How to fit a bike into a car [Philkotse guide]

Updated Apr 09, 2020 | Same topic: Let's Drive Smart!

Even a bicycle is precious cargo aboard four wheels

Personal mobility takes many forms, and one of the easiest is by bicycle; taking to the road on two wheels without an internal combustion engine is both cost-effective and liberating.

Bicycle mounted on van

Transporting a bike is easier if you have your own car

However, there are distances that you might be unable (or unwilling) to pedal all the way through, so bringing the bike by car is the next best option. But do you know how to transport a bike in a car

Depending on the type of car you own, a bike can be carried either inside or outside the vehicle. Let's check out some tips with

1. How to carry a bike outside the car

Many folks would likely end up mounting the bike outside, as it is a sizeable piece of cargo and they would rather reserve the interior space for passengers. Carrying the bike on a car typically involves a bike rack, an external accessory attached to the car that allows riders to transport one or more bikes.

There are a variety of automobile bike carriers in the market. For smaller passenger cars such as sedans and hatchbacks, these are typically designed to be attached to the roof, trunk, or hatch. For larger vehicles such as SUVs and pickups, there are bike racks that can be attached to the rear tow hitch. 

Yakima trunk bike rack single

Trunk-mounted bike racks are easy to mount and reach (Image from Yakima) 

A standard trunk rack is ideal if you often drive through places with low vertical clearances such as underpasses, or if you’re reserving the roof for larger items. Trunk racks attach to the top edge of the trunk and hang under the lip, typically built to hold one or two bikes.

Compact trunk racks are similar in design and purpose to a standard rack, with the difference being that the former is easier to remove and remount, making them ideal if you have limited parking space. Fastened by tying around the trunk, these can be quickly disassembled for storage when not in use. However, compact trunk racks are not as sturdy as standard racks, and can only hold one bike at a time.     

Roof-mounted bike racks are suitable for vehicles equipped with crossbars, where the racks are hooked and use tension to keep them in place. If your car doesn’t have crossbars, there are aftermarket ones available, letting you customize the distance between bars compared to factory-installed ones.

>>> Related: What is a roof rack and how to choose yours?

Thule roof-mounted bike rack

Roof-mounted bike racks keep your rear free from obstruction (Image from Thule) 

>>> Related: 5 common mistakes to avoid when carrying stuff in your pickup

While hitch-mounted racks require tools, how to install a bike rack on a car is generally straightforward, with specifics varying depending on the bike rack manufacturer.  

For trunk-mounted racks:

  • Open the trunk lid and hook the straps that correspond to the top, sides, and bottom.
  • Slide the rack across the trunk in order to adjust the location. 
  • Pull the buckle or adjust the slides to tighten the straps. 

For roof-mounted racks:

  • Assemble the rack first before mounting on the roof.
  • Place the rack on top of the crossbars, lining up the rack with the tracks.
  • Wrap the straps corresponding to the front and rear bars.  
  • Set the attachments to the lock position.

Yakima Hitch-mounted bike rack

Hitch-mounted bike racks can accommodate two or more bikes (Image from Yakima) 

There are even roof-mounted racks that use oversized suction cups to keep them in place, eliminating the need to strap or screw anything and protecting the car’s paint. Keep in mind that most roof-mounted racks are adjustable only within a predetermined range, so it’s important to measure your car’s crossbeams (or check the manufacturer’s website) to see if the bike rack you want is the right fit.

You may also refer to the instruction manual for specific instructions on how to install the bike rack on your car. 

>>> Related: 10 steps to load a motorcycle onto a truck bed

2. Fitting a bike inside a car

Having the bike mounted outside the car has its drawbacks, mainly theft or accidental removal if the bike rack isn’t fastened securely. External racks also expose the bike to dirt and the elements, apart from messing with the car’s aerodynamics. If these are concerns to you (or if you’re on a budget), then you’d probably take the bike inside the car instead.

The best car for carrying bike inside is sedan, provided that there is adequate cargo space. The bike will typically fit inside the trunk by removing its front wheel. Make sure that the trunk lid can be closed securely with the bike inside.

Folding bikes are easier to stow inside the car. For standard road bikes, you'll have to remove the front wheel

If it’s not possible when fitting a bike into your car (or if your car is a hatchback, station wagon, MPV, or SUV), then the bike will have to be brought into the cabin, preferably on the second or third row.

  • Wipe down dirt from various areas of the bike such as the frame, tires, wheels, pedals, and handlebars.
  • Remove the front wheel and stow it inside the trunk, taking care not to let the lid hit it when closing. You might want to deflate the bike tires as a precaution against blowout, especially in hot weather.
  • Make sure that the bike chain is attached to the small ring on the drive wheel, to minimize grease getting into your carpet.
  • Put the bike gently on the floor, with the chain facing towards the dashboard. Place the left pedal at the 12 o’clock position to prop the bike against the backseat, then insert clean pieces of cloth or foam on the parts of the bike that make contact with the seats, to avoid staining or otherwise damaging the upholstery.
  • Most importantly, use seatbelts or similar restraints to secure the bike during transport. This protects your bike during unexpected bumps while preventing it from becoming a loose projectile that can cause serious injury during a crash or sudden change of direction.

What if you have an SUV yet want to store the bike inside? You’ll need a bike rack for inside your SUV, which secures the bike via fork-mount traps (again requiring removal of the front wheel). You would need to fold down the rear seats, but depending on the model, an interior rack lets you carry from one to four bikes upright inside. These racks can also be used on pickup cargo beds. 

An inside car bike rack helps if you have a large vehicle such as an SUV (Image from Saris)

So, what’s the best way to transport bikes by using your car? It all depends on your preferences and means, as long as the bike is properly secured for transport and can safely be removed once you get to your destination. All without leaving a mark on the car, of course.

Joseph Paolo Estabillo

Joseph Paolo Estabillo


Joseph holds a degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines Diliman and has been writing professionally since 1999. He has written episodes for CNN Philippines' motoring show Drive, and has worked on corporate projects for MG Philippines and Pilipinas Shell. Aside from being’s Content Lead, he also writes content for numerous car dealerships in the U.S., spanning multiple brands such as Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Maserati, among others.


View more