Carrying bikes on cars

Transporting bikes by car is a tricky business and one that I don’t enjoy.

At best they always look as if they’re wobbling a bit, causing air turbulence which sounds too loud or worse still it is an accident waiting to happen.  Once we had a close shave when a roof mounted bike fell sideways – thankfully the straps holding the wheels in place prevented the bike from falling off completely.  I think it was the girls in the back that spotted the bike falling over and said “Dad your bike is flying outside the window!”.  Nevertheless we still had to stop quickly on a dual carriage way near Oxford to fix the problem and later touch up the car’s paint. Last year when the above photograph was taken, we were just setting off from Cumbria to return home and look at the way the car is weighed down, not helped by those bikes!

Our trusty old VW Vento (long lived and very practical) was replaced quickly owing to a slipping clutch and a few other niggles.  It was replaced by a Toyota Avensis (boring but smooth and reliable).

We have tried roof bars with a bike adapter on the Saab we once owned but it was a very fiddly process getting the bikes securely fixed and ready for driving away.  That’s why we prefer the rear type of rack.  If you’re thinking of equipping your own car ready for transporting bikes, here’s a few things to consider:

  • we use a lot of extra fuel with the three bikes on the back.  At motorway speeds (a steady 65-70 mph) we reckon to lose about 10 miles per gallon.
  • with the boot fitting racks, it is impossible to open the boot with the bikes on.  Luckily we have folding seats so we can access the boot (“trunk” for USA readers!).
  • normally these racks can be switched from one car to another fairly easily
  • they are not too expensive – i.e. about £100
  • it is easier to lift bikes on to this kind of rack, rather than up on to the roof
  • we can still use our roof box if we need to (i.e. carrying all the camping stuff)
  • although our bike rack is designed for three bikes, it always feels like we’re pushing it to the limits – three bikes are quite a weight
  • tighten up all the straps evenly i.e. a little bit at a time and then again once the bikes are loaded.  Worth checking once again after a few miles once everything has settled into place
  • make sure the bikes are clear of the lights and number plate.  Likewise make sure they are not hanging too low – on our way back from the C2C we saw a trendy Mini with the bike so low the exhaust was going to melt the bike tyre
  • be careful reversing – you can’t see as well and remember your car is a metre longer.  For roof rack types, try to avoid driving into car parks with low barriers designed to stop vans and lorries, for obvious reasons….
  • if you’re buying a new car, try doing a deal with the garage for some custom bike rack.  Potentially this is eye-wateringly expensive but could be the most secure way of carrying your bikes.  
  • the friends we went to do the C2C ride with had a tow bar mounted rack which looked pretty solid and had the advantage of being low down, so easy to load and I reckon it was more streamlined.  A disadvantage is having to have a tow bar fitted but worth considering….
Now come on, have you had any disasters?  Just leave the confession in the Comment box below.  I promise nobody will laugh or snigger at your stupidity…..
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