Bike Rack Buying Guide

We all know how varied car models and biking styles can be, which means different rack solutions are required to transport your bike(s). The choice all comes down to the model of car you drive and type of bikes you are transporting, as there isn't a one size fits all option. To help you understand your options, we've put together the guide below to help explain your bike carrier options and the key considerations when making a purchase decision.

Mounting Type

The first thing to consider when choosing a rack is how you can physically attach it to your specific model of vehicle. There are so many different ways to mount your bike to cars, SUV's or utes. The most common bike rack types are:





Towball/Hitch Mount Bike Racks:

The most common type of bike rack attaches to the towbar or hitch at the rear of the vehicle. If your car doesn't have a towball, then this type of carrier isn't an option for you (unless you pay to have one installed). This stye of rack can be removed between uses which makes it a versatile option. The downside of this style of rack is it can obstruct access to the boot of the vehicle it doesn't have a tilt or pivot function.

This style of mounting is recommended for electric bikes as towballs and hitches are engineered for heavy weight loads.

When selecting a tow ball rack for your vehicle, it is critically important that you ensure you have a matching tow ball for the rack. Most tow ball racks are made for an ISO 50mm Standard tow ball, however, some vehicles, in particular european cars, have smaller diameter tow balls which are not compatible with many racks. Worst case scenario when fitting a rack to the wrong tow ball is the rack and bikes will fall off the vehicle! Double check your tow ball before purchasing. Adapters or new tow balls may need to be fitted in some cases.

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Trunk/Boot Mounted Bike Racks:

Trunk mounted racks are an option on cars & SUV's where there is no towbar. A trunk rack typically attaches to the vehicle with a series of hooks and straps which tension around the trunk or boot. They do have some limitations on bike weight as they can damage car given they are secured too a weaker structure than other mount options. If tensioned against the rear windscreen there is also a risk the glass could shatter. Always follow the product instructions when installing a trunk or boot mount rack.

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Roof Mounted Bike Racks:

Roof racks for bikes are a quick and efficient method of transporting bikes. They are perminantly attached to the vehicle and you can have a bike secured in a matter of seconds. You will need an appropriate roof rack system installed before attaching the bike carrier, so the set up process is a little more involved than other rack types. However, once installed, they are always ready to go making them very convenient.

The downsides of roof mounted bike racks are you need the strength and height to lift a bike on top of the vehicle, which can be a challenge with SUV's. Typically you can only have 2 bikes on the roof of the car as well, so if you want to carry more bikes than that you will need to combine with another rack on the rear of the vehicle. They are also not suited to electric bikes due to the weight.

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Ute Tailgate Pads:

A tailgate pad sits over the rear of a ute tray and allows bikes to sit in the tray with the front wheel over the rear of the truck. Tailgate pads can hold 4+ bikes securely and protect the truck from any stratches. These are obviously only compatible with Utes, but work well with all styles of bikes including electric bikes.

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Spare Tyre Mounted:

Spare tyre mounted racks are designed for vehicles with a spare tyre situated on the rear of the truck or SUV. The position of the spare tyre rules out towbar mounted racks as there isn't enough clearance.

Combined Bike Weight

It is crucial that your rack is able to handle the weight of your bikes to avoid damage to both your bikes and your vehicle. Make sure you take into account the combined weight of all your bikes that you will transport at any one time. Electric bikes can weigh significantly more than normal bikes - there are special racks designed for their weights.



Other Considerations

Aside form the main rack choice, there are numerous feature considerations to make. Do you need a locking mechanism for bike security? Do you need to access the boot of the car with bikes on the rack? Do you want the rack to remain on the vehicle or have the flexibility to remove it between uses? Do you need to carry 1 bike or 4? Each bike rack comes with it's unique benefits, so understanding how and when you are going to use it will help you make the right choice.

It is also really important to check the rack specifications, or the manufacturers advice. If you are using a towball or hitch mounted rack it's crucial that you make sure that the rack is designed to work with your towball or hitch type. Incorrect fitting of the rack, or overloading could lead to damage to the car and/or bikes.

Bike Rack Safety Tips

Now that you've chosen your bike rack and your ready to hit the road, don't make these common mistakes. We've got a few tips to make sure your journey is safe and the bikes arrive in one piece.

Do you need straps?

We recommend using straps, bungys or tiedowns to ensure everything is held down tight so the bikes won’t move. Extra straps are always a good idea too, just in case you lose some!

Beware of the exhaust!

When using a rear rack, you must keep the wheels well above the exhaust system to prevent the heat from melting bike rims, tires and popping tubes. Don't underestimate the amount of heat that comes out of your cars exhaust.

Supplementary number plates:

Your bike rack and bikes can obscure your vehicles number plate and you can be pulled over by the police for this. We recommend you pop into NZTA and order a supplmentary number plate. There is only a small charge and it will be sent out to you. You could always put something up temporary until this plate arrives!

E-Bike batteries

Where possible, it is a good idea to remove e-bike batteries when trasporting electric bikes. This reduces weight on the bike rack.

Remember your bike is on the roof...

Avoid driving into the garage with your bike on the roof! One trick that might help is placing the garage remote control in a cycling glove. Hopefully when you see the glove, it should trigger you to remember that there’s a bike on top before you enter the garage! Also, don't go through the McDondalds drive thru...

Tighten towball racks

Always make sure your towball mount bolts are tight before driving. Greasing the bolts can help. If the rack is still moving check the towball is tight on the tongue. If in doubt, use a tiedown to secure the rack to the vehicle as extra protection.

Know your maximum weight

Make sure you check your bike rack maximum weight allowance if you’re carrying extra bikes or e-bikes. Overloading could result in a structural failure and your bikes falling off the car!

Check your rack installation regularly

We recommend you regularly check the rack installation. It can loosen over time and you definitely do not want the rack flying off on the highway! Make sure the bolts and attachments are snug, inspect all components, and apply lube to parts that may rust or corrode. For rear racks, make sure the pads are still in place and protecting the car.

Driving with your rack

We recommend you stop occasionally on trips to check the bikes and rack. Don’t neglect to protect your precious cargo at stops - if you don’t have a lock, leave someone with the car or park next to a window so you can keep an eye out.

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