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How to Transport a Bike

how to transport a bike

The bike is a great means of transportation: It is environmentally friendly, offers you mobility, keeps you fit and is also a lot of fun. But every now and then it has to be transported. A new landscape appeals to you, a beautiful excursion destination should be explored, or you would also like to enjoy exciting bike tours on vacation. Maybe you are planning a larger bike tour and start your adventure far from home. Whatever drives you, there are many reasons to take your own bike with you. Our guide gives you an overview of the many ways you can transport your bike safely.

Transport the bike in the car

The car offers several places that are suitable for taking your bike with you. Behind the car (rear carrier), on the roof (roof carrier) or in the interior (interior bike rack): Every location has its advantages and disadvantages and there are special features to be considered.

Rear carrier for the trailer hitch

The most common way of transporting the bike is to attach it to a rear carrier, which in turn is attached to the towbar.

The rear carrier for the towbar offers you additional storage space outside of your car without noticeably disturbing you. You only have to pay attention to the longer overall length when parking, the fuel consumption hardly changes because the bicycles are in the slipstream of your car. Good carrier models are very durable and robust, so you can use them on all your cars as long as they have a towbar. Thanks to the low loading height, even heavy bicycles (e.g. e-bikes) are easy to load, but you should definitely check the permissible load capacity of the carrier for your bicycles as well as the permissible load in general. Special loading ramps can also be helpful for a body-friendly and comfortable loading of your bike.

Carefully loading several bicycles in opposite directions prevents annoying damage. You should pay attention to the clamping when buying: To protect high-quality aluminum and carbon frames, only padded clamps should be used.

The carrier can usually be assembled without tools and often an anti-theft device is integrated for the carrier and the bicycles. However, you should also protect particularly high-quality bicycles against theft if you leave the vehicle alone for longer. If the trunk should remain accessible, a foldable model is recommended.

Recommendation

Especially if you transport several bicycles or use the carrier rarely, take some photos of the optimally positioned body, then loading will be quicker the next time.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
The vehicle interior remains freeThe overall length of the vehicle increases
Vehicle type independentThe bicycles are exposed to the weather
You can take up to 5 bicyclesCareless installation can damage the bicycles
Easy loading and unloading of bicyclesNot suitable for high speeds
Very safe transport variant when installed correctlyTowbar required
Hardly any change in fuel consumptionLimited rear view
Trunk difficult to access

Roof Rack

The roof rack is also one of the most popular and frequently used ways of transporting bicycles. If you have a suitable basic rack for your car, you can bring your up to five bicycles to the roof with a mounting rail. Due to the very large loading height, a small ladder is usually required, and the helping hand of a second person cannot hurt either. Assembled correctly, the bicycles are very safe on the roof and do not disturb the driver’s field of vision. Unfortunately, they are completely in the wind, which is noticeable with increased fuel consumption. The vehicle height is also changing significantly, which is particularly important for parking garages, underpasses and ferries.

Recommendation

Measure the new vehicle height with the bicycles installed and write this height on a piece of insulating tape and place it clearly visible on the dashboard. This way you avoid expensive damage to the bicycles and your car.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
The vehicle interior remains freeNot suitable for high speeds
You can take up to 5 bicyclesThe overall height of the vehicle becomes significantly larger
Vehicle type-independent (assuming a suitable basic rack)Noticeable increase in fuel consumption
Very safe transport variant when installed correctlyThe bicycles are exposed to the weather
Unrestricted view to the front and backMore complex loading and unloading of bicycles depending on the vehicle height
Free access to the trunkCareless installation can damage the bicycles and cars

Rear Carrier

Does your vehicle have no roof rails and no towbar? You can still take your bikes with you on a rear carrier. The rear carrier is connected directly to the tailgate via several clamps, which can make assembly a little more time-consuming. The models cannot be used without restriction on all vehicles, so check compatibility with your car beforehand. The rear carrier is usually designed for two bicycles, in rare cases three bicycles can be accommodated.

Compared to the rear carrier on the towbar, there is a significantly higher loading height and a more restricted field of vision to the rear. You should also note that when using the trunk, you have to move the tailgate with the additional weight of the carrier and the bicycles.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
The vehicle interior remains freeNot suitable for high speeds
Very safe transport variant when installed correctlyThe bicycles are exposed to the weather
Hardly any change in fuel consumptionCareless installation can damage the bicycles and cars
Carrier system depends on vehicle type
Limited rear view
Difficult to open the trunk
Large loading height

Interior Bike Rack

An interior bike rack is a carrier system that holds the bikes with the front wheel removed from the fork. The carrier itself is fixed to the trunk floor, the assembly is usually simple and can be done quickly even by inexperienced people. The bike stands securely in the carrier and poses no danger to the occupants even when braking hard, and it cannot be damaged by slipping and wobbling. However, the greatest advantages of transportation in the interior are the high level of theft protection, protection against external influences and gentle absorption, which makes this transport option particularly interesting for very high-quality bicycles.

On top of that, your vehicle remains unchanged on the outside, i.e. you do not need to get used to other dimensions of your car and you are not restricted in top speed either. The size of your car and the additional people and luggage to be transported usually decide whether an interior carrier is the right solution for you.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Very safe transport variantA lot of space is taken up by the bicycles in the interior
No change in fuel consumptionLimited rear view
Suitable for all speedsUsually the rear wheel or the saddle must be removed
The dimensions of the vehicle remain unchanged
Good theft protection
Good protection against external influences, e.g. Rain or falling rocks

Transport the bike on the train

Cycle to the train station, get in and get off at the destination – you can’t make your bike tour more environmentally friendly. The train takes you to the most beautiful starting points for your bike tour – and of course brings you back again.

Short-distance

The special wagons for taking bicycles are marked with a bicycle symbol and are usually located at the beginning or end of the respective train. Bicycles can also be taken into the entrance area in so-called multi-purpose compartments as long as other passengers are not hindered.

It should be noted that the transport of bicycles is regulated differently in the different transport associations. In addition to different prices and tariffs, there may also be some limitations for certain trains and times, for example on heavily used routes during rush hour traffic, that bikes are not permitted. However, bicycles can even be taken along free of charge on certain routes and at certain times.

Check with your local train operator for more information.

Long-distance

For long-distance train rides, it is recommended have to be in special parking spaces which are not available in every long-distance train.

Dismantled bicycles or folding bikes can also be carried as free hand luggage as long as they can be stowed above or below the seat.

Shipping / luggage service

In the event that you cannot travel together with your bike or you do not have the option of taking your car with you, train operators offer the option of transporting your bike as a piece of luggage.

When booking the corresponding service, your bike will be picked up at the front door at an agreed date and taken to your desired destination. Appropriate transport packaging is provided and is already included in the luggage service price. The service can be booked online and you can use your tracking number to track the path of your bike on your PC.

Transport the bike on the plane

Especially as an ambitious cyclist, the question of how to best take your own bike to the planned training camp arises in the season preparation. Road cyclists and triathletes like to travel to warmer areas, which usually require a plane trip, to prepare for the new season. Of course, they do not want to do without their own training equipment, since it was mostly built according to their own needs and the contact points such as saddle, handlebars and pedals fit perfectly with the driver and their own equipment. Although it is often possible to rent a bike on site, it is often not the same as having your own bike, which has been meticulously adapted to the body’s own dimensions.

In principle, most airlines allow you to take your bike with you, but it is advisable to read the baggage regulations of the respective airline carefully. The prices for bike transport vary widely, ranging from $0 (baggage allowance within the permitted baggage weight) to $200 (sports baggage on intercontinental flights).

The transport regulations for preparing the bike on flights also differ significantly. The minimum requirements are usually a lateral movement of the handlebar, the removal of the pedals and the pressure from the tires. Most airlines, however, recommend packing the bike in a box or in a special transport case. We also recommend a bike case or a bag for the transport of your bike on flights, because high-quality bikes can only be effectively protected against possible transport damage and external influences.

Bike bags and bike cases

If you are on a flight for a vacation trip or a training camp, the safest way to travel is with your bike in a bike bag or a bike case. It is important to protect your bike as well as possible from external influences so that it survives the trip undamaged.

At first glance, there is a lot to be said for the case, since its hard shell offers the best possible protection against knocks and bumps. The case has rigid dimensions though when not in use.

At second glance, most bags are more sophisticated than one might think. Particularly sensitive areas are extra padded or partially reinforced by struts and side walls, in addition, the bag scores with a low weight and can be stowed away when not in use. The latest generation of transport bags has an approximately 20 cm high floor pan, which gives the bag a little more rigidity and a firm stand. With the high-quality models, you can look forward to great features, such as inflatable airbags to protect the contents or integrated assembly stand.

The advantages and disadvantages of suitcases and bags are compared below:

Bike bags

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Good, if not perfect, protection against external influences, e.g. Blows or bumpsPotential danger in the event of strong impacts or bumps
Stowable to save spaceModels without wheels are bulky to transport
Light weight
The interior can be flexibly partitioned
Inexpensive models available from around $70

Bike cases

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Best protection against external influences, e.g. Blows or bumpsHigh space requirement when not in use
Easy to transport due to the rollersHigh weight
Higher price levels from around $250

How to prepare your bike transport

In order to prepare your bike optimally for transport, we have put together some helpful tips:

Bike transport with the car

  • Remove moving and easily removable parts from the bike to protect them against loss or theft (air pumps, water bottles, batteries, saddle covers, saddle and frame bags, plug-in lights, speedometers)
  • Protect stressed areas (e.g. the clamping area on the frame) with a soft pad
  • Dismantle the pedals or pad them with soft material to avoid damage to surrounding parts
  • Avoid touching parts by skillful positioning or pad with auxiliary material air chamber film, pipe insulation, styrofoam)
  • Check that the bike and carrier are in a stable position and that they are firmly connected, even occasionally during breaks during the journey
  • become aware of the changed dimensions of the vehicle, set up reminders if necessary, e.g. note the new vehicle height on the dashboard so that it is clearly visible
  • When planning your trip, take into account the possibly limited maximum speed and higher fuel consumption
    use a second person to help with loading
  • Take photos of the ideal transport structure as a reminder

Bike transport in the bag or case

  • Check compatibility with the transported bike before buying
  • prefer a high-quality interior to protect the bike
  • Compensate for missing equipment with auxiliary material or set up additional protective measures (air chamber film, pipe insulation, polystyrene)
  • protect sensitive parts such as the rear derailleur
  • Fill up empty spaces that are available with light and cushioning material or suitable travel utensils