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  1. #1
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    Anybody get hassled by cops with a hitch rack

    Hello everyone,

    As of now I am getting a hitch installed on my Corolla and getting a hitch bike rack.. Still deciding on one. Anyways I was wondering how many of you have been pulled over for having a hitch bike rack? I am going to be going from Los Angeles - Seattle. Is there anything I need to worry about. I heard of people getting tickets and such. I'm just curious to know. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Not pulled over- but I had a CHP follow me for 15 minutes while I was going well under the speed limit one morning on the way to the trail head.

    I think he was checking out my sweet bike.

  3. #3
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    Anybody get hassled by cops with a hitch rack

    I was stopped by Nevada state police near Reno on the way to XC nationals. Liar said he couldn't read my date on my registration. He was just checking for drugs and likely got me mixed up with the burning man crowd.

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    Never. We've traveled all over the country w/o any hassles. I've been told by a cop friend that technically you're breaking the law if your plate is obscured, so I suppose we shouldn't be surprised if we get a ticket at some point.
    There are three kinds of people: those of us that are good at math and those that are not.

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    Never happened. Traveled throughout the western US. Never take the rack off my car.

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    thats some interesting stories...Thanks everyone for the input. I really appreciate it

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    It's good practice to know the laws of the state you'll be driving through. The more you know, the better off you'll be in case you get hassled. Don't expect local or state law enforcement personnel to know EVERY law. Same goes with doctors. They have reference materials for a reason. You get what I'm saying..
    For example in Texas, having a rack that obscures the rear plate is okay granted it's installed in a "normal or customary manner."

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    The only issues I see are people that drive with them attached all the time, that kind of invites the police to pull you over and gives them one more reason to write you up if you're doing something stupid or they find a reason. That's personal choice, but it's also easy to limit by taking it off when you aren't using it.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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    Quote Originally Posted by Davey Simon View Post
    I was stopped by Nevada state police near Reno on the way to XC nationals. Liar said he couldn't read my date on my registration. He was just checking for drugs and likely got me mixed up with the burning man crowd.
    How do you know he was lying? It would be very easy for a bike rack to block your registration or parts of it.

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    Yes and it sucked. Both times...

  11. #11
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    Yes, got a "fixit" ticket in my California hometown -it was actually for having a (temporarily) empty trunk rack. Now I use a tray-style hitch rack. The rack isn't usually on without bikes, but sometimes it is. I expect another ticket, oh well.
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  12. #12
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    The nice thing about 1Up racks is that they don't block the plate (though I suppose it depends on how many trays you have and where your plate is located on the car). With bikes on of course is another story.

    Anybody get hassled by cops with a hitch rack-dsc00306.jpg
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    I'm getting a hitch rack soon and I intend to work out some ways that I can avoid being hassled by cops for this. I think I'll be installing a set of trailer lights on my rack, and trying to get an extra plate I can mount on it. I'd rather not have to remove the plate from my car and put it on the rack instead. Not sure what options the BMV will give me for that just yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    I'm getting a hitch rack soon and I intend to work out some ways that I can avoid being hassled by cops for this. I think I'll be installing a set of trailer lights on my rack, and trying to get an extra plate I can mount on it. I'd rather not have to remove the plate from my car and put it on the rack instead. Not sure what options the BMV will give me for that just yet.
    Isaw a camper/trailer with the license (or a spare) attached to the bike rack. Seems like a good idea- I might go that route also.
    Bionically Modified

  15. #15
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    In many parts of Europe, it is law to have tail lights and an additioonal plate attached to the bike rack. It is so commonplace that Thule & other rack makers include racks with the lights & plate attached - pic below:

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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by C.P. View Post
    In many parts of Europe, it is law to have tail lights and an additioonal plate attached to the bike rack. It is so commonplace that Thule & other rack makers include racks with the lights & plate attached - pic below:

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    This is the basic idea I intend to replicate. It might as well be a law here in the states, but what seems to matter most is whether you run into a cop who feels like enforcing it. Lack of consistent enforcement seems to keep rack mfr's from including lights and a plate mount.

  17. #17
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    yup. Thule sells (International/European Markets) a rack accessory called the "lightboard"

    Thule Light board 976 - Thule

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    It'd be funny to do a large study on this topic - here and RBR - to see who (demographics, vehicle type, bike type, etc.) gets "hassled".

    Hypothesis: New minivans with road bikes would be on one end of the chart. $1,500 beaters with 4 mountain bikes, on the other end. It's profiling man! Come on, admit it... if you were a cop, you'd think "Look there - four 20-year-old guys with mountain bikes in a 15-year-old Subaru. They've got at least a 1/4 bag on'em"
    Mountain bikers who don't road ride are usually slow.
    Roadies who don't mountain bike are usually d***s.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post
    The only issues I see are people that drive with them attached all the time, that kind of invites the police to pull you over and gives them one more reason to write you up if you're doing something stupid or they find a reason. That's personal choice, but it's also easy to limit by taking it off when you aren't using it.
    "taking off a hitch rack every time"

    That degrades our quality of life right there. What a pita to move that 50 lb beast every time.

    Also, you can still get a ticket when it's on with bikes.

    I'd say if you live in an area where cops target folks with hitch racks then find a different rack or a s solution to make the license plate visible.

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    This is just crazy. I do like the idea of having that thule light board. I think @OldZaskar is right tho. Cops profile like crazy. I dont want a roof rack cause its a ***** to lift bikes and I do not want a trunk rack don't feel like its secure enough for my long drive. Hitch seems the most easiest and most secure to me. I really hope I do not get messed with by CHP or any highway patrol

  21. #21
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    State law in Washington is that it is not legal to have a rack that obscures the plate; however, it is permissible when transporting the bike. Go figure.

    I wouldn't say it's common to be cited for a rack; however, pretty much all of my ride buddies have been pulled over at some point and issued a warning. Just happened to me about a month ago in downtown Seattle after probably a decade of driving a car with a hitch rack.

    Like everyone else said here, it's more a pretext for a stop than anything else. If you're not drunk, don't act like a jerk, and aren't...ahem...a particular demographic that might make you suspicious to certain members of our law enforcement community, then you're probably fine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeePhroh View Post
    State law in Washington is that it is not legal to have a rack that obscures the plate; however, it is permissible when transporting the bike. Go figure.

    I wouldn't say it's common to be cited for a rack; however, pretty much all of my ride buddies have been pulled over at some point and issued a warning. Just happened to me about a month ago in downtown Seattle after probably a decade of driving a car with a hitch rack.

    Like everyone else said here, it's more a pretext for a stop than anything else. If you're not drunk, don't act like a jerk, and aren't...ahem...a particular demographic that might make you suspicious to certain members of our law enforcement community, then you're probably fine.

    well that is good to know since I am going to be living in Tacoma. Thanks @GeePhroh

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    I run a roof rack, no hassles.....really is it that hard/ inconvienant to put your bike on a roof rack? I borrowed a hitch rack once for a trip to Mammoth, hated it, worried about getting rear ended ( covered tail lights/ brake lights) and parking was another issue. Hitch racks are popular Iknow, but to me, they are not worth the "so called" conveince.

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    If the timing is right, the mood is right, and a motorized meter maid is looking to "catch another" he's going to look for any excuse to pull over his next paycheck- He's going to use a series of eliminations- If pickings are thin and your the only one with a bike rack- it's you, or me or whoever. They can always find something.
    On the other hand, I've been behind czars with a rack load of bikes and couldn't see crap of the tail lights. Ever get behind a rack load of street cruiser bikes at night? The ones with reflectors all over hell- hit them with your headlights and you can't tell brake lights from streetlights.- That has stood out to me before as an accident waiting to happen.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hurricane Jeff View Post
    I run a roof rack, no hassles.....really is it that hard/ inconvienant to put your bike on a roof rack? I borrowed a hitch rack once for a trip to Mammoth, hated it, worried about getting rear ended ( covered tail lights/ brake lights) and parking was another issue. Hitch racks are popular Iknow, but to me, they are not worth the "so called" conveince.
    -Hmm, lifting it 1.5 feet vs crazy balancing 5+ feet high?
    -Leaving the wheel on vs variety of roof racks that make you take a wheel off?
    -Ability to slowly back up into a wall and "jam" the bike in so it's nearly impossible to steal (for short periods of time obviously).
    -No real hit to mileage.
    -Ability to take the rack completely off when not using.
    -No chance of scratching the top of the car.

    Getting rear ended vs. ripping your bikes off when driving past an overhang is about equal. I don't know how many times a year you get rear-ended, but it's zero for me and I'm 35, plus that's something you have a little more control over. Not complete control obviously, but you can do a bit to keep yourself out of those situations too.

    Honestly, modern hitch racks (not crazy heavy, easy to use and quick, allow access to the trunk/rear hatch, etc) are better in just about every way. The only reason I see to go with a roof is on a few vehicles where there is absolutely no way to get a receiver in there, but on many vehicles where you think you can't one on, you often can because the same vehicle is speced in Europe for one and there's a decent market for the receivers all over the world. On the other hand, if you like the way your car looks with all sorts of external erector-set devices, I guess that's cool.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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    Some of your points may be valid...jamming your rack against a wall, easy to remove the only slight benefit I can see from your comments, maybe even lifting your bike up. I've used a roof rack for almost 30 years, never complained about lifting my bike up, even have a 50+ lb mountain tandem, while not easy to lift up, way more secure, wouldn't fit on a hitch rack anyway, a fork mounted rack is the most secure way to mount a bike, bar none.
    I hear people complain about lifting their bikes or the 20 second hassle of removing the front wheel, remember, we still have the hassle of having to pedal the bike.
    I know I'll get a rash of crap for my above comments, but I believe a roof rack is a better idea in about every sitution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hurricane Jeff View Post
    I know I'll get a rash of crap for my above comments, but I believe a roof rack is a better idea in about every sitution.
    I use both. I like both. I don't think it's a big deal to remove the front wheel or lift a bike onto the roof. I don't think it's a big deal to remove the hitch rack when not in use.

    One advantage that a hitch rack has that is undeniable is noise. At high speeds there is much more noise in the cabin when you have bikes up top vs. hanging in the slip stream on the back.

    -never been pulled over for obscured plates

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hurricane Jeff View Post
    even have a 50+ lb mountain tandem.
    Well, that's one of those ultra-rare exceptions I was talking about. Probably around 0.01% of the mountain biking population has one of those. Pete can't use a hitch rack either on his 911 and who'd want an extra 100lbs on the tail of a tail happy car anyways? So he uses the roof-rack made for the car which kills the beautiful Cd, but those are the sacrifices we make and we do so gladly to be able to bring our rides to the trailhead. If we can, we limit the negatives effects.

    And yes, taking off the front wheel was always a hassle, whether it was a 20mm thru-bolt axle, quick release, v-brakes, or whatever. Especially when you have to get your gear out of the car, the bike, clean off the bike, get shoes on/off, etc. It's just one more thing that simply doesn't need to exist. Is it too much to ask to be able to take the bike off the rack and immediately ride it? If there's no good reason for it, get rid of the step of having to take the wheel on/off.

    The other part is that when you compare a good roof system with a good hitch system, they are about the same money, except from that point on the roof system costs you more money all the time due to drag, so effectively the hitch system is paying you back compared to if you got a roof system. After a couple years, it's paid for itself in gas (have done the math).

    It goes back to hitch racks being superior in almost every way, just that as you pointed out, in some cases you are forced to use a roof rack.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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    Not once in 7 years in Colorado.

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    In Ontario, Canada, I was warned once for "Obscure Plate" and another time, I got stopped for "Obscure Plate" and was given a ticket for the charge. I had a 2002 Honda Accord Coupe with a hitch mount Thule T2. At the time, no bikes were on the rack and it was folded up. The charge was dropped by the crown prosecutor and the trial never took place.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayem View Post

    The other part is that when you compare a good roof system with a good hitch system, they are about the same money, except from that point on the roof system costs you more money all the time due to drag, so effectively the hitch system is paying you back compared to if you got a roof system. After a couple years, it's paid for itself in gas (have done the math).

    It goes back to hitch racks being superior in almost every way, just that as you pointed out, in some cases you are forced to use a roof rack.
    As Jayem pointed out there are some rare exceptions where a roof rack provides more utility but the economics and end-use convenience of hitch racks are so much better than roof racks.

    I have my two bike rack on my car all the time and have never gotten hassled. To be honest, if it happens to be illegal in the municipality I'm driving through and I get fined, whatever. What's the big deal?

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    Quote Originally Posted by racerwad View Post
    As Jayem pointed out there are some rare exceptions where a roof rack provides more utility but the economics and end-use convenience of hitch racks are so much better than roof racks.

    I have my two bike rack on my car all the time and have never gotten hassled. To be honest, if it happens to be illegal in the municipality I'm driving through and I get fined, whatever. What's the big deal?
    The cops often transport their bicycle unit the exact same way, so be sure to take some pictures
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  33. #33
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    Within my circle of riding friends, a couple of them have had issues with cops pulling them over for not being able to see the plate.

    I don't use a hitch rack myself though. Yay pickup truck.
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    Anybody get hassled by cops with a hitch rack

    I use roof racks to transport boats and have had bike carriers the past several years I have had to swap out when I want to transport boats. That has been more annoying than lifting the bikes.

    In my Honda Fit I have been putting the bikes inside most often on fork mounts on a 2x4. I have decided to sell the rooftop carriers because of the swapping hassle and carry bikes inside the car full time.

    I am getting a hitch rack for my wife's xv so the roof rack on it can be for boats only. I thought about getting a hitch for my Honda but there are only Class I 1 1/4 hitches available that are not compatible with most adapters. I refuse to put a 1 1/4 rack on a 2" hitch with an adapter and be forced into the limitations of that rack on a car that can take it.

    Roof racks have been solid enough for me and I have been using trays that allow the front wheels to remain on. I am getting a tray style hitch rack because I like them so much.

  35. #35
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    I'm seriously thinking about a hitch mount, though I'm having a hard time justifying the cost. I'd have to buy the hitch and the rack at a considerable cost. I've had my current roof rack since 1995 so it's already paid for itself many times over, even with the decreased mileage. When I have the bike on my mileage goes down by about 4mpg.

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    Only in Danbury CT. Two obscured plate tickets and once they made me remove the bikes and rack because they were blocking the turn signals/brake lights. I had to stay there at the end of the highway exit ramp with the bikes so my buddy could go to his house with my car and get his pickup, unfortunately he lived thirty miles from there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gravitylover View Post
    Only in Danbury CT. Two obscured plate tickets and once they made me remove the bikes and rack because they were blocking the turn signals/brake lights. I had to stay there at the end of the highway exit ramp with the bikes so my buddy could go to his house with my car and get his pickup, unfortunately he lived thirty miles from there.
    VERY douchey move by that cop.

  38. #38
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    I swear by my hitch rack. It takes all of one minute to put the bike on and it doesn't impact my mpg at all. It's pretty secure and it doesn't really block my plate. We put it on the car at the start of spring and probably won't take it off until the rainy season (mid/late fall). I've never been pulled over and I've never seen anyone pulled over - but I live in Northern CA, where both road and mtn biking are extremely popular.

    Not everyone can use a roof rack. I'm 5'1" and drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee. I just don't have the height or leverage to lift my bike to put it on the roof. I would need to keep a folding stepladder in my car. Even with my Rav4 that I had before the Jeep - I had a roof ski rack and I had to stand on the door ledge to reach the skis.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gravitylover View Post
    Only in Danbury CT. Two obscured plate tickets and once they made me remove the bikes and rack because they were blocking the turn signals/brake lights. I had to stay there at the end of the highway exit ramp with the bikes so my buddy could go to his house with my car and get his pickup, unfortunately he lived thirty miles from there.
    bull crap! Thats the kind of ticket I would fight in court. Think about it, if you got a ticket for a burnt out tail light, does a cop expect you to park the car and fix it right then and there?
    Grit, spit, and a w**** lot of duct tape!

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    Quote Originally Posted by GuruAtma View Post
    The nice thing about 1Up racks is that they don't block the plate (though I suppose it depends on how many trays you have and where your plate is located on the car). With bikes on of course is another story.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Most racks don't block the plate until their is a bike on them and then that all do.

    But the 1up is a great rack.

    Around here, I have never heard of anyone getting pulled over or harassed for their bike racks. Not saying it has never happened but we have such a large mountain biking community here that cops would be pretty damn busy if they started that.

    Obstructing the plate is illegal but I think in most areas it is tolerated when it comes to bike racks.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

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    Took about a month for the Kansas Highway Patrol to issue me a warning ticket for having a hitch rack, so I stopped using it. Next time it will be a fine. KHP are real douche bags. Like to harass kids and minorities. Always the last to show up at an accident. I would love to see it disbanded and the authority shared between local law enforcement and the KBI. Would save the state a boatload of money and remove a menace from our roads.

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    Re: Anybody get hassled by cops with a hitch rack

    Quote Originally Posted by GuruAtma View Post
    The nice thing about 1Up racks is that they don't block the plate (though I suppose it depends on how many trays you have and where your plate is located on the car). With bikes on of course is another story.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    What kind of receiver did you get for your Prius & where did you get it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by askibum02 View Post
    I'm seriously thinking about a hitch mount, though I'm having a hard time justifying the cost. I'd have to buy the hitch and the rack at a considerable cost. I've had my current roof rack since 1995 so it's already paid for itself many times over, even with the decreased mileage. When I have the bike on my mileage goes down by about 4mpg.
    It's impossible that it's paid for itself if it costs you 4mpg to have a bike on there. In actuality, it is costing you that much (depending on gas prices where you live) to have the privilege of using your roof rack to go and ride. A hitch rack, compared to your current arrangement, will save you money over the long run (in theory, anyhow). I know because I also switched from roof to hitch and did the math.

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    Maybe not paid for itself, I guess I should have said it would take a long time for a hitch rack to pay for itself even with he fuel savings.i have a diesel, so my 40 mpg with out the rack gets cut to about 36 with the bike on top.

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    Like they need a reason to stop you..lol
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    Quote Originally Posted by askibum02 View Post
    Maybe not paid for itself, I guess I should have said it would take a long time for a hitch rack to pay for itself even with he fuel savings.i have a diesel, so my 40 mpg with out the rack gets cut to about 36 with the bike on top.
    Roof mounts also decrease fuel efficiency when there is no bike mounted.
    So your 40 mpg could go up couple miles per gallon if you didn't have it at all.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  47. #47
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    Anybody get hassled by cops with a hitch rack

    I actually take it of if I don't have the bike on. It takes me all of 2 mins to take it off, and say, 4 mins to put it on because I have to measure the distance from the front tower to the windshield.


    Sent from a telecommunication device with a touch screen keyboard.
    I wouldn't **** you, you're my favorite turd.

  48. #48
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    I have both a roof and a hitch rack for my car (Saab 9-5 wagon) because I need both. I regularly transport up to 5 bikes at a time long distance. I only use my hitch rack when I absolutely need it (Draftmaster) because its a pain to install, obscures my view, and blocks my license plate and taillights. I love how I can leave my roof rack on and not even notice it. Taking off the front wheel is no big deal for me and I feel that the bike is much more secure with the fork mount. Also, I've never been pulled over or gotten any sort of attention from the police from my rack. I haven't heard of anyone else around here either (Central Wisconsin)

  49. #49
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    Jeezuz.... Reading thru this thread makes me actually feel smart for having bought a Sprinter van with smoked windows. Cops can read my plates, and bike thieves can't tell I have bikes. I also make it a point to put no bike-related, or any other kind for that matter, of bumper stickers on my vehicles.

    You just never know when some citizen with a pocket knife disagrees with yer First Amendment rights.

  50. #50
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    "Anybody get hassled by cops with a hitch rack", no one has really answered the question yet. Around here the cops don't use hitch racks.
    Riding Fat and still just as fast as I never was.

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