If you want to travel any great distance by car with your bike, and don’t have space in the boot, you’ll be looking to invest in a car rack.
In effect there are three main types of carrier: the rear rack which clips around your boot lid and rests on the rear of your car; the roof rack which attaches to roof bars; and the towpoint mounted rack which can either fit on the towbar or towball.
For the purpose of this test we have looked at rear and roof racks, simply because they will fit the majority of cars. If you don’t already have roof bars, they are easy to fit and can be bought for around £100. A towpoint, on the other hand, is a garage-fitted option and will cost significantly more.
Finally, your last consideration has to be how many bikes you are planning to transport. Roof racks are great for quickly loading one or two bikes or, if you put a little care into arranging them, even a full complement of four cycles. If you’re a little challenged in the height department, however, they can be a difficult to reach.
Rear racks can be loaded more easily but face other pitfalls: often the bikes have to be packed together so tightly that rub damage is a common occurrence unless you’re very careful to wrap and isolate the tubes, and fully-loaded rear racks have a tendency to obscure your number plate and lights, making your car illegal.
So what do we think is the ultimate way to take your bike by car? Let’s rack ’em up.
On the rack
Just to confuse matters even more, roof bars now come in two flavours — traditional square-profile and more modern oval, aero bars. These oval bars are designed to cut through the air, reduce drag, and in the process cause less wind noise. Just make sure when you pick your roof rack so that it will work with whichever shape roof bars you have fitted.
In the rear
Similarly, be aware of the shape of your car’s rear end. Different rear racks are designed to work best with saloons, hatchbacks or people carriers. If you are in any doubt, log on to the rack manufacturer’s website where you should find a vehicle checker, showing which products fit your motor.
Finally, whatever sort of rack you choose, be aware of the increased length or — especially — the increased height of your vehicle; you wouldn’t be the first person to destroy some expensive machinery at the entrance to a multi-storey car park. It may sounds silly, but putting a little sticker on the inside of your windscreen to remind you of your unusual load could save a lot of heartache.
Our pick of the best bike car racks
With each product that’s currently available to purchase, you’ll find a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t effect the amount you pay.
Halfords roof mount bike rack
Halfords sell car racks produced by a wide range of manufacturers – but they do also their own models, too. This version will take one bike, weighing up to 15kg.
The basic rack costs £30, and one carrier comes in at £15 – you can fit a total of four carriers if you’re taking more.
By now: £45 Halfords
SeaSucker Talon QR-1 roof rack
SeaSucker shocked the cycling world when they arrived with their suction operated bike racks – doing away with nuts, bolts and fixtures. We were sceptical, too – until we had one in to review, to great success. The rack weighs just 2.12kg in total, making it a highly convenient, easy to store option.
Fitting was as easy as a simple pump action, and even with exuberant driving there was no sign of any undue movement.
Buy now: £349.99 at Leisure Lakes Bikes
Thule ProRide roof mounted bike carrier
A quick and convenient option which will cater for a bike up to 20kg; you can lock the bikes up too which is handy for longer stops.
On test, we found this rack option to be sturdy and reliable, and there was no impact on the car’s performance. The tyre straps use a ratchet and they can get in the way when fitting the bike, but it’s a minor gripe.
Read more: Thule ProRide review here
Buy now: at Wiggle for £92
Hollywood F9 Express E3 bike rack
Arriving fully assembled, this option offers a construction free solution – but it is essential that the six supporting straps are well applied to prevent the rack from wobbling. On test, we found that as long as we could give the rack a good grip on a solid bit of the car, the rack and its load stayed movement free and up to three bikes can be transported.
The car’s paintwork is protected by rubber tabs and the rack is designed to fold neatly into the boot when not in use.
Buy now: £64 at Amazon
Saris Bones 3-Bike rack
Buy now: From £133.99 at Evans Cycles
Saris makes cool bike racks, and this is no exception. It takes a bit of preparation to get the ‘bones’ shaped right to fit your car — the rack’s legs and arms have to be completely removed and then refitted at the correct angle — but that means it is adaptable to a great range of rear ends. The Bones comes with everything you need — such as bike-retaining straps. As denoted by the name, Saris also makes similar racks for one and two bikes.