How to Install
Bike Racks
for Safety

Once you’ve got your bike all kitted out, you’ll no doubt want to take it on adventures to explore. Knowing how to attach a bike rack to your car and make sure your cycling equipment is all ready for travel is essential for easy transport of your bike. Bike racks are ideal for travelling - cycling holidays or simply local staycations - as well as for racing. You won’t need to worry about getting your car’s seats dirty if you’ve been cycling on muddy trails, and you’ll save plenty of internal space for carrying other essential bike accessories. But how do you know which kind of bike rack to choose, and how do you install a bike rack? Let us help lighten your load with our guide on how to install bike racks.

What type of bike rack do I need?

Depending on the type of bike you have and a few other factors, there are a number of options when it comes to choosing a bike rack for your car. Things you need to consider when buying a bike rack include:

  • The type of vehicle you’re using

    Check that the model of your car or van is compatible with a particular style and type of cycle rack. Each product in our selection of bike racks has a link to the manufacturer’s car rack finder so you can make sure it’s the right one for you.

  • The bike(s) you’ll be carrying

    If you’re likely to be transporting more than one bike (or a particularly heavy one), you might need to get a specific type of rack. Raleigh provides weight limits and other important user information in the product descriptions for each cycle rack.

  • How you want to use your car and bike rack

    If you’re not going to be using the bike rack on a regular basis, you’ll want one that’s easy to attach and remove as required. If you’ll be needing to get in and out of your boot while your bike rack is in use, a rear-mounted rack is probably not the best option. Similarly, if you’re going on holiday and need the extra luggage storage of a roof rack, you’ll need to look somewhere else to fit the rack for your bikes.

So, are you wondering what types of bike rack are available, or which type is best for you? Here’s our run down of the various cycle rack varieties, and tips on how they’re best used.

Rear-mounted bike racks

Rear-mounted bike racks fit to the back of a vehicle, usually with a set of sturdy straps. It’s important to note that rear bike racks aren’t compatible with all models or car, so make sure you consult the manufacturer’s vehicle checker (or ask your local Raleigh specialist) before you buy.

Pros:

  • Rear bike racks are great for family holidays and longer trips, since they free up space to attach a roof box on top of your car, and don’t impact on boot space.

  • For families, cycling clubs or groups of friends, having a rear-mounted cycle rack can offer greater storage capacity - holding up to three bikes at once.

  • Rear racks are usually easy to use, because you don’t need to lift your bike too high up to slot it in.

  • Usually foldable and easy to store when not in use, this type of rack is also simple to remove whenever you’re not using it.

Cons:

  • Not all vehicles are compatible with rear-mounted racks for bikes, so you will have to check before purchasing. This can be difficult for people hiring cars or sharing multiple vehicles.

  • Your bike rack may end up obscuring your car’s lights or the registration plate. If that’s the case, you’ll also need to add a lighting board to drive.

How to attach a rear-mounted bike rack

As with all products, it’s really important to check the manufacturer’s instructions and follow all the steps properly. However, as a general rule of thumb, here’s our guide to installing a rear bike rack to a car.

Start by opening out the rack, and figuring out which parts attach to your car. Depending on the model (of the rack and your vehicle), you might find that the mounting parts fit the very back or the side of your car’s boot. You’ll have straps and hooks/clips included with your rack, so make sure they’re securely fastened to the bodywork; they usually hook over or under a door.

If you’re transporting a full-suspension bike, or one with a sloping tube top, you may need to use a bike beam with your cycle rack. If you’re carrying multiple bikes, fit the heaviest one closest to the vehicle.

Make sure to tighten all the straps as much as possible - you don’t want to drive off somewhere and leave your bikes behind! Having a loose bike rack can be a real risk to you and other drivers on the road, and can cause serious damage to your vehicle, so make sure it’s properly secured before every journey.

Roof-mounted Bike Racks

A favourite for holiday goers and travellers, with a roof rack you can fit your cycle atop your car and set out on your adventure. Make sure to measure your car’s roof and the rack to ensure you can attach a roof cycle rack to your vehicle. It’s a good idea to check the vehicle manual to make sure a roof rack is a suitable option.

Pros:

  • Keep access to your boot for extra storage - you can also still attach a trailer or caravan to the back of your car, making this one of the best bike racks for cycling holidays.

  • No need to remove the rack when it’s not in use - keep it attached to the roof so you can cut down on assembly time and be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

  • Sturdy bars and adaptable locking systems make roof-mounted racks secure and versatile.

Cons:

  • Obviously there’s a fair amount of lifting involved with this type of cycle rack, so roof-mounted carriers are not always the best option for those who struggle with mobility or heavy lifting.

  • If you’re going to be driving under bridges or barriers, a roof-mounted rack might make your car too tall. Make sure to check any height limits, and bear in mind that this kind of bike rack might not be the best choice for taller vehicles.

  • It’s rare, but wind resistance can cause a bit of noise when driving, and can potentially impact your car’s mileage efficiency.

How to attach a roof-mounted bike rack

Always refer to the manufacturer instructions for your particular bike rack model before installation.

Secure the bars to your car’s roof using the provided fixings. This will usually involve straps to attach the rack and a series of tightening bolts to make sure the entire rack is securely fastened to the body of the car.

To fit your bike, fit it to the rack and adjust the A-frame clamp so it’s tight around the bike and holds it in place. Make sure that both wheels fit snugly into the wheel tray - if it’s not long enough to house both wheels, use the bolts to extend it, making sure to replace them tightly when it’s the right length.

Fit the bike tray to the roof bars using the provided bolts, and make sure to check these are fastened tightly before every journey. You’ll need to check your vehicle’s maximum roof carrying capacity before fixing any roof bike racks.

Tow Bar or Tow-Mounted Bike Racks

One of the most common types of bike racks, tow-mounted racks fit most cars and offer an easy option for transporting your bike around with you.

Pros:

  • Light and relatively simple to use, tow bar bike racks are accessible for most users.

  • Easy to install and simple to store, this is a versatile option for those who don’t want a rack on their vehicle all the time.

  • You can carry up to three bikes in a tow bar carrier, offering a great solution for family cycling holidays or bike trips with friends.

Cons:

  • Tow-mounted bike racks can hinder or block access to the boot, meaning you won’t be able to open it while you’ve got the rack installed.

  • Having several bikes at the back of some cars can make them a little unbalanced and heavy, possibly making driving a little difficult.

How To Attach a Tow Bar Bike Rack

The manufacturer’s instructions will include diagrams and information on how to fit the base of the towbar bike rack to your car. Make sure to check the maximum nose weight of your car or vehicle before fitting a tow-mounted bike rack, and give the tow bar or ball a good clean first.

After undoing the towbar lock, lift the bike rack platform up over the towbar. Make sure it’s level and completely straight, then tighten all the fittings completely - make sure the bike rack doesn’t move when you press. You’ll need to fit your licence plate onto a lightboard and attach it to the outside of the bike rack, securing the power cable and plug.

Depending on whether you have a single tow bar bike rack or one that holds multiple bikes, you’ll need to take time to lower each individual rack and secure them in place. If you are fitting multiple bikes, always start with the wheel tray closest to the boot, and don’t forget to secure the wheel straps.

Visit our page for more cycling inspiration, or shop for the perfect bike car rack here.

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