You might not have it in your legs to cycle the 14000 km around Australia like current record holder Reid Anderton, but getting your bike to the start of one of the hundreds of famed bike trails in the country is done with a dedicated bike rack. This will safely transport one or more bikes on your vehicle, even before breaking a sweat. Before getting a rack, there are a few points to consider:
- Your Vehicle – What will you be using to get your bikes to where you want them? Different racks will be better suited to different vehicles, and not every rack will fit every car. This is especially true of boot or trunk-mounted racks. Your vehicle will also determine how many bikes you can carry and what type of bike.
- Type of Bike – There are also bike specific racks. Some will be better at transporting E-bikes, or heavier and bigger mountain bikes, than say smaller kids bikes or lighter road bikes. Also take into account the cost of your bikes, before skimping out on a cheaper rack.
- Number of Bikes – This is a biggie. Sturdier racks in bigger dimensions will be able to safely transport up to 4 bikes at a time, say in a 4 bike carrier for tow bar, and rated for the weight. If you’re only using one or two bikes at a time, then this might be overkill, but for families, bigger racks offer convenience.
Other considerations are where you’ll be driving (and whether height and roof racks are a limiting factor), the space you need along the roof besides that reserved for bikes, as well as access to the boot in boot- or tow-mounted racks. For instance, boot racks will place a burden on any contents inside. Also think about how easy and quick it will be to get bikes off and on racks, as you’ll want to spare yourself the hassle.
Type of Bike Racks
There are three types of racks for carrying bikes on your car – roof, boot and tow bar racks.
Boot, Hatch and Trunk-mounted Racks
These rear-mounted racks are some of the more affordable types, and fit the vehicle with a set of straps. Though straps are usually adjustable, a boot or trunk-mounted rack might not fit all cars. In addition, getting a tight secure fit for better stability is not what they excel at, compared to a roof and tow bar or tow ball rack anyway. Boot mounted racks can carry up to 3 bikes and are good if you need the extra roof space, and are quite easy to get bikes on and off.
Roof-mounted racks usually consist of feet that attach to roof rails. Some racks fit bikes as they are, while others require you to remove the front wheel. Some variants can carry up to 4 bikes. The advantages are that they are more secure than boot and trunk-mounted racks, as the racks lock onto rails or bars, as well as having locks that secure bikes to the rack itself. In addition, a roof-mounted bike rack gives you easier access to the boot, won’t cover up lights or plates and are easy to set up. The only minor gripe is the roof height with the rack and bikes fitted when negotiating things like car parks or scrubbing against lower tree branches. This can also up fuel consumption and increase noise coming into the cabin.
Tow Bar and Tow Ball Racks
Racks mounted on the tow bar or tow ball offer more advantages over other rack types. With racks being fitted to the receiver hitch or a fitted tow ball, you can haul more bikes at a time and ones with a bit more heft. A 4 bike carrier for tow bar will safely carry 4 larger mountain bikes and have a carrying capacity of up to 80 kilos, so weight is not an issue. Bigger variants can hold up to 6 bikes.
Tow-mounted racks come in two basic designs, those with arms gripping the bike’s front and rear wheels and extending from the tow bar, and racks mounted on the tow-ball, with two top tubes along which the bikes are attached and secured. The second type is more common.
Other advantages to consider are that tow-mounted racks offer greater flexibility, as arms and mounts don’t impede boot access. Some variants fold flat, so take up less space when not in use. But the reason to go for a tow-mounted rack is the stability they offer. Decent variants tend to be better built and stronger than other racks, and since they’re mounted low, there’s little in the way of wind or accidentally damaging bikes from lower-hanging objects. In addition, these are also the most simple to use, as loading and unloading bikes are the quickest and involve the least effort. They also have better safety options, with most tow-mounted racks including locks, as well as soft frame holders and rubber cradles that ensure bikes don’t get damaged no matter where you’re driving. There’s also negligible impact on rear visibility, like trunk-mounted racks.
The downsides are the slightly higher price, with more focus on better features and build. And when in Australia, a tow-bar bike rack that obscures plates and lights means you’ll require an illuminated number plate, issued from your state’s RTA.