There are so many types of car mounted bike carriers, you might feel a little lost when shopping for your own. Bike and car compatibility are obviously the most important factor when choosing a bike carrier.
These usually come in 2 types of formats, either platform style with support for the wheels, or “bar” style which clamps the frame of the bike.
This is the most popular choice as they are easy to use, facilitate bike manipulation and, most importantly, have no chance of damaging your precious bike. They are safe for carbon frames and tend to fold up for compact storage when not in use. Most carriers include a security system which locks both the bike and the rack to the car, for peace of mind when making stops. Platform carriers are also the only option for transporting e-bikes.
This style of carrier is ideal for people looking to carry 2-5 bikes at a time – usually in a family situation. They are less expensive and very straightforward in use. One of their main advantage is the compatibility with children’s bikes, which is not often seen in platform style carriers. While simple and high in capacity, they generally offer no security system and are not safe for use with carbon bikes as they put pressure on the frame which will cause damage not covered by warranty.
In both cases, you will have to determine the size of your hitch or have one installed. A hitch is usually 1 ¼” or 2” with the most common being 1 ¼”. Most small to medium vehicles have the smaller hitch whereas the 2’’ hitch is usually found on trucks, large vans and RVs. Hitch mounted carriers, in some cases will be size specific or include an adapter for both hitch sizes.
- Easy to use
- Mild range price
- Security (plaftorm)
- Carbon compatible
- Bike(s) get dirty when road is wet
- If no hitch installed, will be quite expensive
Trunk Mounted Carriers
Designed for vehicles without a hitch mount, these carriers are fixed to the trunk with a series of padded hooks that keep everything in place. Generally inexpensive, they are an accessible solution to bike transport.
While they are practical, most of them feature a “bar” mount style and therefore are not compatible with carbon fiber bikes (The exception being Thule’s Raceday rack which uses a trunk mounted platform). Their shape usually means they are not compatible with full suspension mountain bikes or electric bikes either.
Compatibilities can be found on the carrier manufacturer’s website but they tend to fit most vehicles. The only exception is for cars which require the carrier to be hooked directly to glass.
- Ideal for non hitch vehicles
- Easy to install/remove
- Not compatible with carbon frames/full suspension MTB/E-Bike
- Can leave permanent aesthetic damage to car paint finish
- Low weight capacity
- Movement when driving
Roof Mounted Carriers
For the best look and versatility, roof mounted carriers are the best choice. Although most often the most expensive option, they offer much more versatility with the possibility of mounting cargo boxes, ski/kayak carriers and more.
Compatibility is the main issue as each vehicle has its own requirements. That being said, brands such as Thule and Yakima make specific parts for practically all vehicles on the market today. Once the bars are selected, choosing a bike carrier that works with both the bars and the bike is essential as this may vary. For example, the Thule Prologue is compatible only with QR forks and square bars.
When properly installed, the bikes are very solid and wide roof bars allow the transport of up to 6 bikes at a time, making roof top carriers the highest capacity choice.
- Looks good
- High capacity
- Solid construction
- Very Expensive
- Tricky compatibility
- Noisy at high speeds
- Increases gas consumption
A worthwhile investment, vehicle mounted carriers will take you to new places and help you reach new goals. They are the unspoken hero of adventure and practicality – this is why selecting the right model is a priority. For any questions, be sure to contact us in store or online.