Bike Carriers

Using a recreational vehicle such as a 4WD is all about exploring places and enjoying yourself. Taking a push bike can provide you with the added advantage of exercise and exploring that little further in the nice open air. This article talks about bike carriers and briefly outlines some options and benefits such as fitting one to the rear of your vehicle.

Mounting Options

Bikes are generally too large to fit inside your vehicle without dismantling, which makes the whole process of getting going quite a fuss. Mounting bikes on roof racks is one option, but due to the excess drag, and lack of security (unless fitted with a security device) is less favoured by tourers who tend to favour rear mounted bike carriers.

There are literally tons of different rear mounted models available, but it is hard to find a solution that suits many 4WDs, and even more difficult to find a solution to mount on the back of a caravan or motorhome.

Extension arms are required if you need to contend with a protruding spare wheels carrier, or tray back doors.

Strength for Off Road

The strength of the structure needs to be investigated if you intend to go offroad. The rigours of constant corrugations is well known to break bike carriers that are not designed specifically for offroad application. In fact, for this reason, single pole carriers are not suitable to mount on the rear of a trailer, instead an A frame bike carrier is recommended to be the only option that provides sufficient strength.

The structure of the bike carrier is critical. When it is left cantilevered out on the tow bar it is subjected to far higher forces than anything else in the vehicle. Bikes, and the rack need to be well engineered and looked after for long trips.

Further, the weight on the rear is exacerbated by the distance from the wheels increasing your tendency to bottom out going into dips, for example.

The bike rack and bikes reduces your angle of departure considerably too in most designs of bike racks which can be an issue even on bitumen roads.

Catering for Ladies Bikes

Bikes should ideally be carried with wheels level to the ground. If you need to carry ladies frames with angled cross-bars, many carriers will only allow those bikes to sit at an angle, which will lower the ground clearance. Some manufacturers, and certainly those that custom-make, will cater for ladies frames enabling the bike to sit level.

Custom Bike Carriers

Mountain bikes have thicker frame tubes than many standard bike carriers will allow so make sure you measure the circumference of your bike frame and check the various models. If you can't find one that fits, then custom-made may be the way to go. You'll also find that the brake cables that run alongside the frame tube can be crushed by some models that clamp the frame tightly and this could scratch the paintwork and impair the cable. Some models will have additional cushioning to contend with brake cables, which is a nice feature.

How Many Bikes?

Whether you carry 1, 2, 3 or more bikes, will depend on how long the extension bars need to be. Some off-the-shelf brands cater well for these options with individual locks for each bike, else you can have anything you desire custom-made.

Bike Carriers and Trailers

For those that travel with a trailer in tow, you'll also need to look for a solution that doesn't require the towball for mounting. Single pole carriers are suitable for mounting on the drawbar but check there is enough room to turn without interference from the bikes.

And finally, if your 4WD is quite a high vehicle, look out for models with a fold-down bar to load bikes into the cradles before raising the bar to the travel position.

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Created: April 2003
Revised: December 2007
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