tow hitch/bike carrier or car rack/bike carrier dilemma- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    tow hitch/bike carrier or car rack/bike carrier dilemma

    Hi all:

    I have been struggling with this decision for a while. Our new corolla is just too small for putting a bike inside - either for trips to the bike store, across town to a trail, or on a vacation for that matter. I was first considering a toe hitch with a platform carrier OR a roof rack with a fork style bike carrier. Each has its drawbacks and advantages.

    tow hitch route: bikes are held behind the bumper. A rear end collision would destroy the bikes and possibly damage the car more than colliding with a "naked" bumper since I imagine impacting the hitch could damage the frame. Do drivers spot these bike carriers in the dark when you are coming to a stop? However, this approach eliminates any contact with my car's paint. Another minor drawback is I'm told Toyota doesn't recommend any sort of tow hitch/carrier device although mounting nuts for the toe hitch exist on the car.;I don't think this is a big deal since I can't imagine 80 pounds or so of combined carrier/bike weight will really harm anything - but it is a consideration.

    car rack route: I really don't like the idea of anything contacting the paint and the quality car racks like Thule inevitably require clamps of some sorts (albeit with cushions). Does dirt work its way underneath the pads and result in scratches that are revealed when the car rack is removed? On the plus side, a nice car rack would allow for a luggage carrier to also be mounted for family vacations when we are starved for cargo space. But, I'm not sure I like the idea of having to heave a bike to the top of the car for fear I might drop it onto the roof. PS I'm told a fork style bike rack works best in terms of stability and security driving down the highway.

    Any thoughts/guidance would be appreciated.
    Last edited by Will90; 03-19-2016 at 08:33 AM.

  2. #2
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    I have a Corolla, and bought a Yakima KingJoe Pro 2 trunk rack for it after shopping around.
    Yes, it has rubbed the paint on my trunk in spite of my being very careful with it and typically cleaning both the trunk lid and the pad on the rack before putting it on. It's not bad, or even noticeable unless viewed from the right angle, but it's there. I started wrapping the pad with an old t-shirt, and have had no additional wear.
    It also won't carry two bikes of dissimilar geometry-meaning I'd need the 3 bike rack to carry both of my bikes without some contortions and overlapping parts.
    There's been a little wear and tear. One of the "blocks"(?) that the bike mounts on wore around the screw that holds it in place, and one of the attachment points that the elastic straps has one side of it's T shape damaged, but still works.

    Overall, I think it's been great as trunk racks go(and only shaves 1-2mpg), but I'd buy a hitch rack if I had it to do over again, and will at some point. I keep the rack on my car 5-7 days per week now, and often as not have a bike on it. I'd like to be able to get in my trunk and carry two bikes more easily...

  3. #3
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    I have a Corolla and I have hitch rack and wouldn't have it any other way.
    Oldest daughter doesn't ride.

  4. #4
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    You first should calculate the torque the receiver will see. A quick google revealed a few receivers for your car that are rated at 200Lb tongue weight. This rating is for the weight on a tow ball attached to a short length draw bar. Your bikes sit a lot further back than a tow ball, which changes the fulcrum point.

    Ex: If a draw bar inserts into a receiver 5", and the ball sits 6" from the end of the receiver, and the receiver max tongue weight is 200Lbs, the receiver is built to handle 240Lbs of force at the ball(200x6)/5=240.

    Now, place the weight of your bikes where they sit in relation to the receiver. Let's go with 30Lb bikes sitting in trays at 12 and 24 inches from the receiver:

    (30x12)/5=73Lb
    (30x24)/5=144Lb

    144+73=217Lb. We're exceeding the capacity of the receiver, and haven't factored in the weight of the rack.

    Does this mean the receiver is going to immediately break? No, they are built with wiggle room, but that wiggle room isn't to be played with unless you don't mind your bikes tumbling down the highway at 70mph. A well built receiver might take years of abuse like this before cracks start to form, but a lesser receiver might fail catastrophically during the first year.

    I typically go 70/70/70. Stay under 70% of the receiver's tongue and tow capacity, and 70% of the weight of the vehicle for brakeless trailers.

    The Corolla is a small car with a light back end. The weight of two bikes out past the bumper can result in a drifting front end and loss of braking power, as the rear axles are a fulcrum for all weight that is further to the rear. The effect is dependent upon how far out the rack holds the bikes. Trunk racks hold the bikes closer to the bumper, and some place the bikes above the trunk lid.

    Using the roof is going to hit you in the pocketbook at the gas station, no way around that. But the bikes are up out of the way and away from distracted drivers.
    I will suffer no butt-hurt fools!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will90 View Post
    I'm told Toyota doesn't recommend any sort of toe hitch/carrier device although mounting nuts for the toe hitch exist on the car.;I don't think this is a big deal since I can't imagine 80 pounds or so of combined carrier/bike weight will really harm anything - but it is a consideration.
    Naw, that's BS, I guarantee you that the same car in Europe is rated to tow something like 1000-1500 and 150-200lb tongue weight, at least. They don't advertise it here in the US or offer the OEM towbars, but I can say that the capability certainly exists, like with my current 428, previous camaro and other cars. The only difference is you usually have to get an aftermarket towbar in the US and either install it yourself or have U-haul do it. It's usually pretty easy.

    Anyhow, the benefits are huge IMO, rack is behind the turbulent air so it doesn't add to drag significantly, bike doesn't drop mud and gunk onto the roof, don't have to lift it onto the roof, not nearly as much chance of scratching the car when your grip/feet slip after a tiring day of mtbing, etc. Modern tray style racks are extremely secure and tilt down to allow trunk/hatch access, although many are spaced far enough that they don't even interfere in their normal position.
    "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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  6. #6
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    I guess I'll offer the dissenting opinion. First I'll quantify that hitch racks are almost always the best way to go, for a myriad of reasons, most of which have been mentioned. However on a low chassis, lightweight passenger car, I'd definitely go with the roof rack. Unless you're unusually short. Your roof rack will give you a small hit in gas mileage, more with bikes on it but dude, you're driving a Corolla. You'll be ok. Get a roof rack with a platform that doesn't require you to remove the front wheel. They are solid and very easy to mount the bike on. Plus, like you mentioned, you can mount a cargo box. You'd be able to put three bike trays across your roof or an easy two. Two bike hitch racks are going to tax your car and you'll never be able to carry three out back. That and your handlebars will never get in the way of each other. If you get a cheap hitch rack, you'll be playing bicycle tetris every time you mount them up. Depending on the racks, the price will be a draw, even with three because you won't have to install a hitch or possibly pay someone to do it. One other advantage of a roof rack is if you live in an area with inclement weather, it'll keep your bikes cleaner.
    I'm a mountain bike guide in southwest Utah

  7. #7
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    Thanks: I was leaning towards the roof rack until I read CarolinaPanthers' story about his roof rack loaded with bikes that mysteriously blew off his car while driving down the road. However, he notes his rack was used. Is this a possibility with a new and correctly installed/maintained roof rack? Also, if I go this route, I will not want to leave it on the car when I don't need it. I don't want to risk damage to the finish of our new car. So, I hope taking it on and off as needed is not a bad thing to do.

    Regarding the bike rack itself, I was going to go with a Thule circuit fork mount carrier. From what I was told, they offer a very secure means of holding the bike. Is that accurate?

    Price-wise, the costs are actually nearly the same for a quality hitch/platform carrier vs. a Thule aeroblade rack/circuit carrier.

  8. #8
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    You'd actually have less damage to your car if you cleaned it, installed the rack and then left it on. It's when you take it on and off that you'll begin to have problems. I'd recommend the Thule sidearm rack. I highly suggest NOT getting a fork mount anything. Pain in the ass and these days, they aren't compatible with many bikes.
    I'm a mountain bike guide in southwest Utah

  9. #9
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    I did both. Not a Corolla but similar class of car, it's a Focus. Thule's SideArm rack for the top are great. 20 seconds to rack your bike and you're set with a very positive, secure set-up. the Yakima version is just sucky in comparison. Screw any of the fork mount racks. What a pain and I know several people that have lost their wheels or ran them over when leaving a lot. I'm using mine on a Yakima Base Rack since I had many of the components already. I am very paint job anal. There is not a hint of hazing from washing or drying this car. It's flawless. After initial set-up of base rack, I applied 3M Scotchgard 8 mil protective vinyl that I custom cut for each footprint. Anywhere there is a contact point, it's covered and you don't notice it when the rack is off...which is most of the time because my primary carrier is the Thule T2 Hitchrack on the back. The T2 utilizes the same rack principle as the SideArm (or vice versa) I also have a cargo box for the roof rack for long trips. As stated, both have their attributes and pitfalls but I don't dwell on the aspect of getting ass-packed in a collision. My bikes are insured as is my car and hopefully the douche that pile drives me is, as well. It would absolutely suck to see carbon bits get scattered but get coverage and don't sweat it.

    I personally kind of like the look of a rack on the hatchback but another drawback aside from a slight fuel economy hit is even with a deflector, there is a wind noise factor that's more prevalent than I originally expected. Not overwhelming but it's there. Without a deflector, freeway speeds are literally unbearable so be sure to add that into your cost analysis.
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  10. #10
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    Wow. I didn't know a deflector was recommended. Do you notice the wind noise even if the bikes aren't mounted on the roof? Thule said the aeroblades are very quiet compared to their square style bars but they didn't say anything about a deflector. I suppose I have to look into deflectors now. I hope they don't have to be permanently fastened to the roof with screws or the sort.

    Regarding the side arm recommendation, I suppose these are OK for an aluminum alloy bike (like I believe the Cannondale is), but probably not OK for a carbon bike, right?

  11. #11
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    The sidearm doesn't touch the bike at all. That's why it's awesome. They work on the bike regardless of type. Only touches the tires. I have the aeroblades and they make noise but it's only noticeable if my sunroof cover is open.
    I'm a mountain bike guide in southwest Utah

  12. #12
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    Aerobars are probably a big help but anytime you put something on that disrupts airflow, expect noise. The deflector is only about $75 or better if you shop it right and it attaches to the crossbar and hangs down, hovering over the roof. Mine has 4 small feet with soft rubber foot pads that touch the roof for support when it's compressed by wind. I installed the little 3M vinyl dots about the size of a nickel so there's no wear.

    As said above, the Sidearm and the T2 do not touch the frame. The arm compresses against the front tire just below the fork crown squeezing it against the wheel chock tray. The rear is held on by a very strong cam buckle strap. They have locking devices built in with keyed tumblers to keep the honest folk honest.

  13. #13
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    tow hitch/bike carrier or car rack/bike carrier dilemma

    I used to use a roof rack on VW Golf, but I now use a hitch rack on a Civic. The downsides I've dealt with with roof:

    1.) I used to commute 110 miles/day, pretty much all highway. I was basically throwing money in the garbage with a roof rack. The MPG loss is substantially worse at highway speed. You're also going to notice it more with a car that otherwise gets great gas mileage than you would if you drive a Suburban. I tried with and without fairing; the fairing actually made the MPG worse for me, though every car will be different.

    2.) Parking garages and drive throughs. I never had a catastrophe, but I park in a garage for work and ride often right after work, so it meant temporarily parking my car, taking my bike into work, then parking my car for the day.

    3.) I had Thule fork mounts. They are very stable, but they're also a PITA b/c you have to always take off the front wheel.

    4.) Thule changed their tower design for their Aero 400's around 2009. You can't get fit kits for the old towers unless on eBay. I have the old towers and there's absolutely nothing wrong with them, but unless I can score a fit kit for my current car on E-bay, they're absolutely worthless (to me.) Rather than just having to spend ~$30 on a new fit kit, I'd have to buy a $30 fit kit plus $195 towers. I wouldn't trust Thule to not do this again. A hitch will always be either 1 1/4" or 2".

    Downsides I've dealt with with hitch:
    1.) None. I've never had to deal with a collision. I've read discussions on here about how car and/or homeowners insurance factor in, but probably because I've never had to deal with it I don't remember the details.
    Last edited by jonz; 03-20-2016 at 06:55 PM. Reason: Edit my poor syntax when posting from iphone

  14. #14
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    I have a Thule roof rack, I was told to make sure the roof under the pads was clean (obviously) and apply several costs of wax before installing the roof rack, supposedly this protects the paint from rubbing with the pads. Also, you might not be able to fit through drivethrus and in garages with a bike on the roof, I've seen photos online of people who forgot and knocked the bike and /or rack of the car.

    I have a fork like carrier, but my new mtb uses athru axle so I had to buy an adapter, so at this point I don't think it's really any better than one which lets you leave the wheels on, in fact I'm watching craigslist for a good deal on one to use just with the new bike
    Riding a Brooks saddle mounted to Reynolds 853 :cool:

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