Bike Rack Systems: An Introduction
Bike Rack Systems or Bicycle Carriers are classified according to how they are attached to your vehicle. These classifications can be divided into Tow Ball, Roof Rack or Rear Boot mounted carriers.
The most common and convenient bike rack is the tow ball mounted. If your car has no tow ball or if the tow ball is occupied with a trailer, boat or caravan then the solution would be either the roof mounted or boot mounted option.
Tow Ball Mounted Bike Rack
The Tow Ball mounted bicycle racks are the most common and convenient. These can be further classified into Hanging or Platform bike carriers.
The Hanging Tow Ball mounted bike racks are the more affordable of the 2 and typically can cater for 2, 3 or 4 bicycles.
The Hanging Tow Ball bike rack is quick and easy to install and folds into a compact package for ease of storage. Another advantage of this particular option is the price: it is comparatively less expensive than its counterparts..
The Hanging Tow Ball does have its disadvantages: the first bicycle you rack is the last bicycle off the rack, which can be a little time consuming. Bicycles hang on their frames which is not ideal for carbon frames and there can be a risk of chaffing and scratching the bikes.
The Platform Tow Ball mounted cycle racks can typically cater for 2 or 3 bikes with a few that can accommodate up to 4 bikes. Some have a tilt option to allow easy access to the boot.
This rack allows you to easily rack your bikes and unrack them in any order you want. The number plate carrier and light cluster ensures you remain legal on the road. Without it your vehicle’s number plate and rear lights will be obscured by the bicycles.
This rack is significantly bulkier than the hanging type so storage becomes tricky. It can also be more expensive than the Hanging Tow Ball rack.
Roof Rack Mounted Bike Rack
Once again, if your vehicle does not have a tow ball or is in use, then the roof of your vehicle or trailer is an option for mounting bicycles.
There are a few options, with some that require you remove the front wheel of the bicycle so that the front forks engage with a fitting to secure the bike.
These are further grouped into those for the traditional skewer lever typically found on the 26er’s and the newer thrrough-axle type found on the 29er’s.
Other platform roof mounted carriers are also available as pictured here.
Roof racks are advantageous because they ensure that boot access is not affected. They are an excellent option for trailers.
However, securing bikes on a car roof can be a bit tricky, especially on high vehicles like SUVs. You also needs to be wary about driving under low lying structures. In order to make use of a roof rack bike carrier, you have to have a roof rack on your vehicle.
Rear Boot Mounted Bike Rack
Rear Boot Mounted racks are a variety of racks that mount on the boot of a sedan or hatchback. Some of these can be mounted on the spare wheel on the rear door of certain SUV’s.
Some racks are made specifically for sedans and others for certain hatches, whereas some are universal and with a few adjustments can accommodate either.
This type of rack doesn’t need a tow ball and in some instances can be used when the tow ball is in use. However, you must ensure you’ve a decent turning circle without the bikes being crushed by your trailer in a sharp turn!
This rack can be time consuming securing to the boot – with a minimum of 4 straps needed to secure it. If you vehicle has a rear spoiler, it usually prevent the use of these racks. You run a high risk of damaging your vehicle if your bikes are not very well secured. This style of rack should be a last resort.
The rear mount racks are, however, an excellent option if your vehicle has a mounted spare wheel. Even if you have a tow ball – the wheel often complicates the use of some tow ball mounted racks. This is certainly the case with the upright “hanging” racks, as it is usually in the way. This often necessitates the installation of extensions to move the ball out from under the wheel.
The racks designed to be strapped to the rear mounted spare wheel are an affordable option and ensures boot access is not affected. This is a very secure mount.
If your spare wheel has a hard-shell cover, it has to be removed before mounting the rack.
Remember, if you obscure your vehicle’s number plate with a rack, you run the risk of a traffic fine.
Get yourself a number plate carrier and strap that to the last bike and be legal.
When using the Hanging style of racks, it is also advisable to use padding between bicycles. This prevents damage to your bikes and your vehicle. You can also use additional straps to prevent handlebars and wheels from moving around.
Remember to check all mountings and securing straps before and frequently during your trip. Always ensure you and other road users get to your destinations safely.
Check out the Bike Rack Section of our website to view the range of racks we stock.