There comes a time in every cyclist’s life when it simply won’t do to stroll out of your front door, sit upon your saddle, and ride on out. At some point you’re going to want to head a little further afield – and if you 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.
Halfords Essentials roof mount cycle carrier bike rack
Halfords sell car racks produced by a wide range of manufacturers – but they do also have two of their own models – the Essentials Roof Mount being the cheapest of the two. Weighing in at 15kg, the sub £20 car rack accommodates just one bike – but you can buy multiple and mount them on your roof bars.
The entry level price tag means that this option offers nothing more than basic functionality. However, on test we found it did its job with ease – and with some careful reading of the instructions, putting it together was not overly taxing.
By now: £19.95 at 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
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
Pendle Fork Mount bike rack £88.25
Made in Lancashire by Pendle Engineering, this British-built rack is a solid bit of kit. Unlike the other roof mounts tested here, this works by removing the bike’s front wheel and clamping its fork to the rack. This makes the bike super steady, but also requires you to use the correct fork mount for your particular bike – but this model suits Quick Release, 15mm and 20mm thru axels.
The rack is easy to fit to the car, although it’s heavy and it takes a bit of adjusting if you’re going to use it to carry different bikes. Our brother site MBR.com offer a detailed review here.
Buy now: £88.25 at Pendle Bikes
Saris Bones 3-Bike rack
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.
Buy now: From £133.99 at Evans Cycles