Have Bike, Will Travel...
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.
With a sufficient amount of padding where it counts, a boot-mounted rack should be fine for a carbon bike. In fact, it can mean better fuel efficiency than other bike transportation methods, especially when you consider you’ll probably remove it once you’ve reached your destination. Pricier rooftop racks, while favoured for constant use, tend to be left on for longer when not in use (especially the locking variety) costing you extra fuel over time.
Allen key multi-tool
Protective plastic bits
Masking tape, packing tape
Zip ties/pipe cladding
Racking up the miles
1. Open up
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 too 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
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 it out
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. A good lashing
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 BB 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. Hit the road
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.