The New Cyclist’s Guide to Transporting Your Bike By Car

How To Take Your Bike From A To B By Car

As much as we would like to ride everywhere, sometimes it isn’t practical. When we want to ride those routes located far from home or take our bikes with us on holiday, we need to transport our bikes by car from A to B with a minimum of fuss. 

Unfortunately, not everyone owns a van. Most people own a car, even if only a small car, but size doesn’t matter. You can still move your bike with the right equipment such as a bike rack.

Finding the right equipment is essential to getting your bike and you to your destination in one piece. Or three, if you remove the wheels…

Transport Bike By Car - Roof Bike Rack Carrier

Before you begin

Before we look at the different options of how to transport our bike by car, here are a few points to consider about your bikes, your car and you:

  • Your bikes
    • How heavy are your bikes?
    • Do your bikes have quick release wheels?
  • Your car
    • What will fit my car?
    • What is the maximum noseweight of your towbar? Check the towbar sticker.
    • Does your car support roof bars?
  • You
    • Are you physically strong and able enough to lift your bike into position?
    • What suits my needs?

The Boot

The simplest method of transporting your bike by car is to put your bike in the boot. Being able to this depends open a number of factors such as size of the boot, removing wheels, removing the saddle and sometimes loosening handlebars to fit the bike in the boot.

Quick releases make this a lot easier for wheels and seat posts. A tip here is if you have your seat post and handlebars in the ideal position, a little masking tape to mark the height will make it much quicker when reattaching and adjusting to return to your ideal riding position.

Advantages

  • It doesn’t cost you a penny in buying extra equipment
  • Bike is safe and secure
  • It’s quick and convenient

Disadvantages

  • There’s no room for anything else in the boot
  • If not prepared, you could lose your ideal bike set up (saddle and handlebar height, etc.)

Estate, MPV or Hatchback Cars

Transport Bike By Car - Bike in Boot of Hatchback

Estate cars, hatchbacks and MPVs (also known as people carriers) are versatile vehicles which can provide much more storage space than a saloon car with a boot. Fold the back seats down and you have a very large storage area, suitable to fit a bike sometimes even with the wheels still attached. A top tip is to add a liner or tarpaulin to help keep your car clean.

Advantages

  • Lots of space for your bike and extra equipment
  • Bike is protected from the weather
  • No extra cost and no extra fuel consumption

Disadvantages

  • The inside of your car can become very dirty
  • It may feel like you’re driving a van

Roof Racks and Bars

Transport Bike By Car - Roof Rack Bars

A common way to transport bikes is to fit a roof rack to your car and add bike-specific roof bars. Some older models require you to remove the front wheels. Newer models allow you to transport your whole bike without removing any element.

Bikes can be heavy depending on the model and type. If buying a roof-mounted rack, make sure you are physically able to lift your bike to the required height before purchase.

Advantages

  • Doesn’t take up any space inside the car
  • Carry up to 4 bikes
  • Use roof racks for transporting other things

Disadvantages

  • Loading is awkward and bikes can be heavy
  • Locks required to prevent theft
  • Watch out for low bridges, barriers, low entrances to car parks – know the total height of your vehicle + roof rack + bikes
  • High fuel consumption
  • Bikes get wet and dirty in bad weather

Check out the roof racks and bars options at these retailers:

Boot-Mounted Bike Racks

Transport Bike By Car - Boot Mounted Bike Rack Carrier

Boot-mounted racks are popular as they are the cheapest of the different systems (other than putting your bike in the boot) of transporting your bike by car. Most boot-mounted racks hold up to three bikes and attach directly onto the back of your car using straps. The racks are cushioned with foam so as not to damage your car’s paintwork. Your bikes are strapped to the frame along the top bar. It is worth purchasing extra straps to make your bikes more secure for transport.

Advantages

  • Leaves the inside of your car free for your stuff
  • Carry up to 3 bikes
  • Not expensive
  • Less fuel consumption than a roof rack
  • Folds for storage

Disadvantages

  • Once mounted, you can’t open your boot
  • Locks required to prevent theft
  • Time-consuming and fiddly to fit
  • Not a good idea to leave mounted to your car while out riding, store in the boot
  • Bikes get wet and dirty in bad weather

Check out the boot-mounted racks options at these retailers:

Towbar Mounts

Transport Bike By Car - Towball Bicycle Rack Loaded

Towbar-mounted racks are one of the most popular ways of transporting your bikes. Prices vary depending on the make, model and number of bikes you wish to transport. Each bike is secured at three points – top bar or down tube, front wheel and rear wheel. The rack can be locked to the car and you use your regular bike lock to prevent theft of your bikes. Quick, easy and secure.

Some towbar mounts are similar to boot-mounted racks – they hold the bikes in the air in front of the rear window; with the exception that the weight is supported by the towbar. This is not an option on all types of towbars. Some towbar mounting plates have two slots into which a two-pronged towbar mount can be inserted. On some models the top of the mount straps to the car in a similar manner to the boot-mounted racks for extra stability. Secure your bikes to the rack in a similar way as described above or as for boot-mounted racks depending upon the model of bike carrier.

Towbar-mounted bike carriers require the use of a light bar and additional number plate as your bikes will obscure the rear of your car. Purchase an additional number plate from Amazon or other retailer.

Advantages

  • Quick to set up and load bikes
  • Carry up to 4 bikes
  • Low effect on fuel consumption
  • Comes with light bar to ensure other drivers can see when you are indicating, braking, etc.

Disadvantages

  • Maximum weight is determined by the noseweight your car can support
  • Locks required to prevent theft
  • A second rear number plate required to add to the rack as bikes obscure the back of the car
  • Bikes get wet and dirty in bad weather

Check out the towbar mounts options at these retailers:

Top Tips for Transporting Your Bike By Car

  • When you use a roof-mounted bike carrier, remember the additional height of the rack and bikes. Pay attention to the barrier heights when driving into car parks and under low bridges.
  • Some bikes have top tubes which make attaching to a bike rack difficult so use a frame adapter which attaches to the handlebars and seat post
  • If your bike carrier doesn’t have padded frames, use bubble-wrap or foam pipe lagging to protect your bikes and prevent any scratches on the frames.
  • Canvas straps (like seatbelt material) and bungee cords are great for making sure your bicycles are securely fastened to the carrier. Also use to secure the wheels to minimise movement during transit.
  • Protect your bikes from the weather with a waterproof bike cover.
  • Use a plastic bag to keep the saddle dry in wet weather.
  • Carrying any more than one bike by car can increase fuel consumption so make sure you fill up.
  • When you are buying a new car, think about how you will transport your bikes. Does your current method suit the new car? Is there a better way of transporting your bikes?

We hope you enjoyed this article and how chosen the best way for you to transport your bikes. Are there any other modes of transporting bikes you think should be included in this list? Let us know in the comments below.

Many of the retail links above are affiliate links which allow us to collect a commission when you make a purchase, at no cost to you. The commissions contribute to the upkeep of this website. Thank you for supporting Cycling With The Kids.

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