The bane of every cyclist’s existence is transporting their bike to the trails, the start of a ride or just to the work shop to get repairs done. Luckily there is a myriad of bike racks out there to make the job easier, but the rack you need will depend on several factors: what car you drive, what bike you have, how many you need to transport, and how worried you are about their safety.
The major drawback for almost all bike racks is that you need to purchase an accessory number plate from your local department of transport, to which a ‘modest’ fee applies, modest being $75.75. However, this is still cheaper than the $88 fine for driving with an obstructed number plate.
The most basic type of rack, this is a foam mat folds over the tailgate of your ute and ties down onto the tray. You simply place the bikes over the tailgate and tie them to the straps provided. Great for mountain bikers, especially those who love to shuttle, so these pads are a great way to get your bike to the trails without breaking the bank.
Designed to sit on the boot of your car, this rack has straps which lock onto your boot and the underside of your car. With some models designed to fit up to four bikes, each rack is slightly different – for sedans, hatchbacks, or cars with rear mounted spare tyres, you will need to check the rack against the make of your car. Unfortunately the design of these racks mean you’ll need to take them off and on again every time you use them so you can still access your boot, but because of their more simplistic design, you can pick up a high quality rack for a reasonable price, so these are great choice for those on a budget.
A more secure version of the boot mounted carrier, this rack locks underneath your tow ball and faces away from your car. Sturdier than boot racks, this rack is a good choice for those travelling longer distances with their bikes. Able to fit any car with a tow ball, there’s no guessing as to whether or not this rack will be compatible with your car. There are two major types of tow ball mounted racks; they can be either top tube mounted or wheel mounted.
The top tube mounted racks are designed as a two piece system. The lower portion of the rack locks on between the tow ball and its base, and the upper portion, the part where your bikes sit, is detachable from this base plate, which means you don’t have to take off your tow ball every time you want to use your rack. Great for families, this rack style makes it super easy to load everyone’s bike and get out on the trails for a day.
The wheel mounted systems lock onto the tow ball in a similar manner, but instead of clamping the top tube of your bike, this system provides a number of wheel wells for your bikes to sit in. This system can be more expensive, but provides the most stable and secure platform available as a tow ball mount, and is ideal for those with high end or carbon bikes.
Similar in design to the tow ball rack, the hitch mounted versions come in the same variations, with the only difference being that they mount into your car’s hitch (the point in which your tow ball inserts). Easier to install than a tow ball mounted version, this rack style also won’t swing around as much, making them more secure for those doing more highway driving with their bikes. Due to the extra stability provided by the hitch, these racks can carry up to five bikes; perfect for the whole family to get out for a ride. Some versions also come with the option of being able to lock onto your car for the extra security. There are two different standards for hitch sizes, 1.25 and 2 inch, so be sure to match the appropriate size on your car before purchasing.
The gold standard in stable bike racks, these racks clamp onto your bike wheel and/or frame. Ideal for those with high value bikes, these racks limit frame damage from clamping and also eliminate any chance of damage to the bikes in the case of a nose-to-tail car accident. However, these racks do come with the inevitable risk of forgetting you have bikes on the roof, and consequently destroying them on the entry to your garage, undercover parking, or even a tree that hangs too low over the road. Yet even with this drawback, the ease of loading, and the improved road safety factors definitely outweigh the risk of hitting your bikes. They are generally the most expensive type of bike rack, requiring roof racks and a bike mount, but these are ideal for those transporting high end bikes regularly over long distances. Another plus is that you don’t need an accessory plate with roof racks, which makes things easier and saves you that $75.
Some great additional features to look out for include:
- Locking mechanisms – To keep your bikes secure whilst parked
- Swing Racks – Available on the more expensive hitch and tow ball racks, this feature allows the rack to swing away from your boot so you can access your boot space without having to take off the rack
- Bike Add ons – If you find that the bike rack you bought isn’t doing the trick, some companies have ‘expansions’ for their racks, so you can carry additional bikes if required
Finding a bike rack that fits your car can be difficult, so luckily the guys over at Thule have made it easy and created a program that shows which bike racks are compatible with your car.