Tow Bar Mounted Bike Carriers

Tow Bar Mounted Bike Carriers

Tow Bar Mounted Bike Carriers can be a god-send when travelling, but which one?

I have plans to ride a few of the UCI Gravel World Series this year, which means a fair amount of travelling. No jetting around in airplanes for me. Instead I’ll be loading up the car with bikes and family and driving there. Previously I’ve either gone on my own and thrown the bikes into the back of the car. Or used a roof rack or basic tow-bar mounted carriers.

The problem with the first is that I don’t always get to travel alone – my preferred mode, but shh! Don’t tell the family. This is the best method however! I have a large people-carrier that has removeable seats, leaving a large flat area. I can bring bikes, wheels, tools and even sleep in it if needed. That still leaves the passenger seat, so I can bring another rider, or someone to keep me company on long Euro drives.

Tow Bar Mounted Bike Carriers are easy to load and keep your interior clean
Tow Bar Mounted Bike Carriers are easy to load and keep your interior clean

The second method always leaves me panicking. I’m constantly looking up to see if the bike is still there and reminding myself to watch out for height barriers. I have a story that involves two expensive road bikes, a height barrier and an inattentive driver! Also the bikes are creating extra drag adding to petrol costs; not to be sniffed at nowadays. Or you could use the tow-bar mounted carrier that holds the bikes under the top tube. I have one of these and they’re alright, but if you have small frames then the arms never fit quite right. This makes loading them a pain and you have to really pay attention to avoid the frames rubbing each other or your car.

Mud and height

Another reason to look at a bike carrier is mud. After a mucky ride do you really want to chuck your filthy bike onto your bespoke white leather interior? And if it’s not mud, you’re going to get told off for those chain-ring marks on the upholstery. So, unless you have a filthy car- like me – maybe it’s a good idea to keep the bike outside? And finally the tow-bar option is very attractive if you are on the short side. I have to clamber up on the door-sill to get my bike on the roof and even that’s a bit precarious. I have dropped bikes, especially heavy MTBs which is never a good idea.

So now I’m looking at what I call a sit-on carrier. With this design a platform attaches to the tow-bar and the bikes are held by the wheels and frame. This should stop them rubbing and banging against each other. And keep them securely away from your car’s paintwork. Some models also have a handy tipping feature. From previous experience, this is a must-have. I can guarantee that once you have loaded your bikes – blocking access to the rear of the car – you will need to get that bag that you can’t reach from inside the car!

Some brands like Peruzzo, offer storage boxes that will fit on to a carrier

Which brands?

Looking through the brands and it seems that Swedish brand Thule are king of the racks. The company started way back in 1942 making fishing traps and are now a global company with a huge range of products. There are three models in Thule’s range of tow bar mounted bike carriers, EasyFold XT, VeloSpace XT and the VeloCompact. They all offer access to the rear of the car and come in two or three bike options. The EasyFold XT folds down into its own storage bag, while the VeloCompact also folds, but not as compactly. There are also many customisation options available, from loading ramps to storage boxes. All of these racks have built-in lights and number plates, so there’s no need to buy separate boards.

But they’re not the only quality brand out there. A quick look brings up some interesting brands and products.

One of these is the XLC Rear Rack Almada Work-E Xtra LED. XLC are a Dutch brand and the Almada is their transforming, Swiss knife of a rack. This amazing bit of kit folds down to 22x87x52cm, which makes storage a lot easier. And in it’s folded state you can wheel its 20kg mass to your car on it’s own travel wheels, neat. Fitting looks to be simple and once it’s on and loaded with bikes, you can fold it down to get access to the back of your car.

Another neat trick is the extendable arm that turns it into a work-stand. That makes it very handy for those last minute pre-race adjustments. And like Thule you can add a loading ramp. That may seem a bit of overkill, but as these racks are built to handle ebikes, having a ramp to lessen the load makes a lot of sense. The Alamda also has its own LED lights and number boards, all of which are connected to your car by a standard multi-pin connector. XLC have two other models the Beluga and Azura on their website.

From Holland we head to Italy and Peruzzo who produce all kinds of carriers and bike storage products. Peruzzo offer four models, Zephyr, Pure Instinct, Parma and Sienna. They can all tip and come in two, three, or four bike options. The Pure Instinct can also fold down for storage. Peruzzo also have their own storage box which can be fitted to some of their carriers.

The Peruzzo Tow Bar Mounted Bike Carriers include the Pure Instinct which folds for storage
The Peruzzo Tow Bar Mounted Bike Carriers include the Pure Instinct which folds for storage

Another brand that will be familiar to UK based readers is Halfords. Halfords are a large chain that specialise in everything for your car. They also sell bikes, so having their own brand of cycle carriers is hardly a surprise. Their range consists of the Advanced, which comes in two, three, or four bike models all of which have a tipping feature. There is also a non-tipping four bike carrier.

The Halfords Advanced carriers has a tilt feature

Security of tow bar mounted bike carriers

All of the brands offer some form of locking arm that clamps on to your bike. While it offers some security, I wouldn’t feel safe relying on just those if I was stopping overnight. I would probably look to add an extra layer of security with a thick cable and a decent lock. And if you’re precious about your frame, maybe it’s worth adding a little padding, to prevent any scratching of your frame tubes? This can be a simple as a soft rag, some pipe lagging or products like Thule’s Bike Protector.

With the season fast approaching, I’ll be trying out some of these carriers and will let you know how I get on.

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