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I have been biking for a while now but mostly for my commute to work. Now, I am interested in doing longer rides and trails as summer is almost there :). I need a bike rack for my car, which is a sedan (Toyota Corolla). I have a road bike, and a mountain bike, so I might carry one or the other or both at times.

What should I consider when buying bike rack / carrier for my car?

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migrated from outdoors.stackexchange.com Feb 9 '12 at 6:26

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Are you asking for a specific product recommendation (usually not a good fit for Stack Exchange)? –  Jay Bazuzi Feb 9 '12 at 8:05
    
Have you decided if you want a roof- or trunk-mounted rack? Or is that part of your question? –  Jay Bazuzi Feb 9 '12 at 8:06

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There are basically 3 rack options:

  1. Roof mounted
  2. Trunk mounted
  3. Trailer hitch mounted

In the "trunk mounted" category there are those designed for conventional trunks and those designed for hatchbacks.

In all three categories there are racks that support the bike with both wheels on and "fork mount" racks that connect to the front fork to provide stability. Fork mount is especially handy for rooftop racks since it eliminates the need for some sort of vertical support which is unstable and hard to attach. But fork mount only works if you have a quick release on the front wheel and nothing such as a front rack that interferes with mounting.

There are arguments for/against all styles. The rooftop units require some strength and a bit of "tallness" to use, but are otherwise the most flexible, and capable of carrying 4-5 bikes. They do produce the most wind drag (and lost MPG) on long trips, though.

It may be hard to find a trunk-mount unit that suits your car. And a trunk mount unit is generally only well-suited to a single bike, maybe 2.

Trailer hitch units are pretty good -- easy to get the bike on/off, able to handle 2-3 bikes and not too sensitive to bike style. But they are not particularly stable on rough roads, and they of course require a car with a (fairly heavy-duty) trailer hitch.

(If you decide to get a trailer hitch installed to accept a bike rack, try to get a 2-inch "class 3" one, rather than the smaller class 2. This improves the stability of the rack.)

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I'm a big fan of the trunk mounted for infrequent uses. Can be removed easily enough, bikes are easily mounted (unlike roof racks which are a pain), no vehicle modifications needed (like are required to properly install a hitch system). If you're a frequent user though, a trunk mount may eventually score the paint (if you're not careful about keeping the car and rack clean). –  Brian Knoblauch Feb 10 '12 at 16:03
    
Is there a difference in safety between your options? I'm also looking for a bicycle rack (2 racebikes) for a Ford Fiesta 5-door car from 2011. I don't have a hitch so I'm up for either a trunk rack or a roof one. We're very concerned about safety for either bike and car. –  Hannelore Feb 13 '12 at 10:48
    
Safety is mostly an issue of how securely you can anchor the rack, and how securely you can mount the bike in the rack. And to a large degree this depends on care taken. I've seen bikes come off of roof racks a few times (never mine), but it's always been when they were not carefully/securely mounted. Racks can also scratch the finish, but usually not if care is taken. And some roofs lack sufficient anchorage points for roof racks. Of course there's also the issue of theft security, but there the roof rack wins if you buy one with built-in locks. –  Daniel R Hicks Feb 13 '12 at 13:11

Pretty objective but I'll give you my opinion and my reasons.

I prefer hitch mount racks for a variety of reasons:

  • Hitch racks sit in the slipstream of your car and thus you get better gas mileage than a roof rack. Roof racks take a noticeable hit on MPG even when there's no bike mounted
  • It's harder to forget that you have a hitch rack attached to your car than it is to forget that you have a roof rack. I have seen many a roof-rack/car/bike combos get royally messed up as a result of absent-mindedness. You can typically see your hitch rack in your rear view when backing up
  • If you have a hitch on your car, hitch racks are typically cheaper than roof mount equivalents. If you need a hitch installed, do it yourself (it's not that hard) and the prices will be about even
  • Hitch racks come off of your car easily and can be shared with other vehicles that have a hitch assuming the receiver size is compatible/an adapter is available
  • Hitch racks are more secure than trunk racks
  • Hitch racks dont goober up your paint like a roof rack can and like a trunk mount almost certainly will
  • It's easier to get bikes on/off a hitch rack than an equivalent roof rack, especially if you're short or your car is tall or both.
  • you can fit in the garage, and more importantly, drive through the drivethru with a hitch rack. Greasy food is important post-ride and your legs are too tired to walk inside
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Also it's very easy to use a light board so you don't need to worry about your lights and registration plate being obscured. –  pkt1975 Feb 10 '12 at 16:19
4  
One important point about a roof mount: When there are bikes on it, take your garage door "clicker" off the visor and put it in the glove compartment. –  Daniel R Hicks Feb 10 '12 at 16:55
    
@DanielRHicks, very clever! Never heard that suggestion before. –  joelmdev Feb 12 '12 at 1:37
    
@jm2 -- I can recall asking a couple of rather sad cyclists why they didn't do it. –  Daniel R Hicks Feb 12 '12 at 3:05

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