How to Put a Bike on a Bike Rack – Basic Cycling Guide

Sometimes, a cycling trail is just too far away, or you need to take your cycle to a competition. You’ll basically need to figure out an effective way of transporting your bike. That’s when learning how to put a bike on a bike rack truly comes in handy. 

how to put a bike on a bike rack

A lot of beginner cyclists make the mistake of thinking that instead of taking their cycle there externally, they’ll just ride the bike. However, that can be very tiring.

 Especially when there are several different options available to let you carry your bike. Let’s look at some of the ways cyclists can transport their cycles and why using a bike rack is the best option!

Options to Carry your Bike 

There are multiple different options available for cyclists that want to carry and transport their bike somewhere. Here’s a look at some of the most popular. 

In your Boot

If you have a car that features ample luggage room in the boot, you can fit your bike inside. To get the bike to fit inside the boot, you’ll have to disassemble the bike a bit. However, it’s nothing too major. 

All you’re going to need to do is unscrew the bike’s front wheel and the saddle. That’ll make it much easier to fit everything inside the boot. While you might be able to fit the cycle inside your trunk, it will mean that you won’t have much room to store anything else. 

Hatchbacks, crossovers, and estate cars make it much easier to store the bike than a sedan. You can drop down the seats and fit the cycle without running into too much trouble.

If you’re worried about security, then you can fit your car with an intelligent alarm system. The alarm system will effectively ward off potential threats and reduce the risk of someone stealing your bike.  

Even though it might make things a little cramped, storing the bike inside the boot of your car is a viable option. Especially if you’re not ready to invest in a bike rack just yet. 

Roof Rack

The most traditional way of carrying cycles on a car is with the help of a roof rack. Roof racks are attachments that you can install on the top of your can and use for extra storage. The roof racks design helps ensure that the bike stays in place and remains stable. 

Some roof rack models will require you to remove the front wheel before figuring out how to put a bike on a bike rack. At the same time, there are also models on the market which boast an additional arm to keep the bike’s frame stable. 

It’s slightly challenging to learn how to put a bike on a bike rack, but once you figure it out, the utility of the roof rack becomes more evident. Depending on the type of roof rack you get, you can store four bicycles on top of your car easily. 

Roof racks are also designed to help ensure that there’s no way they could potentially damage the car. However, there are a few things that you need to look out for when using a roof rack. 

One of the most primary areas of concern is going to be your overhead clearance. Be extra vigilant when you encounter any potential low entrance; it’ll help you avoid unpleasant situations. If your bike is too tall, it’s a good idea to avoid getting a roof rack.

Carrying bikes on a roof rack is also not ideal for your fuel consumption. The weight and additional drag can cause a significant impact on your fuel economy. Make sure you consider that when you’re planning a long journey with your bikes. 

Unfortunately, roof racks don’t offer a lot of protection either. If it starts to rain or it gets too windy, your bike will essentially be at the mercy of nature. Luckily, there are bike covers that you can get to help circumvent this issue. 

Trunk-Mount Rack 

how to put a bike on a bike rack - trunk mount

The trunk-mount rack is the most inexpensive option to help you learn how to put a bike on a bike rack. These are typically available for a very reasonable place. Their design is such that the rack will rest on the back of a car, and straps will secure it in position. 

Cyclists will then put their bikes on the arms and cradles designed to keep the cycle in one place. You can adjust the arms to ensure that your bike fits properly. Typically, trunk mount racks have enough space to accommodate between 1-4 bikes!

With a little bit of practice, you learn how to put a bike on a bike rack very easily. The trunk-mount racks are ideal for recreational cyclists who want to carry a few bikes with them to local events. 

You need to know a few essential things before deciding to go with a trunk mount rack. One aspect that holds them back a lot is their limited weight capacity. Trunk mount racks can only effectively hold between two to four bikes. 

After you mount the bikes, you’ll also have very limited trunk access. To properly open the trunk, you’ll need to take the bikes off. On top of that, a trunk mount rack is completely reliant on its straps being done correctly. If the straps are loose, it can be a potential hazard. 

There are a few trunk mounts with a locking mechanism, so these might not be the best option for cyclists that want to transport their bikes long distances

Hitch-Mount Rack 

Even though they might be a bit more expensive than trunk-mount racks, a hitch-mount rack is worth the investment. When you learn how to put a bike on a bike rack, you’ll automatically start to realize why hitch-mount racks are more popular with experienced cyclists. 

Hitch-mount racks are designed for users that frequently want to transport their bikes to different locations. These racks are capable of easily carrying between two to five bicycles. If you want to transport multiple bikes, then the hitch mount racks are your best bet. 

The racks are available in two main styles; platform and hanging cradle. Both these types have their own advantages and disadvantages. In the hanging cradle style, the bike essentially hangs from the rack. 

Most people tend to go for the hanging cradle style as it’s significantly cheaper. However, if you want the best stability, a platform-style hitch rack is the best option. Platform-style racks offer a lot more stability but are heavier and difficult to carry. 

Before you sign off on getting a hitch-mount rack, the most important thing is ensuring that your vehicle’s hitch or tow bar has enough load capacity. If there’s too much weight, the vehicle’s hitch could potentially break. 

You most certainly don’t want the hitch rack falling apart while you’re driving!

Spare-Tire Mount Rack

These are only available to vehicles with a spare tire mounted on the rear, like an SUV or an off-road vehicle. Typically, these rack mounts lie on the tire or screw in place of the tire directly on the mount. 

While they might be easy to install, the mount racks can only support a maximum of two bikes. You’ll also need to remove the tire covers, which can also be an inconvenience. 

Loading the tire rack with a bicycle also means that the length of your car will be a few feet longer. You’ll need to be extra careful while trying to maneuver and reversing in tight spaces. 

Now that you have a fair idea of all the different types of bike mounts on the market, we can move on to discussing how you install a bike mount on your car correctly. 

How to Properly Install a Bike Rack

With so many different bikes on the market, no one method applies to all kinds of bike racks. While the general concept is the same, a few different aspects set apart each type of bike rack. 

How to Install a Trunk-Mount Bike Rack?

A trunk-mount bike rack is the best option for cyclists that want an affordable mount and still wish to access underpasses and low-hanging branches. Before you decide on buying a particular trunk mount bike rack, make sure to visit the manufacturer’s website.

By visiting the manufacturer’s website, you’ll be able to identify whether or not the rack fits properly on your bike. Once you’re sure it fits, you can start with the installation. 

Step 1: Unpack the Instructions 

Even though installing a trunk mount bike rack is quite simple, you should still unpack the instructions and read through them before getting started. 

The instructions that come with a bike rack are pretty simple to understand. Most bike racks require no assembly, and you can start right away by installing the mount on the trunk.

Step 2: Wrap the Straps Properly 

Generally, trunk-mounted racks use straps on the sides, top, and bottom to help hold them in place. To install the rack properly, open up the trunk and hook each strap to the corresponding side. 

You can hook these straps by folding them over the edge where the trunk stops. Once you manage to attach all the straps, adjust the location of the rack to ensure that it sits in the correct position. Once you’re satisfied with the positioning, tighten each strap. 

Step 3: Adjust and Tighten Everything  

You can tighten the straps by either pulling on the buckle or further adjusting the rack! It’s vital to ensure that the straps on the rack are as tight as possible and it’s completely stable. 

If there’s a little slack, you run the risk of the bike rack coming loose. Consequently, the bike rack coming loose can damage both your car and the bike. However, if you tighten everything correctly, there’s nothing to worry about. 

How to Install a Hitch-Mount Bike Rack?

If you have a vehicle with a hitch, then a hitch-mount bike rack is a great option. Hitch-mount racks offer excellent stability and allows you to carry multiple bikes without any trouble. On top of that, installing a hitch-mount is very straightforward. 

Here’s everything you need to know to install a hitch mount bike rack!

Step 1: Check your Car 

Before picking a hitch mount, the first step is checking your car to see if there is a hitch. Without a hitch, it’s completely impossible to install the rack. Additionally, it’s essential to consider the towing capacity of the hitch as well. 

If it doesn’t have enough capacity, the hitch will break, and your cycles will probably go flying!

Step 2: Check with the Manufacturer 

Once you confirm the hitch’s load capacity, visit the manufacturer’s website to confirm whether or not the rack is compatible with your car and whether the weight of the rack matches the load capacity. 

If everything checks out, you can move on to the installation. 

Step 3: Read the Instruction Manual 

Even if it might seem simple, read through the instruction manual before deciding on a hitch mount bike rack. The instruction manuals that ship with hitch mount racks are easy to understand because the whole process is straightforward. 

Step 4: Screw on the Hitch-Mount Rack Properly 

While there’s a significant variance in how hitch-mount racks are installed, they’re all generally relatively easy to install. 

Typically, you’ll install a hitch-mount rack by sliding a pole into the opening of your hitch. Once it’s in the proper place, screw a bolt all the way through the opening and the rack. A socket wrench can make screwing the bolt in place much more accessible. 

How to Install a Roof Mount Bike Rack?

how to put a bike on a bike rack - roof mount

If you want your rearview to be completely clear and want to transport a bike simultaneously, a roof mount bike rack is your best option. However, a roof mount bike rack is only viable if your car features crossbars on the top. 

If there aren’t any crossbars on the roof, there’s no way to install a roof rack. You also need to see if the size of the roof rack is compatible with your car. If the vehicle has crossbars and your car is compatible, here’s everything you need to install a roof rack mount properly. 

Step 1: Read the Instructions 

By reading the instructions before you begin the installation procedure, you put yourself in the best position to handle everything properly. 

While most roof racks tend to follow the same installation pattern, there might be slight differences that instructions will clear up. Generally, a roof rack features clips on both sides, which you can simply attach to each crossbar. 

Step 2: Assemble the Rack

Unlike other types of racks, many roof mount versions require some sort of assembly. Make your life easier by setting up the roof rack on the ground before looking to install it on your car. Follow the instruction manual to assemble the roof mount rack correctly. 

Step 3: Install it on the roof

Once you’re done with the assembly, you can start installing the rack on the roof. If you’re not tall enough, get a small step ladder to make your job easier. 

Ideally, it would be best to place the rack so the front side is facing the windshield. To install the bike rack correctly, make sure you line up the rack with the tracks in the crossbars. 

After you manage to fit the rack properly, wrap the front and rear straps to the crossbar to keep it in place properly. You can lock the rack in place by flipping the attachments. 

If you’re struggling to determine which side of the bike rack is the front, keep an eye out for the adjustable poles. These are poles that attach to the front of the rack and will almost always be close to the vehicle’s front. 

How to put a Bike on a Bike Rack 

Installing the bike rack is the first part of carrying your bike safely on a car. After the installation, it’s also essential to learn how to put a bike on a bike rack! 

If you can’t stabilize the bike on the rack, there’s no point in going through the hassle of installing the bike rack in the first place. Following these steps will help ensure that you can easily and safely use your bike rack!

How to put a Bike on a Bike Rack – Trunk-Mount 

Trunk mount infographic

Step 1: Open the Bike Rack 

Open up the straps and the arms of the bike rack so you can mount your bike. Trunk mounts tend to have two bars that stick away from the trunk at a 15 to 45-degree angle. You need to lift the bike with both hands and slide the bike’s top tube over the two hooks. 

Step 2: Get the Bike in Position 

Once the bike is on the two hooks, you need to keep sliding the body down until it sits next to the trunk. After it’s in position, wrap the security straps around the wheels, seat, or head tube to lock everything in position. 

Step 3: Tighten the Straps 

After the bike is in the correct position, secure and tighten the straps to ensure that the bike stays stable on the rack. You can narrow the hood by pulling on the extra straps that hang away from the clip. 

It’s essential to be careful when tightening the bike rack. If anything is too loose, then you run the risk of losing your bike on the journey. Under any circumstances, if the clips don’t tighten, it’s best to avoid going out on the road. 

Step 4: Add Additional Straps 

You can add additional straps to make the bike as secure as possible on the trunk rack. All you need to do is wrap the extra straps around the frame and then through the stand. 

If you don’t have any additional straps available, you can alternatively choose to use an old bandage or anything that can serve as a substitute for the strap. Make sure you use a material that doesn’t negatively impact the paint of the bike in any way. 

Using additional straps will reduce the amount of swinging and bouncing during the trip. You can also use these straps to immobilize the front and rear wheels of the bicycle. 

Step 5: Test Stability 

After you manage to fasten everything in place, the best way to move forward in testing the stability. There are no complex tasks that are necessary to help you check the strength. All you need to do is shake the bike thoroughly and see if it wobbles excessively in any direction. 

Step 6: Pull the Bike Arms Up 

Once the bike is in position, you can lock everything in place by pulling up on the bike arms. While each model has a unique locking mechanism, pulling up on the arms tends to reveal the mechanism. 

You’ll either find a screw for tightening, or everything will fall into place in the proper position. Cyclists should look to angle the bike arms upward, so they face away from the vehicle. 

That angle will help ensure that the gravity will help secure the bike upwards if any of the straps fail. 

Step 7: Perform Final Check 

The final step in the process is checking that everything is in the proper position. Make sure you shake the bike properly, so it doesn’t cause any potential issues in the future. Check the bike’s positioning as well to see if it can potentially wobble and hit the car. 

If everything seems secure, then you can be confident that the bicycle won’t cause you any trouble while you travel.

How to put a Bike on a Bike Rack – Hitch-Mount 

Hitch mount infographic

Step 1: Fold the Rack Down 

Generally, a hitch mount will fold up against the trunk, and you’ll need to unfold the bike rack so you can lock the bike in place. There are other hitch mounts that stick out in the same manner as a trunk mount. 

However, most of the hitch mounts will require you to unfold the rack!

Step 2: Pull out the Arms 

After you open up the hitch mount, you’ll need to pull out the arms responsible for locking the wheels in place. To put the bike on these arms, look for grooves in your tire and fold them out. 

You can then proceed to load the bike onto the rack. Make sure you go back tire first and then follow it up with the front tire. 

Step 3: Lock Everything in Place 

If you read the instruction manual, you’ll be familiar with the locking mechanism on the hitch mount. There’s a locking arm that you need to pull to lock everything in place. You must pull the arm out at a 45-degree angle and keep pulling it until it aligns perfectly with the tire. 

Doing so will secure the bike in place!

Step 4: Use the Additional Security Straps 

Hitch mount racks feature additional straps that help you stabilize the bike. After you find the additional security straps, loop them around the back tire and pull the straps tight to the buckle. 

These straps are there to reduce any potential wobble or shaking that the cyclist might encounter.  

Step 5: Check everything one last time 

After following all the previous steps, you can check if the bike’s in the proper position by shaking it thoroughly. If it holds in place properly and doesn’t shake much, then you’re good to go!

How to put a Bike on a Bike rack – Roof Mount

Roof mount infographic

Step 1: Get a Small Step Ladder

Even if you’re tall, you’re probably going to struggle with locking your bike in place on top of a roof rack without a step ladder. While roof mount bike racks ensure that you don’t have to worry about anything getting in your vision, getting bikes on top of the roof is a hassle. 

A step ladder or some sort of boost will make your job much easier. 

Step 2: Open the Roof Rack 

Before you can put the bike on top of the roof rack, you’ll need to open it up. You’ll need to pull the adjustable bar in the front away from the rack. It’s not going to require much strength, but it can be slightly challenging on an older roof rack. 

Step 3: Lift your Bike Up 

If your bike is too heavy, you might need a little extra help on this step. This is arguably the most challenging part of the process. After lifting the bike, you’ll need to slide it onto the rack. The front wheel of the bike must coincide with the bar that’s pointing away from the car. 

Once you’re sure the bike is in place, you can move on to the next step.

Step 4: Lock the Bike in Place 

After you get the bike in position on the rack, lift the interior bar and move it towards the other side of your front wheel. That’ll help lock the bike in place.

 Generally, most roof racks feature a crank, adjustable buckles, or a twist locking mechanism to help keep the bike in position. After locking the bike in place, loop the security straps around the wheels and set the frame in place. 

Step 5: One Final Check 

Before you go anywhere with bikes on your roof, be sure to check if the cycle’s actually stable and doesn’t shake around. Some modern roof racks also feature an additional bar that helps secure the bike via the frame. 

If the bike seems stable and doesn’t seem to pose any risks, then you’re ready to drive to your destination. 

What to Remember 

Now that you have the necessary knowledge about putting a bike on a bike rack, you’ll find it much easier to do the task. Here are a few helpful tips that are worth remembering. 

  • Load the heaviest bike before any other. The best position is close to the boot or along the center of the roof. 
  • Always remember to lock the bikes in place after loading them onto the bike rack. 
  • Use the additional straps to secure your bike in place further. They’re there for a reason!
  • Alternate the direction of the bikes when you’re loading multiple ones on a single rack. That way, their handlebars won’t knock into each other. 
  • Take off all valuable accessories before mounting your bike. That way, you can ensure that nothing goes missing and store them safely inside your car. 
  • Always load the bikes once you’re ready to depart for your trip. It’s not wise to leave your bikes mounted overnight or leave them unattended while they’re loaded on your car. 

Summary

Now that you have a fair understanding of how to put a bike on a bike rack, all those bike events that were previously inaccessible are now readily available. Look at what each of the different bike racks offers before deciding which one you’re going to purchase. 

Regardless of whatever bike rack, you decide to go with, you’re now more than ready to transport your bikes wherever you need. Whether it’s a bike for college or you’re just looking to carry your everyday hybrid bike, a bike rack can make the journey much more straightforward. 

James Dawson

After learning how to ride a bicycle much later than all the other kids, James Dawson hasn't looked back. The author now actively rides a bicycle as a part of the community cycling group and competes regularly in local competitions. Aside from that, he loves technology and always keeps up to date with the latest cycling tech.