Bike racks are a wonderful accessory to add functionality to your bike. From groceries, foods to traveling equipment, these racks can carry almost anything in your trip. And they are a must-have if you often go on bike tours from places to places.
But before you jump on buying and using bike racks, read this article carefully so as not to confuse these racks with the bike carriers – also widely referred to as bicycle racks. I also guide you on how to use a rear bike rack below.
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What Is A Rear Bike Rack?
A rear bike rack, also known as a pannier rack, is an accessory that mounts on the rear of a bicycle for carrying loads. You are most likely to come across rear racks on a cargo bike or touring bike, but you can also equip the racks on common road bikes too.
Watch the video for more info:
Word of caution: sometimes the term ‘bike racks’ can refer to the bike carriers attached to a vehicle to tow one or more bikes. It is incredibly helpful in transporting your bike to any places that your SUV can reach. The best thing is with bicycle racks, you do not need to have a trailer or dismantle the bike. That saves much time and hassles.
I will talk about both types of bike racks in the following section, so stay tuned and do not mix them up.
Why Do We Need A Rear Bike Rack?
As mentioned above, a rear rack allows you to carry more luggage than a bare bike can, making it a must-have item for bike commuting and touring. Clothes, food, tools and anything essential in a trip, you can pack them all on the bike rack with ease.
You can even attach a baby seat to the rack if you want to ensure your baby is perfectly safe at your back. It works the same way with a pet cage as well.
How Do You Use A Rear Bike Rack
In this part, you will learn how to install a standard rear rack on your bicycle. Remember that this is a general guide only. For exact instructions, you should follow the manual that comes with the rear rack.
First check the axle of the rear wheel and decide on where the rack will fit best. You will see a part sticking out near the axle. Place the rack over the wheel and attach the rack’s bottom to that part.
Note that you may need to loosen the wheel to fit the rack on, so preparing a wrench beforehand is a good idea.
Tighten the rack just enough to hold it in place. Do not make it too tight since you will need slight movement when attaching the rack to the bike frame in the next step.
Look for the eyelets on the rear of your bike, then use an Allen key to loosen the existing bolts.
Try to align the part of the rack that is already connected to the frame. Next, install the rack attachments and begin tightening the bolts again.
Does everything look right to you now? If yes, move on tightening the rear wheel that you have loosen in the first place.
Now fit your backpacks on, go for a ride, and see how the rack works. If you feel it loose or hear any sound, stop and do the tightening again.
After finishing attaching the rear rack to a bike, you can either place stuff on it directly or use a pannier. For long distance rides, I advise you to get a pannier or basket for carrying more cargo as well as keep your stuff safe on the road.
Also, backpack users should always get a basket. Keeping the backpack on the bike rack with some bungee cords is not a good idea since the spokes are likely to catch the strap. You can consider buying a backpack that converts into a pannier as well.
Watch the video for more info:
I have said that bike racks can carry much anything, but with oversized cargo such as several crates, try a bike trailer instead. And if you can afford extra, consider investing in a cargo bike.
Front Bicycle Racks vs Rear Bicycle Racks
Rear racks are the most common, but you can also have front panniers too. See how the front racks differ from the rear racks via the comparison table below.
|Front Bike Racks||Rear Bike Racks|
|Types||● Single anchor point
● Two anchor points
|● Seatpost racks
● Bolt-on racks
|Weight Capacity||● Around 15 pounds with front racks that have single anchor points
● Up to 30 or 35 pounds with front racks that have double anchor points
|● Seatpost rear racks can carry between 10 and 15 pounds along with cargo nets and straps.
● Bolt-on racks have a load capacity up to 80 pounds.
|Uses||● Single points are often used to hold lightweight loads such as baskets.
● Double anchor racks can be used for touring and commuting over long distances. You can use them to carry many things from groceries to traveling gear.
|● Seatpost racks can transport lightweight cargo only.
● Bolt-on racks support heavy loads. You can carry much anything with a bolt-on rear rack.
|Price||● Single anchor front racks are cheap, which costs 25 bucks maximum.
● Double anchors cost somewhere between 40 bucks and over 100 bucks depending on the quality and performance.
|Rear racks in general cost anywhere from 15 bucks to hundreds of bucks. The more heavy-duty, the more expensive.|
Types of Bike Racks
I will switch to the bike carriers for cars now. There are many types of bike carriers on the market, each of which fits different vehicles. Below I have listed some main varieties, so check them out.
Hitch-mount racks slide into the hitch tube or the drawbar receiving tube of your vehicle. With a hitch mount bicycle rack, you can choose to either leave the bike in a tray rack or strap the bike frame into a tube top.
Hitch mount racks are available in different sizes to match the hitch tube on your cars. Class I hitches are designed with 1.25’’ openings, which will fit most cars and small SUVs. But these hitches only carry up to three bikes.
If you are looking for towing more than three bikes, you may need a Class III hitch with 2’’ openings. Note that Class III hitches do not attach to all cars but most truck-based SUVs and pickups only.
Hitch mounts are one of the easiest racks to install as you only have to slide them into the hitch. The best part is these hitches hold the bikes inches away from the vehicle, which reduces the chances of scratches and nicks.
But if your car does not have a trailer hitch, you need to buy one and that amounts to additional expense. Not to mention the towing bikes can be damaged when being hit from behind.
Hitch mounts come with some different designs, namely hanging cradle style and platform style.
- Easy to install and use
- No need to remove front wheels
- Less risks of nicks and scratches
- Additional expense of a trailer hitch
- Drilling holes needed with some particular hitches
- Not recommended for tandem bicycles
- Extra accessories needed for special bikes
This is probably the most popular type of bike rack on the market.
As its name might suggest, you will install the roof-mounted carriers on the roof rack of your vehicle to hold the bicycles. There are some models that use feet and clips to attach to the rain gutters or upper door frame of your cars too.
Watch the video for more info:
Most roof mounts require an existing base rack, roof racks or crossbars. You can save some bucks if your cars already have one.
On the positive side, your bikes are easy to manage up on the roof and there are no worries about unique frames. But the negative side is that you have to remove the front wheels and put them somewhere else, which takes some time and effort.
Before putting some bicycles on the car roof, you need to take some serious considerations.
First, can your car support the total weight? Find the weight capacity that your car holds in the owner’s manual.
Second, where will you be driving? Since the bicycles will add extra height to your vehicle, it may cause some troubles if you drive on a road with a bunch of overhangs.
- Easy to use
- Support up to seven bikes depending on the vehicles
- Support unique bikes including recumbent and tandem
- Lockable mounting available
- Not applicable in area with low clearance
- Increased wind resistance and noise
- Difficult to tow a bike up onto the roof
- Not applicable to some curved-roof vehicles
- May smear or scratch the vehicle
Spare Tire Mount
If your SUV comes with exterior spare tire racks, then these racks are the perfect place to hold a small bike. And no worries about removing the spare tire, as this type mounts behind the tire.
The spare tire mount racks hold the bikes exactly like hitch-mounted ones. Simply strap and lock the bike into the racks and you are good to go. But do not expect to carry many bikes at a time as this type of rack typically carries up to two bikes only.
When using spare tire mounts, you need to be extra careful when backing up or driving in tight spaces since the spare tire rack adds to the overall length of your vehicle.
- Quick and easy to use
- Relatively inexpensive option
- Not permanently attached to the vehicle
- Support up to two bikes only
- Tire covers must be removed
Generally speaking, this is the cheapest type of bicycle rack. It is designed to attach to the back of a car trunk while holding bikes with straps, arms and cradles.
These folding carriers can fit a bunch of trunk designs, from classic trunks to nearly vertical rear doors in SUVs. Versatility is a perk that trunk racks offer.
Once mounted, these racks will block the access to the car trunk, which is a minus. And make sure you secure the straps tightly. Otherwise, the bikes might sway while you are driving.
- Extremely affordable
- Adaptable to many types of trunk designs
- Limited load capacity (up to three bikes)
- Difficult to lock bikes
A truck bed rack is the best option if you own an open-bed pickup truck. The exact design varies and it depends on your automobile.
Bed carriers and tailgate pads are two of the most common truck bed racks. Bed carriers hold the bike within a box, so it is perfectly safe. On the other hand, tailgate pads are generally cheaper.
You may want to ask: is it necessary to buy a rack when you can simply leave the bikes in the back and drive off?
The answer is yes; you still need a truck bed bicycle rack to secure the bikes in place and protect the trucks itself from nicks and scrapes. Not to mention the fact that your bikes may be prone to theft.
If you want to transport a unique bike other than road bikes and touring bikes, you need these speciality racks. For example, some rear racks are particularly tailored for fat bikes with adjustable legs to fit 24’’ and 26’’ wheels. Recumbent bikes and trikes require specific racks for transportation too, so pay attention.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do panniers attach to the rack?
A: Bike panniers attach to bike racks like other rear racks. There are rails to hook the panniers themselves to the rack, guards to prevent them from hitting the spokes. Some seat post mounted racks provide additional arms for heavy loads.
Q: Can I put a rear rack on a road bike?
A: Yes of course. You are always able to put rear racks on road bikes even if there are no rack eyelets at all.
Q: Can a rear rack work with a mountain bike?
A: Yes but make sure you choose the one that is compatible with your mountain bike and your needs. And remember that your bike frame must come with eyelets.
Q: Can I attach a rear bike rack without eyelets?
A: You can put a rear rack on a road bike without eyelets using P-clamps, which are a rubber cushioned metal band that serves as an eyelet to add fixings to.
Q: Do I need tools to install a rear rack on a bike?
A: You will need some common tools to carry out the installation, and do not worry; there are no unique bike-specific tools required.
The Bottom Line
You see, bicycle racks are a great add-on that any cyclist needs, whether you are a casual rider, a keen racer, or an adventure-seeking pedaler. I hope this guide is clear enough and you know how to use a rear bike rack now. But if not, leave your questions down below so that I can help you out.
Thank you for reading.