Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

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RideToWorky
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Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby RideToWorky » 2 Jan 2016, 6:08pm

Hiya All,

Thinking about it... What about a Tow Bar mounted bike rack?

Which would be best? Tow Bar Racks or Roof racks?

Listing out the all the criteria:
1. For ease of use? (I'm guessing Tow bar racks would be easiest to use... for shorties.)
2. Cost (Tow bars would need registration plate and lights?)
3. Safety
4. Durability?
5. Moving onto future cars? (Are car electrics a generic fit?)
6. Car with built in Bike racks - Any good? built in remote registration plate and lights?)

Hope you can advise

Regards
Martin

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gaz
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby gaz » 2 Jan 2016, 6:27pm

There'll be tarmac over, the white cliffs of Dover ...

wfbroddy
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby wfbroddy » 4 Jan 2016, 9:14am

Regarding some of your points

All modern tow bar racks should have integrated lights, so helps there
Number plates aren't expensive to get
Electrics again a modern tow bar will have 13 point plug which is the modern standard the older 6? Point is still about and you can get converters or new plugs as the wiring can be configured for either

pwa
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby pwa » 4 Jan 2016, 9:36am

Just to be awkward, I must point out the third option, which is boot mounted racks. I have a compact steel tubed one made in England by Pendle, and it mounts very solidly to the rear hatch of my Golf Estate and would adapt easily to most cars. It takes about 5 minutes to fit the rack and tidy up the straps, and another 5 minutes to load one or two bikes with the extra straps that my cautious nature demands. I used the rack to drive about 800 miles to a cottage in France without having to adjust or tighten anything. The bikes are clear of the lights and number plate, so there are no complications, and when not in use the rack folds up small. And unlike most boot racks it is made to last.

With regards to fuel consumption, any rack will result in poorer fuel economy. Instinct tells me that boot / tow bar racks will have less effect than a roof rack, but I don't know that for a fact.

james01
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby james01 » 4 Jan 2016, 10:40am

I use a basic 2 bike folding towbar rack (cost around £17 on Ebay, similar to this http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-BIKE-REAR-T ... SwbqpTxPw8) on our car which has a towbar. Fitted in seconds, good for shorties, and folds flat for storage in the boot. Number plate board required as it obscures the car reg plate.
For our other car, a hatchback, I use a high-level hang-on 3 bike Halfords rack which cost about £40 in a sale 3 years ago. It doesn't obstruct the number plate.
Both perform well, but I wouldn't contemplate the cost etc of fitting a towbar just for carrying bikes, it just happened that our car already had one for caravanning.
The hang-on rack is so much more secure than the racks from the 1980s which relied on little brackets clinging precariously to the lip of the hatch. Our Halfords rack has webbing straps attached to large "dumbells" which are trapped inside the car by closing the hatch. Even so, I add a third webbing strap for complete peace of mind.

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robgul
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby robgul » 4 Jan 2016, 10:49am

pwa wrote:Just to be awkward, I must point out the third option, which is boot mounted racks. I have a compact steel tubed one made in England by Pendle, and it mounts very solidly to the rear hatch of my Golf Estate and would adapt easily to most cars. It takes about 5 minutes to fit the rack and tidy up the straps, and another 5 minutes to load one or two bikes with the extra straps that my cautious nature demands. I used the rack to drive about 800 miles to a cottage in France without having to adjust or tighten anything. The bikes are clear of the lights and number plate, so there are no complications, and when not in use the rack folds up small. And unlike most boot racks it is made to last.

With regards to fuel consumption, any rack will result in poorer fuel economy. Instinct tells me that boot / tow bar racks will have less effect than a roof rack, but I don't know that for a fact.


Ah, you're obviously not one of the two cars (at separate times) on the M6 with bikes in the road ....

Have to say my 2p is very strongly for towbar mounted. Yes more expensive to start with, and then for a car change - but ease of use, safety, security and no significant fuel consumption difference makes it the right decision. It's also worth checking if you go to some countries (Spain I think) where boot mounted racks are illegal - you may also pay a premium on some ferries for roof-mounted racks as "over height".

Rob
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ANTONISH
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby ANTONISH » 4 Jan 2016, 10:50am

I've used both tow bar mounted and roof mounted racks.
Both have their advantages/disadvantages. main drawback for the tow bar was a loss of some visibility plus the need for an extra number plate - mine had replicated rear lights and flashers - I drive in France quite often and one needs to pay attention to these things.
I found with the roof mounted rack that it affected the headset - also I had an interesting experience entering a car park in Brugge and omitting to notice the height limit.
Of course both leave the bike out in the weather and vulnerable to pilfering or theft.
For some years now I've kept the bike inside the car in a bike bag - I always have an estate car though its possible to use a hatch back if the seats go down.
I find this works for two people - obviously not so easy for a group.

9494arnold
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby 9494arnold » 4 Jan 2016, 11:06am

Plus one for the Ferry. No additional charge but I was "taken out" of the Car Queue in France waiting to board the ferry and made to embark with the HGV's with a roof mounted rack a few years ago. Quite scary when you are penned in by HGV's .

pwa
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby pwa » 4 Jan 2016, 12:01pm

robgul wrote:
pwa wrote:Just to be awkward, I must point out the third option, which is boot mounted racks. I have a compact steel tubed one made in England by Pendle, and it mounts very solidly to the rear hatch of my Golf Estate and would adapt easily to most cars. It takes about 5 minutes to fit the rack and tidy up the straps, and another 5 minutes to load one or two bikes with the extra straps that my cautious nature demands. I used the rack to drive about 800 miles to a cottage in France without having to adjust or tighten anything. The bikes are clear of the lights and number plate, so there are no complications, and when not in use the rack folds up small. And unlike most boot racks it is made to last.

With regards to fuel consumption, any rack will result in poorer fuel economy. Instinct tells me that boot / tow bar racks will have less effect than a roof rack, but I don't know that for a fact.


Ah, you're obviously not one of the two cars (at separate times) on the M6 with bikes in the road ....

Have to say my 2p is very strongly for towbar mounted. Yes more expensive to start with, and then for a car change - but ease of use, safety, security and no significant fuel consumption difference makes it the right decision. It's also worth checking if you go to some countries (Spain I think) where boot mounted racks are illegal - you may also pay a premium on some ferries for roof-mounted racks as "over height".

Rob


Boot mounted racks can be flimsy, but the Pendle version is not. It is easy to make very secure. When it's secured I test it by wrestling it a bit, making the car move up and down. It doesn't move about at all. If you have two cars it will fit both with minimal adjustment. As for it being illegal in Spain, I don't know, having never been there, but it's fine in France. I wouldn't drive as far as Spain anyway.

Mounting bikes on the roof may be an issue for tall cars using ferries, but with a normal estate car you will probably be within the normal height band for ferries. Best to check, though. I've never had to pay more for a bike on the roof.

A friend of mine took my two kids with his family on a holiday in Cornwall and used a Thule tow bar rack. My son returned with a broken Islabike after the driver forgot the rack was there and reversed it into a wall.

SA_SA_SA
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby SA_SA_SA » 4 Jan 2016, 12:33pm

Are car rear 'hatchback' doors now designed to take the weight of a bicycle rack and bicycle(s)?

Why would the manufacturer do that: its just a door?
------------You may not use this post in Cycle or other magazine ------ 8)

PT1029
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby PT1029 » 4 Jan 2016, 12:45pm

Indeed, some boots are aluminium or fibegrass etc. Working in a LBS some years ago, the Thule racks we sold always had a list of makes/models/model year that a rack could/could not be fitted on for this reason.
Re bikes on the M6. My neighbour had a similar experience on the M25. Some following truckers stopped in time to block the traffic flow. 1 truck driver was very helpful, tossed one of the bikes to safety on the verge while standing in the 2nd lane.... no doubt more a show of his thoughts than a show of strength......

PS Thule racks are very good.

sjs
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby sjs » 4 Jan 2016, 1:10pm

Having fairly recently owned a Mondeo estate, and VW Sharan and now a Citroen C4 Picasso, all of which had built-in roof rails, I went for roof mounting, the type where the bikes are the right way up, fastened via their wheels and a clamp on the down tube. Advantages: easy access to tailgate, no obscuring of number plate or lights, no extra cost of a towbar, pretty solid if everything is properly tightened. But a bit of a pain actually getting the bikes up there, especially on the VW and the Citroen, which are both quite high. And some danger of wiping out the bikes eg at car park entrances, by forgetting the extra height.

Oh, one more advantage: with the bikes the right way up they could provide seating for a couple of extra passengers if the car was full :lol:

Tangled Metal
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby Tangled Metal » 4 Jan 2016, 8:27pm

Need to get good roof bars if you put a lot of bikes on the roof. A mate lost the whole roof bars from his roof on the m6 with 4 kayaks on them. He heard a noise and looked back on his rear view mirror to see the bars skidding along the inside lane behind.him. Fortunately he's a slow driver so was able to stop and.collect them before a truck hit them. They were roof bars bought.from Halfords under the brand Paddy Hobkirks. I assume Halfords own brand is now OK but I stick with Thule every time for roof bars.

We use a cheapish boot mounted rack. It's a pain to fit and remove using hooks on the end of straps. The bikes are strapped in with rubber bands but the straps attaching the rack to tend to work loose whilst you're.driving. I.always tighten them then lock off with a few hitches. A few last tugs of the rack and the whole car moves before I drive off then hour later it's wobbling in.the rear view mirror.

We're considering getting a towbar fitted with electrics just to take a bike rack. Note you don't need the full.electrics that a caravan tends to have but a simpler set up with fewer pins/amperes rating. You're not charging up a caravan leisure battery afterall. We think it would still be expensive but worth it If we use it. At the moment it takes about half an hour to set the rack up and load the rack with 2 bikes. A towbar rack takes a few minutes to fix and a few more for loading with bikes. Plus most now tilt away so you can access the boot. We can't do that with the boot rack. If it's easier to use we're more likely to take our bikes somewhere new to ride. Right now we're more likely to not bother and either ride from home or drive off for a walk in the hills.

In our case roof mounted racks are out. My partner is short and when I used a borrowed roof mounted bike rack I nearly dropped a new bike on the car. They're not easy to use IMHO despite me being 6'5" I struggle. We have a smallish mpv so not really a very tall car (SEAT Altea).

Halfords own brand seems to tilt at a good price too. Suggest worth it if you're expecting a lot of use. Thule if you want long life from the rack.

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Mick F
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby Mick F » 4 Jan 2016, 8:59pm

If you have a bike that's worth more than the car ............ maybe worth a few grand or more ...................... do NOT use a rear rack.

All it needs is a gentle shunt from a following vehicle and your 2grand bike is written off.

Believe me ........... it very nearly happened to us.

I've told this story before.
My Mercian was on our Thule tow-bar rack whilst driving down the A38 south of Bridgwater.
Heavy traffic. Stop-start, and slow.
I pulled up at a zebra crossing and the Ford behind us didn't stop quickly enough.
We were doing less than 20mph.
He hit us gently but firmly and damaged our rack and he damaged the front of his car.
Mrs Mick F panicked, and I was calm and sort of resigned, but all we sustained was a bent rack.

From that moment on, my Mercian went inside the car, and will NEVER be on a rear rack again. :shock:
Mick F. Cornwall

Tangled Metal
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Re: Tow Bar Racks vs Roof racks - which is best?

Postby Tangled Metal » 4 Jan 2016, 9:24pm

You're probably right about the expensive bikes and you're less likely to go into supermarket or shopping centre carparks so unlikely to exceed the carpark height limit since I reckon truly expensive bikes are only carried somewhere to ride then go home. A lot will probably own below £2k bikes so possibly covered by car insurance if rear ended while on a boot or towbar rack.

Personally it's not going to worry me much. If I'm carrying our bikes a long distance it'll be on.holiday with.the roof space taken by a roof box. So only shortish shuttles to local rides.

My main concern about rear racks are weeks sticking out the sides of your car. You see cars with bikes loaded unevenly across the back of cars result wheels sticking out that side. Towbar mounted bikes are usually held centrally. I think this is better as you're less likely to misjudge width. No evidence just my opinion. Roof mounted bikes not an issue.