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Bike Hitch Rack and Roof Rack

4 Times You'll Regret Buying the Wrong Bike Rack

(How to Choose the Best Bike Rack and Avoid Buyer's Remorse)

Whether you're a casual weekend rider or a dedicated cyclist, a bike rack is something you want to get right the first time. Bikes are expensive, and if you're dropping additional money on a rack to transport them, the last thing you want is a rack you'll regret.If you've looked into bike racks at all, you've realized there are almost endless ways to transport bikes. You can hang them from a hitch, haul them on your roof, load them into your truck bed, or even support them with your spare tire. (And that's not even touching on all the available bells and whistles available on modern racks, from tilt-away trunk access to included bottle openers.)The best bike rack for you depends on a lot of factors, but there are several that many people fail to consider until after they've purchased the rack and been disappointed. Buying the wrong rack can lead to added expenses or, in the worst cases, even destruction to your beloved bikes!Avoid these headaches and get the right rack the first time around. Below are the 4 moments in which unsuspecting cyclists regret their bike rack choice.

#1: When Adapter Costs Add Up

You finally find the perfect bike rack for your family's gear. It arrives on your front porch, and you're excited to open it up, install it, and test it out. That is until you actually try to load the bikes and realize they aren't going on this rack. The women's step-through frame bike. The fat bike. The 24" kids' bikes. It's not happening.That's when you go look at the description of the rack you ordered and realized you overlooked the fine print: "adapter required."The fact is, most bike racks are designed to fit standard, adult-male bikes. Bikes with alternative frames, such as women's step-through bikes, smaller kids' bikes, fat bikes, recumbent bikes, etc, typically require adapters.For many of us, dropping extra cash on an adapter (or several) after spending a pretty penny on the bikes and rack isn't that appealing. If you don't want to have to worry about adapters, make sure your bike rack is compatible with all bike frames you plan to carry.If you don't mind picking up a few adapters and the extra cost doesn't make much difference to you, check the rack's description to see if adapters are required so you can order them upfront and avoid unpleasant surprises later.For help choosing a bike rack for an alternative frame with no adapters required, check out the following:
Bike Rack

#2: When Out-of-Sight Becomes Out-of-Mind

Ask the cycling community how many of them have ever misjudged the amount of clearance for their roof rack, or forgotten about the rack altogether, and see how many raise their hands.That's not to say that this happens to everyone, or that clearance behind your vehicle (such as for hitch-mounted or trunk-mounted racks) doesn't matter. You do run the chance of being rear-ended or backing into something.However, it's particularly easy to forget about your loaded roof rack since it's always out of sight. If you don't believe you'd ever forget something like this, just Google "crash bike rack on garage roof" and see how many people this happens to (sometimes more than once).There are some simple reminders you can use to prevent a disasterous bike vs garage door scuffle. Use a visual reminder like a traffic cone or sticker on your garage, garage door opener, or other easily visible location to remind you to remove your bikes before parking. Move your garage door opener out of sight (such as in a glove box or under the seat) to force yourself to think about the bike racks when digging up the door opener.On the other hand, many cyclists prefer not to worry about roof clearance at all, especially if they have had one of the above-mentioned scuffles between garage and bike rack. At the end of a long day, they want to pull in the garage, park, and relax.For this reason, many cyclists have made the jump to hitch bike racks in lieu of roof racks. Hitch racks are also growing more common as alternative bikes such as e-bikes and fat bikes become more popular. After all, it's far easier to lift a hefty bike a few inches off the ground than it is to heave it on top of your car.Curious about hitch-mounted racks? Check out this article on the different types of hitch bike racks available. There are more options than you think, and none of them will result in accidentally beheading your bike on a garage door.
Bike Rack

#3: When Your Bike Rack Leaves Scars

Yes, your bike is meant to be hardy and tough, but that doesn't mean its beautiful finish can't be scratched by an uncushioned bike rack. There's no worse feeling than bringing home your new customized carbon fiber 29er with full suspension, hauling it to the trails, and realizing the finish is already scratched. Your bike might not stay unscathed forever, but it should at least be earning its scars on the trails rather than strapped to the back of your vehicle.This is why it's important to research bike racks and make sure you're getting one that provides proper cushioning and support. Make sure your bike has enough clearance from both the vehicle and other bikes (hanging hitch racks are notorious for allowing bikes to sway into each other).If you're concerned about keeping your bike in the best possible shape, the best types of racks are those that don't make frame contact at all. Many hitch platform racks are available that meet this condition, as are roof racks with fork or wheel mounts (though beware the dangers of garage collisions with roof racks, as mentioned above).
Bike Rack with Mountain Background

#4: When You Buy Too Much (Or Too Little) Bike Rack

SPENDING TOO MUCHPerhaps biking is a casual pastime, so you only need a rack to get your beloved (if slighly worn) bike to the trail. Or maybe biking is a favorite family activity, but you aren't ready to drop a fortune on a rack for the kids' bikes, which have been banged up plenty of times during knee-skinning tumbles.When you're skimming product descriptions and top bike rack recommendations on forums, it can seem like the only way to get a functional bike rack is to go for the shiniest, sturdiest, priciest bike rack on the market.Fortunately, this isn't the case. There are a plethora of budget bike racks that are more than capable of getting the job done without breaking the bank. Are they all going to come with handy features like tilt-away trunk access and included locks? No. But are they going to get your bikes to the trail and keep your cash in the bank? Certainly.Check out these budget bike racks (all under $300) if you don't believe us.
Bike Rack
SPENDING TOO LITTLEOn the other hand, for the dedicated cyclist who just spent a month's salary on a custom bike, the last thing you want is a bike rack that won't properly protect your investment. We get it, bike racks are expensive, especially after you've spent a hefty chunk of change on the bike itself. But you want to make sure your rack doesn't make frame contact (or at least has cushions), doesn't allow the bikes to sway while you drive, and in general gets your bike to the trail in the same condition in which it left.There are plenty of mid-to-high-end bike racks that are affordable but are a step-up from casual-rider racks. Strongly consider making the investment in one of these. If your beloved set of wheels is a mountain or road bike, check out these articles for some of our top-recommended racks:
Hanging Hitch Bike Rack
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsWritten by: Amber S.Updated on:10/4/2019


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