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With international travel still on hold for the time being, many of us are taking advantage of the destinations our own backyard has to offer — which means plenty of road trips — and one item that has made itself difficult to leave behind, is the bicycle, with demand for the two-wheeler growing in popularity since the COVID-19 lockdown.
Transporting your bike by car is great, however, they aren’t designed for carrying bikes, and you’ll likely need an add-on — especially if you’re carrying more than one — such as a car rack, to attach them anywhere on the outside.
But what are the rules around carrying your bike in or on your car? And which bike rack is preferred?
We’ll explain the different ways you can secure your bike to your car so that you can transport your two-wheeler safely and lawfully.
Securing the bike to roof racks
If you opt to use a roof rack to secure your bike you must use a rack that’s specifically designed for this purpose. It is the most stable and secure way to carry a bike and access to the boot isn’t hindered in any way.
There’s a wide range of different racks, some for carrying bikes upright, bikes upside down, one bike or more than one. Some bike racks require the bike to be intact while others need the front wheel to be removed.
If you choose to secure your bike using a roof rack, then make sure all the attachments (between the bike, the roof rack, and the roof) are safely fastened and don’t loosen as you travel. Take care when driving on windy roads or high areas, under tunnels, carparks, and low-hanging branches.
Pros: There’s plenty of room up there so carrying up to four bikes is feasible; bikes can’t damage car paintwork; roof bars are handy for other things.
Cons: Extra lock needed to prevent theft; lookout for low entrances to car parks & garages; worst for fuel consumption; awkward to load; bikes get wet or dirty in bad weather; can’t be quickly removed or fitted.
Securing the bike using a rear mount
If you choose to secure your bike using a rear mount (or hatch rack), your rack must be specifically designed for bikes and include an attachment to the rear of your car, which is usually connected to the tow ball or car boot. Make sure that the weight on the tow ball isn’t heavier than the maximum weight set by the manufacturer.
Your bicycle rack needs to be strong enough to carry all bikes you intend to carry and the rack itself shouldn’t stick out more than 150mm beyond the extreme width of your vehicle or exceed rear overhang limits (60% of the vehicle’s wheelbase). It may be fixed in place or swing out of the way when you need to access the boot.
Make sure that your bike rack doesn’t obstruct your car’s registration plates or rear lights. If your plate is blocked, then you’ll need to use an auxiliary plate that must be well lit by an additional set of lights and visible at night. You can find auxiliary plates at your state’s place of registration.
Finally, when the rack isn’t in use you need to remove it from your car so that it’s not a hazard to other vehicles or pedestrians. Failing to do so could result in a fine.
Pros: Easy to load; less effect on fuel consumption than roof rack; quick to fit and remove; folds for storage; inexpensive.
Cons: Extra lock needed to prevent theft; restricts access to the back of the car; fiddly to get secure; obscures plate and lights; can damage the bike and car paintwork if not loaded carefully.
Make regular safety checks
Once your bike is secured it’s important that you make regular checks before and on the way to your destination.
Before you leave make sure your bike is correctly secured to the rack or mount and that whichever rank you’re using, the attachment is correctly secured to your car.
Depending on how long your journey is, plan a break to review the stability of your bike and tighten any attachments that may have become loose while driving.
When you reach your destination, double-down on security, by locking your bike to the rack and then the rack to the car. This will help to prevent your bike from being stolen off the rack or mount in plain sight.
Planning your next road trip?
Check your state laws
Before taking off, familiarise yourself with the laws that apply to the state you’re travelling in/to, such as visibility of number plate (or requirement of auxiliary plates), bike-to-rack weight ratio or obscuring brake and/or indicator lights.
It’s up to you to seek out these laws and understand them thoroughly.
The last thing you want to happen once you’ve planned your road trip is to have a breakdown — and depending on where you’re going, cycling the remainder of the trip is probably too much to ask (regardless of how keen of a rider you are).
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Road.cc, 2021, How to transport your bike by car...