The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of Bike Racks

I’ve had quite a few people write to ask me about bike racks to use to transport your bike on the back of your car. And my response has always been that I know next to nothing – we either ride our bikes to our destination or box them up and fly with them. Knowing that many of my readers drive to their destination with their bikes, I turned to Steve Richardson, the brains behind for info.

The Ugly of Bike Racks

Picture the scene: your first biking vacation with the kids, the lycra gear is packed, the panniers are full and have been carefully organized with precision planning, everything is packed and ready in the car, including the kids, a 200-mile journey to the start of the trail that you’ve researched and been planning for months, there’s a buzz of excitement, the bikes have been carefully serviced and they’re strapped onto a bike rack you picked up from the local ‘Low-price giant store’ for a song, a real bargain and off you go.

busted bike

This is what happens when your bike rack fails 🙁

Picture the scene: an hour into your journey, traveling at 60 mph down the highway and out of nowhere the bike rack falls off the car, the bikes are trashed lying in the side of the road, the truck traveling behind runs over the rack and bikes. The good news is no-one’s injured.

You may think that that was a bit of fiction for effect. Well no, in fact it’s my own story and ever since it happened I have had a much more serious interest in bike racks! (YOU CAN COMPARE BIKE RACKS HERE)

The Good of Bike Racks

Experienced cyclists load their treasured bicycles onto bike racks that fulfill a particular wish-list before they set out on their road trip. If you want a bike rack then consider this wish-list, if it’s complete you can buy with confidence; if it isn’t, best keep looking for a bike rack that does fulfill the list.

1)      Easy uncomplicated installing

bike rack

Make sure your bike rack is easy to install and fits well on the car.

If the rack is difficult to attach to your vehicle you can bet your bottom dollar some time or other you won’t attach it securely. Good bike rack manufacturers understand the importance of straight forward installation as it lessens the chance of mistakes.

(The bad – avoid dangling straps and sliding plastic grips, they work themselves loose.)

2)      Fits nice and snug

You need a rack that fits nice and snug, so take a step back when it’s installed and make sure it is clamped on good and tight, there should be no movement at all. The only time that rack moves is when you take it off!

(The bad –  any movement, slide or wobble between the rack and your vehicle)

3)      Simple & quick to load bikes

The easier it is to lift your bikes on and off the rack and the simpler the attachment system is, the more user friendly and less hassle the rack is going to be. Why make what should be a simple task awkward and fiddly? It’s a recipe for disaster.

(The bad – only 2 points of contact between the bike and the frame won’t provide enough stability)

4)      Fits all bike shapes and sizes


There are advantages and disadvantages for all types of racks. Choose one that will fit your needs.

Bikes are designed in all shapes and sizes and so are bike frames. Good racks have been designed to cope with these differences and there are accessories that can help to neaten up bike loading, such as a crossbar adapter that creates a horizontal top tube on bikes without one. 3 clamping points (sometimes 4) are necessary for more stability. Clamping points can be the frame, front forks, front wheel/forks, rear wheel. Bikes can be stood upright in trays in various systems or hang from 1 or 2 support arms. Good racks with excellent clamping technology can accommodate all shapes and sizes safely, including the BMX bikes for your kids and your road racer.

(The bad – no features to individually tailor the size and fit of each individual bike that is loaded)

5)      Secure locking system

Don’t come back from a rest break on your journey to find your bikes gone!  Well designed racks have 2 locking systems incorporated.

– Locking the bikes securely to the rack

– Locking the bike rack to the vehicle to prevent the rack being taken off your car with your bikes locked to it

(The bad – no locking system)

6)      No damage to bike or vehicle

You won’t be a happy cyclist if you unload your bikes at the end of the journey to find damage to your cycles or to your vehicle because of vibration, swaying, rubbing, or even worse bikes falling off because they have worked themselves loose. A good bike rack is designed to overcome these potential problems.

(The bad – no space between loaded bikes, and importantly no features to maintain that space when moving)

7)      Cut out the wobbles

It’s inevitable that driving will cause vibration when you’re on the move, there are humps and bumps and potholes on every day roads. Good bike racks include specific technology for anti-wobble, anti-slide, anti-rattle to cope with this potentially hazardous movement.

(The bad – a basic cheap rack won’t stop the wobbles and one disaster will turn that cheap rack into the most expensive bike rack you’ll ever buy!)

Bear in mind the good, the bad, and the ugly of bike racks and fulfill this bike rack wish-list. Don’t settle for anything less, and remember a good bike rack should last you a lifetime, that’s why they have a lifetime guarantee.

If you would like to learn more about different bike rack categories and read in detail what they offer visit best bike rack reviews.


Steve Richardson loves all things bikes, but when his bike rack fell off loaded up with 4 family bikes, as he headed down the highway looking forward to a vacation, he’s since got a bit geeky about bike rack essentials!

**This post is brought to you, in part, by Tesco.**


books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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One Response to The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of Bike Racks

  1. Lisa Wood September 11, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    Great tips on what to use for a bike rack. We havent purchased one as yet cause we put our kids bikes on the roof of our Motorhome 🙂

    Would be very scary to have one fall of the car, and have it driven over by a truck – glad no one was hurt 🙂

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