How to Choose Car Racks
Buying a car rack is really the best way to transport your bike to trails, races and roads that you can't simply bike to. You could go through the trouble of breaking the bike down and stuffing it in the trunk, but this risks damaging parts on the bike as well as your vehicle, and some vehicles simply won't accommodate a bike. A car rack is a necessary accessory for any biking enthusiast and purchasing one is a big decision. There are several different types of racks on the market and it can be difficult to determine which one is right for you.
Decide what type of rack(s) that you need. This article is geared toward bike racks, but also consider if you'll need any other type of rack such as skiing, kayaking, etc. Some racks are designed to be converted to store different types of gear. This will cost additional money for the accessories and hardware, but will be cheaper and easier than purchasing a variety of separate racks. If you only plan to use the rack for one specific activity, you can opt for a rack designed solely for that purpose.
Decide the style of rack that you'll need. This will be based on a variety of factors not limited to but including price, the make and model of your car, personal preference and clearance of your garage or carport. Don't forget to consider how many bikes that you'll regularly be transporting with the rack.
Choose a roof rack for sturdiness that will keep your bike in place and for multi-sport convertibility. Roof racks are usually the more expensive types of racks and can cause issues with clearance in a garage or other area. Consider the clearance needed for the rack and also determine if you don't mind loading and unloading your bikes outside. Beware that if you're daydreaming about that sweet ride when you roll up to your garage, and forget all about your roof-mounted bike, you could cause some damage to both your gear and your home. Roof racks can be a bit more difficult than other types to install and load. Roof racks will attach to the factory roof rack on your vehicle, or use additional hardware to mount to the gutters between the roof and car door.
Opt for a trunk rack for the least expense and easy installation. They simply slide on the trunk with a series of hooks. These racks aren't quite as stable as roof racks and may cause your bikes to bounce around. Trunk racks may also rub against your car and cause damage to the paint.
Choose a hitch rack, another good, sturdy option that mounts to the hitch on the back of your vehicle. Of course, you'll need a hitch, and if you don't have one this could run several hundred dollars to install (if you're able to install a hitch on your vehicle). Hitch racks are easier to load and unload than roof racks and don't present clearance issues. They're certainly a good option for vehicles equipped with a hitch. These racks are also among the most expensive.
Determine what racks will work with your vehicle. Deciding which rack you want and which rack will actually fit on your vehicle are two different things. Check out the websites of major car rack manufacturers such as Thule and Yakima to view models that will work with your make and model, or go to a bike shop or retailer that sells car racks and work with them to find a rack that will fit your car.
Find all the mounting hardware to successfully mount the rack. Some vehicles will require additional hardware. Discuss this with the shop staff before you make your purchase. If needed, take the staff outside and show them what you're working with. If you're not comfortable mounting the rack yourself, ask the store if they will mount it for you (there may be an additional cost).
Tips & Warnings
Spare tire racks are another option for those vehicles that have a spare tire on the back.
Check the maximum weight allowed for your vehicle's roof to determine exactly what can be loaded. Don't overload!
Article Written By Joe Fletcher
Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.
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