How to Fit 4 Mountain Bikes on a 4-Bike Bike Rack
When my kids and I go mountain biking, we usually need to transport our bikes to where are want to ride with bike racks installed on the outside of the family van. I use two bike rack systems: One is a 2-bike roof mounted rack and the other is a 4-bike tow hitch mounted rack. The racks are not brand names such as Yakima or Thule and cost a lot less. They are working fine for me.
The roof rack I use requires the front wheel to be taken off the bike and the bike is secure when the fork is clamped onto the rack with quick release system. The back wheel sits in the channel of a bar and is held in place with a Velcro strap. The front wheel that came off the bike goes into a separate wheel mount. The whole system is easy to use and is very secure.
The 4-bike tow mounted system is another matter. Even through the tow hitch rack is “designed” for 4 bikes, it’s a real hassle to fit 4 bikes in the rack without doing major damage to the paint job or spokes on the wheels. I have been able to fit, at most, three bikes on the 4 bike bike rake without difficulty. However, no matter how I stack the bikes that I have, I have not been able to figure out how to fit 4 bikes on the 4-bike rack without having to take or loosen something on the bikes.
But now, when I need to use the 4-bike rack for 4 bikes, I have resorted to turning the handlebars on the bikes 90 degrees to get them out of the way of each other. I don’t recommend this practice if you have never worked on mountain bike headset.
To start, I place on the bike on the rack and loosen the two lock bolts holding the stem to the steering tube of the fork (not the top cap bolt) just enough to turn the handlebar and then re-tighten the bolts. When I get to the trail head, I just return the handlebar to the correct position, making sure it is straight and secure. I have been able to load 4 bikes on to the rack a lot faster now without having to play with the bikes to make them fit on the rack.
From my experience with the systems I have used in the past (strap-on, roof rack, and tow hitch rack), here are my tips to picking the best bike rack system:
– Avoid the strap-on bike carriers and spend a bit more money on a secure system.
– Make sure the system you are considering will fit your type of vehicle.
– Getting the bikes on and off roof racks can be a struggle especially if you are not very strong.
– With tow-hitch mounted racks, you need to buy a hitch for your vehicle if it doesn’t already have one installed.
– Make sure a tow-hitch mounted rack is high enough off the ground to clear most humps and bumps; you may need an extension bar for some models to get more clearance.
– You may want to consider racks with a ‘swing away’ feature that lets you open the tailgate without unloading all the bikes and taking off the rack.
– If you own 2 bikes, buy a 3-bike tow-hitch mounted racks; if you own 4 bikes, buy a 5-bike tow-hitch mounted rack.
Does anyone else have other suggestions or ideas on the type of bike carrying system to use?