The first step to a successful bike ride is getting your bike to the trails. We’d all love to ride from our front doors, but this isn’t always possible or practical. Even if most of your riding starts from home, races and weekend riding escapes often require loading the car up with bikes and bags to get out of town.
Making sure you have the best, safest and most convenient way to carry your bike on your car is crucial to having a great ride or race, and to protecting your favourite ride. Different styles of rack have their advantages and disadvantages. The hitch rack, such as the Saris SuperClamp EX, has quite a few pluses. Here are eight ways a hitch rack is the best option for carrying a bike or two, or even three or four.
1) With a hitch rack, there’s no lifting your bike up onto the roof of your vehicle
This might not seem like a hassle in theory, but if you’re not so tall in stature, it can be a struggle getting your bike up and down from the roof every time you want to go somewhere to ride. It’s effort enough on a standard-size car, but if you drive any of the new, taller vehicle options, whether that’s an SUV, van or crossover type with a higher roof, loading and unloading bikes becomes an exercise involving good balance, strategically opened doors and mini footstools. This act is hard enough when you’re fresh and starting a ride. It’s the last thing you want to do when you arrive back at the car after bonking hard on a five-hour adventure.
2) No risk of running your bike into a garage, drive-thru or overpass
You never think that you’ll be the one who forgets your bike is on top of the car until you hear that gut wrenching crunching sound as you drive into your garage. Everyone forgets the little details after a long ride as fatigue has set in, or in a rush to pick the kids up from their soccer game after a ride that went longer than expected. Take the risk of decapitating your bikes out of the equation by putting the machines out back where you’ll see them every time you check your mirrors. You’re then way, way less likely to crash your beloved race bike when you sneak in a post-race fast-food burger on the way home.
3) Save on gas mileage
Think green, and save a couple dollars on gas the next time you travel with your bike. It turns out that a high-tech aero road bike is still the equivalent of a giant brick when it’s strapped to the top of your car. Sure, you’d save even more on gas if you rode your bike everywhere, but that’s not going to work for your escape to the mountains, or bike park any time soon.
4) Avoid damaging the finish on the roof of your car
Those supporting feet that you used to install the roof rack on your car? They can scratch your paint or worse if you’re not careful with installation. Even if you’ve installed everything right, there’s always the risk of losing your grip as you try lift your rain-and-mud soaked bike up onto the roof after a particularly sloppy ride. Scratching your roof and your fork at the same time is a particularly hard pill to swallow.
5) Install or remove the racks easily
If biking isn’t the only thing in your life, there may be times when you need to remove your bike rack from your car. With a hitch-mount rack, you don’t have to crawl awkwardly up on the roof of your car and mess around with tools so close to your car’s paint. Canadians are all familiar with the frustration of seized or rusted hardware. Finding out your roof rack is now a permanent fixture on your car is no fun. We know: it’s happened to us.
6) Keep the interior of your car clean and free for gear (or friends)
It’s a lot easier to convince your spouse it’s no big deal to bring your bike along on your supposed romantic getaway if the bike is not jammed right up against the headrest. It’s also easier to bring bikes for both of you, or the whole family. No spouse? Clearing space by moving the bike from inside the car to outback makes room for friends on your next riding adventure, or to carpool to the next race. Save gas, share the driving and talk to real people instead of just singing along to the radio. And hey, maybe your new friends will join in on the singalong. Oh, and it’s also way better for your car’s upholstery (and your bike) to not have a soaking wet, muddy mountain bike shoved in through the trunk of your car every ride. Grease is hard to get out of any surface.
7) Fewer bugs on your bike
Most riders already wish they did a better job at keeping their prized possession shiny and clean. Adding the removal of bugs blasted and baked to your frame and components over a couple hundred kilometres is no way to start, or end, a weekend riding escape.
8) Peace of mind
We’ve all sat in the passenger seat of a car with a roof rack that was less-than perfectly installed or requires the assurance that “it doesn’t sound good but it works, don’t worry.” We’ve all still worried, listening intently to the rattling echoing through the roof for any changes in pitch and frequency. If there’s a sunroof, we’ve sat with bated breath courting car-sickness while staring, unblinking, up at the bikes that we’ve so carefully built, maintained and cleaned to see them shaking in the wind like leaves in fall. With a hitch mount, you can keep your eyes on the road in front of you.