Cycle Rack Buyers Guide

Whether you’re heading on a family staycation to the countryside or a day trip up into the hills for some serious road riding, getting more than one bike from to A to B is almost impossible without a cycle rack.

These handy pieces of kit attach to your car in a variety of ways and make it possible to carry multiple bikes safely and securely. They also prevent the interior of your car from exposure to oil from your bike chains, or whatever your tyres might have picked up from the roads.

So, what types of bike rack are there?

Different types of bike rack

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the best bike carrier for your car, including the limitations of your vehicle. To help you make a smart choice, this guide will cover the most popular options for bike racks; touching on the pros and cons of each type.

Rear mounted bike carriers

One of the easiest cycle carriers to fit and use, rear mounted cycle carriers sit on your vehicle’s rear window, using straps that fasten around the boot door to stay in place. Rear mounted cycle carriers are compatible with a wide range of cars and they can usually be adjusted, so they’re a good option if you carry one or two bikes over short distances.

However, if you want to carry multiple bikes and leave them on the car when parked up, then rear cycle racks probably aren’t the best option. Bikes usually fasten to the carrier using grips that sit on the bike’s top tube, which makes bikes easy to attach and remove, but that also applies to thieves! You may also need to attach a false top tube to your bike’s frame, as sloped top tubes may not fit onto the carrier’s frame correctly.

Remember that if the bike(s) on your rear mounted cycle carrier cover your lights or license plate, you’ll need to fit a light board. You’ll also need to be aware that getting into the boot becomes tricky with a rear mounted cycle carrier, with some systems only allowing the boot door to close.

If you’ve already bought or decided on a rear cycle carrier and now need some help fitting it, then check out our how to fit a high mount cycle carrier guide.

Roof mounted bike carriers

Moving your bikes away from the rear of the car means you won’t have to worry about the lights or license plate being covered, plus you’ll be able to access the boot much easier and may even benefit from a more secure fixing point that makes your bike more difficult to steal. However, the pros of shifting the bikes on the roof of your car can also turn into cons!

Adding bikes to the roof of your car increases its height, so height-restricted multi-storey car parks may be out of the question and low-hanging trees and branches may need to be avoided if you don’t want to damage your bikes. You’ll also need a set of roof bars for most roof-mounted systems, so check out our roof bar buyer's guide first before you get a roof-mounted cycle carrier.

Tow bar cycle carriers

One premium solution for carrying bikes on your car is to use a tow bar-mounted bike carrier. These bike racks sit on the tow bar connection point of your car. This means you can reduce the overall height of your car by moving the bike(s) to the back, but it may make accessing the boot a little more difficult, unless you buy a towbar rack that can be slid backward to make access easier.

Another noteworthy benefit of a towbar cycle rack is that the weight of your bikes is carried by the towbar itself, rather than your car’s bodywork – so the extra effort needed to install a towbar can really pay off.

So, which bike carrier do i need?

This guide has, hopefully, made you aware of the key things to consider when determining which is the best cycle rack for you. These include:

  1. Your vehicle’s limitations
  2. The number of bikes you’re transporting
  3. The value of your bikes
  4. Any transport limitations (e.g., max height)

Generally speaking, rear cycle racks are convenient, roof mounted racks are incredibly secure, and tow bar racks can handle heavy bikes while posing minimal risk to your vehicle.

How to install a bike carrier on a car

You’ll find that the difficulty of this task varies depending on the type of rack you’re looking to install. Out of the options we’ve listed today, rear mounted cycle racks are likely the easiest to manage by yourself, whereas installing tow bar racks can be much more technical.

While it’s entirely possible to install a cycle rack by yourself, it can be tricky and potentially dangerous. If you find yourself in need of assistance with getting your new cycle rack fitted to your car, know that we can do it for you at Halfords. Just ask at the checkout or select ‘add fitting’ if buying cycle racks online.