The agony of choice - which bike rack system is the right one?

Introduction
“How should I take my bike with me on vacation?”, Many car owners have asked themselves. There are several systems available to you as the end customer. Depending on the intended use, the decision about the system used can be very different - not to mention the question of cost. So to speak, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing the right bike carrier for your car ... what to look out for, etc., what they are good for and where the respective advantages and disadvantages are, we have briefly summarized for you. We consider the following solution approaches: roof racks, rear racks with and without trailer coupling, systems integrated in the vehicle and simple transport in the vehicle itself.

The top priority - safety comes first

Just a few years ago there were numerous carrier systems on the market, some of which had considerable defects. So it could well happen that some bicycles left the intended holder in a carelessly too sharp curve. The shock was mostly deep for those affected. In order to prevent potentially dangerous accidents here, the manufacturers have meanwhile done their homework and improved it. For you as a car driver, however, this means: better hands off used systems! Over the years, wind and weather may have gnawed too much at the wearer's condition - often not directly visible to the naked eye. In addition, just because a carrier worked well for previous owner X on car Y does not necessarily have to be the case with their vehicle. Since inexpensive carrier systems can sometimes be bought new for less than 100 euros, buying a used vehicle is usually not worthwhile from a price point of view.

The assembly and loading

It goes without saying that careful work must be carried out when installing the beams. Some providers take over (partly included in the price, mostly for systems from 400-500 euros) the professional attachment to their vehicle. So you are legally on the safe side in case of an emergency. In addition, two people should work when loading the carrier. Hustle and bustle is the enemy of security here. Otherwise missing screw connections, improperly lashed tension belt systems or loose-fitting brackets can all too easily lead to a nasty surprise! The permissible weight should always be observed (including that of the vehicle itself!). Roof and trailer coupling carriers usually have a permissible load of 50-100 kilograms. With four bicycles for a whole family, for example, you can quickly reach the limit of the vehicle! However, roof and trailer hitch brackets, for example, can be combined to better distribute the weight. With electric bicycles, you can also conveniently remove the batteries and transport them in the car yourself. Prerequisite: The permissible total weight of the car is not exceeded (which can happen very quickly with, for example, four bicycles, four occupants and their luggage).

Roof rack - the classic

If your own vehicle has the option of mounting a roof rack system (which is not the case with all vehicle models!), 2-4 bicycles can be transported - depending on the maximum permitted load. As a result, the entire load space inside the vehicle is retained and there are no ugly scratches and dents from bicycles moving inside. Officially, in Germany (but probably in other European countries) there is no maximum speed limit for cars with bicycles on the roof, but insurance companies and possibly the traffic judge assume complicity in accidents above 120 km / h. Anyone who drives too fast negligently endangers the traffic and has to expect additional claims or a fine. If you want to transport two bicycles for adults and possibly also the children's bicycles, you will be particularly happy with the roof solution for limousines, coupés and station wagons. In case of doubt, a used system can also provide good service due to its broad market availability, provided that you do not unnecessarily “test” its load limit. SUV, van or even commercial vehicle drivers will probably not be happy with it - unless they want to perform sporting feats when loading and unloading. Costs: from around 100-500 euros.

Rear rack on the trailer coupling - elegant and space-saving

Vehicles equipped with a trailer coupling are ideal for this system. It is true that the loaded vehicle will react much more tail-heavy when driving and the tailgate can no longer be opened (e.g. when unloading), but you do not have to struggle when loading and unloading and can even transport heavy electric bicycles very safely. In addition, the sensitivity to cross winds is significantly less pronounced compared to the roof rack. You should be careful with foldable towbars. Not all such designs are designed for roof racks or the permitted load may differ from the “rigid variant” of your own vehicle model. Cost: 150-600 euros.

Rear rack without trailer coupling - only recommended in special cases

The basic idea is clear: "If there is no trailer hitch, then you just have to fix the carrier to the tailgate with clamps and hooks." For vehicles with a very steep tailgate (e.g. buses and vans) this can be an interesting solution for continuous use. As a solution that is only used sporadically and needs to be dismantled, this is less recommended. The chance that you “beautify” your vehicle with undecorative scratches when mounting and dismounting is far too great. The assembly is also sometimes quite demanding. A visit to the workshop is almost always necessary. If, on the other hand, you would like to convert your van permanently into a universal camping vehicle with permanently mounted bike racks, this can be a good alternative - without a trailer hitch. Costs: from around 50-400 euros.

Charge instead of charge - the simple method

If the vehicle allows it, the bicycles can also be transported inside the car. For folding bikes this is a kind of "no-brainer." In this way, numerous, safety-related questions relating to assembly and payload can be bypassed elegantly. Practical side effect: on the Autobahn and Co. you can drive at “full speed”. As the owner of a spacious transporter or family van, nothing stands in the way of a quick escape into the countryside by car or bicycle. For longer trips, however, the reduced trunk space will probably take its toll. As a rule of thumb, two people can take their bikes with them in a mid-range station wagon in the trunk and on the (folded) back seat without running out of storage space for suitcases, picnic blankets, etc. This method is mainly suitable for transporting electric bicycles. Some of these are comparatively heavy even without the battery installed and can easily exceed the permitted weight values ​​of some carrier systems. Furthermore, mountain bike fans have advantages here. The smaller tires (max. 26 inches) make loading and stowing much easier. On the other hand, dismantling the bike partially or completely is only recommended in individual cases. A dedicated carrier system quickly pays off here, as “every time you set it up and take it down” costs time and leads to wear and tear on the bike. In any case, you should also lash the bicycles with the tension belt during indoor transport and cover them with blankets to avoid scratches. Costs: a couple of old blankets and 20 euros for a good tension belt.

An option when buying a new car - integrated wheel carriers

Opel has shown the way, other manufacturers have followed suit: rear rack systems integrated from the factory. These are normally hidden in a kind of “drawer” under the trunk and are “pulled out” when necessary and extended to a full-fledged rear rack (usually for up to two bicycles). An ideal solution for those who want to use a rear rack and a trailer attached at the same time. This is also ideal for occasional bike transport. The only disadvantage: These systems cannot be retrofitted and are usually only available for a surcharge when purchasing a new vehicle. The market for year-old cars and similar, young used cars is still very manageable in this regard. Cost: 500-2500 euros.

Summary

You are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing the right bike rack for your car ... you now know what to look for, etc. Solid roof racks start at around 150 euros and usually cost up to 600 euros. A rear rack costs 50-500 euros. Unfortunately, the inexpensive models can usually only be recommended to a limited extent, as the load capacity and stability (especially when transporting several bikes) leave something to be desired. For around 300-400 euros, you get models with a very good price-performance ratio and all the necessary safety approvals. The special, integrated wheel carriers cost up to several thousand euros extra, depending on the manufacturer. Here it is more worthwhile to fall back on special models or discount campaigns from the vehicle dealerships. In terms of effort, the transport in the vehicle is still the least. The roof transport is more complicated and more strenuous, especially for older students - the rear transport is usually the best solution.