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Eight tips for protecting your bicycle while transporting it

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Thule bicycle carrier. Cycle Traveller

It's ironic we can often cycle for thousands of miles and not get a scratch on our bikes, but the moment we pop it on a car or in a bike box for transport it gets trashed. Sometimes, taking just that little bit more care can make a big difference.

Here are eight tips for protecting your bike when transporting it as suggested by bicycle carrier specialists Thule. We particularly like the zip-tie tip in number five... just remember to have something to cut them off with at the other end!


1. Rear mounted carriers

These types of bike carriers are positioned at the rear of the vehicle using a towball or hitch gauge mounted system and are great for heavier bikes like mountain bikes and city bikes because they save you lifting the bike onto the car roof. Tip: if the top tube of your bike is on a steep angle, you can buy an adapter that stretches across from the seat post to the handlebars providing a straight bar for the bike to hook onto the bike carrier.

2. Roof and platform carriers

For high quality bikes, such as carbon frame road bicycles, make sure your carrier supports your bike at its strongest points. Good options for these bicycles are rooftop carriers and platform carriers, as they take most of the bike weight on the wheels – just like when you’re riding – instead of putting pressure on the frame itself.

3. Positioning your bike correctly

Almost all bike carriers will hold the bike frame somewhere for stability, but make sure to place the clamp is as close as possible to a frame joint – that’s where the frame will be strongest. This is particularly important for carbon frame bikes.

4. Number plates

Most states have laws about obscuring both your number plate and your rear lights, which means two fines if your bike is obscuring both. Platform bike carriers like the Thule VeloCompact include rear lights and a number plate holder to avoid this becoming an issue’.

5. Boxing your bike

If you’re taking your bike with you on a plane or train, there’s a few different transportation packaging options to make sure your precious cargo’s kept safe. Whether you’re using a bike bag or a cardboard box, it’s a good idea to protect the bike with some padding. Round foam tubes work a treat, and use cable ties to hold it in place around the bike. Ask your local bike shop to keep some padding aside for you next time they unpack a new bike. Most will keep the box for you too!

6. Car hire

If you’re flying interstate for pleasure or a competition and are stuck for how to transport your bike once you’ve landed, some car hire companies like Europcar actually have bike carrier options at some locations which make getting around easy.

7. Watch out!

Worried about driving into your garage with a bike on the roof? It happens more often than you think! Use a reminder, like putting your bins in front of the garage door, or hiding your door opener in the back seat. There are some more sophisticated digital solutions on the market for those feeling particularly cautious.

8. Keep it clean

To help avoid scratches when transporting your bike (especially on carbon frames) wipe your bike down between riding it and popping it on your car. Likewise, keep your bike rack clean (but always take your bike rack off before going through the car wash!). If you're using a rear-mounted bike rack in muddy or wet conditions, you can help keep your bike clean by using a bike or motorbike cover (but don't use this trick if you're bike is mounted on your roof as the extra drag will stress both your bike and the roof racks).


Thanks for the great article.

A friend of mine was in a hurry home recently with his beloved Ellsworth (ie. $$$) bike on his roof. He's had a bad day, traffic had been bad, his daughter was doing what tired kids do, mum was upset etc. and it was pouring.

Automatic roller doors are great things and so he hit the button and drove in in a cranky fashion. He said the force, the cracking and the rip to the roof of his shiny BMW wagon was "quite something" and unexpected. Really made his day. Bike was less damaged than expected - was a quality rack and must have given way to protect the bike. Car roof damage was heavy.

A few weeks later, car was fixed at great expense and bike was back on the road. He'd had a great day out mountain biking with a mate and they were heading home, again in rain. On the hunt for a bottle shop his mate spotted one and Alex swung in, again perhaps a little faster than necessary. You can imagine...

This time - two bikes and enormous damage to the roof of the car and even some to the bottle shop entrance. Very expensive lessons!

My preference is to always carry my bikes on a rear-mounted rack as I don't trust myself! Important to take care of rub points - I use cloth (artificial chamois) and tape to make sure frames don't rub when on long trips. Also useful to prevent harsh scratching damage to the car.

Dave from Sydney

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