Awkward ways to carry bikes outside your car
April 2nd 2019
It’s pretty simple, really. When you drive around with your bike on the outside of your car, stuff happens to your bike. Maybe even to your car.
I can speak to this personally, at least twice.
Life with a trunk rack.
Back in college, the most common type of bike rack was the low-tech, strap-on-the-trunk bike carrier. You fill your trunk, add the bikes, remember that you forgot to pack something, remove the bikes, put the bikes back on… it gets old fast.
But there’s a hidden issue that my roommate and I discovered–shock absorbers. When you load up the back of the car for a big move, the back end of the car sags. The bike wheels get closer to the ground. One speed bump and your bike wheels hit sideways and bend. I am happy to report that my bending aluminum wheel caused absolutely no damage to Chris’ bike rack or car.
(And in a bizarre twist–literally–a nearby physics student saw my pretzeled wheel, made a quick assessment about reversing the transition, applied quick force in four places, and untwisted the wheel with a snap.)
If my bike had rugged wheels like this, that action wouldn’t have been needed…
Life with a roof rack.
Roof racks are away from the busy trunk area and the furthest you can get from the ground, so those pesky trunk rack problems disappear. You’re left with the issue of lifting your bike over your shoulders, cleanly depositing it in the trough on top of your car or truck, and locking it securely with one free hand. The fun is just beginning…
My wife had a clearer sense of clearance risk, always hiding the garage door opener as we left the driveway. I preferred to use my infallible memory–until the day I heard a prior roommate’s business ad on the radio as I approached the house, focused on that exciting news instead, and promptly drove into the gutter over the garage.
That was the day I started fantasizing about full-size bikes that easily fit INSIDE any vehicle. But first, what about the other common options?
Life with a hitch-mounted carrier.
Here’s an idea. Instead of mounting a bike rack on the hatch door, where you have to lift everything to get into your vehicle, how about mounting it at the bottom, for maximum inconvenience?
There are ways around this. Some systems have hinges to swing to the side or swing down to make the assembly less in the way.
Ultimately, these are the small issues with hitch mounted racks. A bigger issue is that you need a trailer hitch. And if only one car has the hitch, then nobody else in the family can take bikes out for a ride someplace safe. It limits you.
Do it yourself solutions.
Of course, you aren’t limited by what others do. It’s a free country…
Or something I often see on the road… The RV Dangle–when you care enough to do the very least.
Or complete biking freedom.
Here’s a question. Suppose the RVers in the photo above didn’t actually lose their front wheel. Maybe they stored it inside because you can do that with a wheel. So if the whole bike folded in half to about wheel size, what would they do with that?
Probably something like this.
Think about the implications of this for a moment. When you don’t attach a bike to the outside of your car and then drive around that way in traffic, this happens:
- No more road grit and wet, rusting bikes
- Better gas mileage
- Less theft and vandalism
- No collisions with carports or the ground
- No obscured proximity sensors on your bumper
What you have left is pure biking freedom.
So…now that you have a choice, would you rather balance your bike on the outside of your car, or get a full-size fold-away bike? Which bike is right for you? (You can see it fold there, too.)
Bob Forgrave is president of Flatbike, an
ecommerce company offering full-size folding bikes
and kits to make any bike take up half the space.
6 responses to “Awkward ways to carry bikes outside your car”
Great article, very funny but yet helpful in pointing out all the flaws in the various bike racks. I had a similar accident with our garage when I drove my husband’s SUV and forgot that the bikes were mounted on the roof.
Luckily he now drives a truck and I have to say that truck bed bike racks are far more convenient.
Absolutely, Kirsten. I’ll bet there are a LOT more folks who have had this type of garage accident than are willing to admit to it!
Rack Maven is a truck bed rack, and I’ve even seen a video showing how to roll your own with $25 of Home Depot parts…
This was great for the cons. What are the pro’s and suggestions on what you think is the better bike rack?
Correct, Jeffrey. All of these methods are awkward, as is the whole idea of glomming a bike onto the outside of your car. Far better to have a full-size bike that folds in half, like a CHANGE bike.
But not everyone does have a CHANGE bike, so even I have a bike rack on my truck. It’s a roof rack. About once a year, we find the attachments somewhere in the garage and help someone else carry a bike the old-fashioned (awkward) way. Works for us!
Hi, Bob! I don’t know if you’re still answering questions but I have a bit of an unusual question. I’m retired and want to live in my 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid touring the Western state (I live in Southwestern Utah) but would like to carry a folding, exercise bike with me. Space will be critical so was wondering what your thoughts might be. Thanks!
Hi, Lana. It’s actually not an unusual question at all for Flatbike. All of our bikes fit in the trunk of a Toyota Camry–and I know of one customer who always keeps his mountain bike either in that or a Volkswagon Jetta.
So the big questions are those that match the perfect full-size folding bike to you: What surface(s) do you want to ride on (all on road, mixed road & trails, off-road)?, and what type of rider are you (upright & related, lean-forward & sporty). Then we know what type of tire is appropriate, combined with what type of handlebars, for the best ride in the places you want to go.
One thing jumped out at me. Southwestern Utah. Goathead thorn country? We have ways of dealing with that…