3 Major Ways of Transporting a Bike with Pros and Cons of Each Laid Out

From bike racks to in-car transportation, we cover different ways to take your bike on adventure with you.
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Last updatedLast updated: August 12, 2021

While reading this, you probably are now in the middle of summer, the holidays are upon you, and you are planning a vacation. If you’ve chosen to bring your mountain bike or road bike with you, then you will have to decide how to transport your bike. You most likely don’t know how to transport a bike. But the good news is that there are various transport and loading options. From the simplest and cheapest to the most sophisticated, you can transport your bike in and on your car.

Based on your financial resources and preferences, and above all based on the means of transportation available to you, let’s see the solutions available for all budgets and all means, even for those who have a small car or a sports car!

Transporting a Bike Inside a Car

3 Major Ways of Transporting a Bike with Pros and Cons of Each Laid OutThe simplest and cheapest way to transport the mountain or road bike remains the classic transport inside the car.

First requirement: a sufficiently large car, which can accommodate the driver and one or more bicycles inside.

For those traveling alone or as a couple, it seems to be the winning solution, as you can transport the bike without purchasing external supports. Just lay down a sheet that protects the car and the bike from abrasion.

You can also opt for a special sheet that insulates with style the wheels and any dirt accumulated during the trail.

This type of transport becomes more difficult as the number of passengers increases, especially if each passenger corresponds to the respective number of bikes and a set of luggage. In this case, with passengers and personal items, internal transport of the bike would no longer be feasible. It is, therefore, necessary to use external support, which we’re going to see next.

Pros

  • Virtually “zero cost”
  • No rules to follow for the external load
  • No interference with the aerodynamics of the vehicle
  • No additional fuel consumption.

Cons

  • Not compatible with small cars, sports cars, or with a large number of passengers

Externally Transporting a Bike on a Rack

If your vehicle is filled with passengers and items of luggage or you have a small incompatible car, then your best option would be to transport the bike on a rack, either on the roof or at the rear. In the first case, the rack must be equipped with imperial bars on the roof of the car. In the second case, they are equipped with a tow hook.

If your car does not have it, the cost of assembly increases. You will need to purchase compatible supports and the relative bike rack. The costs of this operation, including purchase, assembly, and approval, are around $250 or more. The external transport of the mountain bike offers the possibility to carry a large number of passengers and luggage inside the vehicle, keeping the interior clean.

The disadvantages of external racks are higher fuel consumption of the car due to the external dimensions. Also, your bikes will be exposed to dirt and dust when on a long-distant journey, especially on country roads or dusty terrains. However, you can protect them with the use of bike covers. The most reliable in this case according to user reviews is the TeamObsidian Bike Cover. This is a waterproof and heavy-duty bike cover for one to three bikes.

Trunk-Mounted

3 Major Ways of Transporting a Bike with Pros and Cons of Each Laid OutIf your cars aren’t prepared for imperials and towbar, don’t throw in the towel. There are cheaper solutions to transport the bike. You can purchase an easily removable trunk-mounted bike carrier. You will need to make sure it is perfectly compatible with your car.

Rear or trunk transport can be used for minivans. Depending on their position, they may require a duplicate license plate repeater, which you will have to purchase separately.

The quality systems are equipped with a lock that allows you to lock the releases. You can lock the bikes and the supports in place, ensuring safety in case of car movement.

It can be assembled and disassembled in a few minutes, but it does not exempt you from respecting the highway code, so keep that in mind.

Anyone transporting objects that protrude from the rear of the machine is obliged to mark the protruding load with a special sign. The sign must be of the new generation, in metal. You also have to repeat the plate if it is covered by the transported load, and the stoplights if they are not visible.

The sturdiest and most purchased trunk-mounted model must be the Deluxe 2-Bike Trunk Mount Rack from Allen Sports, which, thanks to its reinforced steel construction, is the most reliable option out there.

The load must not be wider than the mirrors of your car. In this case, the bikes will likely protrude laterally, especially with small cars. In this case, you will surely have to remove one or more wheels to contain the external bulk.

However, in case of your absence, it can be unhooked and stolen without tools. It must therefore be removed in case of absence.

It requires all the attention reserved for the transport of protruding loads on the back of a car. It is very easy to incur a fine if you do not comply with all the legislative requirements. You will have to buy a sign, a license plate repeater, and partially disassemble the bike in case of excessive lateral protrusion.

Finally, this method is not easy to fit or often not compatible with sports or small cars.

Pros

  • Low purchase cost
  • Quick easy assembly and disassembly that takes about 15 minutes
  • Non-permanent modification of the car

Cons

  • The bike carrier cannot be secured to the vehicle (no lock).

Hitch-Mounted

3 Major Ways of Transporting a Bike with Pros and Cons of Each Laid OutThis is the most expensive solution but also the safest and most stable for long journeys or frequent use. If you already have the towbar or tow hitch on the car, the hitch-mounted rack Trusted Source How to Install a Hitch-Mounted Bike Rack | Trucks.com Accessing the roof of larger vehicles like trucks, SUVs, vans or crossovers isn’t always easy, making roof-mounted bike racks hard to use. Hitch-mounted bike racks bring accessibility closer to the ground while providing a reliable method for storing gear that frees up interior vehicle space. www.trucks.com is certainly the most suitable system.

There are 2 types of bike racks to be fixed on the towbar – the suspended bike rack, ideal for frequent use, or the platform bike rack, ideal for long journeys.

  • Suspended bike rack: The suspended bike rack allows you to carry up to 3 bikes and quickly attaches to the towbar. In addition, it pivots to allow easy access to the boot. However, support for the license plate with lights must be added to the purchase, to comply with the law.
  • Bike rack on platform: The platform bike carrier is THE top-of-the-range solution for transporting up to three or four bikes in complete safety. This platform bike carrier is tilting, so it allows you to open the tailgate or the boot of the car leaving the bikes positioned. The license plate with lights is integrated, so you only have to add your license plate.

The consumption of the vehicle should not be affected and the positioning and unloading of the bikes are simple, being at eye level. It’s a real investment that can be kept for a very long time.

However, the maximum supported load between 110 and 130 pounds must always be respected. The platform is designed to be subjected to strong traction, not vertical loads. But this limit should only be considered if you have to carry up to 3 pedal-assisted bikes.

Pros

  • Simple to install
  • Sturdier than trunk-mounted racks
  • Easy to remove when you’re back from your trips
  • Ideal for frequent users
  • Usually comes with locks for better security

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Can block entry to the trunk

Roof-Mounted

This is the best known, the oldest, and one of the most accessible methods of transporting bikes and other loads on a vehicle. If you have to carry up to three bikes, it is the cheapest option, especially if you already have roof bars.

The roof-mounted rack is suitable for all vehicles. This system allows to maintain good rear visibility, but causes an increase in fuel consumption and does not allow, for example, to transport a pedal-assisted bike. Loading and unloading a bike weighing more than 45 pounds on the roof of the car is not something for everyone and can become annoying.

The external transport of the bike on the roof offers the possibility to carry a larger number of passengers and luggage inside the vehicle.

Another advantage is that the trunk is always accessible. However, attention must be paid to the height when passing under bridges, motorway toll booths, and car park entrances. Before leaving, you should measure the height of the car and the bikes fixed on the roof.3 Major Ways of Transporting a Bike with Pros and Cons of Each Laid Out

Pros

  • Keeps the interior clean
  • The systems are equipped with locks
  • Ensures rear visibility
  • Higher weight capacity than rear types

Cons

  • High purchase costs
  • Higher consumption of the car due to the external dimensions
  • The imperial bars and the bike carrier require careful assembly and disassembly
  • The tow hook must be removed when not in use

Transporting a Bike in a Truck Bed

3 Major Ways of Transporting a Bike with Pros and Cons of Each Laid OutPerhaps the easiest way of transporting bikes asides inside the vehicle is transporting them inside the back of a truck. However, you must secure the bikes with soft straps and bungee cords. There are also ratchet straps for the truck bed. However, finding the right tension for holding your bike down will still be a problem with these.

Other Ways to Transport a Bike

Asides from the internal option, truck bed transportation, hitch-mounted, trunk-mounted, and roof-mounted racks, there are also the spare-tire-mounted racks and the suction-mounted racks.

  • Spare tire mounted racks: Spare tire mounted bike racks can be installed on cars such as SUVs, Jeeps, as well as other types of big cars without making use of a hitch.
  • Suction-mounted racks: These are vacuum-mounted racks. They work by using suction cups and are ideal for use on crossovers and SUVs.3 Major Ways of Transporting a Bike with Pros and Cons of Each Laid Out

Final Thoughts

The simplest way to transport your bike is inside the car, provided the bikes are clean, you lay some sheets on the floor and you’re sure they will leave no scratches and damages on the interior of the vehicle and the bikes themselves.

When the interior of the car is not sufficient or is occupied by passengers, it is necessary to opt for an external transport solution. The roof bike racks are equipped with special clamps to be securely fastened to the roof bars of the car. There are also bike racks to be secured to the tow hook and the tailgate of the car. In this case, the presence of one or more bicycles (depending on the model chosen) will limit the rearview and this is one aspect to take into account.

By now, we hope you now know how to transport bikes. We do not recommend the use of magnetic bike racks: they can damage the bodywork, force you to cruise very low, and are decidedly less safe than models anchored to the roof bars or the tow hook.

References

1.
How to Install a Hitch-Mounted Bike Rack | Trucks.com
Accessing the roof of larger vehicles like trucks, SUVs, vans or crossovers isn’t always easy, making roof-mounted bike racks hard to use. Hitch-mounted bike racks bring accessibility closer to the ground while providing a reliable method for storing gear that frees up interior vehicle space.
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