The best way to transport your bike

Thursday 09 July 2020 by Frank Jansen

The summer holidays are approaching and for some have even started. Whether you stay close to home or go to another country, one thing is certain. Your bike(s) have to come with you. We list all the possibilities.

In the car

+ no extra air resistance & fuel consumption
+ no risk of crushed stone
+ no hardware needed except some old blankets, a wheelbag or foam.
+ bike does not get wet 
+ no tow bar required
+ quick solution, especially if you don't have child seats and don't have to take much else with you
+ no speed limit
+ no ambient noises
+ reverse and low toll gates no problem
+ doesn't take up any space in your garage
- Wheel(s) must usually be removed from the bicycle
- sometimes requires a little fitting and measuring
- Risk of damaging the bicycle when loading
- less luggage can be carried
- almost impossible with 4 people in the car
- the rear seat should be able to be flattened

Roof racks

+ wheels usually do not have to come out
+ no risk of crushed stone
+ no tow bar required
+ luggage space and seats remain available
+ take up little space in your garage
+ carriers can also be used on a trailer
- roof racks are also needed (except for Seasucker)
- extra air resistance & fuel consumption
- assembly takes some time
- can be sketchy with low passages / trees / toll gates
- can make noise
- speed limit
- mosquitoes and flies will stick to the bike (in summer)

Potential and points of attention

  • Fork clamping, e.g. de Thule Outride. If you go for maximum sturdiness this is your carrier. Small disadvantage is that the front wheel has to come out, but a separate front wheel carrier is available. Although you can usually put the front wheel in the car.
  • A model with frame clamping. Not everyone feels comfortable with this, but especially with solid aluminum, titanium or steel bikes, it's not a problem. An example is this reasonably priced carrier of Twinny Load.
  • Clamping of the front wheel. A relative new solution is clamping the front wheel. These carriers are only just on the market, so slightly more expensive. But the concept works very well and has the advantage that the frame is not clamped in and no wheel has to be removed. 

Tailgate carriers

+ wheels do not have to come out
+ luggage space and seats remain available
+ no tow bar required
+ generally cheaper than towbar carriers
+ usually take up less space in your garage than a towbarrier
- if mounted high, much extra air resistance & fuel consumption (and noise)
- can cause damage to the car
- doesn't fit every car
- the tailgate can usually still be opened, but this should be done carefully
- must not hang in front of license plate and lighting
- risk of crushed stone
- assembly takes more time than towbar carrier
- watch out with driving in reverse
- speed limit

Potential and points of attention

  • Check always if your car is compatible with the carrier you want to buy. You can find this info on the manufacturer's site. By the way, manufacturers are pretty careful about this, in practice it almost always works with stations, SUV's and hatchbacks. In sedans it is a different story.
  • Tailgate carriers can be a relatively good solution. With this simple model of Dunlop you are ready for around 40 euro's. Mottez carriers are also attractively priced, such as this one which fits 3 bikes.
  • Thule also has several options. The cheapest option is the Freeway for 3 bikes. Would you rather have the bikes on a gutter instead of hanging on the frame then you end up with the Wanderway.

Tow bar carriers

+ faster to assemble than a tailgate and roof carriers
+ wheels do not have to come out
+ luggage space and seats remain available
+ no ambient noises
+ little chance of damage to car
- purchase can be expensive
- often takes up a lot of space in your barn
- risk of crushed stone
- slightly more fuel consumption than in the car, but less than on the car
- tow bar needed
- sometimes there's a speed limit 
- Be careful when driving in reverse

Potential and points of attention

  • Type of carrier. The most rudimentary (and economical) carrier is the scissor carrier. Ideal to transport the bikes within your village, but not suitable for long rides. Officially you are trespassing, unless you hang a license plate + lights on it. By the way, Pro User has a model where this is already integrated.
  • The vast majority of towbar carriers use wheel gutters. If you have an MTB it is important to check if it also fits thick tyres.
  • The attachment of the bike. Frame clamping is the standard nowadays. Check if you have enough flexibility with this. The best place to clamp is basically the seat tube, where the seatpost sits in the frame. Crank mounting is almost dead nowadays; for a racing bike this is absolutely not recommended. Check if the clamps are neatly covered with rubber, because of course you don't want to scratch your frame. Using rags is really no longer necessary.
  • Mounting on the tow bar. You used to need tools for this, nowadays this is usually not necessarry anymore.
  • The electric connection. Modern towbars have a 13-pin socket, older ones have a 7-pin socket. This doesn't have to be a showstopper: there are adapters available both ways. 
  • The size of the carrier. Some carriers are quite large and take up a lot of space in your garage. But there are also carriers that you can fold completely like Thule's Easyfold series or this one from Movanext.
  • Finally, if you prefer a carrier that is can be rotated, so the boot lid can still be opened. Except for the cheapest models this is actually always the case, but it's something worth checking.
  • Most towbar carriers are suitable for 2 bikes, but there are also models for 3 bikes and even for 4.
  • Maximum allowed weight. For road bikes and MTB's you won't get here easily but if you also want to transport an e-bike this is a point of attention. On cheaper carriers it is usually not possible to transport e-bikes.
  • Weight of the carrier itself. Generally cheaper carriers are made of steel and therefore quite heavy. More expensive carriers are usually lighter and therefore easier to handle.
  • The brand. Price/quality marks include Twinny Load, Pro User, Spinder and Hapro. The top end carriers are made by Thule and Uebler

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