How to choose right bike rack for your spare tire
A few things determine the type of spare tire bike rack to buy:
- The size of your spare tire – If you have a regular-sized spare tire, you can pick any spare tire rack since they will fit on the tire. If you have an undersized or oversized tire, you must check the rack’s compatibility with your tire. The best racks to choose in this case are the ones designed for both regular spare tires and under/oversized tires. Similarly, if you have a deep spare tire and want to use a bolt-on spare tire rack without adding a backing plate, ensure that it is not wider than 10 inches across the tread or 5 cm from the center of the hub to the edge. Otherwise, use a deep backing plate to make the tire compatible with the rack.
- Choose between a strap-on rack and a bolt-on rack.
Strap-on racks are compatible with most wheel and tire sizes. These types of racks clamp to the spare tire and use straps to secure the bike. The straps then go around the bottom of the tire. Some people prefer to secure the straps on the bottom of the tire and others prefer doing so on the bumper.
Bolt-on racks – To attach the rack, remove the wheel and then mount the rack’s baseplate to the spare wheel mount. Bolt-on racks are generally sturdy and more heavy-duty than strap-on racks but may not be compatible with deep spare tires.
- The carry arms – Spare tire racks come with either single arms or dual arms. Single arms carry up to 3 bikes and any compatible with most bike frames and sizes. It’s also easy to load bikes on a single-arm, and they have a hand knob that secures the bikes to the rack.
Dual arms accommodate a maximum of 2 bikes. They provide even support and ensure there is sufficient hound clearance. To ensure bikes with different frames fit on the rack, use an adapter bar.
- How easy is it to access the vehicle with the rack on? In most cases, you can open a swing-out door with the bikes loaded. But you have to be sure that the door hung can support the weight of both the rack and the bikes before you do so, otherwise, you may damage the car door. If your door opens upwards hatchback-style, you can’t access the vehicle with the bikes loaded, so you must unload them before you can open the door.
Installation – how to do no harm
For your spare tire bike rack to function as it should, it needs to be correctly installed. Improper installation can lead to damage not just to your bikes, but to the rack and the spare tire as well. To reduce the possibility of damage, here are some things to keep in mind when installing your bike rack and loading bikes.
Ensure that all the bolts are securely tightened. This will eliminate wobbling and keep the rack firmly positioned so it does not fall off.
If there is a no-wobble nut, ensure that it is tight.
Once you’ve mounted the rack, check to make sure that it is secure and firmly in place.
After loading bikes, confirm that the entire rack is still as secure as it was when you mounted it.
When loading your bikes, start with the heaviest bikes. These should go to the innermost part of the rack. Load the lightest bikes last, and these should be on the outside. This ensures equal weight distribution, and consequently, balance.
Load your bikes in an alternating direction. The gears and chain of the first bike you load should face away from the rack. The second bike should be positioned in the opposite direction, and so on for subsequent bikes.
Ensure that no bicycle comes into contact with the vehicle because the resulting friction can damage both the bike and the vehicle.
With proper care, your spare tire bike rack should remain usable and in top condition for years. For this to happen, ensure that you mount it correctly as advised by the rack manufacturer at all times. This ensures that the rack is never under unnecessary pressure that could damage it or accelerate its wear.
Do not exceed the rack’s maximum capacity. It can be tempting to load one extra bike, especially if you’re only driving a short distance, but don’t do it. Loading more weight than the rack is built to carry is one of the shortest routes to a damaged rack.
Do not leave the rack out in the open for long periods when not in use, especially in harsh weather. It’s okay to keep your rack on the vehicle if you use it regularly, but if it is wintertime, you want to keep the vehicle in the garage or in a shielded parking space as often as possible. The daily exposure to moisture from snow and rain showers will cause your rack to deteriorate and ultimately start to corrode.
With time, the rack may accumulate scratches that leave it exposed to rust. A touch upon the finishing will restore it and extend the protection that keeps it rust-free.
Here’s how to clean your spare tire bike rack:
Clean the rack after each use. Do not store it with the mud and grit from the day’s adventure. If it’s only covered in dust, you can wipe it out to get rid of the dust, but using soap and water won’t hurt. If anything, it will remove any stubborn dirt that may be stuck on some hidden part of the rack. Use soapy water and a soft rug for this. Then wipe it dry. You can also clean it using a power washer. Just don’t use the automatic car wash to clean it. It is not built for such high pressure and may end up getting damaged.
Oil the movable parts once in a while using a silicone-based lube to keep them in good condition and ensure they do not jam or rust. Any lube used to lubricate bicycles is good enough for your bike rack.
Store the rack in such a way that the feet don’t touch the floor so they don’t accumulate dust.
Lastly, store the rack in a dust-free area. You can even cover the rack to keep it dust-free.
Spare tire bike rack prices start at roughly $100, with a good number going for less than this, and can cost $250-300 on the higher end. The materials used to make the rack, the quality of workmanship, and the brand can all impact the price. But when it comes to bike racks, a low price isn’t always a bad thing. When you know what to look for in a rack, you can find some good ones on the low end of the price. Plus, sellers are always dishing out discounts, so be on the lookout for these as well. They can drastically bring down the price, allowing you to enjoy the same quality rack for less.
Features to consider while buying the best spare tire bike rack
Here now are the specific features you should evaluate when choosing a spare tire bike rack.
How many bikes
Spare tire bike racks can hold 2-4 bikes. You may only need to carry one bike for now, but what about in the future? With a rack that can hold multiple bikes, you’ll be able to load enough bikes for the whole family or for a group of friends looking to explore a new bike trail or enjoy a favorite trail together.
Assess the design of the rack carefully, checking that it’s big enough and has enough space for the number of bikes it’s said to carry. The best bike racks have long support arms that can hold multiple bicycles without keeping them squeezed in a tight space. If the bikes are tightly squeezed together, they will bump each other the whole journey, causing scratches and even dents.
Spare tire fit
Ensure that the bike rack you choose fits on your spare tire. Some racks are made in a universal design that fits different spare tire sizes. Others are designed for specific sizes of spare tires. Always check with the manufacturer to find out if your wheel and tire are compatible with the rack. Manufacturers always give a list of supported vehicle models and tire sizes, so you want to confirm that your spare tire falls in this category before buying the rack. If your spare tire is not compatible with a specific rack or if it comes in a non-standard size, you can use an adapter bar to get the rack to fit on the tire.
These bike racks are designed with mechanisms that ensure safety during use. There are straps supported on the arms that secure the bikes so they don’t fall off. Some racks come with anti-sway cradles to keep the bikes from moving about as the vehicle moves. The cradles, as you’ll see in Allen Sports bike racks, are meant to secure each bike individually to fully protect the bikes. Always ensure that the bolts and straps are adequately tightened before beginning your drive. Replace any worn out straps and bolts which might compromise safety.
To protect the bikes from friction, spare tire bike rack arms and cradles are padded so that as the bike comes in contact with the interior part of the arm or strap, it does not scratch.
You may need to use additional straps to hold the bikes together around the bottom brackets. This will keep the wheels from rotating and protect the gears from wear. If you let them stay free, it’s likely that they will be rotating the whole drive, which would be similar to your cycling the entire way, and what a heavy dose of wear and tear would that be if you drive for hundreds of miles.
Your rack comes with numerous locking mechanisms that protect the rack itself and the bike. The locking mechanism is important because it secures the rack to the vehicle, ensuring that it will not topple while you are driving. Different racks have different lock options, some more effective than others. It also helps to know beforehand what kind of locks you wish to have on your rack so you can shop specifically for racks that offer that. Nonetheless, it’s easy to identify a suitable locking system even if you didn’t have any preferences going into your shopping adventure.
At the very least, you want the rack to have a mechanism that locks the bike on to the rack. Then you want a locking system that locks the rack to your vehicle, so you’re covered on both angles. Most racks use an actual lock and key, while others may have alternate locking systems. Choose what you feel is best suited for you. You can also complement the rack’s stock locks with a U-lock and a locking cable that goes around both wheels to further enhance the security of the rack and bikes.
Note that some racks do not come with a locking mechanism. Without locks, such a rack can easily be stolen, and you end up losing not just the bikes, but the rack too. If you end up choosing a rack that does not have locks, invest in a good locking system. We’ve mentioned a U-lock and a locking cable. You can buy both so that you secure both wheels of the bike. Then buy a separate locking system to secure the rack to your car. Rack and bike locks are readily available in bicycle shops, and you can also buy them online. Chances are the shop where you’re buying the rack sells locks too, so you can buy them there.
You’ll sleep better when you know your spare tire bike rack has a valid guarantee. Bear in mind that this is an apparatus you should use for years, so the warranty should match the expectation. Fortunately, manufacturers agree with this thought and are quite generous with their offers. The average rack comes with a lifetime warranty, meaning you are covered for the entire period in which you own the rack. Go through the details to see what guarantees the manufacturer gives for parts like the rubber straps which are bound to wear out faster than the frame.
Most manufacturers have a caveat which lists conditions that might void the warranty and most state that the warranty does not apply if you buy from unauthorized third-parties. So you want to be certain that you’re buying your rack from the right sources. If you are traveling overseas and plan to ship the product to your destination for use while you’re there, the warranty may not apply either. So, consider all aspects of the guarantee, what’s covered and what’s not, and for how long you’re covered before making a final decision.
For durability, spare tire bike racks are made from hardy materials. The frame especially should be strong enough to carry the weight of the bikes. It should also be sturdy and well designed to ensure that it won’t damage the wheel. The best racks are made from heavy-duty metal, most notably steel or iron. These last for more than 10 years, even with regular use. Some of the metal racks you can check out are YAKIMA SpareRide Bicycle Rack, Allen Sports Premier S302, Rhino-Rack USA RBC025, Surco BT300, BUNKER INDUST 2-Bike Spare Tire Rack, and FIERYRED 2-Bike Spare Tire Rack.
Iron frames are given a powder coating to protect them from the effects of the elements and enhance their lifespan further. Because this coating is moisture resistant, you can use the rack in wet weather conditions without worrying about damaging it.
Few of the racks have a plastic frame, an example being SportRack SR2813B. The plastic used to make these frames is industrial grade, and as such, is highly durable and lasts a long time. Metal racks are the most popular option for obvious reasons, mainly their reliability and the fact that they do not degrade over time. You can’t go wrong with one of these.
The straps used to secure the bikes in strap-on racks are made from rubber, and they are strong enough to give you a few years of service. With time, however, they’ll wear out because of all the stretching, so plan to replace them in due time.
Ease of installation
Overall, spare tire bike racks are easy to install, some more easily than others. Strap-on racks are the easiest to install because you only have to clamp them on to the tire. Installing Bolt-on racks is more involving since you have to remove the wheel, and then bolt in the base plate. The racks come with installation instructions so you can set them up even if you’ve never done that before. Installation instructions can also be found on the manufacturer’s website, and they may be accompanied by demo videos. This can be an option for you if you find that the given manual is not very detailed.
A good number of spare tire bike racks come either fully or partly assembled, a good example being Allen Sports Premier S303
(and most Allen Sports bike racks, really). With such a rack, installation is simplified such that it’s ready to use right out of the box. If you would rather not spend time putting the rack together, this option is definitely for you.
Bike rack weight
Bike racks come in different sizes and weight, and these ones that mount on the spare tire are no different. Some are super light, weighing less than 10 pounds. The Surco BT300 falls here, with a weight of only 5 pounds. Others are quite heavy and weigh 20 pounds or more. They include Hollywood Racks SR-2, which weighs 24.25 pounds, Allen Sports 4-Bike Hitch Racks, which weighs 28.1 pounds, and Saris Freedom Bike Rack, which weighs 33 pounds. These heavier racks may need 2 people to install, so bear this in mind when choosing a rack. If you feel that trend rack is a little too heavy for you to mount it without struggling, get someone to help you install it. Other than making the process easier, it will minimize errors and likelihood of injury. Doesn’t matter if someone else says they mounted theirs by themselves. If it’s too heavy for you, get help. The same applies if it feels bulky in your hands, even if it isn’t necessarily heavy. Having someone to hold one end while you fix the other can make the experience so much better.
We have to mention that weight alone isn’t an indication of quality. There are lots of lightweight racks that are as good as the heavier kind. It boils down to their design in relation to the capacity for which they are built. When picking a heavy rack, remember that it will be supported against the door of the trunk. So, the door needs to be strong enough to support the rack, especially if you wish to have a convenient option that lets you open the door without first removing the loaded rack. If the loaded rack is heavier than the door, you must always remove the bikes first before opening the door to prevent a situation where the weight of the load rips off the door hinge.
Some spare tire bike racks come with extra straps to supplement the ones that are fitted on the rack. These tend to be similar to and of the same quality as the straps that come with the rack. An extra set of straps will serve you well should the old ones become worn out.
Some racks can be used on tires where backup cameras are mounted. If you have such a setup, confirm whether the bike rack you wish to buy can be used on such a spare tire. The same goes for reversing and parking sensors, and any modifications you may have done on the rear end of your vehicle. Always ensure that the rack you pick won’t obstruct any of these. Manufacturers indicate such details on the product description, but if you cannot find this information, enquire before making the purchase so you don’t end up with a rack you can’t use.
Decide whether you want to mount the rack with the spare tire cover on. While some racks cannot be installed when the cover is on, some can, an example being Allen Sports Premier S302. You want to make such a distinction before making your purchase so that you choose a rack that matches your preference.