Cycle Roof Racks vs. Rear Cycle Carriers How To Decide?

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Published: 18th June 2009
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The cycle carriers of today make it so easy to take bicycles with you when you travel by car thanks to their ingenious design. If you've decided that it's time you got your car equipped with a cycle rack there are several factors to take into account but there is one thing you have to decide right at the outset.

You have to decide whether you'd rather have your bikes on a cycle roof rack with the bikes carried on the car roof either upside down or on their wheels or across the back of the car, right way up on a rear cycle carrier. Actually the decision may be made for you by virtue of the type and design of your car.

You see cars do vary a lot in shape and one of the key factors is that they vary in height as well. If you drive a 4x4 or an MPV, often referred to as a people carrier and you've ever tried to clean the roof you'll appreciate that lifting bicycles up and down and fastening them in place at arms length soon loses its appeal.

Such vehicles do have the advantage of a fairly long, straight roof line, ideal for any kind of bike rack if only they weren't so high. Well, that long level roof is a feature shared by most estate cars and they are usually of a much more convenient height for access.

What that means in practice is that for a 4x4 or MPV a rear cycle carrier such as the Thule 909 is the only realistic option. For almost any other type of car, the choice is yours. It's a matter of personal preference, although physical ability may come into it as well.

Cycle roof racks are usually made to fit to roof bars. It's a good idea to have both the roof bars and the cycle roof rack from the same manufacturer to ensure compatibility of fittings although a Thule bike rack for example will fit other manufacturers' roof bars. However using their own system throughout brings several advantages in terms of easy locking systems and so on. Its not essential but it does make life a whole lot easier.

The great advantage of using cycle roof racks like the Thule 591 model is that access to the boot or luggage area is not compromised in the slightest and no internal load space is occupied. The downside to that is that, especially if several bikes are carried on a cycle roof rack, there is unlikely to be any roof space left to carry anything else up there.

Another possible drawback to having a bike rack on the roof is that the overall height of the car plus bikes may well be too much for many multi-storey car parks, ferry garages and even possibly some low bridges. On the other hand the length of the vehicle isn't extended which may avoid additional charges on ferries and making the car cumbersome to manoeuvre.

There's still all that lifting on and off though with a bike holder on the roof. If you go for a rear cycle carrier you find you've got another choice to make. Some cycle carriers like the Thule 909 attach to a towbar and, in the case of that particular model, are extremely easy to attach and remove using a single lever operated by one hand.

If your vehicle hasn't got a towbar fitted and you don't want to go to the expense of fitting one, other cycle carriers are designed to be attached to the car itself. In either case the more sophisticated models like the Thule 909 are designed to easily tilt away from the car to enable the tailgate to be opened in the normal way.

If you have a 4x4 or an MPV you'll find that although the high roof may make it impractical for you to use a cycle roof rack like the Thule 591, the fairly upright rear end shape lends itself particularly well to the use of a rear cycle carrier.

Whether you end up choosing a cycle roof rack or a rear cycle carrier you want to know that on those occasions when you want to park the car and go on foot your bikes will still be there when you come back. Check to make sure your chosen model has good provision for ensuring this.

In the case of the both the Thule 909 rear cycle carrier and the Thule 591 roof mounted model, one key securely locks the bikes to the cycle rack and also the bike holder to the car. The system also ensures that neither can become detached whilst travelling and fall off either.

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Fasteronline - UK car accessories specialist stock a huge range of Thule bike carriers, Thule roof racks and Thule and Karrite roof boxes. If you are looking for car accessories then visit

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