Bicycle carriers are simple devices used to transport a pedal bike on the top or back of a motor vehicle. A variety of manufacturers produce a bevy of different carrier models, but assembling and installing the carriers is usually very simple.
Rooftop carriers provide an excellent means of transporting your bicycle, especially if you're certain that you'll be using that only one particular vehicle to transport your bikes. Rooftop carriers are available for a variety of vehicle models, including vans, hatchbacks, SUVs, and cars.
Although it's best to consult your bike-carrier manufacturer's instructions for specific details regarding the mounting of the bicycle to the carrier, some common information applies to most rooftop carriers. Generally, bikes should be placed on the roof of the car with their rear wheel firmly planted in the wheel tray. The tray might extend forward enough to also include the front wheel, although some rooftop carriers will include a fork mount for the front of the bike. These racks are somewhat less convenient, due to the need to remove the front wheel when placing your bike on the rack, although the added mounting arguably makes the bike more secure.
Typically, Velcro-type straps will be included to secure the rear wheel in place, while a swing arm is attached to the lower tube of the bicycle's frame. This arm will clamp securely onto the frame, holding it in place. Take extra care if you own a carbon fibre frame; the clamp could crack the frame tube. Also be careful when entering a parking garage or drive-through with a rooftop carrier, as your bike could catch on an obstacle and be destroyed.
Rear-mounted carriers represent an excellent, inexpensive alternative to rooftop carriers. Those sorts of carriers are highly portable compared to rooftop units, and can easily be removed from the vehicle any time you're not transporting a bicycle. Rear-mounted carriers are also very convenient if you don't wish to add a semi-permanent attachment to a particular vehicle, or if you plan to use multiple vehicles to transport your bicycles.
Rear-mounted carriers fit to the back end of virtually any vehicle. They typically include four or more straps, two of which will be secured to the top edge of your car's boot or end gate. The other straps are attached underneath the vehicle's bumper, directly to the chassis. The bicycles are then hung over the rack in mounting brackets, and secured with Velcro or rubber straps. Although rear-mounted carriers may seems less secure than rooftop models, the truth is that a properly adjusted rear-mounted carrier will provide all of the safety you need to transport your bicycle over long distances.
Be aware that unusual frame shapes might not fit on a rear-mounted carrier, necessitating the use of a rooftop carrier or other device.
Trailer Hitch Carriers
Another type of bike carrier is installed directly into the trailer hitch of your vehicle. The way that your bikes are carried in this system is similar to that of a rear-mounted carrier. The base of the bike carrier is securely fastened to your trailer hitch receiver, while two horizontal poles support up to four or more bicycles. The bikes are secured to the rack with Velcro-style or rubber straps. That system is generally sturdier and can hold more weight than a rear-mounted model; it also is much faster to install and uninstall than other rear-mounted racks.
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