How to pick the best bike rack for your car

Supplied by Thule SA

· By Bike Hub Features · 2 comments

Buying a bike rack is expensive and it’s really important to understand the various options that are available.  Most cyclists are looking for a bike carrier that will be the easiest and most convenient to use, while also keeping their bikes safe, secure and ready to ride when unloading at the destination.


Jamie Owen, marketing manager for Thule SA, gives the below advice and tips on the different ways you can transport your bike(s) on your car, the features and benefits of each and how to know the capacity and limitations of certain styles and vehicle placements.

The right rack for your car

The first questions you should ask when selecting a bike rack is what type of vehicle you have, what type of bikes you are transporting and how many bikes you would like to carry?

Bike racks come in a variety of styles and can be mounted on a vehicle’s roof, on the tow bar, on the trunk/rear door, or in the bed of a pickup truck. The type of vehicle you have will identify what bike rack options are available. 

How to select the right bike rack for your needs…

After determining the number of bikes you plan on transporting, you can then decide on how you want to carry your bikes.  As mentioned, there are four options to choose from.

Roof top Bicycle Carriers

To mount a roof top bike carrier, you will first require a roof rack on your vehicle. The roof mounted bike carriers are designed to carry one bike per carrier but depending on the width of your roof rack and the load capacity of your vehicles roof you are often able to mount 4 and occasionally even 5 bike carriers onto the roof racks. A roof mounted bike carrier gives you full access to the trunk of your vehicle. Generally, they also stay mounted to your vehicle even when you aren’t transporting bikes which saves on storage space. Roof mounted bike carriers are a great option if you ever tow a trailer, boat, or caravan as you can still mount the bikes to your vehicle whilst towing. Roof mounted carriers come in either a fork mounted bike rack that secure to the quick release or thru-axel of your fork. An example of this is the new Thule TopRide. The other option is an upright bike carrier that doesn’t require removing the front wheel. These carriers either mount to the bicycles frame, such as the Thule ProRide 598 or mount to the front wheel such as the Thule UpRide which has zero frame contact. These carriers are quick to load and unload and are a great solution if you have a vehicle that is not too high off the ground.

Benefits of rooftop bike racks:

•    You don’t require a tow bar to be mounted to the vehicle.
•    Your bicycles won’t get as dusty on gravel roads.
•    You will have full access to the vehicle’s trunk/boot.
•    You can still use the vehicle to tow a trailer/caravan/boat.
•    The bike racks can stay mounted to the vehicle so there is no need to store them.
•    You can purchase an additional roof mounted bike carrier when required.

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Towbar-mounted bike racks:

Tow bar-mounted bike racks are the most common style of bike carriers and are a great option if you already have a tow bar on your vehicle or plan on installing one. These bike racks can carry 1 to 4 bikes, are easy to mount and limit heavy and high lifting. Tow bar bike racks also come in two styles: platform and hangon carriers. Thule platform carriers can carry up to 3 bikes (four if you add a fourth bike adapter which is compatible with certain models), are designed to make loading and unloading quick and easy, fold up when not in use, easily accommodate a variety of frame styles and have a tilt function to access the vehicles trunk. They also come standard with locks so that the carrier locks to the vehicle and the bicycles lock to the rack. All Thule’s platform carriers also have integrated lights and a number plate holder. One of the best options for this style is the Thule EasyFold XT 3, a fully foldable, compact, and easy-to-use towbar-mounted bike rack for all types of bikes, including E-bikes. Hanging tow bar racks can carry up to 4 bikes. Instead of the bikes standing on a platform the bikes are secured by hanging from the top tube. These carriers are more affordable than platform carriers and are ideal for shorter trips. 

Benefits of towbar-mounted bike racks:

•    The platform versions have integrated locks, lights, and a number plate holder.
•    They are simple to use and don’t require bikes to be lifted very high.
•    They are the only option for E-bikes.
•    No concern of damaging bicycles on low hanging structures.


Trunk bike racks:

For vehicles without a roof rack or towbar, a trunk bike rack is an ideal option. This style of racks can transport 1 to 3 bikes, they are foldable and can thus easily be stored when not in use. These carriers are a great option for cyclists who want the bikes mounted to the rear of the car without having to install a tow bar. Although these carriers are not compatible on every vehicle, they can be used on several different sedans and hatchbacks, so they are also a good choice for those who change vehicles often. The new Thule Outway range consists of a 2 and 3 bike hanging option as well as a 2-bike platform option. All three Thule Outway carriers fold up for easy storage and come standard with locks so that the rack locks to the car and the bikes lock to the rack.

Benefits of trunk bike racks:

•    You do not have a tow bar or roof racks on your vehicle.
•    You are a casual rider that does not ride often.
•    You change vehicles often.


Truck/Bakkie Bed Racks:

Truck/bakkie owners, have the option to easily load their bikes onto an in-bed bike rack for mounting inside the bed of their truck. The Thule bed rider is one option which allows two bikes to be mounted by their forks inside the bin. Another option is quickly and securely strapping up to 7 bikes onto a tailgate pad such as the Thule GateMate Pro which protects the bikes with integrated straps and prevents the tail gate from getting scratched. 

Once you’ve decided which type of carrier will be best for you, you’ll need to decide exactly which model to go for. To help you select the best rack for you, check out our interactive Thule Buyer’s Guide for a comprehensive step-by-step tutorial of which bike rack would be best for your vehicle, bike styles and number of bikes to carry. All options are available at Thule Partner store nationwide or shop online




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