Expert Tips on How to Use a Bike Rack Safely

July 11, 2016
Bicycle parked by a forest

It’s time to hit the road for vacation, with bikes in tow — usually on a rack strapped to the exterior of your car. The last thing you want to do is arrive at your destination with one or more of your bikes damaged.

Here are some tips to ensure no harm is done to the bicycle or to your vehicle during the trip:

Consider the type of bike rack you have

Depending upon the type of bike rack you have, there can be different issues with which to contend. Most motorists use trunk-mounted carriers. These fit a wide variety of cars and offer easy access to the bikes, although they can impede entry into the trunk. Before mounting these, make sure there’s no dirt that may scratch your car paint.

Review the installation instructions

Make certain you read the installation directions thoroughly so the device is safely installed and you understand precisely how to use the straps. You want to be careful not to inadvertently nick the car paint with the ends of the straps. When you’re done loading, make sure to test and tighten the straps again, since these may give during the process.

Spin the bicycle pedal

To avoid scraping the car paint, try spinning the pedal of the first bicycle so it rests safely against the license plate. If you have several bikes, you may want to secure padding in between these since they can bounce around while you drive, which can cause damage to one or both bikes.

Ensure bike is at a good height

Make sure the bikes are situated high enough off of the ground so if you’re going up a steep hill these won’t drag. Likewise, make certain the wheels are not near the car’s exhaust pipe because this could melt the rubber or plastic and ruin the tires or any accessories near there.

Types of bike racks

Using a hitch rack

If you’re using a hitch rack, which can work if you have a hitch attachment welded on the back of your car, you have other options for carrying your bikes. With this kind of rack, the bikes are not flush against the back of the car so you don’t have to worry about the paint scraping. However, you do have to allow for the fact that you are now driving a significantly longer vehicle. This is particularly important when you’re backing up. You don’t want to forget the bikes are in the rear.

Keep in mind that, even though bikes on a hitch rack may seem as though they will stay in place with the aid of gravity alone, they could come loose and fly off the rack or bump into each other when you’re jostling along the road. To avoid this, be sure the Velcro straps are tightened to keep the bikes in place.

Using a roof rack

When it comes to roof racks, these have the advantage of offering easy access to the back of the vehicle. However, it can be difficult to get the bikes on and off the rack since they’re so high up. What’s more, it can be all too easy, particularly on a long trip, to forget they’re even up there, which can spell big trouble in low-clearance areas. It can be helpful to leave reminders to yourself in the car, perhaps on the dashboard and on the garage remote, that your bikes are on top. Otherwise, you may end up smashing the bike and the garage as well as damage your vehicle.

With all of this in mind, you’ll be able to peacefully cycle with the sun on your shoulders and the wind at your back after reaching your destination, and again upon returning home, with all of your property fully intact.

  • Home - Safety