keeping with the manufacturer’s guidelines (e.g. using a trunk rack on a glass top hatchback without the glass adapters) you can damage your vehicle, damage your bicycle, or place others around you in danger when your vehicle is in motion.
In order, the safest methods of carrying your bike are:
- inside the vehicle itself
- in a truck bed
- on the rear of the vehicle (hitch, then trunk rack)
- on the roof.
These positions are based on my personal experiences as well as listening to feedback from clients and customers.
The way you take your bike with you will depend on what kind of bicycle you have. All carriers have weight limitations and it’s up to the user to determine if their bike falls within those guidelines.
For example, an typical hybrid-style e-bike with a mid-drive motor will weigh about 45-65 pounds, which falls outside of the trunk rack limitations of 35 pounds per bike.
“But I have a 2-bike trunk rack, surely if the limit is 70 total pounds I could get away with it!” The maximum rack weight limit is designed as distributed weight, not as a single item. Your 50 pound bicycle may be fine on a trunk rack sitting in the parking lot, but once the vehicle starts moving, there are other forces at play.
Carrying bicycles that have step-through style frames on a hanging arm style rack will require a top tube adapter – like this one from Kuat – that will emulate a flat top tube and provide a stable resting spot for the frame.
If you have a full suspension mountain bike, you may be better off carrying it on a hitch-mounted platform rack that holds the bike by the wheels.
And if your bicycle has fenders, you’ll want a carrier that doesn’t hold the front wheel in a clamp.