While many have the luxury of hopping on the saddle right at their own doorstep, others have to haul their bikes to the nearest park or trail to enjoy their passion of cycling.
If you are a cycling enthusiast who just happens to own a pickup truck, then you sir/mam, are some of the lucky few that have the luxury of having the most versatility when it comes to transporting your bike, or bikes, to your favorite track.
As you may already know, the truck bed provides excellent carriage space, if nothing else. And as for transporting your bikes, it is an absolute goldmine of opportunity.
There are multiple ways in which you can transport your bike in a truck bed. Some of the most common are:
- Using a Tailgate Pad.
- Utilizing the different pickup truck specific bike racks available in the market.
Or even making a bike rack of your own!
No matter which approach you take, you are sure to see a lot of advantages. But some minor inconveniences trail close behind, as can be expected.
All this and more are discussed in detail in our article. Let’s get started.
Tailgate Pad (Tailgate Diaper)
The most optimized method in our arsenal, in terms of both budget and capacity, is the tailgate pad. It is more of a durable covering that you can throw over the tailgate of your car. The pad itself is usually lined with thick foam on the inside with a very resilient synthetic covering.
The front section of the bike, the fork and the front wheel, rests outside and the tube of the bike rests on top of the tailgate. In this case the pad protects both the truck and the bike from damage.
Most of them offer docking points for your bikes, which brings us to their amazing carrying capacity and adaptability.
Tailgate pads have the highest capacity, and can hold up to 6 bikes of all shapes and forms. They do not rely on tire size, frame weight or even the type of bike you put on them. It’s one size fits all. But you should keep your truck’s capacity in mind. Both weight and width.
Is this the cheapest option? Possibly, yes. Some Walmart pads can go for as little as $10. Throw in an extra security strap worth $5 per bike, and you are good to go.
But you wouldn’t want a $10 pad to carry your $1000 custom MTB do you?
Investing a bit more can see you get a more durable material with better and more secure straps. And even extra foam padding on contact points.
Achieving this optimization comes with a few concerns as well.
First of all is security. While the pad might come with some strong straps, it can’t be called proper security. You have to invest in proper locks for all your bikes to remedy that.
Secondly, while it does have good padding, it is not a foolproof protection. You are still likely to get some cosmetic damage over prolonged use, or just loading your bike wrongly.
That said, it is still a very good option, especially if you are going on a cycling trip with a few friends.
If security is your concern, both mental and physical, truck bed bike racks are the way to go. These are a little different from your regular bike racks, but only in design. Once you get a good look at them, they seem more of a cross between a hitch rack and a rooftop rack, and like them, it keeps the bike upright at all times..
While they do look good, their main concern is security, as most quality bike racks provide. Most truck bed racks come with their own locking mechanisms. Maybe even multiple layers of security on a single rack.
The only requirement that they have to get started is the need of a crossbar. Most don’t even require drilling as these crossbars go right into the toolbox slots of your truck. For premium truck bed racks, this crossbar comes with the package.
We have three options when it comes to truck bike racks: Wheel-Mounted, Fork-Mounted and the unique Side Clamp style. Each of these have their own pluses and requirements. Let’s see which fit your style the best.
Wheel-Mounted Racks (Roll-On Mount)
This is much closer in design to the platform style hitch rack, where the wheels are clamped securely on the rack. In this case however. Either the front or the back wheel is fastened or clamped on to the designated slot.
They usually come with two slots for bikes, but extensions can be added for more. Single bike wheel mounts are also available for a lower price, and possibly also safety.
These racks are very easy to use, as you just simply slot in your bike in place and clamp it down. The locking systems that come with them are some of the most secure and help you to always keep your bike stable, even on the roughest of roads.
However, you have to keep in mind the amount of space available in your truck bed. Since the wheels aren’t taken off, it will add some length to the bike. If you have a shorter truck, you may want to consider taking the tailgate off entirely to make some space, or opt for our next bike rack of discussion.
Installation of the rack:
In this type of rack, the front wheel is completely removed to not only make space but also to provide added stability to the bike as it is transported around.
The rack is secured around the front fork of the bike. This locking mechanism is much simpler and easier to work with than the wheel-mounted rack, as a pin is directly secured through the axle and locked in place.
The removal of the front wheel also significantly reduces the bounce that the bike might otherwise experience with the wheel on. This reduces the chances of the bike being damaged.
The absence of the front wheel also adds a layer of security. The bike is less prone to theft as thieves cannot simply just grab and go.
But certain minor inconveniences exist. Like, where do you store your front wheel? It must be somewhere else in the truck. And also since the bike is secured through the axle, the rack has to be axle specific, otherwise it will simply not work.
Finally, we have the side clamp. They go on to the bed side rails of the truck and held together in place by ratchet holders. These are generally meant to hold just one bike.
This mechanism clamps on to the frame of the bike, which are padded with either rubber or foam, and are surprisingly sturdy for its small size.
They are versatile too. Once installed, they can be used to secure a multitude of objects, not just your bike.
There is a limitation however. You can only install two sets of clamps on any truck (on either side). This means that the maximum number of bikes you can carry using this method is just two.
Other Uncommon Options
The truck bed versatility does not stop there, it also allows for you to create some great custom racks for your bike.
The requirements go as far as getting some basic PVC pipes and some tools. With a few hours of effort and an investment of not more than $30, you can build yourself a simple yet sturdy bike rack for your truck.
Here is our favorite video showcasing how you can do just that:
While we do not recommend it at all, you can go extreme budget in an emergency by using nothing but a couple of straps. You just have to follow a few simple steps:
- Remove the front wheel and secure it with a strap on the side of the truck bed, or just place it inside the truck if you have space.
- Lay your bike flat on its side on the truck bed, with the gear cage facing upwards (we do not want to put extra pressure on it).
- Thread a strap through the back wheel and around the handlebar.
- Secure the strap on the anchors on either side of the truck bed. Make sure the strap is taut and well secure through the bike to allow for minimum movement.
- (Optional) Cover the bike with a weighted blanket and use straps to secure it even further.
You can take liberties on certain steps if the situation requires.
The reason why we don’t recommend this method is because it will damage your bike in the long run, as your bike will be constantly exposed to the vibrations and forces of the moving truck. Not to mention that it is not the most secure way to transport your bike out there.
With all said and done, the mode of transport you choose for your bike on your pickup depends solely on the considerations that you have made. There is not a ‘perfect’ method out there, only what you can make out of the opportunities given to you.
Whether buying yourself a bike rack or making your own or just simply strapping your bike down, we hope that we were able to clarify each method and help you choose the right one for yourself.
Q1) What is the easiest bike rack to use?
Ans.: From our experience, hitch racks are the easiest to use, especially the platform style. Simply load your bikes on their designated slot and clamp those wheels in, and you are good to go.
Next in line are the trunk mounted racks, as they closely resemble the hanging style hitch rack, but with less safety features involved. And finally, and perhaps the most difficult to use, is the roof mounted rack. Its difficulty stems from the fact that you have to lift the bike above your head every time you want to take it for a ride on your car.
Q2) Can you fit a bike in a SUV?
Ans.: Yes. And depending on the model and make, you might even be able to fit more than one.
But you have to take some precautionary steps. Like removing the front wheel to add stability or covering certain contact points with padding so that it doesn’t damage the vehicle.
You have the time and patience and are serious enough, you can even retrofit the inside of your SUV to install a makeshift fork mounted rack for your bike.