Loading bicycles on a car rack
Loading a couple of touring bicycles on to a car rack isn't a matter of throwing them on and holding them down with a few bungee cords. We'll be driving to Harwich from Manchester in a few days with the bikes on the car – a five-hour drive with a lot of bouncing around – so they have to be loaded and arranged very carefully to avoid damaging the bikes and the car.
When we made the same trip last year the bikes were loaded on to a tow ball rack. It took a while to work out the best way and I took photographs to help remember the method for the return trip two weeks later. This year, we have a different car, with no tow ball, so the rack we're using is a Pendle Bike Racks strap-on. With just a few days to go, I'm still not sure how to do it.
The car is a 2010 model Volkswagen Polo, and tow bars (and roof bars) won't be available for a few months. So a strap-on rack is the only way. It has the same support bars as the tow ball version but it's much higher and the load rests on the rear windscreen and the tailgate, all suspended on two straps which trap inside near the tailgate hinges with special rubber dumbbells. Two further straps hook under the bottom lip to tighten the whole thing down.
Putting the first bike on is the easy part. When the second bike is loaded they're pressing against each other: derailleur against frame, handlebars against rack, pedal against spokes and so on, and even worse: pedal against rear windscreen. The windscreen wiper blade also has to be removed. It took an hour adjusting the bikes and deciding the best angle for the cranks. The following photo shows how I cable-tied the cranks together last year. This was very rigid and kept the bikes in place. No such luck this year, as the bikes touch differently.
Looking at the next photo (as I write this post) it's occurred to me that I should really turn both bikes around so that the derailleurs are facing outwards and not against the other bike. I'm also short of sponges, bungee cords, bits of rag, and polythene bags to put over the saddles (and some sticky tape because last year they blew off). I might even take the wheels off to reduce the load pressing on the tailgate. The next photo shows the bikes at a steeper angle from how they were on the more vertical tow ball rack. Without the wheels the bikes would also be easier to lift up. Touring bikes with pannier racks are heavy!
This is taking so long I might suggest we borrow my son's Renault Kangoo van to carry the bikes to Harwich (they fit), but that would mean he borrows our Polo. Plus the Pendle strap-on with extra dumbbell straps and postage wasn't cheap. It is a very good rack. When we return I might write a proper review.