How Bike Racks Work

By: Robert Lamb

Installing Bike Racks

Most bicycle racks are fairly easy to install, so long as you choose the design that suits your vehicle best.
Most bicycle racks are fairly easy to install, so long as you choose the design that suits your vehicle best.
Phillip Gatward/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Most bike racks attach to your vehicle just as intended. Whether you're strapping them to the roof or in a truck bed, you want a reasonably snug fit with as little clattering as possible. If the rack or bike is too loose, you could risk scratching paint or even losing your cargo. Most installations are straightforward affairs, but here are a few tips to keep in mind during bike rack installation when you're actually turning your vehicle into a long-distance bicycle transport.

If you're using a hitch mount bicycle rack but also carry a spare tire, you might need to use a hitch extender. This accessory allows you to store the bikes even farther from the rear of the vehicle, leaving room for the spare. In addition, extra cradle accessories can increase your capacity by two bicycles. If your hitch mount bike rack rattles too much, you might need to use a hitch stabilizer, which fits over both the rack and receiver.


Bicycle designs can vary greatly, so you might have to seek out a specialized bike rack for tandem bicycles. A conversion bar accessory can help you fit abnormally shaped, nonhorizontal bicycle frames, such as those found in some women's cycles and mountain bikes.

As easy as installing bike racks tends to be, you're going to want to carefully weigh your bicycle and vehicle needs when deciding on a bicycle rack. As is often the case with vehicle accessories, the more you intend to use the rack, the more money you're liable to want to invest in it. The better the quality, the more likely it will stand up to continued exposure to the elements. In addition, if you're planning to use it all the time, you're going to want to make sure it's not interfering with other vehicle uses. For instance, if you tow a trailer fairly often, you might want to use something other than a hitch mount bike rack, so you won't have to keep switching back and forth.

Does all of this bicycle rack installation sound like too much to tackle? Don't worry, because you can always take your vehicle to a professional garage. You should have no problem finding a mechanic willing to install a bike rack to suit your needs. If you plan to purchase a new vehicle, be sure to bring up bike racks with your dealer. You may be able to drive right off the lot with a factory-installed bike rack.

Bicycles and automobiles don't have to be enemies. Bike racks allow you the liberty of transporting your bikes across long distances or unsuitable conditions without compromising safety, comfort or the condition of your vehicle.

Explore the links below to learn even more about towing.

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  • "Bike Rack and Ski Rack - FAQ's." Auto Anything. 2008. (Oct. 8, 2008)
  • "Bike Racks Research Guide." Auto Anything. (Oct. 8, 2008)
  • "How to Choose a Bike Rack." Bike Rack Shops. 2008. (Oct. 8, 2008)
  • Rack Attack. (Oct. 8, 2008)