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Jeep parked in a gravel lot with two bicycles on a rear bike rack

What’s the Safest Way To Transport Your Bicycle?

It’s a sickening feeling that no cyclist wants to hear. You pull into the garage — just like any other day — but you stop short as the horrible crunch greets your ears. Your stomach sinks as you remember that your bike was still on the roof.

If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know there’s not much hope for your bike. As strong as that carbon-fiber frame may be, it’s no match for your house. Its riding days are likely done. As much thought as you gave to riding safely, you may never have imagined this possibility. 

“People rarely consider the catastrophic damage that can occur if their bike is hit by a building, or their own garage door, or another car,” says longtime cycling Coach Darryl MacKenzie. “And this risk exists every time we transport our bikes.”

Before you worry about keeping yourself and your bike safe on the road, you have to make sure you arrive safely at the start of the ride. For that to happen, you need to consider the best way to transport your bicycle. 

The Most Dangeros Option: On the Roof

Not long ago, the roof rack was a status symbol for serious cyclists. Whether you were spotted with a bike or atop your car or just the rack, people knew you meant business.

These racks may not be as common now, but plenty of people still transport their bikes this way. And this option is a surefire way to hear that sickening sound. Whether it’s your own home, a parking garage, or even a road sign, all it takes is one forgetful or careless moment to finish your bike for good. One of Coach Darryl’s friends lost three bikes in less than two years by transporting his bike this way.

The roof of the car is the most liable for catastrophic damage and the least appropriate place to mount your bike,” he says. “This is the worst option for the cyclist.” 

It’s also very easy for a thief to take your bike off the top rack. If you stop at a restaurant for an after-ride meal, you might come out to find you no longer have a bike to ride. The moral of the story? Avoid this bike transportation option at all costs! 

A Decent Option: On a Rear Bike Rack

A better choice than the top rack is the rear bike rack. These were less common in decades past, since you typically had to mount and dismount them to and from your vehicle depending on when you needed to mount a bike.

Nowadays, though, the rack that mounts on your trailer hitch is a decent, easy option for bike transport. There are also simple racks you can mount in the bed of a pickup truck to prop your bike upright, and that’s an even better way to go. Either way, rear- or bed-mounted racks are much safer than top racks, and they keep you from most run-ins with immovable objects.

That said, racks that mount on the rear of your vehicle aren’t without their downsides. First off, it’s just as easy for a thief to remove the seat, tires, or even the entire bike this way as it is with a top rack. One of Darryl’s cycling friends once watched from inside a cafe as a thief stole her bike. He was gone before she could even run outside.

These racks aren’t free of danger for your bike, either. If you back up without paying attention or someone rear-ends you, your bike will bear the brunt of the impact. Even worse, having a bike on the back of a modern radar-equipped vehicle could endanger you or someone else. If the bike disrupts the radar when you’re backing up, you may not notice a car or pedestrian, risking a dangerous collision. 

The Best Option: Inside Your Car

Darryl has long since ditched both of the above options for transporting his bike. Instead, he opts for the safest and most secure method: keeping his bike inside his car. That way, he can lock it away from thieves and minimize the risk of damage.

Ive never heard of a bike being stolen out of a vehicle like this,” he says. 

If you drive a compact sedan or sports car, this obviously isn’t an option for you. But if you have a larger sedan, SUV, station wagon or similar car with folding seats, you can typically slide your bike right in the back with no trouble. In many cases, you can even transport two bikes this way. 

If you do go with this option, Darryl recommends keeping a large blanket or two on hand. You can use these to cover the bike so it’s not visible, as well as to protect multiple bikes from scratching each other during transport.

Protect Your Baby 

If you’re serious about cycling, you probably invest a lot of time and energy into taking care of your bike. Routine maintenance and care on the road are both part of your routine. Don’t neglect your bike in transportation, or all that thought and care may be for naught. 

Even if you don’t normally drive to your rides, you still need to transport your bike now and then. Maybe it’s just for your visits to the mechanic. Before you do, consider the safest way you can get your bike to its destination. 

Your bike is your baby so you should protect it accordingly,” Darryl says. 

You probably didn’t need the reminder, but it’s a good one, nonetheless.


Looking for other ways to stay safe and enjoy cycling? Follow our blog and subscribe to our newsletter to get more tips every week. And, as always, you can look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.

Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash