Guest post by Matt Sklar from Evo.
Ever since mountain biking was invented, people have been coming up with creative ways to get their bikes to the trailhead. Sure, the best way to get there is to just ride your bike, but we don’t all live a short pedal from the trail system. So we have to figure out how to load our bikes into or onto our cars securely, just so that we can unload them, ride for a few hours, and then repeat the whole process to get home. If you’re got a truck, it’s a little more straightforward, just throw the bike in the back, and make sure you’ve got your helmet, and you’re good to go.
But for most of us, it’s not that simple to carry our bikes. By adding a hitch-mounted bike rack to the equation, you can simplify the process, and feel more secure about speeding down the freeway with your expensive carbon mountain bike strapped to the car.
What are the options?
There are three main categories of bike racks on the market: hitch bike racks, roof racks, and strap on racks. Each comes with its own pros and cons, which we’ll dive into here, but the summary is: Hitch racks are the most secure, easiest to use, and safest option.
Roof racks mount directly onto the crossbars of your car’s roof racks. That means your bike is up on top of the car as you drive. That comes with a few big setbacks. First of all, you’ve got to lift your bike onto and off of your car twice every time you go ride. That’s impossible for shorter people, and even for tall folks, it’s hard to lift a 35lb bike above your head, while trying not to scratch your car’s paint.
Once your bike is securely on the roof, you face a whole different set of hazzards. Strong crosswinds can catch your bike and make it sway dangerously on the roof. If you drive through bugs, you will end up with the whole front of your bike coated in them when you arrive at the trailhead. And finally, you have to be very conscious of the fact that there’s a bike on top of your car. You won’t be able to see it out of any of your windows or mirrors, but it’s there, and you’ll ruin it if you drive into any opening that’s not tall enough, like a restaurant drive-through, or your garage. Rooftop racks work, but they can be difficult to use, and can be dangerous to your bike and car.
Strap on racks are the cheapest and least reliable way to carry your bike. As the name implies, the rack just straps onto the back of your car, and the bike straps onto it. These racks have a tendency to beat up the paint on your car, and it’s hard to load more than one bike without the bikes rubbing against each other and the car. And they’re not that secure, they’re just strapped on after all. Many folks buy strap on racks because they seem affordable and easy to use, and then end up paying much more in damage to their car or bikes.
So Why are Hitch Racks Better?
All of that leads us to hitch bike racks. Hitch racks mount into the trailer hitch receiver under your bumper and have trays to hold your bikes. Most also fold up, and out of the way when you don’t have a bike in them. Just their location makes them superior to a roof rack. You only have to lift the bike a foot or so off the ground, no hoisting it above your head. And once it’s on the car, it’s mostly protected. You can drive through as many low arches as you want, you’re not going to lose your bike. And most hitch racks extend back, past the bikes, so if you do get rear-ended the other car will hit the rack not your bike.
And hitch racks are much more secure than strap on racks. They bolt directly into the receiver which is, in turn, bolted to the frame of your car. No straps to come loose or fray. And no rubbing, most hitch racks have special arms and straps so that they only touch the tires of your bike, and they keep bikes separated so there’s no rubbing.
Why it’s worth installing a trailer hitch
So, if hitch racks are so much more secure, safer, and easier to use than the other options, why do roof and strap on racks even exist? Well, some cars don’t come stock with a hitch receiver. And with no hitch, there’s no way to mount a hitch rack. So instead people make do with inferior options. What they don’t realize is that it’s very easy to install a trailer hitch kit on most cars. Standardized kits are available at auto parts stores, and online that allow you to bolt a hitch onto almost any frame. Just look up your make and model and you’ll find something that works for your car. Or visit a local shop.
So stop putting up with inferior bike transportation solutions. Throw a hitch on your car, and grab a hitch-mounted rack. Your back and your bike will thank you.
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