Are Bike Racks Safe? (Theft, Highway Driving, Damage Risk) | Cycling Beast (2023)

I’ve been searching for the perfect bike rack that’s compatible with both my car and my bicycle. But when I started researching bike racks, I ended up with more questions than answers! There are many different types of racks, but are any or all of them safe?

Bike racks are safe when installed correctly on the vehicle. You just need to remember to account for the rack while driving…especially while backing up and parking! Bikes are usually safe on bike racks when they are secured and locked to the rack correctly and when the vehicle is driven carefully.

Whether you drive on country roads or highways, the risk of damage (or theft) is pretty low so long as your rack and bike are properly secured and locked into place.

This article will help you ensure your bike rack and bikes will stay where they should no matter the situation.

Table of Contents

Are Bike Racks Secure (Is Theft Likely?)

Are Bike Racks Safe? (Theft, Highway Driving, Damage Risk) | Cycling Beast (1)

It really isn’t likely for bike racks to be stolen off of a car, but it does happen. If the right opportunity arises, someone might just make off with your shiny new bike rack. Bike rack theft is more likely to happen in remote locations where there isn’t a lot of traffic…or witnesses.

Most of the time, if you are parked in a public place, a thief isn’t going to take the chance of removing the rack from your car, moving it to another vehicle, and then driving away. It would be pretty suspicious to see someone removing a whole bike rack in a parking lot or at a trailhead, so this is a pretty good deterrent against theft in these areas.

Bike racks are often specific to the vehicle you are driving, so the market for stolen bike racks is a little more specific as well. Though it wouldn’t be too difficult to find an interested buyer online, it may not be worth the time and effort for a thief. Not to mention, the biking community is very tightknit: if your rack gets stolen, it’s possible another rider might see it posted for sale and could alert you.

Are Bike Racks Easy to Steal (Is It Common?)

Are Bike Racks Safe? (Theft, Highway Driving, Damage Risk) | Cycling Beast (2)

Bike racks are typically pretty large and cumbersome, so it isn’t that easy to just remove a rack from the car and walk away with it without being noticed.

Roof racks are probably the most challenging type of rack to remove and the most obvious since you have to reach on top of the vehicle to get them down.

Trunk racks are also challenging to remove because you need to open the trunk to take the rack off the vehicle. Breaking into a car exposes a thief to more unwanted attention, so this may not be an option. A thief could cut the straps that hold the rack to the car, but that would damage the rack and make it unusable.

And while hitch racks are the easiest to take off the vehicle, they are the heaviest of all types of bike racks, so it isn’t easy to just walk away with one. And many hitch racks do feature locking bolts, which secure them to the hitch and require a key to open.

Do People Steal Bikes off of Bike Racks?

Are Bike Racks Safe? (Theft, Highway Driving, Damage Risk) | Cycling Beast (3)

It is probably much less noticeable to take a bike from a bike rack than take the entire rack. If your bike isn’t locked to the rack, a thief could quickly and easily remove the bike and ride off when no one is looking. If you have an expensive bike, your bike is definitely at risk, and the loss would certainly be devastating.

Never leave your bike unattended on your bike rack and always use a lock. Although locks aren’t foolproof, they are a deterrent, especially if a would-be thief is in a hurry to get away with your bike. So to be safe, always lock your bicycle to the rack on your car.

Be sure not to just thread the lock through the front wheel, which could be easily removed from the fork. Always wrap the bike lock through the frame and then around the bike rack.

How to Lock Your Rack (and Bikes) to Your Car

There are several different methods for locking your rack to your car. A hitch rack can be secured with a locking hitch pin. Some rack models come with one built into the rack.

For a trunk rack, you can use something like theThule Passive Lock Strap.You loop the end of the strap through the frame of the rack and put the other end into the trunk of the vehicle. This type of lock keeps the rack from being pulled off of the car without opening the trunk.

Use a Cable Lock to Lock Your Bike to the Rack

To lock your bike to the rack, one of the easiest ways to do this is to use a cable lock. Although cables can easily be cut with a bolt cutter, it does require more planning for the thief to accomplish. And it makes a good deterrent, buying you time for someone to notice the thief’s behavior before they make off with your ride.

You will want to loop the cable through the frame, the wheels, the saddle rails, through a tow hook on your vehicle…basically thread it through as many parts of your bike and bike rack as possible before locking. Weaving the cable through the various parts of the bike will keep someone from dismantling the bike in order to steal the frame.

Use a U-Lock to Lock Your Bike to the Rack

You can also use a u-lock to lock the bike frame to the rack. Whenever possible, use a lock that is rubber-coated so that it will not scratch the bike.

Are Bike Racks Safe for Highway Driving?

Are Bike Racks Safe? (Theft, Highway Driving, Damage Risk) | Cycling Beast (4)

Bike racks are safe for highway driving as long as they are correctly installed and you drive safely.

Always check your rack and your bikes to make sure they are correctly secured before driving. Give yourself extra starting, stopping, and turning space when driving because the weight of the bikes might affect how your car handles, especially if it is a smaller car or the bikes are very heavy.

You might feel wind drag if your bikes are on a roof rack. You might also feel some wobble if your bikes are on a hitch rack. However, a little bit of rack movement is normal as long as everything is secured correctly.If you think your rack is wobbling more than it should, see our previous article on how to fix a wobbly rack.

Also remember: with a hitch rack, your car is now a couple feet longer than normal, and if you have a backup camera, it’s most likely obstructed. Be extra cautious backing up!

Make Sure Your Bike Rack is Attached Properly

If your bike rack is not installed correctly, you could possibly damage the rack, your bike or your car. First, make sure you have the correct rack for your vehicle. Next, make sure it is installed according to the manufacturer’s directions. Checking the user manual is critical because every rack may have different installation requirements.

You also need to make sure the bikes are installed correctly onto the rack and everything is fastened securely. It won’t be safe to drive if it isn’t attached correctly, no matter how fast or slow you go.

How Fast Can You Drive with a Bike Rack?

Outdooralive.comstates that a general speed limit for driving with a bike rack on the highway is 70 to 80 mph. However, they also point out that you should check your owner’s manual because every bike rack manufacturer may have its own specific speed limits.But since few roads have speed limits greater than 70 anyways, this shouldn’t be an issue!

When it doubt, take it easy and drive a little slower than you normally would. Check your rack and bikes often to make sure they are still attached, and always watch out for underpasses and bridges if you have a roof rack. Be extra cautious of your car’s increased length with a trunk or hitch rack while changing lanes or making turns.

I know you’re excited to get to your favorite park or trailhead, but speeding may cost you a damaged bike, rack or a ticket!

Watch Your Clearance for Roof Racks

One of the biggest causes of damage to bikes, racks, and vehicles is misjudging the clearance of your roof rack or forgetting that your bike is on top of your car. If your bike is installed on your roof rack, you’ll need to be extra careful about going under bridges, parking in a garage, and hitting the drive-through after a hard ride.

If you try to drive into your garage with the bike on the roof, you’ll damage the bike, the rack, the car, and probably your garage as well! For this reason, you need to be extra careful when you use a roof rack whether parking or driving.

Give Extra Distance for Trunk /Hitch Racks

If you use a trunk rack or hitch rack, the bike will be sticking out behind the car further than you think. So as you drive, you’ll need to allow yourself a greater distance behind you to avoid hitting something.

When you pull into traffic or merge onto a highway, you’ll need to give extra distance for the car coming up behind you so that it doesn’t run into your bikes. Likewise, you’ll need to make wider turns so you don’t accidentally sideswipe something with your bikes and rack.

Do Car Bike Racks Damage Bikes?

Car racks can cause damage to bikes. If your bikes aren’t installed on the rack properly, they can fall off, move too much, or bang into the car and get damaged. You can prevent this by making sure both the bikes and the rack are correctly installed.

Carbon Bikes May Be More Easily Damaged on a Bike Rack

If you have a carbon bike, a rack that holds the bike by gripping the frame can cause damage to the carbon, possibly scratching or even cracking it. Additionally, if your bike rack holds your bike too close to the exhaust pipe, the heat from the exhaust can damage a carbon frame.

Sloped Top Tubes Can Be Difficult to Attach Safely

Some racks (like trunk racks) clamp onto the bike’s top tube to hold them in place. However, if you have a bike with a sloped top tube or ride a step-through bike, you won’t be able to attach your bike to this type of rack. Your bike will not be able to hang from the rack in an upright position like it’s meant to, which could put added stress on the bike or the rack.

Also, if you are carrying more than one bike on a bike rack, the bikes can become damaged if they bang into each other while you are driving. You’ll need to make sure that the bikes are secured separately and don’t touch.

The Bike Rack Most Likely to Damage Your Bike

A trunk rack is the most likely type of rack to damage your bike. A trunk rack is more likely to cause damage because most trunk racks hold the bike from the top tube. As a result, the bike has room to wobble and may bang against other bikes on the rack. This type of rack may also put too much stress on a carbon frame.

If you use a trunk rack or a hitch rack, make sure that the bike does not hang in front of or near the car’s exhaust pipe. The heat from the exhaust can cause damage to your wheels or frame, especially if they are made of carbon.

These types of racks are also more likely to obstruct your view out the rear window and are more at risk of being damaged if you get rear-ended by another driver.

A roof rack can damage your bike if you forget it’s there and you drive under a low bridge, into a garage or drive-through. You can seriously damage the bike, the car, the rack, and the building.But as long as you remember it’s there, your bike is much less likely to get damaged than with a trunk rack.

Do Car Bike Racks Damage Cars?

Bike racks can damage cars if they are not installed correctly. Any amount of movement can cause scratching, rubbing, or even dent the outside of the vehicle. Therefore, you always need to make sure your rack is installed correctly and moves as little as possible.

You also need to check that you are using the correct rack for your vehicle. Some racks are specifically designed to only fit certain vehicle models…using the wrong rack can damage your car.

The Bike Rack Most Likely to Damage Your Car

Trunk racks are the type of rack most likely to damage your car. A trunk rack maintains contact with the exterior of your vehicle at all times. If it isn’t secured correctly, the rack can scratch the paint or dig into the car’s frame. If the bike isn’t strapped to the rack correctly, it can also bang against the rear of your car, causing further damage.


Is it safe to use a bike rack on highway? ›

Bike racks are safe for highway driving as long as they are correctly installed and you drive safely. Always check your rack and your bikes to make sure they are correctly secured before driving.

Do bike racks prevent theft? ›

Can a Bike Be Stolen From a Bike Rack? Sadly, bikes can be stolen right off the rack, especially if they aren't locked to it. Even worse, if your bike is worth a lot of money, some thieves will take both the rack and the bike if the bike is locked to the rack.

Do bike racks damage your car? ›

Installing the bike racks

Bike racks are safe if properly installed. If installed incorrectly, significant damage can be caused by the bikes bumping and harming the car. The frame moves against the trunk, creating dents on the surface of the body.

Are trunk bike racks safe for highway? ›

Yes, trunk-mounted bike racks are safe as long as they are properly secured. If they are not installed correctly, they can fall off or scratch the surface of your vehicle.

What are the disadvantages of bike racks? ›

They can block your view while you're driving, which can be dangerous. If you have a lot of gear, it can be difficult to fit everything on the rack. The weight of your bike and gear can affect how well your bike handles while riding.

How fast can you drive with a bike rack? ›

There is no specific speed limit for driving with a bike rack, but there are some general guidelines that you should follow to ensure the safety of your bikes and your vehicle. In general, it is recommended to drive at a safe and reasonable speed when carrying bikes on your vehicle.

How can I prevent bike theft while traveling? ›

8 tips to prevent bicycle theft
  1. Double up your security by using two high-quality locks. ...
  2. Use your locks to keep your wheels from being stolen, too. ...
  3. Swap quick-release seat and wheel skewers for ones that require keys. ...
  4. Make your bike unique. ...
  5. Try out a smart lock. ...
  6. Always bring your bike inside at night.
Jun 7, 2018

How can I reduce bike theft? ›

The top priority is passing the lock through the frame, then the rear wheel and front wheel last. If your bike will be locked in an area known for bike theft, consider a second lock to secure the wheels to the frame and the primary lock to secure the frame (and possibly the rear wheel) to the rack.

Does a bike rack affect insurance? ›

Most insurance companies will regard the fitting of a bike rack as a vehicle modification and therefore you should contact your insurance provider to inform them that you are going to install a bike rack.

How do I make sure my bike rack is secure? ›

The most secure way to lock your bike is with two locks. And ideally to a bike rack that's cemented into the ground. The first lock should go around the back wheel, the frame and the bike rack. The second should go around the front wheel, the frame and preferably the bike rack as well.

How do I know if my bike rack is secure? ›

How to Check Whether a Bike Rack Is Safe to Use
  1. Check the bike rack for gaffer tape obscuring any disconnects in the metal. ...
  2. Look for unscrewed bolts or any looseness around the base of the structure.
Mar 10, 2016

What is the safest way to transport bikes on car? ›

The roof rack

With the front wheel removed, there are racks that come with an optional fork grabber that can be locked to avoid possible theft. Pros: The interior of your car remains available for passengers and gear. It is the most stable and secure way to carry bikes.

Which is better trunk or hitch bike rack? ›

Overall, a hitch bike rack is a better option than a trunk rack. That's because a hitch rack ensures maximum security, protection, and stability during the transportation of the bikes.

Which is better roof or trunk bike rack? ›

Roof bike racks: You may want to put your bike on the roof because it's more secure, you need access to your rear trunk or you don't want to install a trailer hitch. Roof racks are a good choice if you don't mind lifting the bike onto the roof and low-clearance garages or ceilings aren't an issue.

What are the pros and cons of trunk bike rack? ›

Trunk-mounted racks are light, highly portable and easy to store when not in use. With some practice, they are easy to mount and take off. Cons: Trunk racks are often limited in their load capacity (two to three bikes is typically the max), and once mounted, they interfere with trunk access.

Is it OK to leave bike rack on car? ›

Technically, yes, you can leave your bike rack on your car whenever you want. If installed correctly, it won't do any damage to your vehicle.

What is the benefit of installing bicycle racks? ›

Increase Parking Capacity at Little Cost

A single bike rack can offer parking for multiple bikes in a convenient location with prime access to a building entrance. It also saves you a lot of money since installing a bike rack is much cheaper than building a parking space.

Do bikes move on a bike rack? ›

No matter how tightly and securely you attach the bike to a bike rack when driving it will move even a little bit from the usual g-forces and vibrations. There is no way around that.

How much drag does a bike rack cause? ›

A loaded bike rack affects the aerodynamics and weight of a car negatively, resulting in higher fuel consumption from 5% up to 28%. These negative effects are greater, the smaller, less powerful the car is, and the faster the traveling speed is. An empty bike has only a marginal effect of 1% to 14%.

Can someone sit on a bike rack? ›

Child seats are of course a safe and viable way to use your rack, but here I'll discuss having adults sit on a bike rack. First off, this is not recommended for a normal rear bike rack. Most of them are rated at around 55 pounds, which is well below an adult weight.

What bikes are most likely to get stolen? ›

High-end road bikes, mountain bikes, e-bikes, hybrid bikes, and folding bikes are among the most popular targets for thieves. By understanding which bikes are most often targeted by thieves, riders can make informed decisions about their bike security and minimize the risk of theft.

Why is bike theft so common? ›

It's so easy to get away with it

One major contributing factor to the increase in bike theft is that it's just so easy for criminals to get away with it. A bicycle's very nature makes it an easy target for theft: they are lightweight and simple to disassemble, making them easy to transport.

What parts of a bike can be stolen? ›

Wheels, saddles, and accessories are the most commonly snagged items, but ultimately no part of your bicycle is safe, not even your cockpit.

Can bikes be stolen easily? ›

Bike thieves are often opportunistic, if you leave your bike unlocked and unattended, even for a short time, it could be gone in seconds. Front yards, apartment balconies and car bike racks are common places for bikes to be stolen from when they aren't locked properly.

Should you call the police if your bike is stolen? ›

If your bike is stolen, you'll need to file a police report. Call the non-emergency number of your local police department and tell them what happened. They'll more than likely send an officer out to take down the details.

What color bike is least likely to get stolen? ›

Bike thieves serve a market – people who want bikes on the cheap! Less desirable bikes are less quick to be bought and therefore less likely to be stolen. A bad colour brown or bright pink or luminous green and purple bike might be deterrents!

Is it OK for bike rack to cover license plate? ›

A bike rack isn't allowed to cover your license plate partially or entirely, according to the road rules of the USA. While different states have separate laws regarding this, most states agree that no object may block the view onto a rear license plate, so an extra plate is required.

Do I need lights on my bike rack? ›

Make sure the bicycle rack and bicycle/s do not obscure the vehicle lights including the brake lights, centre-mounted brake light and indicators. If any light/s are obscured you must attach an additional set of lights at the rear of the bicycle/s.

Does bike insurance cover stolen? ›

Insurers will pay an amount equal to declared value of insured bike in case of theft.

Should I lock my front or back wheel? ›

ALWAYS LOCK YOUR BIKE to a solid object that it cannot be lifted over. LOCK YOUR BIKE in a well lit area with high foot traffic. MAKE SURE what you lock your bike to cannot be cut. LOCK ACCORDING TO VALUE frame first, then back wheel, and finally front wheel.

Can you lock bikes to hitch rack? ›

The Yakima LockUp solves this by securing your bike to a hitch rack and your rack to your receiver hitch. So simple, yet so effective.

Are hitch racks safe? ›

While all bike racks are safe for driving and your vehicle, hitch racks are especially safe. This is because they're mounted via the hitch receiver instead of with straps (like roof and trunk racks). This also makes hitch racks less likely to shift or move while you're on the road.

Is it OK if my bike rack wobbles? ›

Ideally, a bike rack should be sturdy and not wobble too much. However, some amount of wobbling is to be expected, especially if the rack isn't perfectly level. If your bike rack is constantly wobbling and moving around, it's probably not installed correctly or is in need of repair.

Are public bike racks safe? ›

Bike racks are highly efficient traffic safety equipment used to arrange bikes or bicycles in public or private spaces. These cycle racks prevent bikes or bicycles from falling on the ground and protect passengers from injury.

What is the safest way to ride a bike? ›

When riding, always:
  1. Go With the Traffic Flow. Ride on the right in the same direction as other vehicles. ...
  2. Obey All Traffic Laws. A bicycle is a vehicle and you're a driver. ...
  3. Yield to Traffic When Appropriate. ...
  4. Be Predictable. ...
  5. Stay Alert at All Times. ...
  6. Look Before Turning. ...
  7. Watch for Parked Cars.

Why bikes are safer than cars? ›

Motorcyclists have better visibility than car and truck drivers do. Motorcycles are smaller and more maneuverable, so it's easier for motorcyclists to avoid certain accidents.

What is the best way to carry bikes on SUV? ›

Hitch-mounted bike racks are a great choice for SUVs and pickup trucks. They are designed to be an add-on for existing tow hitches. These are one of the most popular options because their height makes it easy to load and unload bikes.

Do hitch bike racks affect gas mileage? ›

Roof and trailer-hitch racks are great at toting your gear for a weekend adventure, but those mounts can change the aerodynamics as well as the weight of your vehicle—costing you additional gas money.

Are bike rear racks worth it? ›

Rear bike racks are also a great rear gear carrying platform even if the extra capacity of panniers isn't needed. This is especially advantageous when running a long-travel dropper post—on singletrack-heavy bikepacking trips, for example.

What is the best material for a bike rack? ›

Pipe. Tubing is commonly used for structural purposes, making it the preferred material for manufacturing bike racks. Tubing size is specified by the outside diameter (OD) and the wall thickness and is stated as a gauge. The lower the gauge, the thicker the tubing.

How fast can you drive with a Thule bike rack? ›

If you have Thule products mounted to your car, your driving speed depends on several factors: what your car is carrying, the road type, road quality, wind conditions, traffic intensity and speed limits. But make sure that you under no circumstances exceed 130 km/h!

How do I keep my bike from being stolen on my car rack? ›

The top priority is passing the lock through the frame, then the rear wheel and front wheel last. If your bike will be locked in an area known for bike theft, consider a second lock to secure the wheels to the frame and the primary lock to secure the frame (and possibly the rear wheel) to the rack.

Do I need lights on a bike rack? ›

The Law. Requires your number plate and rear lights to be clearly visible.

What is the safest way to travel with bikes? ›

Remove the front wheel so the bike is less crowded in the trunk. Position the bike chain-side up so that the chain ring doesn't get bent or damaged. Refrain from placing anything heavy on top of the bike. Ideally, nothing will be placed on top of the bike.

Are you safer in a car or on a bike? ›

Driving a Car vs Riding a Bike

Even though bicycle trips contribute to 1 percent of trips in the United States, bicyclists are still at a high risk of getting involved in fatal accidents with motor vehicles. Unfortunately, you are twice as likely to get killed while riding a bike than driving a car.

Do Thule racks affect gas mileage? ›

In short, yes, roof racks do affect gas mileage. Any accessory attached to your car can compromise its aerodynamics which, by definition, is the motion of air when interacting with a solid object. The more aerodynamic your car is, the less effort your engine needs to keep your vehicle moving.

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