Bicycle Rack?—Here’s Ours.
Sometime last year I decided we needed a bicycle rack for my car. For years we would lay them on their sides in the back of my older Camry station wagon, stacking one on top of the other. Of course we would use some sheets between them, but this still wasn’t the best way to transport our bikes. It was inconvenient, kind of a hassle, plus not good for the bikes at all. There was no way we could load our heavy and large E-bikes in that manner either.
I’ve been seeing all types of bike racks through the years, I even sold them back in my part-time days at the Schwinn shop. They come in many price ranges and mounting attachments. With so many different bike styles I deal with (including low-frame and E-bikes), I knew that one that supports the bikes from the bottom of the tires was what we needed. The nicer ones cost a bundle. I wanted one that was solid and safe, but not worth more than some of the bikes it was to carry.
I found my answer in this inexpensive two bike carrier that has proven to work well and carry some beefy bikes. I had to do some modifications to make it work for us, but like anything, a little extra thought and work can pay off well. It is not rated to carry bikes over 35 Lbs, but I figure that is calculated in the worst extremes (like a high-speed run through the Baja 500). I am not necessarily recommending this rack for you, but just showing you how I solved our bike rack dilemma.
I got this locally from a Craig’s List ad. The seller told me they were on eBay also. I just rechecked and they still are. It comes in a surprisingly small box and the assembly was quite easy. I am still a little concerned about its strength, but after many uses with 75+ Lbs bikes, there is no sign of problems. I considered beefing it up with some extra metal and welding, and I might in the future if it seems to need it. Really long bikes might not fit well, but so far it has carried every bike I’ve placed on it.
It is designed to fit a 2 inch standard trailer hitch receiver and in my case I purchased a adaptor to fit the 1 + ¼ inch receiver on my wagon. Getting a quality and level receiver for my wagon is its own story, but mission accomplished there. The first modification I completed has to do with the adaptor. With the nature of the receiver adaptor, it made the rack’s main support bar longer so it was hanging too far from the rear of the car. If you have a 2 inch receiver you won’t have to do this step.
After a short brain-storming session I decided to shorten the rear of the main support bar, not the front. This was fairly easy as it only required a quick task with a hack saw and drilling two small holes. Shortening it at the front would have been tougher because drilling a new hole for the hitch pin would have taken a very large drill bit and an exacting placement for the holes for a perfect fit. The top support for the bikes bolts onto the main support bar with two bolts. It was easy to use what was the front hole for the rear bolt and drill through the main bar for the new front bolt placement. (I hope this makes sense to you, check the photos).
The next mod was a no-brainer and luckily a no-coster for me. It might set you back a few bucks though. The Velcro retaining straps that came with the rack are way too wimpy. No way I was going to trust our bikes (and those that are lent to me for testing) to those ¾ inch wide straps. I replaced them with some industrial 1 + ½ inch wide Velcro straps that really do the job. The ones for the frame support I cut longer and marked with some paper punch holes on each end to make it easy to tell from the wheel straps. I keep some extra straps on hand for E-bikes with a center mounted battery that need a much longer strap. The original straps have come in handy for other uses.
I didn’t want the center (vertical) support rod to scratch my bikes, so I took a pool noodle and added it as a cushion to the rod. I cut it to length, slit it lengthwise and used cable ties to hold it in place. This affords a soft solid way to attach the frame with the Velcro straps. One more problem solved.
The easiest mod took a few extra brain cells to figure out, but made a massive difference in using the rack for two bikes. The first so many times I used it, just one bike was on-board. I quickly realized that with two bikes, they would be too close together and may not fit without banging each other up. What to do? Rework and reweld all the supports? No way, I just loosened the bolts for the longwise wheel supports, spread them apart and cinched the bolts back down. What a maneuver. I am still beaming with pride about this change to the rack. (Once again, check the photos to see what I mean here).
Finally, I added some cheapo red reflective tape to the rear of the back tire support. I am hoping to add an old bike reflector to cover the hole in the main support beam, but have yet to get around to it. I could get some security locking hitch pins for the whole package, but I normally just load the rack inside my wagon after we take the bikes off. If we park with the bikes on the rack, I run my beefy cable lock though the bikes and onto the hitch loop for security. I have added a few cable ties to the rear pin clip on the adaptor so it won’t come loose if I bump it wrong. Plus, I added some shims of duct tape where the main support beam slides into the adaptor to give a tighter fit so the rack doesn’t move around too much while driving.
This set-up has been working great. If you always use it for the same bikes you will never need to move the wheel end plates. I carry a 13mm wrench in the car because I am moving them all the time to fit different bikes. If the bikes do touch each other when loaded, either move them (with the wheel end plates) left or right for more clearance and/or wrap a cloth or slit foam pool noodle around the touching areas of the bikes (another good use for those original Velcro straps). You might need to lower or raise one or both of the saddles for clearance too.
With this rack the bike loaded in front has to be lifted over the center (vertical) support bar. Most of the times I can do this on my own, but ask for help if you need it. Taking a fun bike ride doesn’t include twisting your back to do it. The chain side of the bike goes away from the vertical support rod. Always make sure to put in the hitch pin and Velcro the bikes down before you take-off. Shake the bikes good too, just to be sure they are tight and secure. And keep an eye on the rack for bending or damage as the months and years go by.
One last thing, depending on the bikes and the way they are loaded, the rear lights on your car could be obscured. Make sure this is not an issue and if it is, do something about it. You need the other cars on the road to see your tail lights, and especially your brake lights when it comes time to stop. With most bikes the lights will shine through the spokes with no problems.
Well, there you go. One inexpensive bicycle rack for the road, Turbo Bob.
“I think the best rides are the ones that scratch some indelible cycling imprint into your brain that you can call up on a gray March afternoon when the world seems about to end. ‘You remember that time when we were riding back from…?’ The distance is less important sometimes than some particular occurrence but long, tiring rides seem to impart the most memories.”—Christopher Koch.