Family Biking Essential – A Bike Carrier

the bike carrier on the car Once Little Ding got his own bike we outgrew our 2-bike car rack. Not such a bad thing since Mr. Ding has never enjoyed long trips with the strap-based bike rack. It’s never caused us any problems , always been great. The fact that it was hooked to our car with straps and hooks though, always make him a little nervous. Can’t say I blame him. In anticipation of an upcoming family trip, we purchased an Thule 956 Parkway Bike Carrier. Once it arrived, it was fairly easy to assemble.

We decided to take it our for a test ride over the weekend so we could get a sense of how long it would take to load our bikes, how they would best fit, and how the car would drive with a fully loaded rack  I highly recommend testing out new equipment in advance of it’s expected use. In the case of this bike carrier for instance, the holes in the sides of the hitch receiver and the actual bike carrier didn’t line up –at all. We were going to have to send it back, but our neighbor kindly ran us over to his shop where a couple of shots from his industrial-strength drill-press did the trick. Once back home we inserted the bike carrier into the hitch , tightened all the bolts, slid the pin in to keep it upright, and we were ready to load our bikes.

close up of the base of the carrier

Remove this steel pin and the arm swings down so you can access your vehicle

the top of the bike carrier

On the more expensive model this arm is hinged to swing down when not in use. This version has a bolt which much be loosened.

Tips for loading a hitch-mount bike carrier:

  • Always load the heaviest bike on first, closest to the vehicle
  • Alternate the direction of the bikes as you load them
  • Be sure to tighten the rubber straps that come with the carrier
  • User the the extra strap that comes with the carrier to tie the bikes to the rack as a secondary system.
The bike carrier strap close-up

The bike carrier strap close-up

On our previous rack we used a few extra bungee cords – we may throw a couple on this one as well – if only for peace of mind.

the bikes loaded up

the bikes loaded up

For Little Ding’s bike we removed the extra brackets and fat tires in order to better fit it on the bike carrier. As it was, we had to turn his bike upside down in order for it to fit. Thule does sell frame adapters for bikes lacking a top tube, so consider that option as well. I don’t believe that turning the bike upside down is recommended, since it was a little top heavy.  However,  we had it firmly locked down and it did not move during our  1/2 hour drive to the Forest Preserve.

the bikes loaded - a close-up

The bikes loaded with the extra strap

Finally, a word about security. As with all bike locks, if someone wants to bring the tools to get through your locks or has the time to undo the bolt to get to the hitch, they will. The goal is to make it a big ole pain in the butt.  Thule sells a bike cable, but we already have a cable lock that we used to lock the carrier to the hitch.

locking the carrier to the hitch

Locking the carrier to the hitch

Along with that, we take our U-locks and lock one bike to the carrier, and the other bikes to each other. When we are traveling we don’t leave the bikes out of our site for very long, and I do not recommend ever leaving them on the carrier overnight;  however, multiple locks and cables will slow most thieves down.

Locking the bikes together

Locking the bikes together

This 4-bike carrier works well for our two mountain bikes and a child’s bike with room for one more.  I’ve heard that some recumbent bikes can be transported on these types of racks as well.  Not sure about upright trikes. How do you transport your bikes when you’re traveling and want to bring your bikes along?

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