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How to Choose a Bike Rack for a Minivan

If you wish to go on trip in a minivan and want to bring your bike along, you will need a bike rack. Furthermore, if you have family or friends with you, then you might need a rack that can transport multiple bikes. So, how would you go about picking the right bike rack for your minivan? In this article, we will show you how to do exactly that. We will discuss the different types of racks available and what features they should have to safely carry your bikes to your destination.

Types of Racks

Before choosing a suitable bike rack for your minivan, you should know about the different kinds of bike racks that are available. Primarily, there are three types of bike racks – hitch racks, roof racks, and trunk racks.

Hitch Racks

A hitch rack is mounted in the trailer hitch of your van. If you don’t have a hitch, you can get one installed. Sometimes the rack and the hitch have different sizes, in which case you can get an adapter to allow installation. These racks may have arms with rubber padding, on top of which you can place the top tube of the bike. Then you have to use a clamp and some straps to fix it in place. Other models have trays for placing bikes and a large J-clamp that secures the front wheel. An extra strap is present for the rear wheel.

Hitch rack
Hitch rack

On some hitch racks bikes have to be loaded vertically instead of horizontally. These types of racks also use clamps or straps to hold on to the frame or wheels of the bike. The advantage of this design is that sometimes you can accommodate up to 6 bikes.

Roof Racks

As you can tell by the name, roof racks are mounted on the roof of the vehicle. Usually, you will need roof bars or crossbars installed before you can attach a rack. Roof racks can be further divided into three types depending on how they fix a bike in place. The first kind uses two straps for the two wheels and a large clamp around the downtube. This may not be the best option for carbon bikes. A second type uses a large clamp on the front wheel instead of the downtube.

Roof rack
Roof-rack | Source: https://gearjunkie.com/biking/yakima-bike-rack-review-for-minivan

Finally, there is the fork mount type. For this one, you have to remove the front wheel. Then you secure the bike using the fork and the thru axle. If you have a narrow quick-release skewer, you should buy a thru axle so that it can support the weight of the bike. There is actually a fourth type of roof rack that also has fork mounts but does not require any roof bars. Instead, they use suction cups. Contrary to what you may think, these suction cup racks are more than secure enough for bikes.

Trunk Racks

A trunk rack is the most cost-effective option out of the three rack types. Unlike with hitch racks and roof racks, you don’t need to have anything else pre-installed onto the van. Plus, the rack itself is cheaper. Trunk rocks utilize a number of straps and clamps to attach to the trunk of the van. You can place the bike on rubber padded arms and fasten them using additional straps. This design is similar to many hitch racks.

Trunk rack
Trunk rack | Source: https://www.expocafeperu.com/

What to look for in a bike rack for a minivan

Capacity

The first thing you need to think about before buying a rack is how many bikes you want to transport. Most racks can carry 1-3 bikes. However, there are some that can accommodate 4, 5, or even 6 bikes. If you are planning to carry 3 or more bikes, a hitch rack is highly recommended due to their high load capacity.

➥ For transporting 4 bikes, Hitch bike racks are available and most popular also.

A roof rack might be able to support up to 4 bikes but your minivan’s roof might not. You should check your owner’s manual to check the capacity. Having the weight of 5 or 6 bikes at the hitch does not affect your van too much. Meanwhile, trunk racks have even lower capacities. Anything more than 2-3 bikes could damage the trunk.

Compatibility

When we talk about compatibility, we mean the rack’s compatibility with both the bike and the vehicle. It is very rare to find a bike that cannot be loaded onto a rack, unless we’re talking about fat bikes or e-bikes. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to check if your bike fits before a purchase. It could happen that your large size mountain bike is too long for the roof rack you bought. Issues with compatibility arise more often with trunk racks. Not all trunks racks can fit on all vehicles, and you should check the list of compatible vehicles provided by the manufacturer.

Durability

A bike rack needs to be sturdy enough to last for thousands of miles without any problems. It should be able to support your bike and not get damaged due to inertial forces. Most racks are therefore made of steel. However, the stronger a rack the heavier it gets. A good quality rack should also be resistant to rusting and corrosion since it will inevitably be exposed to rain and dirt. Check whether the unit you want to buy has a corrosion- and rust-resistant coating or not.

Installation

If you want to install a bike rack and then leave it on at all times, then it doesn’t matter how difficult the process is. You only have to do it once. However, many of you would probably want to take it off when not transporting any bikes. Besides, you would also have to detach the rack to clean both it and the car properly. It wouldn’t make sense to get a bike rack that takes 10-15 minutes to reattach if you’re going to be taking it off every other day. If you have a similar case, then look for something that can be taken off and put back on within a couple of minutes.

Functionality

Functionality and ease of use are very important aspects of any product. Roof racks keep your bikes safe from collision against other vehicles. However, they create more drag and decrease fuel economy. Additionally, a roof rack on the top of a minivan might be hard to reach for shorter people. You also have to be careful about driving under low-hanging structures.

Hitch racks and trunks racks do not have these problems as they are at the rear. But they do block access to the back of the van and cover up the number plate and the taillights. Some models of hitch racks can pivot out of the way to allow you access to the back. For the second problem, you might need to buy a separate board having lights and a number plate.

A useful feature to look for in a bike rack is some sort of a locking system. This is especially important if you are going on a long journey where you’ll make a few stops. By locking the rack to the minivan, you can then use a bike lock to secure the bike to the rack. This leaves thieves with no way of stealing your bike.

Roof rack with a locking system
Roof rack with a locking system

F. A. Q.s

Q1. How much do bike racks cost?

Ans.: Bike racks for vehicles can have a wide range of prices. Some cost less than $100, while others can go as high as $1000. The price depends on a bunch of factors such as the type of rack, bike carrying capacity, build quality, and even the brand. Generally, hitch racks are the most expensive, then roof racks, and finally, trunk racks are the most affordable. If you regularly travel with your bike or bikes, then you should invest in a higher-end rack to keep them safe. If you get a cheap rack and something happens to the bikes, you might just end up losing a lot more money than you saved.

Q2. Can you put a bike inside a minivan?

Ans.: Unless you have passengers or you have other luggage, you can definitely put a bike inside a minivan. You only have to remove the front wheel before doing so. Depending on the interior space, you can even fit multiple bikes. In fact, carrying a bike inside a vehicle may be the best method of transporting it. Your bike will stay safe from vibrations, minor accidents, adverse weather, and even theft. Moreover, it’s totally free. Just make sure to secure the bike well and put down some towels/blankets to prevent scratching the bike.

Q3. How many bikes can you carry on a minivan?

Ans.: Minivans are large and spacious, and allow a large number of bikes to be carried. If you really push the limits, you could carry 2-3 bikes on a roof rack, up to 6 bikes on a hitch rack, and maybe 3-4 bikes inside the van. That brings the total to around 11–13 bikes in one minivan! But in reality, if you are trying to load this many bikes, you probably have as many people with you as well. Hence, you wouldn’t have space inside for bikes. But still, a minivan definitely has the weight capacity to transport more bikes than a sedan.

Conclusion

Minivans are quite a convenient mode of transportation for many people. Especially, if you are bringing along other people and equipment. This includes bikes as well. With just one or two racks, you can carry a number of bikes. Hitch racks are the best option in our opinion. However, other factors including your budget might make other types to be more suitable. Regardless, with this guide, you should have no trouble choosing the right bike rack for you.

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Dion Lewis
My name is Dion Lewis.

I’ve been cycling from my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.

At my college life, I took a part time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.

Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or a bike gear.

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