Bike Racks: A Buyer’s Guide

One of the best things about cycling is that it allows you to experience the great outdoors from a whole new perspective – the forest you’re accustomed to walking through might look a great deal different if you’re hurtling through it at breakneck speed.

The UK is home to some incredibly picturesque scenery – and that scenery often comes with specially-tailored cycle routes to match. But there’s a problem, here – if you live in the middle of a city, as many of us do, then you’ll be hard pressed to find a suitable cycling location within cycling distance. Consequently, you’ll need to find a way to transport your bike. Fortunately, there’s a technology close at hand that’ll do just that: the bike rack.

Cycle carriers come in many different forms. Let’s examine them:

What types of bike rack are available?


Among the more popular forms of bike rack are those which attach directly to the rear of your vehicle. The best of these can be fitted and removed in just a matter of moments, and they allow you to easily mount your bikes to the car without having to hold them over your head to access the roof. The best will also do so while doubling as a towbar, allowing you to simultaneously pull a trailer or caravan.

If you’re looking for something to transport multiple bikes simultaneously, then you’ll want a rear-mounted device that’s built like a tank, and which comes with straps to ensure that each bike is properly secured. A carrying capacity in excess of fifty-kilogrammes should be aimed for – though a quartet of the best carbon-fibre bikes will weigh substantially less than that.


Alternatively, you might consider a roof-mounted solution, which can consist of a series of horizontal rails which permanently affix to your roof, spanning its breadth, as well as vertical ones which cross its length. Your bicycle can then, upturned, be secured to the latter.

Roof-mounted bicycles have several disadvantages over their counterparts. They’re more cumbersome to fix; they’re more difficult to attach your bikes to, and they’ll have a greater impact on the look of your car. Moreover, they’ll have a more pronounced impact on your car’s wind resistance, as the airflow around the car will be interrupted by the spokes of the rack, and (more importantly) by the shape of the bikes themselves, which can act like a sail.

So, with all this in mind, whyever would we opt for a roof-rack when a rear-mounted rack will do the same job without many of these downsides? The answer lies in the flexibility of the roofrack. A roofrack will be able to carry a number of different objects, not just bikes. If you’re transporting your family’s skis to the French Alps, then a roofbox will greatly extend the carrying capacity of your car (especially since skis are long and narrow in a way that most car boots are not. If you’re looking to transport a canoe, then a roof-rack makes a great alternative to a trailer. Similarly, if you’re moving house or shipping long and cumbersome equipment and materials, then you might wish to invest in a roof rack.

And it’s not just shipping that roof racks are useful for. They can also help to supporting lighting rigs, or act as carriers for spare tyres and other practical items. In short, if you’re looking to carry more than just bikes, a roof-rack may prove extremely useful.


If you’re looking for a cheaper solution, then you might be tempted by a boot-mounted rack that doesn’t attach to your car directly, but to the boot via a series of straps which are designed to snap within the inside of your boot. There is, however, reason to be sceptical about this particular design. Its grip on your vehicle is a great deal more tenuous, and heavily reliant on the quality of the initial fit. Moreover, they have the potential to scratch the surface of your car. They’re also a great deal more easily stolen by an enterprising thief with the means to shear through the straps.

One of the chief virtues of this sort of technology is that it’s easy to remove and re-attach. But if you’re going to do this regularly, then the risk of a mistake when reattaching become all the greater – as does the risk of a costly detachment when you’re halfway down the M5. If you’re looking for a means of securing an expensive bicycle, then, it’s best to go for something that’s as substantial as possible – that way you can be sure that your investment is protected.

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