We are all more than familiar with the importance of staying safe while riding a bicycle but do you know how to safely (and legally!) transport a bicycle on your car? Whether you are passionate about mountain biking, leisurely bike rides through the country or exploring with the whole family on two wheels, here’s how to get yourselves and your bikes there in one piece.

How to carry your bicycles

There are numerous options available to those wishing to transport their bikes on the back of a vehicle – enough, in fact, to make it a bit of a confusing process if you’re not sure exactly what you are looking for.

Many of the bike racks you see on the road are attached to the rear of the vehicle, allowing one or two bicycles to be carried at once. While there are tailgate racks available, these are generally not recommended by car manufacturers as cars are not really designed to bear weight in this way. The next option is to buy a rooftop carrier – a type of roof rack which enables the driver to carry bicycles upright on top of the car. This is generally not a problem but it is important to check the manufacturer’s handbook to make sure the maximum weight limit for rooftop loads is not exceeded. Carrying bicycles on top of the car will also have more of an effect on the fuel consumption, due to the drag created.

If you need to carry more than one or two bikes, or have a particularly heavy model, you may want to consider fitting a tow-ball and investing in a bike carrier which can be transported that way. Check that the tow-ball you choose is suitable for towing bike carriers before purchasing.

This video, although American, runs through the different options available.

Top tips for carrying bicycles

  • If using a roof-mounting bike carrier, remember the additional height. Whatever you do, don’t forget you are carrying the bikes and drive under a low bridge… Pay attention to the barrier heights when driving into car parks too.
  • Bungee cords are great for making sure your bicycles are securely fastened to the carrier. They can also be used for tying the wheels together to minimise movement in transit.
  • If your bike carrier doesn’t have padded frames, use bubble-wrap to protect your bikes instead
  • Rather than spending money on a full bike cover, plastic bags can be used to keep the saddle dry in wet weather
  • Allow for the extra fuel required to carry your bicycles. Don’t find yourself stranded due to underestimating the extra fuel consumption! Carrying two or three bikes can decrease fuel efficiency by approximately 10 miles per gallon.
  • When the time comes to buy a new car, speak to the dealership about having a custom bicycle rack fitted. This won’t be a cheap option but it will be the most secure, safest way to carry your bikes.

Keep on the right side of the law…

  • If you use a rear-mounted bicycle carrier, remember that the driver must be able to clearly see through the back window when all bikes are loaded
  • Never block the rear number plate or lights with bicycles. You may need to invest in a light board and detachable number plate to use while transporting your bikes.
  • Always check the maximum load weight for your bicycle carrier and your car roof if applicable. Never exceed this weight limit.
  • If you plan to take your bicycles overseas on holiday, remember to check the local laws regarding carrying bicycles on a vehicle. The local laws in your destination may be harsher than UK laws – for example, it is illegal to carry bikes on the back of a vehicle driven in Portugal.
  • Check the fixtures on your bicycle carrier regularly and tighten when required
  • Never load your bikes so they are sticking out and presenting a risk to other vehicles or pedestrians
  • Don't forget that bike racks must never be fitted to the rear of a caravan. However, racks can be fitted to a motorhome.

If you found this article useful or have any suggestions or questions, please leave a comment below.

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