How to use a car boot rack for your bike, in 5 easy steps

Driving with your bike is easy once you've read our simple guide

Travelling with a bike can be fraught with pitfalls and hazards, but if you take the proper precautions, you and your beloved machine should make it to your destination in one piece. Here we explain how to use a car boot rack, so you can drive your bike further afield.

For short trips, boot-mounted car racks are cheap, reasonably fuel efficient, fit most types of car and don't require the fitting of an expensive towbar or roof bars – plus you can take them off when you reach your destination.

1. Open up the rack

We'll show you how to fix your bike to your car boot safely and quickly
We'll show you how to fix your bike to your car boot safely and quickly

Different brands of rack have different fixing methods and shapes, so follow the instructions closely. Get the ‘tusks’ to sit in an upright position. 

Try not to have the rack lying flat on the glass of a hatchback. On heavily cambered hatchbacks, position the rack closer to the bumper, further down — this will anchor the payload and prevent damage. Spoilers might limit your choices, though, so check first for compatibility. 

On racks with ratcheting adjustments, make a mark to log the correct angles of each of the rack elements permanently. Then, next time around, you can just open it and set it to those marks. Inspect any nuts and bolts holding the rack together, along with the bolts or rivets holding the straps onto the frame.

2. Strap it carefully to the car

Each of these straps serve an important purpose — and don't forget the lateral ones, they'll keep your bike from flying off when going round corners
Each of these straps serve an important purpose — and don't forget the lateral ones, they'll keep your bike from flying off when going round corners

Although your rack can look like it has a confusing spaghetti tangle of straps, each serves an important purpose. If approached systematically, everything should fall into place. 

The top adjustment buckles are usually double looping and locking affairs to avoid the risk of loosening when loaded. These are the ones you’ll want to preset. Once the correct length is determined and fine tuned, installation time will be reduced next time round. 

Make sure you attach the lateral straps and tighten them up securely, as pictured. If your rack doesn’t come with lateral straps, consider driving a little slower at roundabouts and around tight bends. Any extra lengths of strap can be used to secure the bike, which will also keep them tidy at speed.

3. Pad the delicate parts as needed

Use sufficient padding to make sure that no sensitive parts come into contact with metal
Use sufficient padding to make sure that no sensitive parts come into contact with metal

Even carbon bikes can be safely carried if you use sufficient padding, which will prevent any sensitive bits from coming into contact with metal parts, such as a pedal or unprotected rack tusk. It’s all about diffusing the pressure over a sufficiently large area. 

You can choose to remove the front wheel in order to make the package more compact, and keep it from protruding past the driver’s side into traffic. Install a stretch of foam cladding or similar between the top-tube and rack tusk. 

To reduce the risk of frame damage, put one tusk through the rear triangle or wheel, and one just behind the head-tube below the top-tube. Don’t obstruct the exhaust pipe. If your lights and number plate are obstructed, you’ll need a spare light board.

4. Lash your bike to the rack, using excess straps

Don't forget to lash your bike to the rack itself, as a double safeguard — toe straps work well
Don't forget to lash your bike to the rack itself, as a double safeguard — toe straps work well

Tales of bikes flying off on the motorway and the ensuing near misses are enough to strike fear into the most experienced of road users. Thankfully, you can avoid this. 

First, attach the top tube to the rack with the strap provided. Old toe straps work well, but ensure the buckles don’t scratch your paint. Anchor the lower portions of the bikes to the rack, such as the bottom bracket or lower wheel, to minimise any pendulum-type swinging or bouncing. 

Turn the bar sideways, and strap it to the top-tube to prevent movement (with the front wheel removed). Protect leather saddles with a taped up bag or saddle cover. Immobilise the rear and/or front wheels to stop them spinning, which can be an annoying distraction in your rear view mirror.

5. Tension up the lower straps

Cinch the lower buckles to keep them tight and trouble-free
Cinch the lower buckles to keep them tight and trouble-free

Once the bike is loaded up, the foam cladding protectors will be compressed. This results in a loss of tension in the lower straps, so there’s a risk of them unclipping on the road. Reach down and cinch up the lower buckles, which will usually be quick release numbers; simply pull on the free bit of strap. 

Test the bikes by giving them a shake to ensure nothing is banging against anything else in a way that could cause damage. Remember, over longer trips, anything rough or hard in contact with your bike can lead to surface damage or worse. 

Re-check this and then tie strips of protective rag or add pipe cladding where necessary. Then get going, and remember that driving safely and obeying the speed limits will make your bike happy.

Buying a boot-mounted bike rack

If you're looking to buy one then a good place to start is our buyer's guide to bike racks. You'll find useful information on the different types available, and how to choose one.

If you're in the UK, you might want to head over to Halfords or Wiggle for a large choice on a wide range of racks, from the affordable to the very high-end.

In the US, consider having a look at REI or R&A Cycles.

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