Need to transport a bike by car? Unless you have a big estate or a van, you're going to need a some sort of car bike rack. Here are 10 top-flight bike carriers.
Welcome to the latest edition of road.cc’s buyer's guide to car bike racks in which you’ll find everything you need to know to find the right rack for you, plus our pick of 10 of the best car racks.
In this latest version of our guide to car racks we've added the Pendle Bike Racks W2 two bike rack
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There are three ways to transport your bike by car: inside it, on the roof and on the back. To carry a bike inside your car you'll need an estate, or a saloon with a very big boot. A bike with the wheels off will fit in the boot of a few big cars, but your Mercedes dealer may not be comfortable if you turn up for a test drive with a bike to try it.
Estate cars have the advantage that carrying bikes doesn't increase your fuel consumption very much, and the bikes are safer at, say, service stations. The downside is that you'll need a load liner to protect the interior and even then scrapes in the roof interior are hard to avoid.
Eddy Merckx knew how to get lots of racks on a car roof (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 crosby_cj | Flickr)
Outside the car, your choices are a roof rack, or a rack on the back of the car. The latter option comes in hatch-mounted or towball-mounted versions. Let's look at the pros and cons.
Let's take a look at some of the best car racks for carrying bikes we've reviewed
Pendle Bike Racks' W2 is a wheel-supporting, towbar-mounted bike rack, and with its big 70kg weight limit it's capable of carrying two heavy bikes. It's strong, made almost entirely from steel, and adjustable enough to fit a wide range of bike types. It isn't the simplest to fit, but once on it creates a very stable platform for transporting bikes.
The reassuring solid metal construction of the Pendle is a big plus, and it carries bikes securely, holding them in place perfectly with no movement noticeable through the rearview mirror. The high maximum weight and ability to adjust the rack to suit different types of bikes, plus the ability to buy extras such as fatbike wheel supports mean it will be able to carry virtually any bike.
Read our review of the Pendle Bike Racks W2 two bike rack
With some subtle tweaks to the classic Bones design, the new Saris Bones EX offers all the practicality of previous models but now fits even more vehicles, including those with rear spoilers. Add some upgrades, particularly to the bike tie-downs, and you've got one of the best three-bike rear-mounted car bike racks on the market.
Anybody familiar with previous Saris Bones boot-mounted cycle carriers won't find anything too overwhelming with this new EX version. Indeed, the only major differences to previous Bones three-bike carriers is a unique dog-leg design to the two upper legs with built-in strap guides – which allows it to fit on vehicles with spoilers – along with some premium bike tie-downs. However, that's not such a bad thing as the original Bones design is a modern classic.
Read our review of the Saris Bones EX
This cheap and cheerful car boot rack straps on to the edges of your boot or hatch lid. The arms are padded to protect your frame, and it comes with a strap to secure the bikes, but it's otherwise quite basic. You might want to add some padding.
Find a Halfords branch.
The Yakima FrontLoader car bike rack is really easy to use, holding the bicycle securely by the front wheel and avoiding potential frame damage. It easily accommodates different wheel sizes.
The front wheel is held in an ingenious hinged clamp, while the rear is simply bound with a ratchet strap.
Read our review of the Yakima FrontLoader
With thick rubber cradles for your bike's frame, an extra strap to stop it swaying, and six straps holding it on to the bike, this very popular rack works very well, and looks good too. You can even get it in a choice of colours if you're a bit bored of such accessories being black or grey.
This one takes two bikes. Another £20 or so at street prices gets you the Bones 3 if you need to carry three. It'll work best with fairly light, diamond frame bikes. Great for your road bikes, then, not perfect if you want to carry a downhill mountain bike, an e-bike or anything with an unusual or dropped frame.
Read our review of the Saris Bones 2.
Find a Saris dealer.
This unusual car bike rack mounts two bikes vertically, so you can take off either. The front wheel sits in a large cradle, with the rear in a smaller on and both held down by ratchet straps.
The bikes don't obscure the number plate or the rear light clusters, so there's no need to carry a light board. You also get markedly better rear vision when you're driving. And, most importantly, it looks really Pro.
Read our review of the Saris Gran Fondo.
Find a Saris dealer.
Some cars won't accept roof racks, their boots or hatches are too small to take a rear rack, and you'll get drummed out of the Porsche owners' club for having a towball on your 911. The Seasucker Talon mounts to cars like these with large suction cups.
There's a bit more to these sucker cups than the one that your shower cap hangs on though. You pump the air out of them when you fit the rack to your car, and they're very firm after that. Seasucker has a video of a car being driven at 140mph with them; we had no problems at motorway speeds.
It's a niche item, and expensive for a single-bike carrier, but if you can't fit a car bike rack any other way, it's a clever problem-solver.
Read our review of the Seasucker Talon.
Find a Seasucker dealer.
The Thule VeloCompact 92501 is one of the Swedish company's most affordable towball bike racks and it's really easy to use. It has a wide range of adjustment to suit different types of bikes, and it's very solid and secure. When it's fitted you can still get into your car boot, and it folds flat for storage. It's a good investment for anyone who regularly transports bicycles on a car.
Read our review of the Thule VeloCompact 92501
Find a Thule dealer
Eye-wateringly expensive, but very convenient and easy to use, this towball-mounted rack is easy to fit and to load bikes on, tips out of the way if you want to get into the boot or hatch of your car and folds up for storage.
Less physically strong riders may find its heft a bit much. There are wheels to roll it on flat surfaces, but you wouldn't want to carry it very far. It locks securely to your tow hitch and carries up to three bikes. The bikes are held in place with ratchet straps round the bottom of the wheels and a clamp for the top tube or, for carbon bikes, one of Thule's 982 frame adapters.
The Easyfold XT 3's nifty folding mechanism means it's easy to store. It'll fit in a corner of the shed or garage or under the stairs, which sets it apart from Thule's bulkier towball racks, but you pay a premium for that convenience.
Find a Thule dealer.
The Yakima JustClick 3 — previously known as the Whispbar WBT31 — is a premium car bike rack packed full of features to make transporting bikes a breeze. You definitely get what you pay for. If you're after a towball-mounted carrier, it's one of the best-possible three-bike options (four if you buy the adapter).
The JustClick 3 comes fully built and ready to use. Optional extras include a wall storage hook (£10) if you want to keep it off the floor, a dust/rain cover (£20), good for storing in a hostile environment, and a ramp (£35) for loading heavy bikes or if you aren't happy lifting them vertically onto the rack. The ramp fits all four bike positions on either side and stows securely in a holder on the rack, ready to use at your destination. I always used the ramp for getting our 30kg (plus whatever's in the panniers) Workcycles FR8 Dutch bike on and off the rack – it's fast to use and minimises the risk of slipping and dropping a very heavy bike.
Read our review of the Yakima JustClick 3
Explore the complete archive of reviews of car racks on road.cc