6 Ways To Mount Any Bike On A Bike Rack (Even Women’s)
There are many great ways to attach a bike rack to a car. No matter if you got a regular bike, a women’s bike, a mountain bike, a road bike, or something completely opposite like a fat bike, there are mounting options for any kind of bike and any kind of bike rack. Still, some are better than others in terms of safety, protection, or simply ease of use.
Here are the six main methods to attach a bike to a bike rack on a car:
- Wheel mount
- Frame Mount: Down Tube
- Frame Mount: Top Tube
- Front Axle Mount
- Seatpost Clamp
- Fork Mount
Let’s start off with probably the one responsible for the most confusion: how to transport females’ bikes. Don’t be, there’s only one factor to consider with bikes without a top tube.
How to put a women’s bike on a bike rack
Transporting a lady’s (step-through) bike on a bike rack can be done using a front-wheel mount, a down-tube mount, an axle mount, or a seat-post clamp. Even for bike racks with a top-tube mount, there are frame adapters to install on the bike frame for easy transport.
The only feature that’s extraordinary in girls’ bikes is the missing top tube for easy step-through, even with a skirt. That’s why only a bike rack that attaches to that top tube of the bike frame is even worth a second thought in this context. Most clamps can be moved and rotated in order to reach another area of the bike like a down tube or seat post.
Bike racks do not universally fit any car, but no matter what kind of bike rack you mount on your car, there are most, if not all of the bike-mounting options to choose from.
Bike racks that not only strap the wheels to the bike tray to restrict movement but actually secure a bike by its wheel are my personal favorite. Let me explain why.
Wheel mounts are loaded fast and very securely. They pretty much all kinds of bikes, from road bikes to mountain bikes, women’s bikes, even fat bikes and children’s bikes with the right adapter. All with zero frame contact, which is a huge benefit in my book.
Since vibrations and movement while driving cannot be eliminated with a bike rack, the fewer contact areas rubbing on the frame, the better. And none are best wear protection on a bike rack.
Popular examples are the Tule Upride tray, the Yakima Frontloader, or the InstaGater for truck beds or as a stand-alone mount.
Frame Mount: Down Tube
Due to their usually long clamp or arm, they tend to wobble quite a bit. But they look more flimsy than it is. As long as the clamp attaches tightly to the bike frame, nothing is coming off. And the wheels are strapped down in addition.
The movement also means at least some rubbing on the frame where the clamp attaches. That usually does not damage the frame because of rubber padding, but marks on the paint job may be visible.
The actual mechanism of how the bike rack holds on to the bike varies between manufacturers. My older Thule roof rack used a combination of clamps and straps, my current trunk rack uses straps only (picture at the top) and newer Thule models like the ProRide went back to the pure clamp design for easy operation and locking options.
One word of caution on frame attachments and unprotected (especially matte) frames. If you value the paint job or value preservation of your steed, additional frame protection is a recommended option. I travel a lot with my bikes on a rack so it was a no-brainer to install et least the minimal amount of frame skin.
Frame Mount: Top Tube
Depending on their design, top tube mounts can either be great or harmful to the bikes.
Most commonly the top tube mount is found on trunk racks, where the bike rack extends upwards over the trunk door. Also some hitch racks with such an extended frame feature top tube attachments in the form of clamps or ratchet systems. Similar to top tube mounts. Wheels are also secured by straps and prevent the bikes from moving in any direction. The contact point so far up on the bike also stabilizes it more than other mounting methods and keeps back and forth movement to a minimum.
The design to be wary of is the top tube as the only attachment point. Any variation of the very popular Saris Bone bike rack (trunk or hitch) falls into this category. Even with an empty one, it’s easy to imagine bikes clanging and banging against each other or the rear of the car. There is simply nothing mechanically preventing the bikes to swing back and forth while braking and accelerating or slide from side to side in corners.
This is why that type of bike rack is generally not recommended. In my humble opinion the worst option of all on this list. Additionally, there is no quite satisfying way to secure bikes from potential theft.
This is the mount that attaches the highest up on a bike of all the options. Apart from the wheel mount, it also touches a part of the bike that’s the least prone to scratches due to the materials and sometimes lack of paint used: the seat post.
Similar to the top tube mount, a pivot that high up restricts the sway of the bike quite a lot. Additionally, it’s extremely easy to use while being one of the most secure options. Bike rack descriptions or manuals may not explicitly state that they clamp to the seat post, but most can be manipulated in a way that it’s possible.
Take the interior setup I built for my van. It uses a regular clamp arm from a trunk rack that’s bolted to the side of the car. By loosening the screw that holds it in place, it can slide up and down on the rack until it’s positioned perfectly to grab the seat post. This way I can put the fully assembled bike in the trunk, clamp the saddle post, and be done in 30 seconds. No wheel straps required. It can’t move anywhere by just one attachment point.
Front Axle Mount
These are mostly found on interior bike racks and on truck bed bike racks.
To be honest, I don’t quite get these kinds of rack mounts on a normal car. It’s mostly the unnecessary removal of the front wheel. Why even bother with a bike rack if you are going to disassemble the bike anyway. A big benefit of even having one is not having to do that in order to fit a bike into the trunk.
Anyway, these can be found mostly on roof racks and suction cup mounts. When using these, the front wheel needs to come off and be stored somewhere else. Making axle mounts on the outside of a car not exactly easy to use.
They do, however, come very handy in the interior, where space is limited. I’ve seen axle mounts used to great effect in camper van builds with a telescopic bike garage in the back that has axle mounts bolted to it. Or you could wedge an interior bike rack with axle mounts on it in the trunk and secure the bikes instead of laying on one another in the trunk.
The variable to consider is of course the axle dimension, which is different from bike to bike. Generally, mountain bikes have longer and thicker axles of up to 20mm (not fitting most axle mounts) while road bikes feature shorter, slimmer axles of 9mm
Bike racks with fork mounts are a rare bunch, only really found on vertical hitch racks. They work only with bikes that have suspension forks, so no road bikes, gravel bikes, trekking bikes, and so on.
Those can accommodate more than 4 bikes at once. And this is where a mounting option like this has its benefits. Bikes are mounted fast and easy, can’t move a ton, and pack really tightly at the same time.
There isn’t really another option coming close in the applicability for large group shuttle laps. The downside of such a bike rack is the resulting height clearance (possibly preventing garage access) and increased fuel consumption.