Different Types of Bike Carriers and Their Pros and Cons

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Are you looking to take your new bike out on adventures outdoors? If so, you’re probably wondering what’s the best way you can transport it. For people with no prior experience in bike racks and mounting, figuring out the safest, most convenient way to transport their bicycle from point A to point B can take up a lot of energy and time.

Bike racks, also known as bike carriers, come in a range of styles and designs, such as rear-mounted, that can attach to the hatchback or boot; roof-mounted, that can attach to the roof rack or bars; and tow point-mounted, that attaches to the tow ball or tow bar. Almost any car can use any type of bike carrier, as long as it has the right provisions in place.

However, these extra provisions may end up costing you a little extra, which can also impact your decision about which bike carrier design would suit you best, not just in terms of what type and number of bicycles you intend on carrying, but your budget as well.

Types of Bike Carriers

Here are the main types of bike carriers you can find in the market:

Rear-Mounted Carriers

Rear-mounted bike carriers are the most popular choice for most people new to bike transport. It’s a cost-effective option, features a basic design, and is easy to install and uninstall from your vehicle.

Its construction is made up of a metal frame, with 4-6 straps hooking it secure to the edges of the hatchback or car boot, as well as two arms where the bicycles hang. But even though these bike carriers are simple, there are some factors to pay attention to.

For instance, not all rear-mounted carriers are compatible with all types of vehicles. However, you can still find some, such as the Yakima bike carrier models that fit most vehicles with ease.

It’s recommended that you get your bike carriers from reputable companies, because after all, you’ll be mounting expensive bicycles on them, and the last thing you want is to hear a loud sound behind you mid-transit.

The only reason I mentioned the Yakima bike carrier is because I use one myself. But there are plenty of other brands you can choose from, such as Rex, Pacific, Thule, SeaSucker, Saris, Dakine, etc.

Once you buy a rear-mounted carrier, take some time to get used to installing it. Tighten the straps as tightly as possible during the initial fitting, and then double-check them when you mount the bicycles. You can use some sort of padding between the bicycles to prevent damage, and bungee all of them together.

Do a triple-check if you’re worried about the carrier shaking while driving, but don’t get too paranoid as there’s bound to be some shaking. Last but not least, make sure these types of bike carriers doesn’t obstruct your number plate or lights.

Roof-Mounted Carriers

Roof-mounted carriers clamp onto the bars that are fitted to run across your vehicle’s roof.

They can hold your bicycle in a few different ways, but the most common two are using a front bar onto which you can attach a bicycle of your choosing after removing the front wheel of the bike, or a pivoting arm that clamps around the bicycle’s down tube.

Personally, I recommend getting a model that uses the second method, as removing your bicycle’s front wheel and then putting it back on can be tiresome.

The biggest benefit of roof-mounted bicycle carriers is that you can fit as many as five bicycles, depending on your vehicle’s size so make sure you check the bicycle weight as well. When mounting multiple bicycles on a roof carrier, make sure you top and tail them, meaning you alternate the way each bicycle is pointing to make sure you make the most out of your roof space.

On the downside, you have to be tall and somewhat strong to use roof carriers, and you have to keep in mind that the bikes will add a fair amount of height to your vehicle. This can also alter its aerodynamics, resulting in reduced fuel efficiency.

Tow Point-Mounted Carriers

Tow point- or ball-mounted bicycle carriers clamp to the back of your vehicle, providing easy access to your bicycles.

These carriers are very stable, and they’re quickly becoming a popular option. In the past, they used to be quite heavy, but nowadays, there are manufacturers that have simplified the design and use lighter materials in their construction.

Additionally, it was difficult if not impossible to access the boot once you mounted the bicycles on the carrier, but modern models now are capable of tilting even after you fit the bicycles, allowing for easy access to the boot.

The downside is that you need a tow bar or ball. These aren’t the most affordable accessories, but if your vehicle already has one, then this is a non-issue. Furthermore, some carriers come with an integrated lighting board. All of this makes these carriers the best option for safely transporting multiple bicycles.

Alternative Options

If your car is big enough, and you aren’t traveling with company, you can transport your bikes inside it.

To make the most space available, remove the front wheels of your bike, and lie them down with the chainset at the upside. If you’re carrying multiple bicycles, rest them on top of each other, but make sure you place some soft material in between so you don’t damage their paint job.

If you plan on carrying more than 4-5 bicycles, you can combine different mount carriers, such as roof- plus tow- or rear-mounted carrier. 

Alternatively, you can buy a bicycle-carrying trailer, which is a more expensive option, but it gets the job done well.

Conclusion

If you’re traveling with your kids and are carrying their bicycles as well. It’s best you place the smaller bicycles in the boot and mount the adult bicycles on the roof.

Kids bikes fit much easier on rear-mounted options such as the Yakima bike rack, whereas adult bikes fit better on tow bar and tow ball carriers.

While you can technically mount all of the bikes on a roof-mounted or tow bar-mounted carrier, I wouldn’t trust it with safely holding all of them. So you definitely need one of the types of bike carriers mentioned above.

James Mattis

James is a passionate bicyclist who has done about every kind of biking there is. He loves the wind in his hair, the sun over his shoulder and maybe even the bugs in his teeth. No, just kidding about that last item. He isn’t crazy about road burns, either, but acknowledges that to have the good there is the occasional tumble. James feels that his bike is the place where he can unwind, leave troubles alongside the road, meet new people, go new places, and live the life of adventure that he loves. He is ready to share the ride with you.

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