When it comes to picking out a car bike rack that will make your triathlon training and trips to races a bit easier, there are several things to consider.
For many people who have taken up the sport of triathlon, getting on their bike in front of their house and heading out for a 50 mile training ride is not always an option.
For instance I live about 5 minutes from downtown and there is no way on this earth I would even consider locking myself into the pedals of a tri-bike and bike 10 miles to a highway where it was safe to ride.
First of all, cyclists are at risk in my city because of the high volume of traffic and people in a hurry to get places. I think its simply far too dangerous to be on city streets on a bike in a city of around a million people during rush hour.
Also, it would take forever to get where you are going because of all the stopping and starting at traffic lights. Into the pedals, out of the pedals, into the pedals, out of the pedals. It just made no sense to me.
So when I took up the sport of triathlon–which was really the sport of Ironman–because that’s all there really was in the way of races back in the early 80’s, I went out and got myself a bike rack.
It was one of those that you strapped onto the trunk of your car.
PROS AND CONS OF HAVING A REAR-MOUNTED CAR BIKE RACK
Really, this was my only option, because it took an hour to try and fit that bike into the small trunk of my car or into the back seat.
Also, I had to take both wheels off and there was dirt and grease all over me and my car by the time I was done. The fact that I drove a convertible did not give me the option of using the roof.
So the rear-mounted car bike rack was great as far as convenience went. It was just a matter of putting it on the rack, securing it with a couple of tie-downs and I was good to go.
However, this method of hauling a bike around really has it’s draw-backs.
For one thing, triathletes tend to really prize their bikes. They can be a big financial outlay for some people and also when you spend hours and hours on them you can become very attached to them.
I was always nervous about having my bike so exposed on the back of my car. All it would take was one inattentive driver to rear-end me and my bike would be nothing but a piece of twisted, mangled rubber and metal.
It is very expensive to insure a bike and it usually requires an addition to your auto insurance as it is not covered under most regular policies.
Even if someone else is to blame for the accident, good luck in convincing their insurance company to pay you around $5000 for your Trek Y-foil. They will more than likely give you 300 bucks.
Also, if you are traveling to a race, your bike is exposed to the weather elements, road tar, and flying rocks. When you get to your race venue you will have to spend extra time cleaning your bike as the road dirt will be embedded in your gears.
Last but not least, in just a short month I wore the paint off the frame of my bike because it was not 100% stable on the rack and was always shifting back and forth.
By the time I realized what was happening it was too late and the paint job on the frame was ruined.
You can prevent this by going to a building supply store and buying some of that rubber insulation that they put around pipes.
It works perfectly on the frame of a bike and will protect it from being damaged in transit. Just cut it to the right length and cut it down it’s length and it will slip over your bike frame.
ROOF-MOUNTED CAR BIKE RACKS
This concept just never made any sense to me, but I suppose for some people its an alternative that works for them.
First of all, you are dealing with all the same issues as far as your bike being exposed to the elements and the dirt, grime, and rock-chips of the open highway if you are traveling to a race.
Secondly, it must be a big pain in the ass putting your bike up there and getting it down again.
Sure these racing bikes are light, but for some shorter, petite women triathletes, I think this idea simply would not be worth it, and an alternative way of transporting their bike should be considered.
TRAILER-HITCH MOUNTED CAR BIKE RACKS
These are basically a car bike rack extension that fits onto your trailer hitch. It has all the same downsides of any rear mounted bike racks. You can still be rear-ended and your bike is still exposed to the elements.
However, if you decide to mount your car bike rack behind your vehicle than this would be the best option. Basically it prevents your bike from rubbing against your vehicle and causing the type of friction damage that I had with my bike.
BENEFITS OF TRANSPORTING YOUR BIKE INSIDE YOUR VEHICLE
I really think if you can manage it with ease, this is the ultimate way to travel with your bike regardless if you are triathlon training or heading to a race in some far-off city.
Ideally, it would be great to have a big enough SUV that you could just wheel the bike right in and not have to remove the wheels. So once you get to your destination you just take you bike out and you are on your way.
This is also the perfect way to get in some excellent transition training. There were many times when I would park out on the side of a country road and bike for 60-80 kilometers.
Often I would think how great it would be if I could just put on my running shoes when I got back to my car and go for a five mile run.
When I was ironman training this would have been great transition training. It just works better if you keep the transition time between your bike and run as short as possible.
However, I had to drive for 30 minutes or more just to get back home and then unload the bike, take it up to my apartment, and finally head out for my run. By this time it was an hour later and the transition effect was simply not the same., so basically the bike/run transition benefit was lost.
On the other hand if you could get back to your car and lock up your bike inside the vehicle, you would be all set.
So really, the type of car bike rack you choose will vary between individual needs and the type of vehicle you drive.
However, if I had to do it all over again I would find a way to transport my bike inside a vehicle as that would be the best alternative in my mind for triathlon training and racing.
Be sure to take care of the chain on your bike when traveling. The oil on the chain attracts dirt and dust like a magnet if it’s loaded outside your vehicle and the oil and grime on the chain will often get all over you as well when unloading and loading.
If you are transporting your bike “inside” your vehicle, it’s all the more reason to keep the chain covered. Chain oil and grime can easily stain the interior of your vehicle.