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Bicycle Hitches and Racks
Our experienced personnel will help you with tips for choosing the right bike rack or hitch for you. The wrong rack or hitch could be a safety hazard, scratch your vehicle, or make it easy to steal the bike.
The objective is simple. You want to carry your bicycle on your vehicle, the key to choosing the right bike rack is accurately defining your needs and assessing your current vehicles.
The objective is simple. You want to carry your bicycle on your vehicle. But there’s a seemingly dizzying selection of bike-rack styles and a wide range of prices from which to choose. In general, this is an advantage, but to get the right bike rack for your needs, you should do some research and compare the different makes and models. The right rack should fit the vehicle properly, securely transport the bikes, and fall within your budget. The wrong rack could be a safety hazard, scratch your vehicle, and possibly lead to a lost, stolen, or damaged bicycle.
Consider your needs
The key to choosing the right bike rack is accurately defining your needs and assessing your current vehicles. Consider the following when choosing a bike rack:
Bike racks generally fall into three distinct categories: a strap-on trunk rack, a hitch-mount rack, and a roof rack. All types have good and bad points, but not all are available for every vehicle. The strap-on is the least expensive, but the least secure; the roof rack is the most versatile, but the most difficult to use; and the hitch-mount is the most expensive, but easy to operate. There are also specialty racks that are designed specifically for use with pickup trucks or for inside SUVs or vans. Some truck racks can be used above the bed, allowing for storage underneath. Others have specialty mounts that can be attached to rear-mounted spare tires and the rear ladders sometimes found on conversion vans.
Here’s a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of the three main types of bike rack:
Strap-on trunk mounts are the least expensive bike-carrier option. They typically cost from $40 to $140. Straps attached to the carrier’s frame attach to the car’s trunk, hatchback, or rear bumper. The bike’s frame rests on plastic-coated support arms; better carriers have padded or indented cradles to hold the frame. You need to tightly strap the carrier to the vehicle, and properly orient the carrier frame supports and carrier arms to balance the carrier before installing bikes. You can typically carry one or two, and in some cases, three bikes on a trunk-mounted carrier. While trunk-mounted carriers are inexpensive and can fit many vehicles, they do have a greater chance of damaging the vehicle and the bikes than do other carrier designs.
Roof-mounted carriers attach either to a vehicle’s already existing roof rack and crossbars–found on many SUVs, minivans, and station wagons, or with mounting feet and clips that attach to a vehicle’s upper door frame or rain gutters. The total cost is reduced if your vehicle is already equipped with a roof rack or crossbars that will support the bike mount. Basic carriers start for less than $50 per bike, but the more popular bike carriers start around $100. If you need to buy the basic roof rack and crossbars, add about $125 to $200 to the total cost. If you select a roof rack, you have to decide on the method of mounting the bikes. Some racks use a fork-mount carrier that clamps onto the bike’s front-wheel fork. The downside is that the front wheel must be removed and stored elsewhere, but the upsides are that the bike is easier to manage up on the roof and unique frame shapes can be accommodated. Upright mounts hold the bike by the frame or pedal crank. You don’t need to remove the front wheel, but you need to reach up higher to put the bike on, and some unusual frame shapes won’t fit.
Hitch-mount racks come in different sizes to match the class of hitch on the vehicle. Class I hitches with 1.25-inch openings are designed for most cars and small car-based SUVs. Class III hitches with 2-inch openings are usually found on pickups and truck-based SUVs. Your choice will depend on the number of bikes to be transported (racks for Class I hitches rarely carry more than three bikes) and your vehicle (Class III hitches cannot be adapted to most cars). Generic brand, single-bike hitch mounts can be found for under $100, but popular brands start for $125 and swing-away models can go for as much as $400. Some hitch-mount racks secure the bikes in mounting “trays,” much like the ones used with roof-mounted models. Others require you to strap the bikes securely to the carrier; you need to take care to keep the bikes from scratching each other.
Talking to experts and experienced bikers will help you narrow your choices.