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Bicycle rack installation
What is a bicycle rack?
As more bicycle-friendly road lanes and pathways are created, making cycling even more accessible (and safer), the desire to perch atop a bike seat and cruise about is much more appealing.
Riding to work, riding for fun and, judging by the number of lycra-clad riders that can be spotted most mornings around town, riding for health, has certainly grown in popularity. It’s a low cost, environmentally clean way of getting about and plenty of families have found this is a great way to bond and get some exercise while exploring nature and sharing a low-impact adventure.
If you're going to travel around to explore new places on a bike, then you’ll probably find that, at some point, you’ll want to transport you, your family, and some bikes to that spot before starting your cycling odyssey.
While you might be able to place a bike in the back of a car, it’s not really a practical option. The interior of your car can be damaged and certainly will become dirty, and removing a wheel and lifting said bike while twisting and leaning into a confined space can result in some unwanted injuries. Of course, if you’ve got passengers, you’re not going to be able to put the bike/s inside anyway because of the lack of room.
And so the bicycle rack becomes an attractive option. Bike racks can be attached to just about any vehicle and allow for their secure constraint as you and your family scoot off in search of pedal-powered adventure.
Types of bicycle racks
There are various bike rack options and all are good in their own right. However, the best one for you will depend entirely on your specific needs and circumstances.
There a number of established manufacturers - including Thule, Whispbar and Yakima - that build several different types of racks.
Roof mounted bike racks: These come in various types. Roof racks are utilised and bike mounts are attached to the roof racks.
They come in fork, frame and front wheel mount options.
- With fork frames, the wheel axle needs to match the fork frame size. The front wheel needs to be removed and placed in the car. The bike fork is then secured to the fork frame mount.
- Frame mounts secure the bike via the frame while straps secure the wheels. They are the most popular choice due to their functionality - the wheels stay on and the frame takes most of the pressure.
- Front wheel mounts are popular due to their versatility across a variety of bike styles. There is no need to remove the wheels and the bike is secured in place by the wheels with adjustable holders.
With roof rack mounts you are generally limited to two bikes per car and you will need to lift the bike up onto the roof. You must remember that the overall height of your vehicle will increase substantially when carrying bikes on the roof . . . so exercise caution around multi-storey car parks!
Rear-mounted bike racks: These racks come in the hitch, spare wheel or tow ball design.
- The hitch racks can hold up to five bikes. The rack frame attaches to the tow hitch receiver and the bikes sit securely in the frame parallel to the rear of the vehicle.
- Spare wheel racks are for 4WD or SUVs that have the spare wheel mounted at the rear. The rack attaches to the spare wheel and the bike sits securely in the bike rack in front of the spare wheel.
- The tow ball mount attaches a frame to the tow ball and is the same design as hitch racks in that the bikes are sitting parallel to the rear of the vehicle. These are easier to store when not in use.
- There are also car boot/strap-on racks that strap and/or hook to the rear of certain vehicles without the need of a towbar. There is a higher likelihood of some vehicle body damage but they can be easily removed and are a cheaper alternative.
Points for consideration with rear-mounted bike racks are the extra space and weight on the rear of the vehicle and that there may be some difficulty in getting into the rear of the vehicle when bikes are loaded. Not forgetting the rack needs to be detached from the car when the bikes are removed.
Ute mounted racks: If you have a ute there are several options for carrying bikes so they don’t slide around in the back of the tray. There are tailgate pads which are, as the name suggests, a pad that attaches to the tailgate. The bikes front wheels drape over the tailgate and the wheels can be velcroed into place. Depending on the size of the ute a number of bikes can be carried at once. There is also the option of attaching fork mounts to the floor, a bar or to the edge of a ute tray. These would need to be bolted to the vehicle, but they are a convenient solution.
Reasons for installing a bicycle rack
- More space inside the vehicle
- Eliminate potential damage to the vehicle’s interior
- Carry multiple bikes
- Bikes are securely mounted and not likely to move around
Who can install bike racks?
Some bike stores may offer an installation service but you should check - don’t assume they can. Roof rack suppliers do provide installation services and it is one of the core services they offer.
Things to consider when installing bicycle racks
- How many bikes do you need to carry?
- If you have bikes loaded on a vehicle’s roof, make sure you are able to lift the bikes on and off the roof.
- Remember they are up there when you are out and about too. You don’t want to be caught out driving into a car park or structure with height restrictions.
- How secure will the bikes be?
- How easy is it to fit and then remove the rack?
- Will the bikes obscure your vehicle’s number plate and lights? There may be an additional expense in supplying a plate alternative and light harness.
- Does the rack provide bike locks for when you are parked?
- Does the roof rack come with everything required to securely transport a bike?
- How much resistance will it produce and how will it affect fuel consumption?
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